There are people who have told me that juicing is dangerous and unhealthy. Often when I ask them why they say so, I am asked about the sugar content that can spike your blood sugar levels, and then I am also asked about “what about the fiber?”. So here is what you need to know.
The short answer to the question is a resounding “YES”! Juicing is a great way to have more fruits and vegetables, and no doctor will ever not tell you that you shouldn’t eat more raw fruits and vegetables. Of course, please don’t eat anything you are allergic to.
Juicing is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your body, especially if you are not a big fruit and vegetable eater or you don’t like certain vegetables and fruits. So if you don’t want to eat it, you can drink it.
Let’s also debunk two frequently asked questions here.
“I have read that juicing raises blood sugar levels and can lead to diabetes.”
First, remember that freshly made cold-pressed juices are not the same as the processed commercial juices. Freshly-made cold-pressed juices are loaded with nutrients, enzymes and soluble fiber. Commercial juices are loaded with sugar, as everything else that is healthy has been stripped out and removed. The soluble fiber in freshly made cold-pressed juices helps to slow down the absorption in the gut.
And research has also found that even 100% fruit juice does NOT lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. You can read the research here. To quote from the article: “Overall, findings from this meta-analysis of RCT suggest a neutral effect of 100 % fruit juice on glycaemic control. These findings are consistent with findings from some observational studies suggesting that consumption of 100 % fruit juice is not associated with increased risk of diabetes.”
“What about the fiber? Surely when the fiber is removed, it is not healthy.”
We need fiber, yes. We get fiber from the cell walls of plants. There are different types of fiber and different ways to classify fiber.
One of the most common ways to distinguish fiber is to classify it as either soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber cannot be digested by our bodies and move through our system. It adds bulk to stool by absorbing water and it tends to speed up the movement of food through the gut. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material in the gut and tends to slow down the movement of food.
We need both soluble and insoluble fiber. When you make a cold-pressed juice, the insoluble fiber is removed. But it is not a problem. Here is why. First, you are not supposed to live on juices only for the rest of your life. While juicing is a great way to boost nutrients, no one is ever suggesting that you just live on juices and never have insoluble fiber again. Second, even when you are making cold-pressed juices as part of a balanced juice-only programme, you will still have sources of insoluble fiber, like avocado, banana, berries and seeds, which is blended in. So you will still have both soluble and insoluble fiber. And not to sound like a broken grammaphone… ideally, you should be eating fresh, raw fruit and vegetables in the first place.
When juicing is not healthy
While I believe that juicing is healthy, there are dangers that I want to highlight here. Juicing, when done incorrectly, can lead to problems. Here are the top dangers of juicing:
Juice fasts done wrong
One of the biggest sales gimmicks I have seen in the world of juicing is where juicing companies sell juice “cleanse” packages, or juice fasts. Now, I don’t believe in juice fasts – you can read more here.
Juicing fasting can leave you feeling lighter, brighter and more focused. It can lead to weight loss and aid in the detoxification process. Juice fasts or cleanses usually last for one to three days, or even longer programs.
The downside of juice fasts or cleanses are:
Adverse effects due to pre-existing conditions.
If a person suffers from diabetes, anemia, eating disorder, kidney problems, hypoglycemia, undergoing chemotherapy, or is a woman who is pregnant or who is nursing, juice fasting is not recommended. It can lead to problems. I am not saying here that you shouldn’t be juicing, not at all. In fact, adding a daily juice could be beneficial. But juice fasting or cleanses should be avoided.
Ignoring the balance of macronutrients.
Many of the commercial juice fasts or cleanses only focus on fruit and vegetables, and often lack protein and fat (especially the fruit-only juices). Without sufficient protein, the body cannot build new tissue. Without sufficient fats, your skin and hair will suffer, not to mention other functions in the body that require fatty acids. When I do a juice-only programme, it includes hemp seed protein powder, chia seeds and avocado to ensure that protein and fats are included.
Drinking just one or two types of juices can lead to electrolyte imbalances.
Think “just celery juice”. A fast or cleanse that focuses on just one or two types of juices can be dangerous, as you are not giving your body the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients it needs to be healthy. You also risk not having enough calories, and your body may start using muscle tissue as a source of energy – this is not healthy.
Food-borne illnesses, chemicals and GMO.
Raw fruit and veggies retain all their vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients. But raw fruit and veggies can be contaminated with disease-causing micro-organisms, herbicides and pesticides, which can lead to food-borne illnesses. Store-bought juices have been treated (heat-treated or pressure-treated) to kill the disease-causing micro-organisms, which is great, but not so great from a nutritional perspective.
GMO produce is also not great, as the DNA of the produce have been engineered to act as a pesticide and to withstand challenging circumstances. We don’t know enough yet about the long-term impact of GMO foods on our bodies.
So while raw is best, you can still take action to protect yourself: always wash your produce (not just rinse it) and enjoy your juice within a day of making it (unless you freeze it). Buy organic when possible. And remember, the same rules apply that apply for cooked foods – keep it clean, refrigerate left-overs, and remember that even cooked food goes off.
Interaction with medications.
People who have pre-existing conditions or who take certain prescribed medications should avoid particular produce. Juicing can be problematic in these instances.
- The high levels of potassium and minerals from drinking too many green juices can lead to dangerous levels for those with kidney disease.
- The high levels of antioxidants and low levels of protein can be problematic for people who are undergoing chemotherapy.
- If you are taking blood-thinning medication, like warfarin, you should avoid foods that are high in vitamin K, including kale, spinach, collards, chard, parsley and mustard greens.
- Grapefruit can be dangerous to people who are taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
- Kidney issues may occur from too many oxalates found in spinach, bananas, beetroot and chard. Oxalic acid binds with calcium to form oxalate chrystals, blocking the absorption of iron and calcium, and which could also lead to kidney stones. Gout, osteoporosis and rheumatic arthritis can also be aggravated by oxalic acid.
Juicing is healthy, if done right and if done for the right reason. It is a great way to ensure you get the benefits of fresh fruit and raw vegetables, especially if you are not a big veggie eater. If you are struggling with illness, juicing can help to address nutritional deficiencies. Should you do a juice-only programme, it can help your body to detox (as you are removing the toxic food from your diet).
But as with everything in life, too much of a good thing can be bad. If you are going to stick to just one juice during a juice fast or cleanse, you can create health problems. People who are on certain medications or treatment or at risk or suffer from certain illnesses may need to be smart about which fruit and veggies they include in their diet, and then in their juices.