Juicing: Is It for You?

Ask people who have diabetes if they drink juice, and chances are they’ll tell you that they don’t. They may say that juice is “too high in sugar” or “too high in carbohydrate.” They may tell you that drinking juice uses up all of their carb choices, or that juice sends their blood glucose sky-high. Ask the same question of a dietitian, and he may tell you that he usually doesn’t recommend that people with diabetes drink juice for similar reasons.

But “juicing” is a whole different ballgame for some people. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about intermittent fasting as one of the latest trends. Juicing has also joined the ranks as something that a lot of people are now doing for a lot of different reasons. Should you try it?

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What is “juicing”?
Fans of juicing believe that juicing is a way to make up for what you may be lacking in fruits and vegetables. And, they’re partially correct. Basically, juicing involves using some kind of juicing machine to turn raw produce into a liquid, which you then, obviously, drink. Many juice recipes involve blending fruits and vegetables together. One recipe that I came across included apples, pears, beetroot, arugula, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. In theory, there’s not much wrong with that. Most people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, and if you can drink them down, hey, why not? If celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Megan Fox juice, then it’s certainly got to be something you should try, right?

Pros and cons of juicing
Drinking a glass (or three or four) of freshly made juice conjures up a pretty picture of health, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t feel better after drinking a concoction of oranges, blueberries, zucchini, and kale? You can practically feel your body become healthier. We know that fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. We also know that not eating enough may increase our risk of things like heart disease and cancer.

But before you plunk down hundreds of dollar for a fancy juicing machine, consider the following. First, juicing proponents argue that juicing preserves food enzymes and helps the body better absorb nutrients from fruits and vegetables. They claim that that juicing gives the digestive tract a “rest” from having to handle all the fiber that you’d get if you ate your produce instead of drinking it. This theory sounds tempting, but there’s no evidence to back it up. Our bodies are designed to absorb nutrients from solid food, fruits and veggies included. And unless you have a flare-up of a condition such as Crohn disease, your GI tract doesn’t need a “rest.”

Another juicing claim is that juicing can lower your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, remove toxins from the body, and, of course, help you lose weight. This all sounds great, but again, there are few studies to support these claims. Studies DO show, however, that eating whole fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, can help with weight loss, and in general, help improve overall health. Drinking fruits and vegetables may not lead to the same benefits, in part, because juicing tends to remove much of the fiber found in produce.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a glass of fresh juice. But the concept of juicing advocates drinking juice…and consuming little else, if anything, for a specified period of time. Most juicing plans are extremely low in protein, fat, and fiber (unless you add the fiber, or pulp, back into the juice). A lack of protein can lead to loss of muscle mass, even in just a few days. That’s not how you want to lose weight.

For people with diabetes, juicing can potentially wreak havoc on blood glucose levels. The reality is that juice is pretty high in carbohydrate. An 8-ounce glass of fruit juice contains about 30 grams of carbohydrate. Most people drink more than 8 ounces. A cup of Dr. Oz’s “Green Drink” which contains apples, celery, spinach, cucumber, lemon, mint, and more, contains 200 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate. If you’re on a true juice fast, you’d be drinking several of these concoctions every day.

Finally, be prepared to spend some money. You can use a blender to make juice, but juicers can cost hundreds of dollars. Fruits and vegetables don’t always come cheap, either. If you purchase ready-made juice, some brand cost as much as $10 per bottle. One company provides a juicing package for just $70 a day… You’ll need to make room in your budget and decide if it’s affordable or not.

Is juicing for you?
As a dietitian, I can’t help but be less than impressed with the “benefits” of juicing. I’m all for eating healthy, whole food and finding an eating plan that you can stick with. Some may not agree with me, and that’s OK. Juicing for just a few days is probably fine. But it’s not a long-term solution to weight loss. Once you stop, the weight can come right back on. If you want to try it, talk to your doctor or dietitian first. You’ll need to check your blood glucose more often than usual, and if you start feeling weak, dizzy, or unwell, those are signs that you should stop. People who are undergoing chemotherapy or who have kidney disease should not try juicing.

  • Sandra Shelby

    I juice. I have gastrophrisis(neurophety) of the stomach and have to drink liquids.

