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[1] 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?

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[2] 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[3] should not try juicing.

  1. wrote about intermittent fasting: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Blog/Amy-Campbell/intermittent-fasting-not-so-fast/
  2. heart disease: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/heart-health/reducing-heart-disease-risk/
  3. kidney disease: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/diabetic-complications/protecting-your-kidneys/

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.