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Cutting Through the Hype About Juicing
With celebrities advocating juice-based "cleansing" regimens, more and more people are thinking about making their own fruit and vegetable juices. Though cleansing remains controversial, there is no debate that freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juice is much healthier than sugary soda. But what about those of us fighting the battle of the bulge? Will juicing help weight loss? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Here's why.
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The Question of Calories
Those curious about juicing and weight loss sometimes seem confused when they are told that they can't just drink fruit (or even vegetable juices) all day and still expect to lose weight. Juices are caloric beverages, and according to Katherine Zaratsky, Registered Dietitian, "calories in liquid count just as much as calories in food." (2009). Though fresh fruit and vegetable juices contain far more nutrients than soda or tea, they don't necessarily contain fewer calories. Take, for example, a 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew soda verses 12 fluid ounces of fresh-squeezed, no-sugar-added orange juice. Though the juice contains 21% of the RDA of potassium and 260% of the RDA of Vitamin C, that glass of juice also has 180 calories. The can of Mountain Dew, by contrast, has 170 calories. Vegetable juices are lower in calories than fruit juices, but no lower in calories than their whole-food counterparts. According to the recipe calculator at caloriecount.com, 1 ounce whole raw carrots has 35 calories, just like 1 ounce of carrot juice (by weight).
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The Fiber Factor
Fiber is an essential nutrient, meaning the human body must have it in order to function properly (Graham, 2010). Juicing removes much of the fiber from fruits and vegetables (Zaratsky, 2008). Not only will getting too little fiber increase the risk of consipation, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, (Zaratsky, 2008), the missing fiber makes it too easy to go overboard on fruit and vegetable juices. For example, according to the recipe calculator at caloriecount.com, 6 ounces of carrot juice (a mere 3/4 cup) contains 210 calories, which could easily be consumed along with a large meal. By contrast, if someone were to eat 6 ounces of whole carrots, he or she would probably not have much room left for anything else. The lack of fiber in juice is why dietitians recommend adults drink no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice per day (Zeratsky, 2009).
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Smoothies: A Great Alternative to Juicing
People are drawn to juicing because, given the frantic pace of modern life, it's often easier to drink fruits and vegetables than to eat them. Also, juices often taste better to those not used to certain fruits and vegetables.
Instead of juicing, try a healthier alternative: smoothies! Smoothies made from whole fruits and vegetables retain all the convienience and taste benefits of fruits and vegetable juices, without any fiber loss. A good-quality blender, used according to manufacterer instructions, requires only a little liquid (juice, yogurt, or water) too keep things swirling. Cook's Illustrated Magazine, a well-respected aribitor of kitchen equipment, recommends the KitchenAid 5 Speed Blender ($150) or the Brawn PowerMax ($50). Great healthy smoothie recipes can be found for free on sparkrecipes.com.
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Cooks Illustrated. "Blenders". 1 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2010 from http://www.cooksillustrated.com/equipment/overview.asp?docid=18893
Graham, Douglas. M.D. "A Reason Not to Juice." Raw Foods and Sports Nutrition. 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010 from http://www.vegsource.com/talk/raw/messages/99928956.html
Zeratsky, Katherine. R.D, L.D. "Vegetable Juice: As Good as Whole Vegetables?" Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetable-juice/AN01857.
Zeratsky, Katherine. R.D, L.D. "Dieting? Beware of Liquid Calories." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dieting/HQ00544.