In-Depth Diet and Nutrition Series: All About Juicing

By Jess Kolko, R.D. – January 1, 2014


The landscape of the diet world is constantly changing. New research and new fads are popping up what seems like daily. Since this topic is one that I get asked about frequently, I decided that it would be good to explore some of the more popular diets and trends. In this series, it is my hope to explore diets and trends in-depth to discover their effectiveness for the fitness-minded individual.

Juicing is the process of separating the water/juice from the pulp of fruits and vegetables. The juice is consumed and, most often, the pulp is discarded (it’s great for the compost pile), but pulp can also be incorporated into recipes. There are a couple kinds of juicers that are on the market; masticating and centrifugal juicers are the most popular. A masticating juicer uses an auger to crush a fruit or vegetable while a centrifugal juicer uses a spinning motion to separate the juice after the fruit or vegetable has been ground to a pulp-like consistency. Both types of juicers get the job done with fruits and vegetables, but some in the juicing community consider the masticating juicer to be superior. Generally, masticating juicers have more functions than just juicing; they can be used as a pasta extruder and make nut butters, among other things.

A blender (such as Vitamix or BlendTec) doesn’t separate pulp but grinds whole fruits and veggies into a beverage that retains all of its fiber. When you use a Vitamix or something similar to make a vegetable and fruit beverage, this is not technically juicing because you are not separating the pulp/fiber out of the liquid. Most people would call this a smoothie (a blended concoction of fresh and frozen produce that is consumed cold). Juices, for the most part, should be consumed directly after preparation and never warmed above room temperature.

You can juice all parts of most fruits and vegetables—they just need to be able to fit in the chute of the juicer. There’s no need to remove small seeds from apples, oranges, etc. It is also unnecessary to peel fruits and veggies when juicing, but make sure you wash everything well. A masticating juicer is better at juicing foods like leafy greens and wheatgrass.

The first key to making a great juice is using high-quality organic produce when available. One formula that balances nutrients and flavors is using three parts vegetables to one part fruit or sweet vegetable. This way, you are more likely to consume more of the good nutrients rather than just drinking a glass of fruit juice, which contains a high level of sugar. But don’t forget to use taste as a guide, too; sample often, as you want to be sure you like the taste of your juice, or else you won’t drink it.

Incorporating juicing into your day can be done in several ways. One is to add a juice into your daily intake. If you add a mostly vegetable-based juice to your day, you are likely adding healthy nutrients and a great supplement to a nutritious diet. Another way is through a juice cleanse/fast. A juice cleanse/fast involves consuming nothing but juice, water, and (sometimes) herbal teas for several days. Three-, five- and seven-day juice cleanses/fasts are popular. Generally, those who have never tried a juice cleanse/fast before should start with the shorter durations.

There are many reasons why someone would want to juice or even do a juice cleanse/fast. Adding a daily serving of juice is all about increasing nutrients. A large amount of fresh produce goes in a juice—much more, in fact, than could be eaten in one sitting. After removing the fiber and pulp, a concentrated, nutrient-dense beverage remains.

On the other hand, a juice cleanse/fast can be used for differing reasons. For some people, a juice cleanse/fast is about taking a break from food and focusing on high nutrient intake. Others want to “rest” their digestive systems by only taking in juice. A juice diet can also be used to find out where food is being used as more than just nourishment, as observing triggers for emotional eating become more apparent. Another aspect of juice cleansing/fasting is minimal exercise; activity should be gentle (like yoga), with a focus on living simply. Some juice cleanses/fasts can also include more “back to roots” elements, such as taking a break from technology, while others have a deeper, more spiritual significance.

Though juicing can be added to support a healthy diet, it is not recommended for athletes who are actively training and racing except as a supplement. Juice generally doesn’t have enough calories to be used as a meal replacement. Physiologically, our bodies don’t recognize liquid calories (juices, smoothies, and other beverages like sweetened teas and sodas) as readily as solid food calories. One of the methods our stomachs use to recognize fullness involves something called a stretch receptor. When we consume juices or other liquids, those calories don’t activate the receptors in the same way, as extracting the fiber has significantly reduced the volume of the fruits and vegetables. When consuming beverages that have calories, care must be taken not to over consume for the day. Fiber helps us to feel and stay full; if you use juice as a meal replacement, you are likely to get hungry again rather quickly due to the lack of fiber and liquid dispersing from your stomach.

If you’re an athlete who would like to try a juice cleanse/fast, do so in the off-season or when taking a few days off from vigorous activity. It is recommended that you work with someone who is well versed in juice cleansing/fasting, and Austin is lucky to have a number of local places where you can find delicious, fresh juice and a helping hand to guide you through the process.

In America, it seems we are always looking for the “magic bullet” to fix our health issues, and juicing is a current, popular trend. While juicing has been a big part of the health and wellness community for decades, it has recently become increasingly popular in the mainstream. Many juice companies, such as BluePrint and Suja, have launched ready-to-order juice fasts delivered to your door. Local companies like Skinny Limits, Daily Greens, Juiceland, Juice Box, and Whole Foods Market are also resources. The next time you are online or in the grocery store, check out the huge selection of ready-made juices and cleanse packages available.

Adding more fruits and vegetables has been the call to action from many health professionals for years, and juicing is a quick and easy way to add nutrient density to your diet; however, it is not a cure-all for poor eating habits or the answer to all of our chronic health and weight issues. Juicing has been around for a long time and has been a helpful tool for many on the path to health, but it is not a panacea. Athletes would be wise to use caution if embarking on a juice cleanse/fast and should not experience this extremely low level of caloric intake during vigorous training. Consult your doctor and a dietitian or nutritionist before starting on any kind of eating or juicing program.


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