Juicing has taken the health world by storm, and millions of people are now gulping down pounds of produce by the glassful. A swarm of celebs including Salma Hayek, Alicia Silverstone, and Megan Fox have jumped on the juicy bandwagon for its convenient approach to clean eating. Other proponents include Ryan Seacrest, who sips on an earthy blend of collard greens, kale, broccoli, coconut water and green tea, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s been known to kick off the New Year with a week-long liquid detox.
But does this thirst-quenching trend truly promote health or is it just hype? Like most Hollywood fads, these fashionable beverages have their pros and cons.
Here's What You Should Know
First, the benefits. Juicing is an easy way to shower your body with concentrated amounts of nutrient-packed vegetables and fruit (helloooo vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). Plus, these drinks are automatically low in ingredients you want to avoid, like toxic fats, added sugars and salt. For this, they receive an A+.
Now, the downsides. If you’re considering a juice fast to drop pounds fast, listen up. While strictly following a juicing program for more than a few days can promote a downward trend on the scale because you’re slashing your collective daily calories, you pay a price: Most plans leave gaping nutritional holes in your diet. The majority of the calories in these juice beverages come from carbs, including high amounts of natural sugar from fruits and some vegetables. That means almost all commercial juice plans are grossly inadequate in protein, a key nutrient that helps you feel full and energized while maintaining your lean muscle mass and boosting your metabolic burn. In fact, following a low-protein diet while simultaneously cutting calories causes you to lose a higher proportion of weight as muscle tissue (as opposed to fat), which puts the brakes on your metabolism and reduces strength. Plus, most of the fiber in fruits and vegetables is lost during juicing if the pulp is not added back to the drink… a common (and ironic) issue with commercial juice blends on the market. So you’re basically following a high-carb, low-protein and low-fiber diet, which can cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar, and lead to headaches, mood swings, dizziness, and fatigue. Another major drawback: liquid calories do not have the same fill power as whole, solid foods, which makes it hard to stick with a juice-only plan for longer than a few days without feeling irritable and completely ravenous.
And about those health claims touted by commercial juice companies…many are just plain bogus. Juice cleanses are not needed to detox your system or remove toxins. Your body is fully equipped with everything it needs to do that on its own — if you nix the junk and focus on eating clean. Some companies also claim that juice cleanses help your body achieve a beneficial alkaline pH, but in reality, your body maintains a tightly regulated pH at all times, regardless of what you’re eating. There are no major human studies to substantiate the purported benefits of an alkaline diet.
And then there’s the cost. Commercial juice plans are prohibitively expensive for most people, with the most popular kits ranging from $65 to $85 a day. Even juicing at home can put a strain on your wallet since there is a low yield of juice per pricey pound of produce.
Bottom line: If you want to try juicing, skip the full-on liquid diet and instead enjoy a green juice (heavy on veggies and lighter on fruit to keep calories and sugar in check) with or in place of one of your meals. This way, you reap the potent produce benefits and continue to get your fill of health-promoting whole foods, including powerful proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, seafood, nuts and lean meats.
And if you’re looking for a well-balanced drink that works as a meal replacement shake (or hearty snack), give my Greens-in-a-Glass a try! This light, refreshing smoothie packs in nearly 3 cups of produce — and there’s no pulp removed so you retain 100% of the nutrition and fiber. I add protein-heavy Greek yogurt to balance out the carb load, but you can substitute ½ cup silken tofu for the yogurt to make a vegan shake.