Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Aug

Dear Mark: What’s Wrong with Juicing?

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?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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.

    Bob wrote on February 19th, 2013
  2. 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?

    Sandy wrote on February 28th, 2013
  3. 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, it’s probably impossible to get all the nutrients your body really needs out of fruits and vegetables if you’re only eating them. Maybe juicing doesn’t get you 100% of the way there, but as far as getting lots of extra phytonutrients and antioxidants quickly, it’s a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.

    Nick wrote on March 8th, 2013
  4. 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?

    Chiara Cokieng wrote on April 28th, 2013
    • Try and eat organic most easily found in smaller local fruit & vegetable shops…

      David wrote on October 11th, 2013
  5. 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 who I think are so disconnected from this that it doesn’t occur to them to look at this fact about how humans prepare food and have done so for millenia and that there might be wisdom in it and a good practice.

    Lisa Truitt wrote on November 22nd, 2013
  6. 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.

    brenden McColman wrote on February 9th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!