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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 18, 2008

Dear Mark: What’s Wrong with Juicing?

By Mark Sisson
63 Comments

Orange JuiceMark,

In your last “Dear Mark” post you said “…why drink your veggies and fruits in concentrated form when you can eat them? I’d just be careful of overdoing the juices.” What is wrong with juicing? I’ve always thought that making fresh juice is extremely healthy for you. Am I right to think that juicing is part of healthy lifestyle or have I been bamboozled by an unnamed, charismatic infomercial personality with bushy eyebrows?

Charismatic personality aside (know what you mean, by the way), I don’t consider juicing a bad thing. However, “eating” only a fraction of a fruit’s/vegetable’s edible content in this case just isn’t going to be as healthy as eating all of it.

Nutrients: Although a generally nutritious option, juice is ultimately a higher sugar, lower nutrient version of its produce sources. Calorie for calorie, for example, you’ll take in more sugar drinking apple juice than you would eating the apple itself. To boot, juicing inevitably reduces or eliminates the majority of fruit and vegetable skin. The skin, for many of our favorite produce pals, berries, apples, pears, plums, figs, etc., contains a hefty amount of a fruit/veggie’s total nutrients. Remember the produce color wheel? Those much-hailed pigments, seats of flavonoids and carotenoids, are concentrated in the skin (and, in some cases, the pulp) as well. Another case of your mother/grandmother being right (again): eat the skin.

Fiber: Again, when you juice you’re deliberately leaving out the skins and pulp (or most of them anyway). Just as the skins and pulp usually hold a lot of the nutrient load, they are the primary (if not sole) source of a fruit’s or vegetable’s fiber content. While I’ve said before that our medical culture overplays the fiber issue (convincing us to down large quantities of grain-based fiber products to “clean us out”), I nonetheless believe that we do require some plant-based fiber for intestinal health. Another crucial benefit of fiber in this case? It slows down the digestion and absorption of the juice’s sugars.

The take-home message is this: juice can offer a decent source of nutrients on days when it’s hard to work in your usual amount of fruits and veggies, but it’s just not an adequate substitute for the real/whole source. (Note: It also requires that you recalibrate your overall carb load that day.)

If you want to include juice in your diet, go for fresh without a doubt. (I wouldn’t suggest buying bottled juices. They’re heated for safety and shelf stability, which reduces their nutrient content and gives them that stale, “off” taste. To boot, the labels may also reveal added sweeteners.) There are plenty of good juicers on the market, and some of us even have access to good juice bars where we live. Personally, I’d recommend making your own. Juice bars generally make their juices fresh for you but might not be as picky in choosing their produce as you would be. Of course, on top of it all you’ll pay a lot more than if you made it yourself. When you juice at home, don’t make a large batch. Juice breaks down pretty quickly. To maximize nutrition (and taste), be sure to make it fresh daily.

As always, thanks for the great questions and comments, everybody. Keep ‘em coming!

Further Reading:

Fun with Fiber: The Real Scoop

On the Problems of Cultivated Fruit

Best Fruit Choices

The Definitive Guide to Primal Eating

What is the Primal Blueprint?

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45 Comments on "Dear Mark: What’s Wrong with Juicing?"

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Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later
Juicing was a big part of my life for several years. The argument that convinced me was this: you can ingest more goodness when you juice fruits and vegetables than would would ever be able to get from eating because you could not physically eat that much fruit and veg. I was on 2 pints a day. This was before I understood the impact of sugars on insulin etc – I would juice large amounts of fruit (and vegetables) on a daily basis! Old habits die hard, so I still make about half a pint of juice from vegetables like… Read more »
Andrew
Andrew
8 years 3 months ago

Skipping out on the fiber while juicing is sort of cheating your body a little, this is why I am just against it. I think that it also a little expensive to go through all of the fruits and veggies that you would normally not speed through if you were eating the fruits and veggies.

