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Squeezing the Truth Out of Juicing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a new policy regarding juice consumption, stating juice should not be introduced to infants before one year of age unless clinically indicated and should be limited for toddlers, children, and teens.

In the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, the federal government allows juice to count as a serving of fruit but urges Americans to consume primarily whole fruits for the dietary fiber. Meanwhile, Instagram feeds are chock-full of “green juice” posts, and business continues to boom at juice bars, leaving many perplexed about whether or not juice fits into a healthy adult’s diet. It’s time to squeeze the truth out of the long-standing juicing trend.

Juice is simply the liquid extracted from fruits and vegetables, leaving the fibrous material behind. Fruits and vegetables are primarily sources of carbohydrates, containing natural sugars that provide a trademark sweetness. Carbohydrates tend to digest quickly in comparison to other macronutrients, but the presence of fiber as in whole fruit helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream leading to greater satiety and less of a spike in blood sugar levels.

Juice is often promoted as a health food, a substance to cleanse or detoxify the body, or a means to lose weight. To set the record straight: juice is not needed for health, nor does it cleanse the body. The body has vital organs responsible for detoxification, and no one food causes weight-gain or loss.

Though juice labels often boast containing two apples, two cucumbers, a cup each of spinach and kale, blueberries, and strawberries, most people could not imagine sitting down to eat all that in one sitting! Downing a glass of juice is not the same as eating several servings of fruit, just as sipping chicken broth is not the same as eating a chicken breast.

Still, juice can be a valuable source of vitamins and minerals on days when it’s difficult to consume adequate fruits and veggies. Since most of the fiber is left behind during processing, juice is ideal for those with medical conditions warranting a low-fiber diet. Similarly, individuals who struggle to take in adequate energy or have high calorie needs may incorporate juice for additional nourishment without filling up on fiber. For these individuals, the inclusion of juice boosts variety and consumption of important nutrients their bodies need.

Medical conditions and energy needs aside, let’s not forget this most basic truth about juice: Sometimes a cold, sweet glass is refreshing and delicious, and it’s perfectly normal to select foods (and beverages) purely for enjoyment from time to time.

Still deciding whether to juice or not to juice? Keep these strategies in mind:

  • Use your own juicers (aka: teeth) most of the time. Consuming more whole fruits and vegetables brings greater satiety, more fiber, and a slower pace.
  • To minimize peaks and valleys in blood sugar and appetite, incorporate appropriately sized portions of juice (typically ~½-1 cup) as part of a meal or snack rather than sipping it throughout the day or drinking it alone.
  • Add juice into smoothies with Greek yogurt or whey protein for a satisfying, balanced snack, or consider blending your fruit rather than juicing it for a higher-fiber beverage.

Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN is co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition & lifestyle counseling practice operated by registered & licensed dietitians/nutritionists. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit http://www.MemphisNutritionGroup.com.

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