I get a fair amount of inquiries about juicing, and the occasional inquiry and/or solicitation about any of a number of “mega elixir super juices” making the rounds these days. I will offer a broad perspective on both, as I attempt to tie it all back to the theme of our last entry, entitled “Too Much of a Good Thing.” Here goes:
In general, I’ve always considered juicing somewhat of a good/better/best transitional activity. In other words, if you start drinking juice as an alternative to sodas, that’s good. If you make your own juice with a juicer, that’s better. And if you focus on juicing vegetables like carrots, beets and greens (instead of all fruit), that’s best. Hell, back in ‘91 when I first went veggie, I use to take my bad-ass Juiceman juicer on tour with me. (For these last number of years, of course, it’s been all about the blender instead.) However, I personally don’t recommend bothering with juicing as part of an ongoing practice, and here’s my rationale:
While I appreciate that there are a number of vital nutrients and plenty of live enzymes in freshly extracted juice, my main problem with it is that you’re separating one element (juice) from another (fiber) in food (fruits and vegetables) that is already perfect. I’m sure that Mother Nature has Her reasons why we are to consume these foods whole. One obvious one is that as you drink the juice – especially in the case of fruit – all of the concentrated sugars hit your blood stream without the natural buffer that the fiber provides, and this can cause some blood sugar spikes, along the lines of refined sugar.
Another reason is that there are a number of valuable phytonutrients in fruits and veggies that are discarded with all the fiber (pulp) in the juicing process. So, for example, while you might be getting a surplus of certain nutrients by juicing three or four oranges, your trash can or compost bin is getting quite a few nutrients, as well. Therefore, you are missing out on whatever synergistic benefits there might have been from ingesting all of the 4000-plus phytonutrients inherent to fruits or veggies had you consumed them whole.
For these reasons and more, I would strongly suggest that you eat your fruits and veggies, in addition to enjoying them – in whole form – in a number of different smoothie options where you’re using a blender. (And I’m speaking mainly about fruit here, although small servings of veggies can work with certain smoothie recipes, as well.)
Now, having said all this, if you already own a juicer and are in somewhat of a groove of making your own juice, you could do worse, believe me. I would rather you did that than buy the store-bought varieties. And again, the main advantage of juicing your own is that you get the benefit of live enzymes. Anything bought in the store will, of course, be totally devoid of these enzymes due to, among other things, the oxidation issue. My advice would be to lean toward veggie juices, with special focus on greens. Eventually, I would like to see you transition exclusively over to smoothie world, where you can enjoy the whole fruit and/or veggie in a blender.
The only instance where I personally recommend juice is in small amounts, as a sweetening agent for certain smoothie recipes. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s just a whole lotta fructose and, as discussed, an incomplete profile of nutrients, compared to its original “whole” form. At least in the context of four to eight ounces of juice in a large smoothie, you are ingesting it in a high-fiber drink with plenty of whole fruit (and potentially other high-fiber ingredients), so this mitigates the blood sugar issue to some degree.
What about orange juice for breakfast? Hey, if that’s a vertical move for you, do it for now. Otherwise, I would rather see you eat a couple oranges instead.
Jive (and the era of the “Life-Altering Super Juice Elixirs”)
To my regular readers here…you know by now that I’m generally reluctant to bash fellow colleagues or related products of the health industry. At the same time, I said early on that this blog would be the place for me to “go after” those people or products who I felt were blatantly perpetuating falsehoods. So with that in mind…
Over these past few years, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of multi-level marketing companies hawking overpriced juice made from exotic fruits like acai, noni, goji, and mangosteen. And while I’m reluctant to lump every company and type of “exotic” juice, across-the-board, into the exact same pool here, the general M.O. is pretty universal.
First, the claims are typically over-the-top, crediting the 2 to 4 oz. servings of these various elixirs for curing and/or radically curtailing disease, depression, autism…you name it. These claims are usually spouted off in the context of some sales fervor relating to the “unprecedented monetary opportunities” to be had by pestering your friends and colleagues to buy this overpriced juice in expensive packaging that often looks like wine bottles. (Ever think about who’s paying for this packaging? At $40 a bottle, I think we know who’s payin’ for it…)
Most of these claims are, of course, largely unsubstantiated by any real, non-biased science. Why? Because IT’S FUCKING JUICE, PEOPLE! Beyond that, this is where we tie into our last entry about too much a good thing. Let’s SUPPOSE for a moment that one of these products really did have, let’s say, 10 times the amount of antioxidants found in a serving of blueberries. Would your body really be able to assimilate that much? I mean, blueberries have a shitload of antioxidants in them as it is. Do we really need 10 times (or whatever) that amount, and what might be the potential consequence of getting too high a dosage of antioxidants?
It’s the typical snake oil salesman mentality that we alluded to last entry: If protein builds muscle, let’s offer a product with double the usual amount to imply double the results. Or in this case, if antioxidants boost your immune system, let’s offer a product with double the usual amount to imply double the results. It’s bullshit…and yes, it irritates me that so many would soil our industry with these shams, because it tends to sour folks on the whole idea of true superfoods and quality supplements, which actually do exist.
Okay…rant over. Here are a few concluding points:
1. I’m not saying all juice is categorically without merit. Anytime you’re dealing with concentrated amounts of plant compounds, there can be a number of benefits. However, all things considered – including the bang-for-your-buck part of the equation – I believe these benefits can be experienced through more efficient “delivery systems,” such as a wide array of multicolored fruits and veggies, a few key, top quality supps and, of course, your daily superfoods smoothie prepared a certain way.
2. Wheatgrass juice is a whole other ballgame and should never be lumped in with these other exotic fruit juices. As discussed around here before, it’s a legitimate, highly concentrated “delivery system” of all that is great about super green foods. Plus, the bang-for-your-buck value is excellent…especially if you learn how to juice it yourself.
3. For more info, and another credible perspective on this whole juice thing, check out Dr. John McDougall’s take on it here:
Catch you in a couple,