Anthony
Anthony
2 years 11 months ago

I use the magic bullet so all the fiber stays in the juice. Best of both worlds.

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years 3 months ago

I’m not strongly against juicing. At least its better than a coke or a frappacino. And Methuselah, the beet and celery combo is one of my favorites.

But I’d have to disagree that it’s cheaper to make your own juice. It takes quite a few whole fruits and vegetables to output just a few full glasses of juice (at least with our office juicer). I’ve actually spent over $20 before just to come up with about 4 cups of juice.

Marc
8 years 3 months ago

In general I try to go with smoothie over juice. As the whole berry or what not is included with the skin.

Heather
8 years 3 months ago

My dad used to use a juicer all the time when I was little. He’d always save the leftover pulp and mix it into plain yogurt for me, so the rest of the fruit wouldn’t go to waste. Man, I freakin’ loved carrot juice as a kid, but I never drink juice now.

Yongho Shin
8 years 3 months ago

Excellent post.

I always try to buy fresh fruit and eat it rather than drink it as a liquid. But I didn’t know the skin contained most of the nutrients! I always heard my parents say it, but I thought it was a myth so I never bothered to eat the skin.

My favorite fruits are watermelon and pineapple. I can’t eat the skins on those. 🙁

Alicia
2 years 10 months ago

pickled watermelon rinds

Student Mike
8 years 3 months ago

Vitamins or no vitamins I always squeeze my portion of fresh juice in the morning. And I admin I feel really good afterwards. Before my juice mania I drank coffee in the morning and it felt good for a while but not I also got tired and distracted faster.

Now when I drink only juice and do some exercise in the morning I feel good the whole day.

Ben Fury
Ben Fury
8 years 3 months ago
To the “Is juice good for me?” question, I always answer, “Sure, IF…” IF you: 1. Juice it yourself and use ALL of the entire fruits and/or vegetables. That means buying an industrial strength machine like a Vita-Mix or a BlendTec Total Blender that can handle the load. Don’t bother trying this with your little thirty buck 500 watt blender. 2. Don’t push yourself over 100 carb grams for the day by blending a bunch of high carb fruits. We’re wanting a fun way to get phytonutrients, not a blood sugar spike! Smoothies and juices are fun. But be sure… Read more »
David Linden, MD
David Linden, MD
8 years 3 months ago

You might want to consider a Vita-Mix. It makes “whole juice”. Basically, a very powerful blender. Therefore, the juice contains the whole fruit, including seeds in most fruits. I’ve used one for over 10 years and have been happy with the results. You can add protein powder, honey, ice, if desired, making a smoothie. Pricey, but well made.

Anna
8 years 3 months ago
Living in So Cal, I’m surrounded by “juicies”. Most “juicies” are completely unaware of how much sugar they are consuming. I often wonder if the “benefits” “juicies” claim are as much placebo effect or sugar high as they are due to the phyto-nutrients. I often see folks buying 25-50 pounds of carrots at a time, for example, presumable for their beta-carotene-rich juices. I tend to get my preformed Vit A from animal sources, such as liver and grass-fed butter, cod liver oil, etc. Sure takes up less space in the fridge than a huge sack o’ carrots and I don’t… Read more »
Juicing For Health With Rika Susan

As with everything in life, balance is the magic word. I firmly believe that juicing can help our bodies to gain easy access to crucial nutrients. I have had my vitamin levels checked before and after a period of juicing regularly. I was amazed by how quickly deficiencies were rectified by juicing.

Of course I still eat whole fruits and veggies. And I use smoothies to add extra fiber. As one tool in a healthy kitchen, a juicer is in my opinion vital – not to mention fun! Happy juicing, folks!

