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On Nutrition: Juicing is healthy practice but not a cure-all

On Nutrition: Juicing is healthy practice but not a cure-all

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Dear Dr. Blonz: I was looking up information on juicing “prescriptions” for arthritis and other maladies, but I found different information on different sites. These were mainly commercial sites, and many included customer testimonials. Is there anything consistent on the research side of this topic? — J.F., New Rochelle, New York

Dear J.F.: The lack of research to provide a scientific basis for “juice prescriptions” opens the door for an advice free-for-all. One site might endorse pineapple juice for arthritis; another pushes broccoli, kale and spinach; and yet another recommends celery, cherry, bean sprouts, carrots and cucumbers. While juices have nutritious attributes, prescribing them for specific ailments is a dubious proposition. (Testimonials are not objective evidence.)

Unfortunately, the focus on curing specific diseases overshadows the value of juicing. It’s a bit shocking that in 2018, soft drink consumption in the U.S. averaged about 38 gallons per person (see b.link/pce8f). Our bodies would be better off if we got our refreshment from water, or fresh vegetable or fruit juices, instead.

Not only do juices have wonderful flavors, but they also contain valuable nutrients not available in soft drinks. For example, a 6-ounce glass of fresh carrot juice contains only 73 calories and is loaded with healthful phytochemicals. Fresh apple, pineapple or melon juices yield flavors and aromas unmatched by any other beverage.

The beneficial effects of eating more fruits and vegetables are not disputed. And it’s a lot easier to drink a pound of carrots than to eat the same amount of vegetables. But because juice doesn’t have fiber and other solids, the goal should be to have juice in addition to, not instead of, fresh fruits and vegetables. And although proponents of juicing might swear you get all the essential goodness (except the fiber), it’s unclear what proportion of the nutrients are left behind when the pulp is not included.

There are three basic types of juicers. Extractors, the most popular kind, grind the food with a high-speed spinning dish that traps the pulp. They often have an ejector that deposits the pulp in a convenient bin. Masticator-type juicers “chew up” the food at a slower speed and make juice by mechanically pressing the ground-up produce against a screen.

Finally, there are specialized blender/juicers that grind the entire fruit or vegetable. This is the one type of machine that doesn’t remove the pulp, and as a result, juices from these machines retain the food’s fiber. The tradeoff, however, is that the output can end up as slush rather than juice.

Here are some tips for the juicer-to-be:

Taste a range of fresh juices before you spend money on a juicer. Find a juice bar in your area, or arrange for a demonstration so that you can sample a variety of freshly made juices. Make a note of the juicing method used.

When shopping for a juicer, find a model that’s easy to clean. If cleaning is a bother, the machine is likely to sit unused.

The key to fresh juice is the “fresh,” so only make enough for immediate consumption. If larger amounts are made, place the excess in a sealed container and refrigerate or freeze.

To avoid any possible digestive problems, don’t overdo it at first. Introduce new fruits and vegetables gradually.


(Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He is the author of the digital book “The Wellness Supermarket Buying Guide” (2012), which is also available as a free digital resource at blonz.com/guide.)

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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