Health

Why Juicing May Not Be Worth the Squeeze

Take a pause before 'drinking to your health'

Just like coffee shops did, juice bars now are popping up on corners everywhere — and Wall Street analysts like what they see. Some people juice for enhanced nutrition, while others juice to “cleanse” toxins from their body. Either way, there is a lot of juicing going on.

“Imagine eating a bag of carrots or apples every day. With juicing, it’s much easier to drink a glass of carrot and apple juice daily and receive the same benefits,” said Meagan Bradley of Omega Juicers and Blender, a company based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “Some people juice every day, while others juice once every three days, or some once per week. It really depends on the person’s reasoning for juicing.”

The $100 million dollar industry is, well, a juicy one. Celebrities are juicing along with moms in the local book club. Industry analysts say that between 2007 and 2013, the juicing market increased annually by 3.5 percent and it’s still gaining momentum.

“I have been juicing for at least 20 years,” said April Reeder, a certified Raw Food Chef based in Texas. She stands by the benefits (that supersede even the taste) of detoxing the body of unwanted toxins, clearer skin, shinier eyes, reduced brain fog and even weight loss, she said. “When your digestive system doesn’t have to break down fibers, your body immediately absorbs the nutrients.”

For some, those unwanted toxins may contribute to a life-threatening disease. Samantha Bowman, a California-based health and fitness professional, said her mother and friend were both advised to juice while undergoing ovarian cancer treatments.

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“In both cases it was beneficial,” said Bowman. “The juicing seemed to help and the patients were in remission for years.”

One reason many people say they juice is because the fiber and pulp is removed, which aids and simplifies digestion and absorption. But not everyone agrees that is beneficial to the body.

“On the one hand, it’s great for providing ready-to-be absorbed nutrition,” said Shaina Simhaee, a California-based holistic nutritionist; she said once the fiber is removed, digestion is easier. But the fiber does have some significant benefits, she added. “Without all the fiber to slow down your digestion, the sugar in juices also gets rapidly absorbed and what once was healthy and nutritious is not only making us fat, but is incredibly high in sugar.”

That fiber and pulp, however, is exactly what experts say is wrong with juicing. Pulverizing fruits and vegetables down to a juice is not the way they’re supposed to be consumed.

“Eating whole fruits and vegetables is far healthier than juicing,” said Claire Shorenstein, a New York City-based registered nurse. “Juicing removes the pulp and skin of fruits and vegetables, leaving behind a liquid that is rich in vitamins, minerals and natural sugars but lacking in fiber.”

Experts say the trend intended to “cleanse the body” of certain toxins may be more detrimental, in fact, than people are led to believe.

“The basic concept of ‘detoxifying’ is blatantly flawed, because our natural processes, especially liver and kidney function, cleanse our bodies far better than any extrinsic activities or substances could possibly achieve,” said Dr. Morton Tavel with the Indiana University School of Medicine. “Some detox ideas center also on the intestines. But by attempting to flush out the ‘bad stuff’ from our intestines, they are also threatening to flush out the good bacteria that keep the intestines healthy.”

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Flushing “poisons” from our bodies, added Dr. Tavel, may weaken the body’s ability to fight infections and inflammation as well as the ability to regain muscle tissue lost during juicing.

“I advise steering clear of this entire concept of detoxification,” said Dr. Tavel. “The idea is simply presented to take your money while providing no scientific proof of benefit.”

Other medical professionals including dentists agree juicing may harm parts of the body you never even thought about.

“A lot of patients have done damage to their teeth from juicing,” said Dr. Frankl Farrelly, a Sydney, Australia-based dentist, who says he sees many patients who have to deal with the erosion of the enamel and dentine. “They feel they are doing something healthy, yet they are often devastated to hear they’ve caused significant damage to their teeth.”

The damage is caused by the high acidity, he said. Structurally, the effects of juicing can cause teeth to be weaker and more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. As a result, these patients end up needing fillings or even root canal treatments.

So maybe nature had it right after all. Maybe fiber-rich fruits and veggies were meant to be in eaten in their natural form, to control the sugar consumption.

Simhaee offers a middle-of-the-road option: “I still drink juice from time to time, but I never add fruits to it.” She suggested a combination of green veggies like spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger, which all provide easy absorption without the high sugar. “Fruit is something we need to consume in moderation.”

While juicing may produce some short-term results, experts say the short-term results may not be pleasant, healthy or safe. “The body is incredibly capable of removing toxins on its own, and there is no need for a special diet or expensive juices and supplements,” said Shorenstein. “If your goal is improved health and/or weight loss, you are much better off investing your time and money in real whole food and learning how to make lasting changes to your dietary behaviors.”

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