Rika Susan

Raj
8 years 3 months ago
Ann McKeever
Ann McKeever
7 years 9 months ago
I agree with the concern about too much sugar in freshly made juices. But I recovered from stage four hepatocelluar carcinoma (liver cancer) twelve years ago, in spite of repeated warnings by conventional medical experts that I should be prepared for probable death. There were MANY efforts made to regain my health, one of which was twice daily juicing of leafy greens and other vegetables. Let me be clear about this: I am not claiming that juicing cures cancer. I am saying that, done properly, drinking fresh juices will put much needed phytonutrients into your body so it can do… Read more »
Harvey Schwertly
Harvey Schwertly
7 years 4 months ago

Ann McKeever,
How did you cure your cancer?
VR,
Harvey

Ann McKeever
Ann McKeever
7 years 4 months ago

Dear Harvey,

I would be glad to provide you with as much information as I can about my efforts and success at regaining my health after cancer. But, I would rather do it by private email. Please email me at annmckeever@mac.com and ask me again.

Be well,
Ann

JMH
JMH
3 years 8 months ago
Preach it, Ann. MODERATION, people. I am new to juicing (one month) and did a cleanse with strictly juicing for a weekend. That’s a long time for me and my mind/body got hooked on the “light” feeling in my stomach. I ate other things but really mostly just salad and some protein drinks. And I got TIRED! So I realized what I was doing wrong last week and have added more substance back into my diet. But ain’t no way I want to give up the juicing–I know I’m consuming things I wouldn’t be bothering with at all (beets, celery… Read more »
Gina
Gina
7 years 8 months ago

I love making “juice” in my Vita-Mix! When I can’t sit down and eat a salad, I put a handful of spinach, a leaf of kale, some romaine lettuce and an apple for sweetness. I usually add a little water and a couple of ice cubes and viola, liquid salad!

Sam
Sam
7 years 6 months ago

Got one of those Green Star juicers and use it to make celery/carrot/zucchini/lettuce etc. juices every day. I try to lay off the carrots and beets though as they’re pretty high in sugar and can make me slump afterward.

Honestly it has made a MASSIVE difference in how I feel. Everyone’s body chemistry is unique though; some people might feel overwhelmed by or just indifferent to the addition of fresh vegetable juices. That’s fine, but I could never give it up now… they’ll have to pry my Green Star from my cold dead hands 😉

Juicing For Health With Rika Susan

To Sam above: As long as you continue to juice, you are unlikely to have cold dead hands any time soon…!:-)Keep up the good work.

dave, RN
dave, RN
7 years 1 month ago

I too have read a lot of good things about juicing, as long as you stick to veggies and not fruits. It’s big part of many successful cancer fighting alternative medicine regimens.

kevin  krautsack
kevin krautsack
6 years 10 months ago

Okay all of you are mentioning fruit and carrots. Yeah obviously those have tons of sugar…but i only juice eggplant zucchini yellow squash greens and maybe sometime a lemon…..are you saying that increases the sugar content too? I feel great when i juice and it keeps my skin clear. PLus i eat normal vegetables too. Basically i use juicing as a supplement and as a base to put herbs/ other stuff into/ protein etc. Is that bad in any way?

thanks

hyesun
hyesun
6 years 2 months ago
i’ll have to disagree with you mark, on this one. i think juicing veggies is a great way to get the nutrients of a ton of veggies into your body. i don’t juice fruit – i think that’s dangerous because of the sugar. only veggies. plus when you juice, you can include things that people wouldn’t normally eat, like lemon/lime peel and just the rind of watermelon (not the red part). watermelon rind (the green outer skin, organic, of course) is so nutritious. nobody would ever think of EATING it. plus, it’s difficult for me to digest a lot of… Read more »
Sean
5 years 8 months ago

This was a fun read!

Suzanne
Suzanne
5 years 8 months ago

I too think that juicing can be very beneficial in some instances. The “Gerson” diet is all about juicing, vegetable diet and coffee enemas. they have cured many people of many different ills with their regimen. I think this approach is very interesting although I am very happy with living primally. Food for thought!

Grant
Grant
5 years 6 months ago

I have to put my two cents in on this old post….

