Juicing diets - Are they healthy?

One of the diets that has endured, and continues to be punted by celebrities, is juicing. But there are arguments that with the fibre removed from the fruits and vegetables, the juices aren’t that healthy. Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood looks at juicing diets and whether or not they are a healthy dieting option.

Positive Health Wellness, a health website, notes: “The main downside with juices is that you’re taking out all the fibre from the ingredients. Juicing removes the pulp, which is where the fibre is. When the fibre is removed, you end up with more sugar being released into the body. And it’s all in liquid form, which means that it is easier for the body to absorb it.

“You may still be getting the nutrients that you need, but juicing isn’t as good for you as blending the fruits and vegetables instead—where you get it all whole food, including the fibre. Either way, though, you’re more likely eat more fruit and vegetables when you have it in drink form. You don’t get that full feeling as much—regardless of the amount of fibre—and don’t realise just how many portions you’re consuming.”

Juicing and your health

Desi Horsman, a nutritionist, speaker and wellness expert, reveals that while juicing as part of a diet programme does have value and health benefits, it is not advisable for weight loss only. “Juice fasts upset your blood sugar balance; deprive your body of healthy fats, protein, fibre and probiotics. When you juice, your body goes into starvation mode, destroying your metabolism which means once you reintroduce foods, you put on all the weight you have lost during the fast and often more.”

Celynn Morin, a registered dietician and co-founder of Resilient Energy Center, explains that one piece of fruit makes on 100ml of juice on average. This means that a large glass of juice would require between three and four fruits or vegetables, making the juice highly concentrated.

Terry Harris, a dietitian at Discovery Vitality, notes that while fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, it is recommended to consume these a whole vegetables and fruits, with the skin (where possible) and the pulp.

“While juice does contain vitamins and minerals, it is low in fibre, and fruit juice is additionally high in sugar (and consequently kilojoules). Following any diet that restricts your energy intake will lead to weight loss. However, solely drinking juice does not guarantee that you will lose weight as fruit juice is high in sugar (and consequently high in energy), but low in fibre (which means that you will need to drink more of it to feel full and sustain the diet).

“Additionally, there is no evidence to support the belief that following a juice diet rids the body of toxins – our liver and kidneys are more than capable of doing this for us,” says Harris.

However, Horsman notes that there are some health benefits to a juice cleanse or diet. “Provided your elimination organs are in good form, you will benefit from clearing out toxic overload in your body. Plus the fibre is removed in the juicing process which means the body has almost immediate access to nutrients. It’s an easy way to increase fruit and vegetable intake and very often you consume fruit and veggies you might not normally eat and in so doing, introduce a variety of new and different nutrients and antioxidants into your system,” says Horsman.

Tim Spence, from Orchard on Long in Cape Town, agrees that the nutritional value remains. “A general rule of juicing is generally going towards veggies, because it’s a high nutrition ratio, it’s lower calories. But the exciting thing about juicing is you can combine so many different ingredients or a variety of different options.”

Spence adds: “[Orchard on Long] has four cleanses, we have one cleanse that includes fibre, we have the virtue cleanse and that has probiotics, that has raw nutrition snacking, so all those fibre considerations are taken into account. That’s not to say that doing a one or three day cleanse of just pure juice is going to be detrimental at all. It’s going to actually give the digestive system a break, and some people really need that. So whether there’s fibre or not, if you want to give your digestive [system] a break, even if you have any gut problems, literally it is an unbelievable aid.”

Orchard on Long juicing cleanse menu

The juicing cleanses on offer from Orchard on Long.

The health risks

While there may be a number of benefits to a juice cleanse, there are still several health risks that can be associated with this.

“The liver is designed to help the body get rid of anything potentially harmful or toxic and a proper cleanse needs nutrients to feed the liver properly to be able to lose weight. To be effective, all your elimination organs need the correct fuel to be able to break down and remove toxins. You don’t get enough of these nutrients from a juice fast,” emphasises Horsman.

“If the body does not have the correct nutrients or enough fibre, the toxins are reabsorbed into the blood stream and re-circulate and deposit in other organs and tissues which is a significant health risk. To protect you from this toxicity, fat tissue holds on to these toxins and of course your body will hold onto the fat which means losing weight becomes impossible until your liver is able to process the toxins effectively,” revels Horsman.

