As a kid of the 90’s, I got my fill of breakfast commercials while watching Saturday morning cartoons. All of these commercials ended by saying their cereal “is part of a complete breakfast”. The last shot always included a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice. Orange juice has been a part of the American breakfast for a long time, but now juice is almost everywhere—it’s not uncommon to see people on juice fasts now. You can buy raw, cold pressed, pasteurized juice or even juice yourself at home.
It is common to hear that juicing is a great way to detox, can increase your energy, improve your mood, promotes glowing skin, hair, and nails, and you can cure your cancer according to some. Many websites proclaim that juicing makes the nutrients more bioavailable and will allow your body to detox to cure your cancer. On top of these testimonies, juicing really has an appeal aesthetically and is often quite delicious. As a result it is becoming more and more convenient for our on the go lifestyles since we can buy juice just about everywhere now. What does this recent turn to juicing mean for your health as a cancer survivor? Is this something that you should consider?
Let’s start by looking at the definition of juicing as the term can mean different things to different people: “the natural fluid, fluid content, or liquid part that can be extracted from a plant or one of its parts, especially of a fruit or vegetable”. Typically what this means is that most juices are largely devoid of fiber as the fiber is lost in the juicing process since most juicers strain the fiber out and the skin is removed. Fiber can promote bowel regularity, aid in lowering cholesterol, help stabilize blood sugars and promotes a feeling of fullness. Due to the fiber lost, when we drink juice, it digests quickly in the body and this can lead to hunger and may encourage binge eating. The juice itself has a different nutritive value and may not have the same health benefits as whole fruits and veggies do. When the skin is removed you also lose important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in addition to losing much of the fiber.
Another thing to consider is that juicing can be rather costly compared to eating fruits and vegetables. Most juicers are quite pricey, and then you also have to factor in the cost of buying a large volume of vegetables and fruit, as it takes a lot of produce to make a little juice. Even if you don’t make your own juice, buying it at the store or a juice bar is quite expensive for many.
On top of the expense and losing many vitamins, minerals, and fiber through juicing, there is currently no published research in humans to support the safety or efficacy of prolonged juice cleanses or fasts in place of food. Juice only diets can also cause fatigue, diarrhea, irritability, muscle loss due to lack of protein and no fat. What’s more, there is no also literature to support that you need an outside source to assist your body with detoxing or that we can detox our bodies beyond what they already do. The good news is that our bodies come with their own natural around the clock detoxing system—your kidney’s, liver, and lungs—which filter the blood, expel toxins through urine and your bowel movements, and they cleanse our bodies continuously! Adam Conover from Adam Ruin’s Everything does a good job at summarizing this on his show. Here’s a short clip of the full episode on detoxing that’s a fun watch and I highly recommend.
When juicing may be beneficial for you
Although juicing is nutritionally inferior to whole foods, it isn’t necessarily an unhealthy option if you are a picky eater and don’t typically eat fruits and veggies each day. If juicing helps you focus on eating healthier foods you can do so, but I recommend you drink juice in small portions (approximately 8 ounces) as large amounts of juice can increase your blood sugar. Think about it…if you drink a large glass of juice you will find that there is a larger volume of produce in that glass of juice than you could likely physically eat in one sitting if it were whole produce. However, I’m not talking about most of the juices you find in the supermarket that are prepackaged with loads of added sugar. There is naturally sugar in fruits, but most juice companies add even more which is not ideal. You can find some brands you like that don’t add sugar or you can juice at home. Juicing may also be a good option for those on a low fiber diet as a result of some medical conditions or digestive issues, for those who are not able to chew well, and for those who need to gain weight.
Recommendations if you decide to juice
If you decide to make juices or buy them, I suggest drinking a green juice and also making sure that your juices consist of about 80% vegetables and only 20% fruit. Juicing should supplement your meals rather than replacing it. Juicing in place of a desert can also be a better choice.
Take Home Message
By default if you juice to “detox” you will remove a lot of the bad things for you like alcohol, tobacco, and empty calories from candy or baked goods—which helps as this will make your kidney’s and liver’s jobs easier. If you don’t consume fruits and veggies on a regular basis and you start juicing then you are going to see a change. This is where juicing is good for you ends though as it would be the same or better benefits if you ate them. My preference for anyone trying to focus on eating healthier and isn’t able to eat fruits and veggies whole, however, would be drinking smoothies instead of juice since the fiber is intact if you don’t have to restrict fiber in your diet…more on this topic in the next blog post.