Fasting is definitely the newest ‘trend’ in the fat loss world. Although I am a huge fan of the process when followed mindfully and appropriately, as with any concept that gains social media traction, there are questions and nuances that always come up. One of the questions I can asked the most is regarding juice fasts or cleanses and how they fit into a healthy lifestyle.
It seems like everybody and their dog is trying a juice fast. Juice bars are the new bars – the hip place to go, drink, and socialize (minus the alcohol, plus the kale). For years, juicing has been considered a bedrock of a healthy diet. It has been heralded as a miraculous thing for all the benefits it offers – from losing weight to fighting cancer.
No wonder the juicing trend, has spread like wildfire amongst dieters and health seekers alike. Even moderately health-conscious individuals seem to try the occasional carrot concoction or wheatgrass shot when they are possibly looking for a health ‘boost’.
For others, juicing seems to be the way of life.
The logic is that squeezing the health benefits of vegetables and fruits into a glass can be better, tastier, and more convenient than gobbling a plate of vegetables every time you eat.
Before you start hunting for the biggest and best industrial juicer and renovating your kitchen to occupy it or spending hundreds of dollars on a juice cleanse from the closest juice boutique, it is important to know that anything touted as a quick fix or miracle cure can have its drawbacks.
All Juices Are NOT Equal
There are different quality levels when it comes to juices.
You can find many pre-packaged “juices” at just about any store. Often, these are really derived from concentrate. Most of the time, they have added ingredients, are high in sugar and the ingredients are probably not organic. Those are definitely not healthy. I definitely don’t recommend them.
Next, we have cold-pressed juices that actually take the fruit and vegetables and press them to keep in as many nutrients as possible. These are often sold at those boutique juice bars. Sometimes these are organic, which definitely is a step in the right direction.
You could also make your juice at home - buy your celery and spinach and lemons and make your own fresh juices that you can drink right away.
I want to focus on the last two juices – the kinds that are often considered to be the kings of health drinks.
There are often two types of people who tend to drink these juices:
- The supplementers are people who add a juice or two into their lives each day – or maybe a few times a week – on top of a healthy diet.
- The juice cleansers or juice fasters are those who either use juice as a meal replacement or they go strictly juice-only for 1, 3, 5, or even 7 days.
So what’s the problem?
The devoted liquid dieters may object, and anyone that wants to be healthy-trendy may be disappointed. Social media is packed with pictures of healthy looking people who swear by their juice.
We tend to forget that because something is healthy – like vegetables and fruits – does not mean a part of a something is always perfectly and wonderfully healthy – like the juice.
Is juice (even the best sourced and made) really the ‘miracle drink’ it claims to be?
Juice may actually not be the best drink in the world.
Even if you only drink homemade juices or the cold-pressed juices, the natural sugar you consume is much more than the sugar you consume by eating actual fruits and vegetables.
Natural sugars can be good for you but too much natural sugar is still too much.
Suppose you eat an orange for a snack. You consume approximately 12 grams of sugar, but you are also getting 3 grams of fiber. Preparing an orange juice requires much more than just one fruit, which means much more sugar. This is also minus most the fiber. All that sugar can quickly add up. This does not only happen with fruits. Even vegetable juices can have the same problem.
Check out a popular juicing company to see just how much sugar is in these juices. Keep in mind these are high-end, no sugar added, pressed juices. These are not your run-of-the-mill prepackaged grocery store brands.
Shockingly, a daily juice cleanse of 6 juices could easily go over 100 – 150 grams of sugar in one day!!
For a seemingly healthy combination of beets, apple, lemon, and ginger you get about 34 grams of sugar in one bottle with only 4 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein
A combination of apple, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, lemon, and ginger you get about 24 grams of sugar in one bottle, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.
The orange, turmeric, apple, and lemon juice packs a whopping 36 grams of sugar in one bottle, 2 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein
And though they did have a greens-only option (which many people are not going to get too excited over) with kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, and lemon with 2 grams of sugar, there was still only 4 grams of fiber….
When so many people are opting in to juice cleanses to lose weight and improve their health, it’s hard to justify consuming that many grams of sugar in one sitting let alone one day.
For the person that is trying to lose weight, having that much sugar emphasizes the need for sugar over fat as a primary fuel source. When looking to burn body fat, you have to really monitor your sugar intake, keeping it as low as possible.