Harris further notes that fruit in particular is high in sugar, but low in fibre. As such, a juice diet with a lot of fruit could see your blood sugar levels spike. This spike in sugar levels, will also eventually lead to a drop in your sugar levels as your body works the sugar out of your system, which will leave you with lower energy levels and poor concentration.

Spence states: “Taking a break from solid foods for three days or a day, depending on where you are in terms of health, can be beneficial. I think there are a lot of people who say ‘I’m going to go on a juice diet’, which is just the wrong angle to take.”

Juicing as a diet option

Spence says: “Marketing a [juice] cleanse as purely a weight loss programme does not communicate the right message. Weight loss may be a by-product of a cleanse but it encourages a quick fix mentality. We’re interested in promoting and helping customers achieve sustainable, lasting results.  Cleanses can help this process when they [are] viewed as a nutritional aid to either introduce a more conscious way of living or to supplement an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, exercise and mindful practices.”

Horsman states that you don’t get enough of the nutrients you need for weight loss from a juice fast. She notes that juicing can actually release toxins from tissues, such as fat cells, and deposit them into other parts of the body, ultimately causing more damage.

“You don’t want to complete your diet programme with having lost your muscle and no fat. So you would need to be eating some meals to make sure you get adequate protein and fibre,” says Horsman.

According to Harris, juicing is not recommended for weight loss. “Most fad diets (including juice diets) are difficult to stick to as they either restrict kilojoules too severely or they cut out certain food groups and consequently cut out valuable nutrients. In addition, following these diets does not change the unhealthy lifestyle habits that led to weight gain in the first place, meaning that once you return to your regular eating pattern you will likely regain any weight lost. The key to sustainable weight loss is to lose weight gradually (½-1 kg per week) by following a healthy, balanced eating pattern (including all food groups), along with regular physical activity.”

Furthermore, Harris states that there is no evidence that proves juicing rids the body of toxins. “A healthy, balanced eating pattern, along with regular exercise, is best when trying to lose weight or improve health.”

Spence stresses: “The thing is everyone is looking for quick fixes, and you can do a juice cleanse thinking it is going to change your world, but unless you have all the other factors, [such as] your exercise, under control, it’s not going to be sustainable. It really has to be looked at from [a healthy lifestyle point of view], and that’s the individual’s responsibility.”

How often can you ‘juice’?

While there are benefits to juicing, it is important that this fall into a wider healthy diet. As highlighted above, juicing on its own does have potential health concerns, and it is vital to balance a juicing diet/cleanse with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

“It’s more important to maintain constant levels of detoxification and health throughout the year than to do a drastic juicing fast. Maintaining a healthy weight means maintaining a healthy eating regime all year round so that you are not attempting to lose weight with each new fad. Having a small glass of a juice just a few times a week will go a long way towards building your health. But a big glass of juice, or more than one juice a day, will burden your organs because too many nutrients are absorbed by the body so quickly. Juicing is ideal as a part of detoxification which is an ongoing process and is not something you only need once a year,” states Horsman.

The cost of juicing

According to Morin, the cost of juicing could be prohibitive for many people. It is often argued that it is more expensive to not eat healthy than to spend extra money and buy healthier foods. But unfortunately for many, the rising cost of living means they have to save money where they can, and purchasing large quantities of fruit for juicing does not factor into their budget. “Even juicing at home can put a strain on your wallet because there’s a low yield of juice per product,” says Morin.

There are a number of juicing recipes out there that you can follow, if you want to boost your healthy diet and introduce new veggies and fruits you wouldn’t normally consume.

Harris concludes: “The important thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy weight loss. Our individual needs differ as a result of our lifestyles, likes and dislikes, bodies that react to food differently, environment, culture, life stage, health conditions, among other things. The key is to choose a weight loss strategy that suits your particular needs and circumstances, as this has been proven to better motivate us to change our unhealthy habits – some may benefit from joining a weight loss support group, while others may find it more beneficial to consult a registered dietitian for an individualised approach to sustainable, realistic and practical healthy eating.”