I do not juice but I do use a vita-mix and throw in veggies with the occasional fruit and ice….this is whole food and it allows me to consume way more veggies a day then just chomping on em….

Adding sugar to anything kills nutritional profile from the get go.

Every day I have two whole food drinks; carrots, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, broccoli and sometimes add some blue berries and it has had a huge impact on the amount of veggies I would eat daily.

Heather
Heather
5 years 3 months ago
When I juice, I feel great. I find it is best to do first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, and to wait another 2-3 hours before consuming solid food. I agree that commerically bought juices and smoothies are packed with sugar. Even some of the juices mentioned here are high in sugar (beets, carrots, etc). Here’s my favorite green juice combination: Use organic when possible. Keep peel/skin on if organic. Kale Romaine Lettuce Cucumbers Celery Spinach Parsley and/or Cilantro Fresh Ginger Green Apple, Kiwi and/or a few Green grapes Can also throw in some wheat grass–I am… Read more »
de6orah
de6orah
4 years 11 months ago
I just found this thread so I’m weighing in late. I’m struggling against insulin resistance so I have to be ultra cautious about sugar spikes. When I juice, I use half an organic apple as the base with a variety of other veg but only enough to get about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of liquid. I like the tasty juice, I appreciate the nutrients and ease of getting more variety, but it’s the PULP I love — mixed with eggs and spices, the pulp makes excellent muffins and pancakes with nary a grain in sight. Seriously — pulp, eggs, a… Read more »
Rashel
Rashel
4 years 11 months ago
Hi- I started straight juicing 4 days ago. I am hungry all the time and on the first day I lost 3 lbs but since then I have only lost 2 lbs. I pee every 10 minutes and have not had a bowel movement in 3 days. Is that a good thing? I am trying to figure out what is better for me. I want to lose 44lbs (pregnancy weight) I have heard that it is good for you, as well as it is bad for you. Can someone please help me out! I am soo confused and just want… Read more »
Farmer Pat
Farmer Pat
4 years 11 months ago

I’d say you need to do more research before tinkering with your body. Congratulations, you are at the right site. Take Mark’s approach from the top.

If you are expecting to lose more than six pounds after four days on an easy-fix “diet,” you are setting yourself up for lifelong health problems, and your new child for the orphanage.

Farmer Pat
Farmer Pat
4 years 11 months ago
What makes you think you have to lose the fiber? In the days that I’d occasionally extract the juice from surplus vegies I always saved the vegie pulp for vegetable stews, or used it as a binding agent in meat loaves. I incorporated it into my whole-grain crackers too (I tolerate 100 g/day of soaked, sprouted, and ground whole grains very well). The point of juicing was nutrient availability when rushed and super busy. The times I needed high quality, portable nutrition when my schedule was insane, or I was under huge scheduling or activity stress. The fiber I’d freeze… Read more »
Farmer Pat
Farmer Pat
4 years 11 months ago
That should have read <100 grams a day of those grains, adjusted downward to accommodate vegetable carbs. Also, a couple times back in the '80s I juiced for a few days when I caught a dysenteric bug circulating in the peasant agriculture areas I was working. It let me remove some of the irritation to the lower intestine that high fiber can cause, while still getting phytonutrients. But I have always found three to four ounces of juiced vegies to be about the top of my tolerance, max. It is a potent but unquestionably partial food, even where I do… Read more »
Steven
Steven
3 years 10 months ago
Ok, so I’m like a year late to this blog post. I’ve been a MASSIVE juicer for the last 15 years of my life. Now, I’m dealing with peptic ulcers, chronic gastritis and consequentially, HUGE issues being able to breath properly. My doctor says all the juicing caused me to release way too much stomach acid over a long period of time. I’m on a very bland diet right now until my stomach chills out. Bananas. potatoes, eggs, yogurt. I’m supposed to eat toast and rice but am passing those up right now. My entire digestive system feels so raw,… Read more »
Lis
Lis
3 years 3 months ago

Are you still having to eat bland foods? How are things going now?

