Juicing has become a popular way for people to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. Proponents claim that juicing allows you to consume more produce than you could eat whole, providing a concentrated dose of nutrients. However, critics argue that the act of juicing strips away important fiber and leaves mostly sugar water with minimal nutritional value. So do you still get nutrients from juicing, or is it all just empty calories?
The Potential Benefits of Juicing
There are some potential advantages to juicing fruits and vegetables:
- Increased intake of produce – Juicing allows you to consume the juice from several pieces of fruit or large amounts of leafy greens in one sitting. This can help increase your total intake of fruits and veggies.
- Absorption of some nutrients – The process of juicing breaks down produce into an easily digestible form. This may enhance the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, folate, and potassium.
- Phytonutrient boost – Phytonutrients are plant compounds that may provide health benefits. Juicing allows you to consume the phytonutrients from a large quantity of produce.
- Easy on digestion – The nutrients in juice are separated from the fiber, making them easier to digest for some people, especially those with digestive issues.
So in theory, juicing can provide a concentrated dose of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Downsides of Juicing
However, there are some significant downsides to juicing that must also be considered:
- Lacks fiber – The juicing process removes the pulp and fiber from produce. Fiber provides many health benefits and helps promote fullness and gut health.
- Spike in blood sugar – Without fiber to help slow digestion, the natural sugars in juice are absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream, spiking blood sugar levels.
- Loss of nutrients – Some nutrients are damaged or lost in the juicing process through oxidation and exposure to heat or air.
- Not as filling – Juice tends to be less satiating compared to whole fruits and vegetables. This could lead to increased hunger and calorie intake.
- High in sugar, low in protein – The concentration of natural sugars in juice can be very high, while the protein content is low compared to whole produce.
Do You Still Get Nutrients from Juicing?
Research on juicing has found that it can provide benefits, but also has drawbacks:
- Vitamin C – Juicing is an excellent way to obtain high amounts of vitamin C. The vitamin C content is maintained well in juice.
- Antioxidants – Juices retain antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids from produce, providing anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Folate – Juicing leads to minimal losses of the B vitamin folate compared to whole produce.
- Vitamin A – Some studies find juice retains over 90% of vitamin A from carrots. However, juice from leafy greens has far less.
- Minerals – Juices provide important minerals like potassium, but levels can vary based on the type of produce used.
- Fiber – All of the fiber is removed during the juicing process, which is a major drawback to juicing.
- Blood sugar – The glycemic load from drinking juice is considered high, and juice spikes blood sugar levels.
- Satiety – Despite getting concentrated nutrients, juice does not provide the same satiating effect as solid produce.
Overall, you can get a range of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds from juicing, but nutrients are affected to varying degrees. Juicing also lacks the important component of fiber.
Nutrient Comparison of Whole Produce vs. Juice
To illustrate how juicing affects nutrient content, here is a comparison of nutrients in whole produce versus juice for a few common fruits and vegetables:
|Vitamin C (mg)
|1 medium orange
|1 medium carrot
As shown, juices can provide very high amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. However, fiber content is completely eliminated. Also, vitamin C and folate levels remain fairly stable with juicing, but vitamin A and iron levels can decrease significantly.
Should You Juice or Eat Whole Produce?
Based on the available evidence, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether to juice or eat whole produce:
- Fiber – Juice contains no fiber, an important nutrient that promotes gut and heart health. Focus on getting adequate fiber from whole foods.
- Blood sugar – The natural sugars in juice can spike blood glucose rapidly. Consume juice in moderation, especially if you have diabetes.
- Nutrient loss – Some vitamins like vitamin C remain stable in juice, but others like vitamin A and B vitamins are reduced compared to whole foods.
- Satiety – Whole produce contains fiber and protein, making it more filling than juice.
- Convenience – Juicing requires prep time, but provides an easy way to ingest produce for those with chewing or digestion difficulties.
- Variety – Juicing allows you to conveniently consume a wider variety of produce like leafy greens and wheatgrass.
Overall, it’s likely best to focus on getting the majority of your fruit and vegetable intake from whole foods. However, juicing can be an additional way to increase your produce intake if your diet is lacking. Moderation is key.
Tips for Juicing
Here are some tips to get the most nutritional benefit if you do choose to incorporate juicing into your diet:
- Use primarily vegetables, and minimal fruit, to limit sugar content
- Leave peels on citrus fruits and cucumbers for extra fiber
- Combine produce high in vitamin C like oranges with iron-rich greens to increase iron absorption
- Drink juice shortly after making it to minimize nutrient deterioration
- Pair juices with whole foods like nuts or yogurt for protein and healthy fats
- Limit juice to 1 small glass per day if you have diabetes or weight loss goals
The Bottom Line
Juicing can provide benefits when incorporated properly into an overall healthy diet. It allows you to increase your intake of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from a wide range of fruits and vegetables. However, juicing also removes valuable fiber and may reduce levels of some nutrients.
For most people looking to improve their diet, it’s likely better to focus on getting the recommended amounts of whole fruits and vegetables. But juicing can be used strategically to help boost produce intake if needed. Moderation and variety are key when juicing.
By maximizing nutrient-dense whole foods first, while using juicing sparingly to supplement your diet with extra fruits and veggies, you can get the best of both worlds when it comes to optimal nutrition.