Article by Organic Liaison Health Director Deborah Klein, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and program expert. Need Deborah’s professional advice? Ask her questions related to nutrition, fitness and weight loss at Phitter.com, or visit our Health Director page. And find Deborah’s weekly Dietitian tip videos, here.
To juice or not to juice, that is the question. Juicing fruits and vegetables has been a popular trend for taking advantage of a plethora of nutritional benefits. However, proponents of juicing need to take into account some important factors like the impact on sugar levels in the blood, the total caloric intake, and the effect on insulin levels. After all, eating whole fruits and vegetables is the healthiest way for us to get more sustained energy and help reduce risk for disease.
The calories in juices add up quickly—even with a pure vegetable juice. For example, just a cup of raw vegetable juice with beets, carrots and cucumbers equals 167 calories. And who only has one cup? Most juices make up at least 16 ounces, of 2 cups; so, a more realistic estimate of your caloric intake is over 330 calories from vegetable-based juice. Just an extra 250 calories a day can add half a pound of fat onto your body in a week!
Interesting research has compared ingesting fruits and vegetables in juice form versus whole form. An increase of 1 serving per day in whole green leafy vegetables was associated with lower risk for diabetes, whereas the same increase in fruit juice intake was associated with higher risk for diabetes. So, not only do whole fruits and vegetables provide reduced risk for diabetes, but they also provide more nutrients per bite. A study on a variety of apples showed that about 90% of the apple’s flavonols (antioxidants) were found in the peel while just 10% were in the juice. So if you are going to juice, save those edible skins and seeds in the drink—don’t discard all those amazing nutrients!
Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are made up of a chain of sugar molecules in addition to vitamins and minerals. Blending (i.e. making a smoothie) or eating whole fruits and vegetables rather than just drinking juice is better for your pancreas. Plus, it helps you avoid experiencing that sugar high immediately followed by a sugar low. It also helps you get more fiber and antioxidants, while saving you from consuming liquid calories in excess.
Still, maybe you’re relishing your juice because you like how it’s easy to digest or how it ups your energy level. In that case, turn the snack into a balanced meal by having a handful of nuts or seeds along with your juice. Nuts and seeds provide a sufficient amount of protein to keep you satisfied and the fiber needed to slow down your absorption of carbs from fruits and vegetables.
So, to get more nutrients per sip, reach for a smoothie rather than juice. An optimally balanced drink, such as my original Veggie Smoothie, contains high-fiber fuel and protein. View the organic recipe here.
References: International Journal of Food Science & Technology 36(7), October 2001, p. 703–725.
Food Chemistry 66(4), September 1999, p. 489–494