Outback grok
Outback grok
3 years 10 months ago
Why don’t people just have a glass or two of veggie/fruit juice a day as part of their balanced diet. So many straw-man arguments here e.g I drank litres of juice every day for 20 years so juicing is bad. I always hated most vegetables (just the way I was raised), but juicing veggies and fruit gives me more nutrients than I have ever and would ever get by purely eating. I use a Vita-mix slow-press juicer to get every little bit of nutrients and juice I can. You could always add some of the pulp back into the juice… Read more »
Keoni Galt
Keoni Galt
3 years 10 months ago
Juicing is not an “either/or” proposition, and you don’t have to “juice fast” to “detox” to realize the benefits. Personally, I use my juicer to increase the variety of my veggie daily consumption. “Goin primal” means upping the take of fresh fruits and veggies already. I eat plenty of both. What Juicing does, is get me to also intake a lot of the veggies I just don’t care to eat. Things like: Kale, Beets , Celery, Carrots, Chard, Collard Greens, Ginger. And I always make my juice with lemons and limes as well. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat… Read more »
Bob
Bob
3 years 9 months ago

Using a blender is easy, keeps the fiber, keeps everything. A good blender keeps it all, is easy & quick and dishwasher safe parts. You are right, it’s not brain science here… makes sense.

Sandy
Sandy
3 years 9 months ago

I’ve heard there are juicers out there that juice up the skin and pulp, so you get almost the whole fruit in the juice, just really ground up. Does this make it juice okay? Or does the fibre have to still be solid when it goes into you for it to do any good?

Nick
Nick
3 years 8 months ago
I’ve been juicing for a few months and feel a tremendous benefit from it. Especially as a way to start my day, I feel it really helps keep me energized and alert without the need for caffeine. This does not mean that I stop eating fruits and vegetables. I don’t view it as a replacement, but a supplement. Today I drank a juice of kale, parsnips, ginger, graperfruit and apple. I also ate a banana and 2 whole heads of broccoli with steak for lunch. You certainly need to eat your fruits and vegetables. But in 3 meals a day,… Read more »
Chiara Cokieng
3 years 7 months ago

Question about fruit skin –

1. Fruit juice is bad because it removes the fiber from the skin; skin is good
2. The skin is dirty because it contains a lot of pesticides and other chemicals; skin is bad

Is fruit skin good or bad?

David
David
3 years 1 month ago

Try and eat organic most easily found in smaller local fruit & vegetable shops…

Lisa Truitt
Lisa Truitt
3 years 14 days ago
I have read sources that say that to get nutrition out of plants, the cell walls must be broken and that cooking accomplishes this but mastication of raw plants by juicers or your teeth don’t do it. The juice extracted is mostly extra cellular fluids and contains very little mineral or vitamin nutrition. I believe this info was based on studies that tested the nutrient content of various foods cooked, raw, juiced etc. an instinct about this would explain why all people all over the world eat cooked foods and not all raw foods. Except for modern day raw foodists… Read more »
brenden McColman
brenden McColman
2 years 9 months ago

If you’re worried about insulin spiking I’d advice against juicing fruit. But juicing leafy greens mixed with other vegetables is incredibly nutritious. That isn’t even debatable, gieco caveman would have devoured it. Juicing gives me a daily detox and source of incredible strength. I don’t need a lab technician or scientist to break the process down.

Gameg1rl
2 months 20 days ago

Fortunately; or unfortunately, I must juice or make smoothies out of many vegetables and fruits due to having Ulcerative Colitis (an IBD). Since my body cannot handle foods like cooked or plain raw kale or spinach, raw fruits, and almost anything with skin or fibrous flesh, the only way I can get the health benefits into my body is by pulverizing them. I just have to be careful to not over-do it.

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