Hope and Hype
It’s pretty inviting—some great-looking people on television claim that they owe their health and energy—even their immunity—to their daily ‘juicing’ habit. Just this morning I watched a man testify that he lost almost 30 pounds in six weeks just by ‘juicing’. When they say, “Who has time to eat so many fruits and vegetables anyway” do you buy in?
Maybe your doctor has told you to lose weight…but she didn’t tell you how. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just “juice” your way to a size six, without hunger, without dieting? Wouldn’t it be great to get those recommended nine servings of fruit and veggies in just one glass?
Processing foods into liquids (AKA juice) and drinking them is a very efficient way to consume a lot of calories conveniently. But therein lies the problem. Pureed foods are often prescribed for people who are unable to chew and swallow properly—whose medical conditions demand strategies that respect their inability to eat. “Juicing” produces what can be considered by-products of whole food. What’s left when you juice an orange? Some water and fructose (fruit sugar) plus some minerals and vitamins. What’s tossed is the pulp and fiber.
Fiber makes fruit and vegetables ideal for health and healthy weight-seekers. Fiber fills you up. Ponder the meaning of “whole foods”—“whole” means that the food contains more than the sum of its parts…there is that je ne sais quoi that is uniquely beneficial in more ways than one. But when you reduce fruits and vegetables to juice, you create energy-dense foods. Juice has more calories in a smaller package…a few gulps, and it’s gone. Isn’t this counter-intuitive to weight management? If you add hundreds of calories from juice to you daily menu daily, you could say that juicing is a recipe for weight gain.
So, how much produce is enough? Health experts say there’s no limit to the amount of crunchy veggies daily, since they’re so low in calories and high in fiber. ‘Crunchy’ (as opposed to starchy potatoes, peas and corn) includes all types of salad and fiber-full veggies including broccoli, cabbage and celery and carrots, and squash, cauliflower, etc, etc! At minimum, enjoy at least three to five servings of vegetables (1 cup raw/half-cup cooked) and two or three servings of fruit (1 small piece/1 cup) daily. This minimum should provide adequate vitamins and minerals for good health.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying 100% juice is an unhealthy food—what I’m saying is that juice won’t deliver as advertised. Whole food is a better strategy than juice for maintaining your health and your weight. Consider how many oranges to make just one six-ounce glass of juice…depending on the size and juiciness of that orange—it could be three, four…or more. Would you peel and eat three oranges? A glass of juice offers quick calories in the form of fructose and water…equivalent to a similar glass of regular soda. Research shows that beverages do not make a dent in your appetite but whole food does. If you peeled and ate that orange, you’d get a bigger ‘bang for your buck’, nutritionally and for your healthy weight.
What about so-called ‘nutrients’ in pills or powders? The front-of-the-package labeling appeals to the quest for good health with words like “immune promoting” and “antioxidants”. Drying and dehydrating fruits and vegetables processes the fiber and essential freshness out of the produce…what is the point? Desiccated produce in capsules and powders are better thought of as food extracts or food supplement extracts. For health and for weight management, eat whole fruits and veggies, and you’ll feel fuller, longer.
Ignore the recommendation for “juice fasts”. Some infomercials for juicing machines state that juice fasting “rejuvenates” the body, and rests the digestive track. Your body performs everyday miracles of chemical processes, so eat to fuel your engine as if it were a Ferrari. Avoid processed foods, enjoy fresh foods, and your body will detoxify itself! Fasting produces headaches, fatigue and “fruity breath” from ketosis. It’s not pleasant, and not healthful. People with diabetes on medication should never juice fast…ever. Fasting is never recommended for people with diabetes, pregnant women or for children or elderly.
Finally, should you buy organic or not? There’s been much controversy over the benefits of organic foods. Organic farming is good for the environment, and there are benefits for the planet and potentially our health by eliminating certain chemicals and pesticides used in conventional farming. However, the studies show that the health benefits associated with eating organic food are not well documented. What is well documented are the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, daily. For all produce, even organic, it’s important to wash that produce before you eat it, and that means pre-washed produce too. I love my salad-spinner, and use it daily.
Registered and Licensed Dietitian Susan Burke March is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Her latest project is her new eBook for convenient weight loss, The Common Cent$ Diet for Busy Girls, www.thecommoncentsdiet.com. Susan consults with individuals and companies to create personalized and practical weight management solutions. Email her at Susan@SusanBurkeMarch.com.