You definitely need healthy fiber in your food. In fact, the fiber content is one of the main reasons fruits and vegetables are so beneficial for our health. Your body requires insoluble fiber. This particular fiber does not dissolve easily and helps in cleaning your digestive tract, getting rid of toxins and plaque. And feeding your gut bacteria which support your metabolic functioning.
On top of this, there’s a brilliant little system in place for fruit and fiber. Fiber can actually slow down sugar absorption in the blood and control sugar spikes. When you eat the whole fruit, all that extra fiber is helping your body absorb the natural sugars.
When you drink the occasional juice (the supplementer), you may still have a fiber rich diet the rest of the day, and that’s good. For a juice faster/juice cleanser you are depriving your body of the necessary fiber it needs for a healthy gut and proper sugar absorption.
The majority of fruit and vegetable fiber is not in the squeezed-out juice, but in all that pulp that gets left out of the juice. This fiber loss is one of the biggest cons of juicing.
Not to mention that digestive issues are far too common these days. From leaky gut to IBS, the gut problems run the gamut. There’s just not a good reason to choose juicing when so much fiber is left behind.
Many people jump to juicing as a way to lose weight but a juice fast may leave you feeling hungry more often than you think.
Have you ever used a juice to replace a meal or days of meals? It is not easy. You seldom feel full or satisfied. Most people feel hungry and even a bit cranky. This can easily lead to cravings and binging. This is not simply in your head either. Eating solid fruits can make you full and reach satiety more quickly than drinking juice.
Keep in mind that glasses of juice may have the same number of calories that a day full of meals has, yet it will not keep you as satisfied as eating whole foods does. In fact, you will probably never feel satiated, and you will be missing out on other macronutrients.
Most juices have zero to little protein. If your mission is to build lean muscles, juices won’t help. Once your body finds it difficult to get protein from your food intake, it will gradually turn to your muscles for the necessary amino acids. You will slowly start losing muscle mass and your metabolic rate will drop. You never want to lose muscle; you want to lose fat.
Real Vegetables & Fruits
This may not seem sexy or hip, but one great way to get your nutrients plus the necessary fiber is to simply eat fruits and vegetables – and lots of them. Eat them with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This may sound more simple than trendy, but it’s more effective.
You can pack a day full of produce and still have purchased less than you would have for juices. You also get to pair them with fabulous sources of fat and protein.
There is another method that is just as sippy, yet holistically better than juicing: that’s blending. How about swapping your juice for a smoothie?
Smoothies have more fiber
When you prepare a smoothie, all the healthy ingredients that you put in the blender go into your body: the antioxidants, the wide array of nutrients, AND the fiber and the protein.
If you are adding the peels and cores of the vegetable and fruits into your blender (which you should), all the fiber content you have included goes into the drink and into your body.
Smoothies have lots of nutrients
Juicing enthusiasts always come back to the nutrients, but smoothies have them too. Most of the healthy nutrients of a fruit or a vegetable are found in their cores, peels, and the other fibrous parts of the food. This means smoothies, if made well, generally have a powerful punch of antioxidants and nutrients.
In addition, you have more opportunity to add healthy fats, protein and superfoods through nut milks, nut butters, coconut oil, avocado, etc.
Smoothies have the potential for being extremely sugar heavy too, especially when your blending liquid of choice is – you guessed it – juice. Same story when it comes to sweetened nut milks or coconut milk – or if you add a sweetener of any kind.
Check out this guide on how to build your perfect smoothie.
Eat Real Food
Here’s the deal: the occasional juice is not going to ruin your health and there truly are still nutrients in that bottle (as long as it’s properly pressed and made from organic produce). If you tend to indulge in sodas and other drinks with artificial sweeteners and chemicals, a well-made juice could definitely ibe a better choice.
Your best option, always, is drinking plenty of water, eating a healthful diet, and consuming whole produce. This going to be your ticket to a healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy gut – and even a smaller waistline. It’s lower in sugar and cheaper too. It may not be as sexy, but it is by far more effective.
Talk to me about juicing. Have you tried it? Are you a devotee? Any low-sugar smoothies you’ve been loving lately? Have you found any of the cons of juicing in your own life?