  • Vivee

    I have type II diabetes and have been juicing for over a year now, and it’s changed my life in several ways. First off, I green juice, meaning most of my juice is vegetables, with a couple of fruits for taste. My favorite uses 2 carrots, 4 stalks of celery, 1/2 cucumber, 2 big handfuls of mixed greens, 1 small apple and a piece of pineapple. I also put 1 tablespoon of ground flax/chia seed and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric in. It’s so good. This juice does not cause a high rise in my blood sugar levels. As a matter of fact, since juicing, my A1c has gone from 6.4 to 6.1.
    Secondly, I only juice with organic fruits and veggies. I’ve cut my red meat consumption to maybe once a week and that is the grass-fed kind. Seafood, mainly salmon and tuna and a little chicken are my protein choices. As are a little cheese and beans, a little pasta, Greek yogurt, eggs and nuts. I read labels and if it has too many ingredients or I can’t pronounce what’s in it, I don’t buy it. Consequently, I have cut out all processed food.
    So guess what? I have lost 25 lbs. Yippee!! Needless to say, my cardiologist and PC doc are pleased and tell me to keep up the good work.
    Juicing works for me, and all I have to say is, try it and check your levels, because it may work for you too.

  • john

    juicing saved my life !

  • Tahititoutou

    I am surprised that a person pretending to be a dietitian writes such an article (I am trying to remain polite), First of mall, of course it makes no sense for diabeticsto drink fruit juices : they have a high content of fructose or glucose and contain very little fiber to help dampen the glycemia spike. Most fruits should be eaten, not juiced. And most fruits should no be eaten by diabetics.

    The picture changes totally if we speak of juicing leafy greens and some veggies. Most herbs (such as wheatgrass) and leafy greens have cells that have a really hard membrane (actually 17 membranes) and the nutrients are in the fluids inside the cell. Contrary to fruits (which have soft, fragile membranes), chewing raw leaves and veggies will give a very low yield. You can compare by yourself by chewing an orange, then a leaf of kale, chard or parsley. …Unless you are equipped like a cow with very powerful jaws, potent stomach acids and a return mechanism allowing you to re-chew your food 3 or 4 times. Cows developed such a system precisely because they feed on herbs.

    Most blenders are also useless to open the membrane and make the cellular fluids available to you, unless they are powerful enough to blast the cell open by sheer force (blenders like the Vitamix (2 HP), the Blendtec (2.5 HP) or the
    Waring Commercial Xtreme series (3.5 HP)). However, the powerful agitation and the air vortex can cause serious oxydation of the”juice”. On the other hand, fast, centrifugal juicers, the low-cost variety as well as high cost professionnal units such as Breville, are not advisable neither, because their high speed and heat oxydize the juices. Slow, high pressure triturating (such as twingear juicers) or masticating (such as single auger juicers) actually can open the cells ans extract the inner contents. Of course, saying that this hurts the cells is an understatement and
    the juices MUST be consumed as soon as possible, or immediately stored in vacuum.

    I am not a nutritionist nor a dietitian, but I can definitively claim that, in my case, after a serious study of the subject, I used my juicer (a twingear Greenstar Elite) to control my type 2 diabetes. For test purposes, and the the consent of my MD, I stopped taking Metformin and used juices that have two properties : 1° glucophage (they reduce the sugar content of the blood) and 2° they promote the permeability of the cells to insulin (or, if you prefer, they reduce insulino-resistance). I kept thrice-daily glycemia readings in an Excel spreadsheet and in graph form. Stopping Metformin first had the effect of raising my readings from 6.5 to 20 (milli-mole per liter) (the “normal” (non diabetic) readings are between 4 and 6.) But then the juices took effect and my readings fell back to 7.0. But most of all,
    my friends emitted comments like I seemed to have much more energy, I looked much more healthy. This is no surprise to me since Metformin is only a glucophage while some juice (such as fenugreek, califlower, parsley, some types of tomatoes etc.) actually “reopen” the access of blood sugar into the cells by reducing insulino-resistance. High glycemic readings are an EFFECT ; insulino-resistance is the cause. Removing the cause also removes the effect… After two months and seeing the graphs, my MD cancelled the Metformin prescription.

    So sorry Amy, I can only disagree with your text. Except on one pojnt : there is no real use in juicing fruits. Especially for diabetics!!!