Juicing for better health has been a popular concept for a while now. Some like to opt for a short term juice fast or “cleanse”. Others prefer to simply include healthy juices in their diet as part of an overall lifestyle focused around wellness. There are many reasons that juicing is great for your health and should be considered as part of your healthy nutrition plan. Before we look at some of the benefits of juicing and a few points to be aware of, let’s first cover what we’re not talking about when it comes to juicing.
The not-so-healthy juices
We always want to give you the best information when it comes to making healthy decisions. Therefore it’s important to clarify what we’re talking about when it comes to juicing for health:
- We’re referring to the fresh cold-pressed juices you can make in your own home or perhaps get at your favorite healthy café. Many commercially bottled juices are high in sugar and lacking in nutrition. They may have also undergone extra processing (such as pasteurization) so this is an important point to be aware of. Fresh is also best in terms of nutrient levels.
- Focus on vegetable juices rather than fruit juices. It’s best to eat whole fruits rather than juicing them because the fiber from the whole fruit will slow down the release of fructose into the blood stream. If you juice your fruit you’ll find it very easy to quickly go into calorie and fructose overload
- We’re not talking about a juice fast, juice diet or a juice detox in this article. Whilst a juice fast could produce some beneficial effects for short term weight loss it’s important to know that vegetables contain carbohydrates but very little protein or fat. A “juice only” diet lacks in these two important macronutrients which are both crucial for optimal health
The benefits of healthy juices
Healthy juice recipes can offer a number of benefits. Here are a few of them.
An easy way to add more fresh produce into your diet
Put simply, juicing can be seen as a way to top up your nutrient levels[i]. Nutrients are those magical ingredients like vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are plentiful in fruits and vegetables. A lot of people don’t get the nutrients they need[ii] and are missing out on the many benefits associated with a better nutrient profile. An optimal intake of vegetables can lead to improved energy levels and a better functioning immune system. Other benefits include improved exercise performance, better gut health[iii] and disease prevention.
For example, beet juice has gained a lot of traction in the sports performance world. Whilst you can obtain the nutrients from beets by adding them raw into a salad, it’s easier to get a higher level of nutrients by juicing them. Studies have shown that beet juice has the ability to “de-stiffen” blood vessels at rest, and potentially reduce the workload on the heart[iv]. A review of 23 studies on beetroot juice and its effects on sports performance found that beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency[v].
Juicing is also an easier way to consume a good supply of foods like ginger, celery and bitter vegetables. These all have a whole host of benefits but you may not be inclined to eat much of them as part of your regular meals. Juicing is a great way to get in a little bit more of these healthful foods.
Faster absorption of vitamins, minerals and enzymes
When you drink a freshly made cold-pressed vegetable juice, the vitamins, minerals and enzymes are absorbed more quickly than if you were to eat the vegetables whole. This could be seen as a benefit because the digestive system doesn’t need to work as hard. You also avoid overfilling yourself with fiber.
However you need to be careful about whether fast absorption is actually a benefit. Perhaps it is if you’re looking for a healthy “pick-me-up” in terms of increasing your energy levels. But there could also be instances where your body will benefit from receiving and processing nutrients at a slower pace.
A great idea if you don’t like the taste or texture of certain vegetables
Juicing can help you get the variety of vegetables you need in your diet to cover a wide range of vitamins and minerals. If you know there are certain vegetables you’re just not going to stomach, then try them in a mixed vegetable juice with a bit of added lemon, lime or apple to take the edge off. Vegetable juicing could also be useful for women who get an adversity to vegetables during pregnancy. Think of your vegetable juice as a way to “disguise” vegetables you don’t normally want to eat!
If you have an adversity to certain vegetables, start by juicing the ones that you like. Similarly, vegetables like celery and cucumber have a much lighter flavor than most of the dark green vegetables. Therefore they can be a good stepping stone towards the more bitter (and often more nutrient dense) dark green vegetables. Start by juicing these and getting used to the flavor of a healthy green juice. Then gradually add some of the stronger tasting vegetables into the mix.
A pure vegetable juice can be a bit harsh for most taste buds. So if you find that you want a bit of sweetness in your vegetable juice, try adding green apple or fresh berries, which are both relatively low in sugars when compared with most fruits. Lemon or lime also works wonders to add a nice zing and take the bitter edge off any of your green vegetables, and they’re both very low in sugar. To begin with you could always start by juicing a little bit of fruit in with your vegetables. Lessen it over time as your taste buds adapt to a lower-sugar vegetable juice.
Could assist with healthy weight loss
Juicing recipes for weight loss are hugely popular, both in terms of juice fasting diets for short term weight loss and as part of an overall weight loss plan. There are many potential benefits of juicing to help you work towards your weight loss goals.
Juicing vegetables is not necessarily “healthier” than eating vegetables in their whole form. However it’s simply an easier way to get more vitamins, minerals and enzymes into your body. When you have sufficient nutrients in your body it’s likely that you will get fewer cravings for “quick fix” foods. That means it’s probably going to be easier to for you to exercise control when it comes to highly processed, sugar-laden foods.
However it pays to be cautious when it comes to juicing and weight loss. It’s possible that you could quickly consume a lot more calories than you realize. Juice is easier to consume quickly than fresh vegetables are and you don’t get all the fiber that helps to fill you up[vi] and is present with the whole vegetable.
You could potentially get around this by mixing the pulp back into the juice or adding it into certain cooked dishes. You’ll still get some of the soluble fiber when you juice, which is beneficial for things such as bowel regularity and the ability to lower cholesterol[vii].
However, a complete “juice diet” may not be a great idea as you won’t get the insoluble fiber that helps to fill you up. That’s why juicing should be considered as supplementary[viii] to a diet that is already plentiful in fruits and vegetables, rather than as a replacement for whole foods. Use it to replace unhealthy drinks like sodas and fruit juices. But be careful if you’re simply adding it without considering overall calories.
A few extra points to consider about juicing
- Fresh healthy vegetable juices can help you to look and feel amazing. Just be careful not to get carried away with “hype” or go overboard with it. As we’ve mentioned, there are several potential benefits to juicing your vegetables in addition to eating them as whole foods. Juicing shouldn’t necessarily be seen as “healthier” however. For example, it’s possible that your fresh vegetable juice could be missing some of the important phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity that is contained in the whole vegetable or the skin that you’ve peeled off[ix] [x].
- Exercise caution with juicing if you have any health conditions or very impaired gut function. Check with your health care practitioner if you are unsure. For example, leafy green vegetables can be very high in oxalates, which some people can be sensitive to.
Overall, there’s a lot to love about juicing! We forgot to mention that it can also be beneficial for people who are having chemotherapy and are unable to eat. Similarly, if you’ve just have your wisdom teeth pulled, or some other sort of surgery that prevents you from eating whole foods, then juicing is a great option to get those nutrients!
Do you enjoy healthy vegetable juices? What are some of your favorite healthy juice recipes? We’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment in the box below!