Are you on the juice?

By Chee Gates

One might argue that the late, great Jack LaLanne is the grandfather of the juicing boom, thanks to his energetic infomercials and eponymously named juicer. The boom has since magnified to a cult movement. You can’t watch late-night TV or walk down the aisle of a bookstore without seeing someone tout the weight-loss or cleansing perks of juicing. Our pre-occupation with the phenomenon could be steeped in the growing obesity epidemic.

“A lot of people see juicing as another quick fix to their weight-loss struggles,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D. author of Read It Before You Eat It (Plume, 2010). “And you can lose weight on a juice diet, but there are some deficiencies to seriously consider.”

The Liquid Truth

“Anytime you base a diet around eliminating or sticking to one food or food group, you’re giving people permission not to think about what they eat,” explains Taub-Dix. “That can create a warped sense of success when they see themselves getting thinner on a diet that’s not sustainable.”

The unique draw about juice diets, however, is that most of us know we don’t get enough fruits and vegetables. But here’s the rub.

“You need a certain amount of protein to maintain muscle mass, healthy fats for your brain to function. If you’re consuming nothing but fruit and veggie juices, you’re missing out on key nourishment your body needs daily,” says Taub-Dix. Furthermore, because many juicers extract the skin, “You lose the fiber, which is important to help your gastrointestinal tract function properly.”

Fiber also keeps you feeling fuller longer. Such fulfillment may be a missing ingredient in juice diets.

The Hunger Game

Nearly every four months, Delicia Ford, 37, a mom of two, begins her ritual, five-day fruit and vegetable juice fast. Each “meal” is a composite blend of roughly fives times the amount of produce an adult needs in a day; no solid foods allowed. When asked if she feels famished during her five-day juice jaunt, Ford waves off the question, as if to say, so what?!

“It’s only for five days — that’s what I tell my stomach. You can hold out for five days,” she says. As a result, she lost five pounds.

Still, research shows the satisfaction you get from actually chewing and swallowing food can’t be matched by guzzling juice. A study published in the journal Appetite revealed that participants who ate an apple before a meal consumed 15 percent fewer calories, when compared to those who ate applesauce or drank apple juice with and without added fiber. For those who are willing to brave their grumbling tummies, there may be a happy ending.

“If you were eating a diet of buttered bagels, fried foods, and desserts, switching to nothing but fruit and vegetable juice is better than what you were doing before,” Taub-Dix explains. “It will help improve your health and weight in the short-term.”

The danger, she says, is that the rapid weight-loss you realize may not be sustainable because you haven’t adapted healthy eating habits, or addressed your relationship with food. You could easily slip back into the behaviors that may have motivated you to start the juice fast in the first place. Then, what’s the point?

The Joyful Juice

The good news is that there is a healthy way to add juicing to your food life. Instead of launching a juice-only diet, include whole foods as well. Also, the best method is to keep the juice and pulp together, rather than separate them.

“Pulverize your produce,” Taub-Dix says. “That way, you get more than your daily recommended allowance, and you won’t miss out on the fiber and nutrients in the skin (See our top blender picks below!).”

However, beware of blended calories, she warns. You can mindlessly slurp a 400-calorie carrot-apple-beet-ginger juice alongside your 400-calorie salad. Next stop: fat pants. Another tip, Says Taub-Dix, is to use more vegetables than fruits to keep the sugar levels down.

In a recent chat with Delicia Ford, who gained back the five pounds she lost on her juice fast, I sing the praise of another food plan: One where you add portioned amounts of blended produce to a diet that includes lean protein and whole-grains, exactly what Taub-Dix suggests. “Oh!” she says. “I should try that!”

Our Top Three Blenders

  1. Kenmore 3-Speed Blender/Food Processor. Stylish, affordable and compact. Buy it here.
  2. Ninja Master Prep Pro Food & Drink Mixer. It macerates, like a samurai sword! Buy it here.
  3. Jack LaLanne Power Juicer Pro Electric. Trusted hardware from the man who started it all. Buy it here!

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