Juicing blender sales are on the rise this year with sales up to $784 million as of May 2013. (1) There are also several juicing hot spots popping up like Smoothie King and Jamba Juice that are gaining in popularity. McDonald’s also now sells a “fruit” smoothie. Since juicing seems like the new craze and health kick, should you jump on the bandwagon? Is juicing really good for you?
We know from many studies that too much sugar is never a good thing. Recent studies have focused on children due to our high rates of obesity and increasing diabetes in that age group. These studies have clearly shown that fruit juices and sugary drinks are tied to childhood weight gain even as young as 2 to 5 year olds. (2) Some recent studies have proven that over consumption of fructose (the main sugar found in fruit) can cause problems like metabolic syndrome, obesity, fatty liver, and diabetes (3).
But since fruit is “natural”, isn’t it okay to eat/drink as much as you want?
First, we have to examine the nutrition composition of fruit. Fruits are rich in carbohydrates, primarily simple sugars like glucose and fructose. Whole fruit contains fiber, water, vitamins and anti-oxidants which can be very healthy for you. Fiber is important because it helps you to feel fuller longer because of the increased time it takes to digest. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are helpful in preventing a variety of disease by supporting the immune system.
If you eat fructose from fruit in moderation, it can be a healthy part of your diet; however, if you have diabetes, a weight problem or insulin resistance it is important to avoid excess fructose, especially that found in highly processed foods (example: cute little 100 calorie snack packs). There are other types of fructose that are unhealthy for everyone, such as high fructose corn syrup, juice concentrates, and yes, even “natural” agave and honey. This type of fructose consumption can promote disease.
Secondly, we have to discuss the differences between fruit juice, juicing, and blending.
Fruit juices, such as orange juice and apple juice, are very different from blended fruits. The amount of sugar in orange juice and apple juice is significantly higher than eating the whole fruit. For example, one orange contains about 20-25 grams of sugar and produces about 2 ounces of juice. An 8 ounce glass of orange juice is equivalent to eating 4 oranges! For comparison, an 8 ounce can of real soda has only slightly more sugar at 27 grams/can. Might wanna think twice about giving your kiddo a glass of orange juice tomorrow morning.
Even if the label states 100% fruit, it will still contain more sugar than you need in one day. These types of fruit juices also do not contain any of the fiber found in whole fruit. There was a study done which measured blood sugar of participants who drank unsweetened orange juice and compared it to drinking regular cola. The results proved that the increase in sugar in the blood was the same at one to three hours after consumption of both cola and orange juice. (4) Therefore, both fruit juice and soda are sugary drinks and should be avoided.
Juicing is different from blending. Juicing uses a machine and often leaves out pulp, fruit skins, and some of the vital nutrients you could get from eating the fruit whole. Juicing tends to produce less fiber then blending whole fruit. It is a bit confusing because some fancier juicers are really more like blenders.
Blending is a type of juicing that uses a special blender and allows for the whole fruit to be mashed into a liquid consistency. There is no proven research but blended fruits tend to be healthier than juicing because more nutrients are included in the blended juices. Certain experts argue that eating whole fruit is better than blending due to the mastication (chewing) process involved that helps your body feel satisfied more quickly. Eating whole fruit versus drinking your fruit allows for a person to consume fewer calories and volumes of food according to a study published in Obesity journal in 2012. (5)
If a person is eating a low carb diet in order to reduce insulin resistance and lose weight, over consumption of fruit could potentially delay the results. Blending juices using primarily fruit would be harmful in this case due to the high sugar content. One could make a fruit smoothie with more sugar than what’s found in a 12 oz can of Coke! Post bariatric surgery patients are also at increased risk for “dumping syndrome” and should be cautious with the amount of sugar they consume no matter what source it comes from.
So far we have focused on juicing or blending with fruit, but there is a better alternative. If you want to juice, the best way is to blend non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens which are more nutritious and have less sugar per serving then fruit. Additionally, these foods contain more fiber per serving. Juicing using vegetables and leafy greens can also help increase his/her intake of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants which can be particularly important in the post bariatric surgery patient. Another way to increase the health benefits of juicing/blending is to add a good quality (low carb) complete protein powder such as whey.
– Juicing can be healthy if it involves blending mainly vegetables and only small amounts of fruit to make it palatable.
– It is still best to eat your fruit via chewing rather than juicing or blending fruit.
– If a person is following a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, it’s best to minimize the intake of fruit and juice. Once in the maintenance phase, this can be increased to some degree.
– Because the consumption of excess sugar can increase your risk of diabetes and metabolic disease, people should be mindful of limiting their consumption of sugary drinks, including all juices, soda, and sports drinks.
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(2) Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain in 2- to 5-Year-Old Children Mark D. DeBoer, MD, MSc, MCRa, Rebecca J. Scharf, MD, MPHb, and Ryan T. Demmer, PhDc. Journal of Pediatrics 2013.
(3) Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: results from the recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies.
Stanhope KL, Schwarz JM, Havel PJ. Curr Opin Lipidology. 6/2013
(4) Diabetes Educ. 1991 Jul-Aug;17(4):274-8.
Postprandial glycemic response to orange juice and nondiet cola: is there a difference?
Sullivan MJ, Scott RL.
(5) Fruit juices and smoothies: Dangerous for your health? Chicago Tribune.Abby Olena. July 2013.