To juice or not to juice: Does the nutritional value live up to the hype?

Juicing should be part of a balanced diet that includes fiber, lean proteins and healthy fats.

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Juicing can be a fun and tasty way to ramp up fruit and vegetable intake.

Juicing can be a fun and tasty way to ramp up fruit and vegetable intake.

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Juicing remains a full-on health craze thanks to an explosion of juice bars and celebrity endorsements.

Satisfying that thirst for greens, super fruits, celery or beetroot juice straight-up is all the rage, but, as healthy as these juicy concoctions might seem, there’s a tall order of hype muddling science with slick marketing.

Juicing can be a great way to get much-needed nutrients from fruits and vegetables, especially when most Americans fall short of the recommended five daily servings, which evidence suggests may help prevent chronic diseases. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients in 2021, consumption of 100% fruit juice is a source of nutrients, including phytochemicals, plant compounds associated with health benefits. A large body of evidence shows that juice is a part of a balanced diet offering reduced risk of many diseases, such as cancers, neurodegenerative diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

While juices squeezed fresh from whole ingredients provide many of the valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients of whole fruit, the healthy fiber — which includes the skins and their high concentration of phytochemicals and antioxidants — is often discarded in the juicing process. Without fiber, the body absorbs the sugar in juices more quickly, which can spike blood sugar levels. In addition, most juice calories come from carbohydrates, packing a lot more sugar from fruits, and even some vegetables.

Juicing proponents say the body absorbs nutrients from juice more easily than from whole fruits and vegetables, that juice removes toxins from the body, boosts the immune system, aids digestion and helps with weight loss. There is no sound scientific evidence that says extracted juices are any healthier than juice from the whole fruits and vegetables. In addition, manufactured juices must, by law, be pasteurized which means they are heated to high temperatures, which studies show diminish nutrients, some as high as 70%.

Juicing can be a fun and tasty way to ramp up fruit and vegetable intake as long as it’s balanced in a diet that includes fiber, lean proteins and healthy fats. When buying packaged juices, be sure to check labels for unwanted ingredients like added sugars.

Environmental Nutrition is an independent newsletter written by experts on health and nutrition.

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