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The Myths and Merits of Juicing

And why you should (or shouldn't) be doing it

There are two camps in the juicing debate. Firmly planted on one side are those who wholly subscribe to its life-changing benefits. On the other, those who argue that the merits of juicing are overblown hype. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

While many of our readers got into juicing long-before it was trendy (they tend to be early adopters of these things), the practice has more recently been popularized by Joe Cross’ film, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. In it, Cross seemingly transforms his body and his health by consuming only fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days straight. Along the way he convinces others to give juicing a go – and the film documents their positive experiences which range from significant weight loss to a reduction in migraines.

There’s no doubt – it’s a compelling film. Everyone likes a feel good story and this certainly is that. Take for instance truck driver Phil Staples. When Cross meets him he is overweight, suffering from a debilitating auto-immune disorder, consuming copious amounts of medication and very obviously on his way to even more serious health problems. Flash forward to the end of the film where we watch a newly svelte Phil at his new job at the YMCA and playing with his kids. He’s off most of his medication. He looks positively transformed. It’s powerful stuff. Powerful enough that even the most cynical skeptics may find themselves trolling the aisles at Canadian Tire comparing the features of juicers. It should be said that Cross has subsequently made a substantial amount of money shilling his blender of choice: Breville’s Juice Fountain. Here's the extended trailer of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
 


 

The theory behind juicing is that it makes important minerals, vitamins and nutrients more readily absorbable by the body and that drinking these nutrients doesn’t tax the digestive system the way eating them does. In other words, you probably can’t eat a bunch of kale, a cucumber, an apple, celery, beets, lemon, carrots and a slice of ginger in one sitting – but you can juice it and benefit from its nutritional components.

There are two main criticisms of juicing. The first is that it can cause a spike in blood sugar. When eaten whole, the fibre in fruits and vegetables normally slows the absorption of these naturally occurring sugars. When fruit and vegetables are juiced, the fibre is removed and juice is absorbed quickly into your system, which can cause your blood sugar to spike. Proponents of juicing say that this effect can be mitigated by properly blending high and low sugar vegetables and limiting use of fruit in juices (Cross recommends a blend of 80% vegetables and 20% fruit). But removing the fibre doesn’t just affect absorption, it also reduces the other health benefits associated with higher intake of fibre, like helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels and regulating your bowels. Fibre also makes us feel full, reducing the tendency to over eat.

The second criticism of juicing is the lack of peer-reviewed scientific research proving its merits. While anecdotal evidence abounds (just Google “benefits of juicing” if you need proof), there is very little research that demonstrates a clear health benefit. There is some research that shows that cancer-fighting carotenoids – found in things like apricots, red bell peppers and spinach – may be more readily absorbed in juice. On the flip side, there is little to no evidence that juicing has detoxifying, immune-boosting or long-term weight-loss benefits. That said, few doctors and dieticians have come out wholly against juicing; most subscribe to the “everything in moderation” point of view (particularly in light of North American’s woefully poor diet).

Before considering juicing, it would be worthwhile to do a cost-benefit analysis for yourself. Good juicers are not cheap – typically starting at $70 and going up to $450 and more. Additionally, juicing requires a fairly significant amount of produce (organic is recommended by most juicing proponent) to generate just a small glass. Estimates range from $30 per day and up, depending on how frequently you juice.


If you are pregnant, take medication, have diabetes or other health issues, discuss juicing with your doctor. Cross does not recommend anyone undertake a juice fast longer than 5 days without medical supervision.

Not sold on juicing? Consider blending fruits and vegetables into a smoothie. Blending retains the fibre of fruits and vegetables and is generally faster, requires a lower volume of produce and is more filling than juice. Add chia or flax seeds for healthy fat, protein powder, Greek yogurt or nut butters for added protein. But remember that blended fruits and vegetables still won’t have the same slow rate of absorption as eating them whole does.

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