The Benefits of Juicing: 4 Myths Debunked
Lately, Virtua registered dietitian April Schetler, RD, has been fielding all sorts of questions about juicing. Maybe it’s because she was quoted in a USA Today article this spring about the benefits and potential pitfalls of juicing, or maybe it’s because juicing comes up so often in popular media these days. There are a lot of mixed messages circulating, but Schetler recommends that her clients carefully consider their sources. “I tell people to be aware of where they’re getting their information,” says Schetler. “Is it coming from a dietitian or a reputable health care provider, or is it coming from the manufacturer of a juicer or a television personality?
“You almost can’t turn on the television or surf the web without being bombarded with assertions like ‘eat this, don’t eat that,’ or ‘this is the best food to help you lose weight,’” continues Schetler. “Juicing is receiving a lot of attention right now”--but you’re going to want to get all the facts before jumping into the juice craze with both feet.
Here, Schetler helps us sort truth from fiction regarding four of the most common myths about juicing.
Myth 1: Juicing helps you lose weight.
“The misconception is that juice is something of a magic bullet, and that if you drink it, regardless of what’s in it or how much of it you drink, you’re automatically going to lose weight,” says Schetler. The truth is, yes, fruits and vegetables are good for you, but they do have calories. If you’re juicing for weight loss, you need to figure those calories into your daily count, and not just add the juice to what you’re already eating.
“If you typically eat a 2-300 calorie breakfast, for example, adding a 16-ounce glass of juice can easily bump that number up to 6-700 calories,” says Schetler. “If you start adding a lot of juice to your existing diet, you can easily gain a half-pound to a pound a week.”
Losing weight is about calories in versus calories burned. “If you want to lose weight while juicing, you’re going to have to take something else away. Eat half of your usual lunch and have that big glass of juice on the side, or have a small glass in place of your regular afternoon snack.”
Myth 2: A juice fast is a great way to cleanse your body.
“Just yesterday, I had a client tell me: ‘I ate really bad this week, so I drank only juice this weekend to cleanse my system,’” reports Schetler. “But the problem with replacing food with juice altogether is – yes, you’re getting vitamins and minerals, but you’re missing out on fiber (unless you’re consuming the pulp as well as the juice) and, most importantly, protein.”
If you only drink juice for an extended period of time, your muscles have to start breaking down in order to supply the protein your body needs that it’s not getting from food. “That’s a very unhealthy process that you don’t want to get started,” says Schetler. “What’s more, your hair and skin will suffer, and you’ll begin to experience symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and irritability.”
Finally, Schetler wants us to know that the human body actually has its own processes for detoxification in place. “Our bodies are very cool machines,” she says. “We have natural detoxifying systems: the liver, kidneys and GI tract are great filters that naturally remove toxins from the body. We don’t need to throw a whole lot of juice in there to do the job for us.”
Myth 3: I need a super expensive juicer to get the healthiest juice.
All juicers basically do the same job, Schetler points out. And, as is often the case with the hottest new piece of exercise equipment, “there’s a good chance whatever juicer you buy will outlast your interest in juicing.” All that said, juice is a healthy drink and having a juicer allows for all sorts of fresh, creative concoctions you can’t get at the supermarket. When choosing a juicer, the primary consideration is to make sure it can handle the types of fruits and vegetables you’ll want to include in your creations. “Some juicers, for example, might not be strong enough to juice hard vegetables, like carrots and beets, which many recipes call for,” says Schetler.
Myth 4: Green juicing is the best and healthiest option.
Green juice gets it color from the addition of green vegetables, like kale, spinach, or parsley. Generally these vegetables are mixed with some fruit to sweeten the flavor. “It’s fine to drink green juice if you like it, though I would never push it on someone who didn’t enjoy it,” says Schetler. “What’s more, too much green juice can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions. Too much vitamin K, for example, can be a problem for those who take blood thinners. And really, if you have any chronic medical condition, you’ll want to talk to your doctor or dietitian before incorporating juice as a major part of your diet.”
Other juice blends are also perfectly healthy and need not take on a green hue to be good for you. But something to keep in mind with all juicing, green or otherwise, is that it’s never really as healthy as actually eating whole, raw fruit and vegetables – unless you eat the pulp and drink the juice. There are creative ways to do this says Schetler: “you can mix vegetable pulp into muffins or sweet bread, or add fruit pulp to your pancakes.” But you’ll have to work it back in somehow if you want to get the same, full benefit of eating your fruits and veggies.
Even if you don’t eat the pulp, however, juicing is a good alternative for people who don’t eat any fruits or vegetables at all – ”at least you’d be taking a stab at your requirements for the day,” says Schetler. And for those who come close (but are not quite) eating the 3-5 portions of vegetables and 2-3 portions of fruit recommended by the USDA, a glass of juice with the right ingredients can be a great supplement.
Bottom line: There’s no reason not to try this healthy drink, as long as you do it with the right expectations and sound information at hand.
Virtua's registered dietitians assist individuals of all ages in making healthier choices by developing a food plan tailored to their needs. For more information or to make an appointment, call a Virtua Personal Health Navigator at 1-877-896-6267.
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Watch Video: Taking control of your weight: Virtua nutrition coordinator April Schetler, RD, joins Virtua client Frank Marzin on Caucus New Jersey with Steve Adubato.