Juice and smoothie lovers have long debated the benefits and drawbacks of drinking pulp. While some prefer to strain out the fibrous pulp, others believe the pulp provides valuable nutrition and health benefits. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the research behind drinking pulp and help you decide if pulp is right for you.
What is pulp?
Pulp refers to the stringy, fibrous, or chunky bits left over after juicing or blending fruits and vegetables. When you make orange juice or apple juice at home, you often have the option to filter out the pulp through a sieve or cheesecloth. The pulp contains fiber, plant cells, and other compounds. Some juicers and blenders remove pulp automatically, while others keep the pulp in the drink.
Nutritional benefits of pulp
Here are some of the key nutrients found in fruit and vegetable pulp:
|Dietary fiber||Promotes healthy digestion, improves cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar|
|Vitamin C||Boosts immune system, aids collagen production|
|Potassium||Supports heart health and muscle function|
|Magnesium||Relaxes muscles, involved in energy production|
|Polyphenols||Antioxidants that may prevent cellular damage|
The pulp contains much of the fiber and micronutrients found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Fiber is important for digestive health, heart health, and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The vitamins and minerals in pulp also provide antioxidants and support many bodily functions.
Pulp increases feelings of fullness
One of the biggest benefits of pulp is that it helps make you feel full. The fiber adds bulk and takes up space in your stomach and intestines. This physical fullness can curb appetite and prevent overeating.
In one study, people were given orange juice with varying amounts of pulp over the course of several weeks. Participants reported feeling significantly fuller when they drank orange juice with higher pulp content. The researchers attributed this response to the ability of soluble fiber to slow digestion and prolong feelings of satiety.
Pulp may support heart health
Given the fiber content of pulp, it may also benefit heart health. Soluble fiber is linked to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. One review found that people who ate the most fiber had a nearly 25% lower risk of heart disease compared to those with the lowest intake.
The polyphenols and antioxidants in pulp provide additional cardiovascular benefits. These plant compounds can improve blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and enhance blood vessel function.
Potential blood sugar benefits
Pulp may also help stabilize blood sugar when consumed with high-sugar foods and beverages. The fiber can slow the rate of digestion and absorption of sugars.
In one small study, volunteers were given fruit smoothies with and without pulp. The smoothies with pulp resulted in a less dramatic spike in blood sugar after meals. The researchers attributed this blunting effect to the viscous fiber in the pulp.
Supports healthy digestion
The insoluble fiber in pulp acts as a prebiotic. This nourishes the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. The microbiome aids digestion, improves immunity, and provides many other benefits.
Pulp also adds bulk to stool and can relieve constipation. The fiber swells up with water, helping waste move smoothly through the intestines. Prune juice with pulp is commonly used as a natural laxative.
Enhances satiety from smoothies
Research shows that pulp increases feelings of fullness from smoothies. In one study, obese adults were given peach smoothies with varying fiber contents. The smoothies with the most fiber from pulp resulted in less hunger and lower calorie intake at the next meal.
Another study compared apple smoothies with and without pulp. The researchers found that the pulp increased participants’ satiety after drinking the smoothies. The added pulp also reduced food intake 30 minutes later.
Potential drawbacks of pulp
While pulp offers some benefits, there may also be some drawbacks:
- Textural issues – Some people dislike the gritty, fibrous texture of pulp.
- Digestive problems – Too much fiber at once may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea in sensitive people.
- Reduced absorption of certain nutrients – The fiber can impair the bioavailability of minerals like calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
- Not suitable for low-fiber diets – People with digestive conditions like IBS or diverticulitis may need to avoid pulp.
- Higher calorie content – Pulp adds calories compared to strained juices.
These potential cons should be considered, especially for people with digestive issues or following medical diets for conditions like diverticulitis.
Tips for adding more pulp
Here are some tips for getting more fiber-rich pulp in your diet:
- Use juices and smoothies made with a blender instead of juicer. Blenders retain pulp that juicers remove.
- Add extra veggies like spinach, kale, or carrots to smoothies.
- Swap out refined grains for whole grains like oats, quinoa, or brown rice.
- Snack on whole fruits and veggies instead of juices.
- Stir pulpy orange juice into yogurt, oatmeal, or salad dressings.
- Blend up raw oats or chia seeds for extra thickness and fiber.
When using store-bought juices, check the label and choose varieties that contain pulp and are not from concentrate.
Should you strain pulp from juices?
Whether or not to strain pulp comes down to personal preference. Here are some factors to consider:
- Health goals – Keep pulp for the extra fiber if you want the benefits for weight management or digestion.
- Texture preference – Strain if you strongly dislike the mouthfeel of pulp.
- Fiber tolerance – Remove some or all pulp if you experience gas or bloating.
- Underlying conditions – Avoid pulp if you have diverticulitis, IBS, or need a low fiber diet.
- Nutrient needs – Keep pulp for the additional micronutrients, antioxidants, and prebiotics.
You can also strain high-pulp juices and smoothies through a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or metal strainer if you want to customize the texture and fiber content.
Pulp contributes extra fiber, nutrients, and plant compounds to juices and smoothies. Research shows pulp can increase feelings of fullness, satiety, and other benefits. However, pulp may irritate digestion in some people. Consider your own dietary needs, fiber tolerance, and preferences when deciding whether to include pulp in your juices and smoothies. Straining some or all of the pulp allows customization for texture and nutrition.