Juicing is super-trendy: If you’re not already doing it, you probably think you should be. But is juicing—pulverizing creative combinations of fruits, vegetables and herbs either in a blender or special juicing machine that separates liquid from pulp—really the key to a healthier diet? Here are the pros, cons and pointers from some of the nation’s top nutrition experts.
Juicing can be a shortcut to a more nutritious diet. You’d have to chomp your way through about 8 carrots to get the amount of cancer-fighting carotenoids found in one cup of carrot juice, and 10 cups of spinach to get the amount of heart-healthy folate found in a single cup of spinach juice, says registered dietitian Kelly Morrow of Bastyr University’s Center for Health, in Seattle.
Juicing can help the body’s natural detox process. All plants, whole or juiced, contain nutrients that help your body rid itself of toxins—antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin C, compounds in cruciferous vegetables like 3-indole carbinol, which stimulates the liver, and the anti-inflammatory gingerol, found in ginger root. “There are more components in fruits and vegetables than we know, more than you will ever find in a pill,” says Dr. Susan Blum, a functional medicine doctor practicing in Rye Brook, N.Y.
Juicing can fill in the gaps for people with digestive issues. Concoctions made in a juicer “can be helpful for people who simply cannot tolerate high-fiber diets—those with inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or who have had gastric bypass surgery,” Morrow says. “It allows them to get these whole food nutrients with less GI distress.”
Juicing could sabotage efforts to control blood sugar or lose weight. That same lack of fiber, though, could be a minus for others. “Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugars and create a feeling of fullness, so, in general, it’s a good thing to consume,” Morrow says. One way around it: Combine both juices and whole foods in a blender, suggests Cherie Calbom, author of the Big Book of Juices and Green Smoothies.
Juicing can make it easy to overdo it on sugar. The juices of fruits and even vegetables like carrots and beets are relatively high in sugar, notes Blum. A blend that uses mostly vegetables is the best way to keep sugar low.
Juicing can be pricey. A large glass of homemade juice will run around $3, depending on the ingredients. A good juicer that’s easy to clean, such as The Juice Master Pro, costs about $200. Juicing advocates suggest using organic produce to avoid toxins, which can put even more pressure on your pocketbook.