If you’re one to follow health headlines, you know that with as many innovations and discoveries scientists seem to find, there are just as many new things to become concerned about. It can be hard to navigate what’s “good” and what’s “bad” on any given day to treat yourself well.
One of those products? Juice. We start off our days with it, sip it throughout the day, and even go on cleanses where that’s all we’re consuming for days on end. Is juice even healthy to drink, or are we wasting our time trying to find nutritional value in it? Let’s dissect the information out there and figure out how healthy juice (or certain kinds of juice) is.
What the research says.
Most of what is constituting how healthy juice is relates to how old you are when you begin drinking it. According to the New York Times, pediatricians across the country have come out to warn parents not to allow their babies to drink juice and limit young children’s consumption.
Lots of fruit juices are filled with syrups and sugars that kids don’t need. But this recommendation even concerns 100 percent fruit juices, too. Juice offers no nutritional benefits early in life, and can take the place of what babies really need: breast milk or formula and their protein, fat and minerals like calcium. Eating fruit in its whole form rather than drinking juice includes more fiber and prevents dental decay.
Even for younger kids and as old as 18, juice should still be limited. Most of the juice brands kids gravitate toward are the ones found on grocery store shelves, and those jugs of Hawaiian Punch and Juicy Juice are serving no purpose for healthy growth and development besides providing a temporary sugar rush.
What about expensive juices?
This research doesn’t address the juices we probably now think of in terms of achieving personal health goals. These are the ones that are much more expensive, come in the single-serving bottles, and tote all the fruits it contains. Including words like “cold-pressed” and “organic” helps, too.
The hefty price tag is a result of how much produce is actually squeezed into a single bottle of juice. For every 16-ounce bottle, expect there to be several pounds of produce used. Compare that to a typical orange juice, where 16-ounces might equal about four oranges. This also doesn’t include the weight differences between various fruits and vegetables likely included, especially with greens making their way onto the scene.
Since any 100% juice delivers fruits or vegetables, it’s a quick way to get a lot of these compounds in one sitting. Some folks claim that, since cold-pressed juices specifically are exposed to minimal heat and air, they’re able to hold onto more vitamins, minerals, and enzymes present in the whole fruit. However, there is currently no published research to support these claims.
Juice cleanses: yay or nay?
You’ve seen juice cleanses marketed as much as the cold-pressed juices they use. If you’re unfamiliar, people take part in juice cleanses for a day or longer, only sipping specific juices to rid the body of extra toxins and get it back on track.
The thing with juice cleanses and how healthy they actually are is that our bodies are already pretty efficient in the detoxification department. The entire purpose of our liver and kidneys is to detox, so why do we need to go extremes to accomplish the same goal? Relying upon juice cleanses as a healthy option isn’t sustainable.
The idea is that when our bodies are freed from the burden of digesting solid food, they can more efficiently release the toxins swimming in our system. But while experts agree that juices contain many nutrients, a special three-day cleanse won’t magically improve your body’s natural waste-removal system. Sure you’ll likely lose weight, but it’ll all come back once you start eating solid food.
Juice isn’t terrible for you, but it’s not the healthiest thing to drink on the regular. Not all juices are made equal, so pay attention to what you’re buying and what ingredients are in it. It’s expensive, but cold-pressed juices will be much more nutritionally dense and chock-full of the vitamins and minerals you’re likely seeking out from juice in the first place.
If you have the choice between a whole fruit and a glass of juice, the whole food will be the better option. Not only does juice strip foods of their natural fibers, it also isolates the natural sugars that, when chugged in one sitting, are often more than our bodies actually need. Plus, since we digest liquid and solid calories differently, you’re taking in more calories and not satisfying your hunger the same way as you would eating a fruit salad.
As with anything, it’s all about balance. I don’t believe we should be labeling foods as “good” and “bad,” because that immediately turns food into something greater than what it is: fuel for our bodies. These amazing systems of ours are capable of handling a lot, and if you want to enjoy some things in moderation, you won’t be endangering your overall well-being.
Don’t neglect what you’re craving, but enjoy it responsibly. Don’t feel guilty for treating yourself to any juice, whether it’s cold-pressed, organic, or straight from a plastic jug. It’s okay. Treat yourself well, make good choices, and really, just live.
Do you drink juice regularly, and if so, what kinds do you prefer?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie