Most people think of juice as a healthy substitute for fruits and vegetables. Homemade pressed juices are all the rage, and “juice cleanse” is here to stay in the mainstream vernacular. But recent studies and government statements suggest that the high sugar content in juice is not as healthy it seems.
So, just how healthy is juice? We’ve decided to get to the bottom of the question once and for all. This article is all about the health benefits of different types of juice, the ingredients to avoid in juice and the answer to the age-old question: is fruit juice actually bad for you?
What is the Difference Between Store-Bought Juice and A Homemade Juice?
As you probably know, there are a wide variety of juices out there. So, what is the difference between drinking store-bought juice and drinking juice you’ve made yourself at home?
Most store-bought juices contain added sugars and preservatives. Of course, there are plenty of healthier options available, but as a general rule, make your own juice when you can.
Juice companies market their products as healthy beverages. While some unhealthy juices are easy to spot - just look for claims of “fruit-flavored drink” - other juice companies present “all-natural” juices that appear to contain nothing but healthy ingredients, which can be misleading.
In order to understand what makes some juices healthier than others, let’s examine the various methods used to make them.
Sadly, most all-natural juices lose most of their nutritional value before they reach the supermarket shelf. Fruit is placed into a high-speed centrifugal unit where it is oxidized to extract the juice. This process damages the fruit’s beneficial phytonutrients. After this process, the juice goes through a pasteurization process which increases the product’s shelf life, but decreases its nutritional value.
The juice is then infused with additional ingredients that makes it taste and look better, including sweeteners and food coloring. It’s easy to be deceived as it comes in a range of vibrant, fruity colors, with packaging designed to show off the product as a healthy beverage.
Nowadays, cold-pressed juice is the current trend as more people come to understand the benefits of how the juice is made. Cold-pressed juice is fresh-pressed, meaning it is never subjugated to a high-temperature centrifuge.
Because this type of juice has no added preservatives, it tends to expire in a few days. If you want to find a juice that has real nutritional value, look for fresh-pressed or cold-pressed juices with a short shelf life.
If you have a juicer at home, you can easily make your own juice. This is by far the best way to guarantee your juice is fresh, healthy, and free from any extraneous, harmful ingredients. Plus, you can create your own unique recipes and include all of your favorite fruits!
While many health-conscious people are turning to juice as an alternative source of nutrients, there are others who go to more extreme lengths by embarking on juice-based diets. There has been a lot of debate and confusion about the health benefits of a juice detox or a juice cleanse.
What is a juice detox?
A juice detox involves cutting out all food for a period of time and ‘detoxing’ by living off juice. Most people on a juice detox make their own juice at home, meaning they are drinking the healthiest possible juice.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that juice detoxes are an unhealthy way to lose weight. The body detoxifies naturally, so the notion that you can force your body to detoxify by only drinking juice is unfounded.
Many people embark on juice diets hoping for quick and easy weight loss. Because cleansing diets usually reduce your daily calorie intake, you will lose weight quickly. However, this weight loss is a result of your body entering starvation mode. Once your cleanse is complete, you are likely to regain all of the weight you lost and more.
Juice cleanses also deprive your body of essential nutrients like carbs, fat, protein and fibre. The imbalance created by a juice cleanse can lead to fatigue, low blood pressure, headaches, and irregular bowel movements.
So, Is Juice Bad For You?
The health benefits of juice depend on several important factors: how the juice was made, which ingredients were added to the juice, and how you are drinking the juice in the first place.
We’ve established that for juice to be nutritional, it needs to be made in a very specific way. Cold-pressed juices and homemade juices retain more of their nutritional value because they are never forced through high-temperatures and pressures. Remember you want to look for unpasteurized, fresh juice, or make it yourself to ensure your juice is as healthy as possible.
It’s also crucial to think about the way you are drinking juice. Juice cleanses, or juice fasts, involve cutting out all foods and surviving on juice alone. Even if you are drinking freshly pressed juice, your body will still suffer.
Juice should be part of a healthy diet and it should never be used as a replacement for real, solid fruits and vegetables. Juices don’t contain the fiber of a whole fruit, making them a more concentrated source of sugar. It’s also easy to overdo it with fruit juice - because it tastes sweet and is easy to drink, too much fruit juice can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Overall, juice can be part of a healthy diet when it’s fresh and when enjoyed in moderation.
The Health Benefits of Different Juices
Certain ingredients in fresh juice can provide you with a variety of specific nutritional benefits. Of course, these are the same benefits available when eaten whole, albeit easier to stomach when pressed into a tasty juice!
Here are some fantastic ingredients to use in your next homemade juice and the specific health benefits they will provide:
- For skin complaints, try beets
Beets are rich in vitamin C which can help reduce blemishes and give your skin a natural, healthy glow. If you think your skin is looking a little dull, try a beet juice recipe.
- For aging, try kale
Kale contains a specific combination of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that can help slow down the aging process.
- For the common cold, try ginger and tumeric
Ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties that make them great for reversing the symptoms of a cold. If you notice a tickle in your throat, try adding ginger and tumeric to your juice.
- For hydration, try coconut water
Coconut water is famous for its miraculous hydration powers. Because of its high potassium levels, it’s a great source of electrolytes. If you need to rehydrate after a workout or a hot day, include some coconut water in your juice.
- For muscle fatigue, try blueberries
If you’ve just done a big workout, blueberry is a great ingredient to throw into your next juice. Blueberries reduce inflammation and can help to speed up the body’s natural muscle repair process.
Of course, these ingredients will retain even more of their nutritional value when eaten whole. However, if you can’t find a good whole food recipe for ginger and tumeric, or you simply can’t stomach kale on its own, try adding them to your daily glass of homemade juice.
FAQs About Juice and Juice Diets
How much juice is too much?
We’ve established that juice should be an addition to a healthy diet, but how much is too much? In most cases, more than one glass of juice a day is probably too much for your system. Health and safety regulations suggest that juice should constitute no more than 1 of your 5 a day liquide intake. Drinking one 150ml glass of juice per day can be a healthy way to supplement your fruit and vegetable intake.
How do I find healthy juices?
Here are some tips on how to sort the good from the bad when it comes to juice shopping.
- Fresh-pressed or cold-pressed
- All-natural ingredients
- Short shelf life
- “Juice drinks”
- “Contains real fruit juice”
- “From concentrate”
- Long shelf life
- High sugar content
- Added vitamins and nutrients
- Added food coloring
What will happen if I drink expired fresh-pressed juice?
One of the downsides to ‘healthy’ juice is the reduced shelf life. Cold-pressed juices should never be consumed after their expiration date. This is because they are prone to bacteria and yeast. If you have accidentally consumed an expired fresh-pressed juice, you’ll likely experience a stomach ache or vomiting. If your symptoms don’t pass naturally, seek medical advice.
Is juice bad for you? The answer is complicated and depends on a few key factors. Juice may have fewer positive effects than many would like to believe, but it only has negative effects when it’s consumed excessively . Avoid juice cleanses and pasteurized juice, they have minimal effect. Instead, reap the nutritional benefits of juice by drinking one glass of fresh fruit juice a day.