To juice or not to juice

One of the most recognizable proverbs regarding health is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Eating fruits and vegetables is undoubtedly nutritious for the human body, but drinking them, especially as part of prolonged restrictive juice cleanses, may not provide the same benefits. “Clearly, there is an abundance of medical evidence that the uneducated use of any type of severely restrictive diet can be ineffective, and very dangerous at worst,” says Santa Monica College health professor Denise Rees. “A brief change in diet—one to two days—may be acceptable for individuals without health conditions.”

On recent episodes of Dr. Oz, as well as The Oprah Winfrey Show, it has been said that, while juicing can provide the benefit of consuming a significantly greater amount of fruits and vegetables, there are concerns about the absence of fiber in juices.

Fiber is found in the pulp of fruits and vegetables, and juice extractors that remove the pulp remove the fiber as well.

Juicing fruits and vegetables, rather than eating them, can also increase sugar intake.

“Fresh juices may contain more sugar than a bottled beverage,” says Rees.

When making a cup of juice, more of the product is required, which means more sugar is consumed. The United States Department of Agriculture’s website illustrates these differences.

One cup of raw strawberries has seven grams of sugar, whereas a cup pureed berries yields a little over 11 grams. The same concept holds true for vegetables, as a cup of carrots contains five grams of sugar, and a cup of carrot juice contains nine grams.

Sugar and fiber are not the only concerns regarding juice diets. If juice is continuously substituted for meals, it can potentially be harmful.

“You’ve got to do it for a couple of days; not longer,” Dr. Oz told viewers on Oprah. He explained that other nutrients that come from meat, fish or soy must be accounted for, and living solely on juice cleanses can lead to malnutrition.

“Maintaining adequate intake of nutrition is difficult on a restricted diet of any kind,” says Rees. “The long-term outcome of restrictive diets [like juicing] is malnutrition, and may result in nasty side effects. Mild-to-moderate side effects may be poor sleep, hair loss, bone fragility, and dried, cracked nails.”

In order to attain their full nutritional value, entire fruits and vegetables have to be consumed, which includes seeds, skin and stem, if edible. According to Livestrong’s website, the outside layers of oranges and bananas should not be eaten, but the inside white layers carry the most nutrients, mainly vitamins and fiber.

“It is best to have foods whole, closest to nature, with the least amount of processing,” says SMC nutrition professor and registered dietitian Yvonne Ortega. “Juicing is a way of processing our plant foods.”

The use of juicers, mixers or blenders powerful enough to finely puree or chop entire fruits and vegetables would produce juices that are more nutrient-dense.

“Fresh juice will contribute fiber from the pulp, however not as much fiber as the whole fruit or vegetable could contribute,” says Ortega.

Pressed Juicery, located on San Vicente Boulevard, sells bottles of freshly pressed juices, each designed for a specific purpose. The store uses a hydraulic press that minimizes oxidation and releases vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are typically not yielded from traditional juicers.

“Our juices are raw, unpasteurized and produced on a hydraulic press which extracts the finest produce straight from the pulp,” says Cissy Huang, an employee at Pressed Juicery.

According to Huang, the possible health benefits of cleansing include weight loss, increased energy and stamina, healthy hair and nails, strengthened immune system and a regulated, cleansed colon.

“Juice cleansing is an optimal way give our bodies the break they deserve, while keeping ourselves energized and nutritionally satisfied,” Huang says.

But the merits of juice cleanses are still debated among health professionals.

“I would not recommend a juice detox diet to anyone,” says Ortega.

“We seem to believe that offsetting the balance of too much of a food group could actually lead to deficiency diseases, even if the food groups are fruits and vegetables that we deem as healthy. The key to a healthy diet is moderation, even with our healthy foods."