In recent years, juicing has become an increasingly popular way for people to boost their intake of fruits and vegetables. Proponents claim that juicing can provide a concentrated dose of nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants that can lead to improved health and vitality. But does juicing really provide the energy boost that some claim?
What is juicing?
Juicing refers to extracting the liquid content from fruits and vegetables. This is typically done by using a juicer machine that grinds up and squeezes produce to separate the juice from the pulp. The resulting juice contains most of the vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals from the produce used while the fiber content is drastically reduced.
Juicing makes it easy to consume a large amount of produce quickly. For example, you might juice 6 carrots, 5 stalks of celery, a whole apple, a whole lemon, a few sprigs of parsley, and a 1-inch piece of ginger. It would take a while to eat all of that produce, but it can be consumed very quickly as a juice.
Nutrients in juice vs whole fruits and vegetables
There are some key differences in the nutrition profile of whole produce compared to juice:
- Juice contains most of the vitamins and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in produce, but lacks the fiber.
- Without fiber, the natural sugars in juice are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream leading to spikes in blood sugar.
- The rapid absorption can lead to a blood sugar “crash” shortly after drinking sugary juice.
- Chewing whole fruits and veggies may help satisfy appetite better than drinking juice.
So while juice contains a concentrated dose of nutrients, the lack of fiber means that the sugar and calories are absorbed rapidly. This is unlike eating whole produce where the fiber helps slow digestion.
Common ingredients in energy boosting juices
There are lots of different recipes for juices targeted at increasing energy. Here are some of the most common ingredients:
- Ginger – Contains compounds called gingerols that are thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
- Beets – Rich source of nitrates that may improve blood flow and oxygen delivery.
- Spinach – Provides magnesium, iron, and antioxidants to boost energy and fight inflammation.
- Pomegranate – Contains polyphenols with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
- Carrots – Rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may improve immune function and increase blood flow.
- Apples – Provide polyphenols, fiber, and natural carbohydrates for sustained energy.
- Citrus fruits – Contain vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants to support immune function.
These fruits and vegetables contain a range of plant compounds, vitamins, minerals, and natural sugars that may work synergistically to provide an energy boost.
Potential benefits of juicing for energy
There are a few key ways that juicing might provide an energy boost:
Increased micronutrient absorption
Juicing may allow for efficient absorption of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants by pre-extracting them from whole produce. This includes:
- Vitamin C from fruits and veggies to support immune system function
- Magnesium and iron for energy production and blood oxygenation
- Polyphenols and carotenoids that act as antioxidants
By removing the fiber, these nutrients may be more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream after drinking juice. However, the fiber also helps sustain energy, so juicing removes that benefit.
Carbohydrate fuel source
The natural sugars in juice can provide a source of carbohydrate fuel. Glucose from the sugars may give a rapid energy boost as it is absorbed quickly from the gut into the bloodstream. However, this rapid spike can be followed by an energy crash as blood sugar plunges. Whole fruits and veggies provide more sustained energy.
Phytonutrients are plant compounds found in fruits and vegetables that may provide health benefits. Juicing may help concentrate and deliver a large dose of these beneficial plant chemicals.
For example, polyphenols from pomegranates, and carotenoids like beta-carotene from carrots, may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These are processes involved in chronic diseases that may also influence energy levels.
Juice provides an efficient way to hydrate, especially if consuming produce with a high water content like cucumbers and celery. Staying hydrated is critical for sustaining energy levels.
Potential drawbacks of juicing for energy
Despite some potential upsides, there are also some important drawbacks to consider when it comes to juicing for energy:
Blood sugar spikes and crashes
The natural sugars in juice are absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream since the fiber has been removed. This can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin followed by a “crash” as blood sugar drops below normal levels. These swings in blood sugar may leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
Juice doesn’t provide the same satiety as whole fruits and vegetables. The fiber content has been removed, which is key for promoting fullness and satiety after eating. This may lead to hunger soon after drinking sugary juices.
Missing out on other beneficial components
While juicing concentrates some beneficial plant compounds, other components are lost. For example, the skin of apples contains beneficial polyphenols. Leaving this out during juicing removes those compounds.
High calorie content
Fruit juices can pack a large number of calories into a small volume. This makes it easy to inadvertently consume a lot of sugar and calories if drinking large volumes of juice.
Potential nutrient degradation
Some nutrients like vitamin C and polyphenols start to degrade immediately after produce is juiced. Nutrient content may be lower by the time you drink your juice compared to eating whole fruits and veggies.
Tips for using juice for energy
Here are some tips to maximize potential benefits while minimizing drawbacks if using juice for an energy boost:
- Consume juice in moderation as part of a healthy diet, not as a meal replacement.
- Combine juice with protein, fat, and/or fiber to help control blood sugar response.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of simple fruit juices high in sugar and calories.
- Drink juice soon after making it to maximize nutrient levels.
- Use mostly non-starchy veggies like spinach, cucumber, celery and add small amounts of low-sugar fruits.
- Always wash produce thoroughly before juicing.
- Consider opting for whole fruits and veggies with the skin for more fiber and nutrients.
- Pair juices with regular meals and snacks to help control appetite.
The bottom line
There is limited evidence that juicing can provide a significant or sustained boost in energy levels. While juice may provide concentrated amounts of some vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant chemicals, it lacks the important fiber content of whole produce.
The main potential benefit comes from carbohydrates providing a quick source of glucose for energy metabolism. However, this can also cause swings in blood sugar that may leave you feeling tired.
If you do opt to use juicing, consume juices in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Focus on non-starchy veggies over high-sugar fruits and do not use juice as a meal replacement. Making dietary improvements, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep are more impactful ways to improve your overall energy levels.