It’s hard to argue against the benefits of eating your vegetables. But drinking your vegetables is another story. Is juicing the antidote to bad health, as its proponents claim, or just another fad diet? Here’s what you need to know.
1. There’s room for debate.
Fans of green juicing, or juicing raw vegetables, say that you can drink more vegetables than you can eat, and that juicing allows your body to more easily absorb the vitamins and antioxidants extracted from fresh produce. Juicing has been credited with alleviating everything from skin diseases and immune disorders to cancer and high blood pressure.
But skeptics claim that the detox and cleansing benefits attributed to juicing may be more psychological than physical. There’s also a lack of scientific evidence that proves that juicing your vegetables is significantly healthier than just eating them. If you’re not eating enough vegetables, drinking them might be one way to up your intake. The bottom line is, juicing certainly can’t hurt.
2. Your digestive system will thank you.
Juicing proponents believe that your digestive system can function more efficiently when drinking raw vegetables. Although you lose the benefits of consuming fiber when drinking your produce, it takes less energy to digest food in liquid form. Heating and cooking vegetables also reduces or destroys some of their enzyme content, which some say can impede digestion. With juicing, it’s believed that these food enzymes are not only preserved, but your digestive system also gets a “rest.”
If you juice for enzymes, you might also believe that the right food combinations can help with digestion. Food combiners believe that eating a protein like meat or cheese, which requires one type of enzyme to be digested, with a carbohydrate, which requires another kind of digestive enzyme, can result in bloating and indigestion. When you juice, you only eat one type of food at a time, so digestion is speedier.
3. Moderation is key.
Despite what some raw foodists and “juicearians” might say, it’s probably not best to live on juice alone. A juice fast, in which one consumes only juice and no solid food for a day or more, can have healthy benefits, but it’s not entirely necessary. Drinking green juice can still have healing effects when combined with a regular, healthy diet.
For best results, drink green juice on an empty stomach, and make sure it’s as fresh as possible. More extreme measures, like the lemonade-and maple syrup-only Master Cleanse, or juice fasting as a quick-and-easy weight loss method, are not recommended.
4. Not all juices are created equal.
You can get your green juice at a juice bar, health food store or through a delivery service, but be wary of bottled and pasteurized juices. And read the labels carefully: Too much fruit or fruit concentrate can increase the sugar level, and heating and processing can lessen nutritional value.
Buying a home juicer and doing it yourself can pay off in the long run, although the juicer you buy might also make a difference. Centrifugal juicers, which grind and strain produce at high speeds, are the most affordable machines, but also less efficient – some say the high speed generates heat, and decreases the amount of enzymes in the resulting juice. Masticating juicers “chew” produce and can make more juice out of the same amount of vegetables, while triturating juicers, the most expensive and efficient option, “press” produce and retain more nutrients.
While juicers extract only juice from produce and remove the fiber, blenders retain all of the content by simply mashing everything together. Fiber aside, the blender versus juicer debate might come down to a matter of taste: drinking celery juice mixed with carrot juice will probably taste better than drinking a celery and carrot smoothie.
5. The possibilities are endless.
If you make your own juice, experiment with combining different kinds of fruits and vegetables for taste and nutrition. Popular combinations include mixing leafy vegetables like spinach or kale with celery or cucumber, and adding beet, carrot or apple for sweetness. See more recipes here and here.