Making healthy juices at home became popular thanks to the accessibility of all sorts of juicers. With this trend, people started getting pretty wild and all sorts of recipes emerged – from cleansing and detox juices to weight loss (and gain) elixirs. But, as healthy habits go, there are myths around juicing as well. Everyone is trying to invent that magical juice that “does it all”, and, if things are left unchecked, you could even cause more damage than good by trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
I wanted to cover this topic for multiple reasons, with the main motivation behind them being the myths that surround juicing, and the whole community of people that just want to introduce some health into their lives. Now it is time to tackle the subject head-on and finally learn how to separate the truth from all the “facts” that go around doing damage. Let’s dive in!
What Exactly is Considered Juicing?
Apart from the notorious “juicing” that some gym-goers refer to when they talk about anabolic steroids, most of us think about making your own homemade juices. When I talk about juicing, in most cases I refer to plant-based juices made with the help of a juicer, electric, or manual, but that can give off a wrong impression because – there are other ingredients we can put in the juice besides plants.
Types of Juices You Can Make
Ok, so I did mention that there are all sorts of juices you can make using fruits and veggies – but did you know that you can use dairy and seeds/nuts too? People often get stuck on those basic orange or green juices and forget that there is a whole new world awaiting if they just break through that plateau. By the way, I`m going through all the categories separately, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix these (more on that later).
1. Fruit juices
Here we are talking about everyone’s favorite – a freshly squeezed glass of fruit juice. When I say fruit juice, what do you think of first? The chances are – you’ve pictured a glass of OJ. However, the possibilities are virtually endless. Lemons, oranges, apples, limes, pineapples, grapes, peaches, apricots, and even bananas – everything is fair game. If you had doubts about the not so juicy fruit like apricots and bananas, I can tell you that juicing can get the best out of them, thus making the final product refreshing.
Fruit juices are rich in soluble fibers, sugars (complex and basic), and above all, they are bringing the most flavors into your juicing game.
2. Veggie juices
Veggies are a different story, we need them for energy, yes, but the most important nutrients are vitamins and minerals. Notice how I didn’t mention fibers, even though veggies have both soluble and insoluble fibers inside. The reason for this is a bit of a downer – juices destroy or simply remove most of the insoluble fibers from plants. This is the sole reason why I insist on eating raw whole fruits and veggies if you have the opportunity. It will make your bowel movements easier and, most importantly, regular.
3. Protein shakes and milkshakes
Here’s where stuff gets interesting. One macronutrient (out of 4) that we often forget about when juicing comes to mind are proteins. Not a lot of plants have sufficient quantities, and the ones that do have are prepared differently (e.g. kidney beans).
Do you exercise a lot? You need protein. You are recovering from an injury or illness? You need protein. These building blocks allow are not only here to help us recover, but to stabilize the appetite and insulin levels, resulting in healthier eating habits.
And, if you are a vegan, there are options too. You can add soy or hemp protein to your shakes and juices. There is no excuse for missing out on this essential macronutrient.
4. Healthy nut and seeds
Lastly, we need to talk about the least favorite nutrient out there – fat. People who are in the middle of a weight-loss process will avoid keeping fatty food in their diets for “logical” reasons. But the belly fat doesn’t usually come from eating fatty foods. Yeah, surprising, I know. Fats come from all the excess sugars and energy we do get in but don’t use throughout the day.
As it turns out, seeds and nuts are fat-rich, and here we are talking about the good kind of fat, not that trans-fat garbage we can find in burgers (and fast food in general). I encourage you to add nuts and seeds to your juices. But BE EXTRA CAREFUL with the amount you use. Nuts are not called a superfood for no reason – they are rich in calories, aka energy. Peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, chia, flax, hemp – all are fair game in MODERATION. Start small and build your way up.
The Effects of Juicing
If you are new to this whole concept, preparing yourself for the changes is key. I will try to slowly lead you into what to expect, but I’d also like to warn you that we are all unique when it comes to nutrient absorption. Juices are a super-dense way of ingesting nutrients, and there is a pattern of changes that (almost) everyone experiences.
1. The Benefits
The benefits of juicing outweigh the downsides, but as always – moderation, moderation, moderation. Here’s a quick recap of the most important upsides of juicing.
1.1. Soluble fibers and bowel movement
So, let’s say that you want to start making juices at home. The very first thing you should expect is a regular bowel movement if you haven’t had one. Even though most juicers eliminate soluble fibers from the whole mix, the insoluble fibers will make a layer inside your bowels. This layer acts as a lubricant and helps push everything out.
1.2. Extra energy kick
The thing can be considered a pro and a con, depending on your activities. If you are a regular gym-goer or happen to exercise several times throughout the week, you can benefit from drinking fruit-based juices. A lot of active people, myself included, like to drink an energy-packed fruit juice as a pre-workout beverage.
You don’t always get to time your meals correctly to give you that extra boost during the training session – that’s when the fruit juice jumps in. Just make a mix of fruit that has a higher glycemic index, juice it, and enjoy the extra kick. This works great as a caffeine substitute, but beware of the crash after your training is done.
Another great thing regarding freshly squeezed juices is flavor control. This may not be a priority calorie-wise, but let me tell you – once I started making my own juices, I completely stopped buying sodas and juices from concentrate. You get to control how much sweetness, sourness, and texture you want in your drink. However, if you have issues with insulin levels or you have diabetes, please have a talk with your doctor first.
1.4. Quick calorie surplus
Freshly squeezed juices can be used for weight gain. People that have a hard time packing on a few pounds turn to liquid calories as a quick source of energy-packed food. If you are in this group, feel free to add honey to the mix, as well as a few extra nuts. Just be careful of the fatty content.
Lastly, the biggest benefit of juicing is none other than – convenience. Eating raw fruit and veggies is better, yes, but we don’t always get the time to ingest that much food, especially all in one sitting. Juicers give you the commodity of putting everything in a single glass, down it quickly, and go about your day. Not to mention the bloating you can get from eating too many raw veggies.
2. The Downsides
Now, all of the above sound great, but it would be highly irresponsible of me not to mention the downsides, which will lead us to the final verdict about juices as a meal replacement.
Remember how we talked about regular bowel movement as an effect of drinking fresh juices? Well, if you go overboard with the sugars and fibers, this effect can backfire. Catastrophically. Sugars and fibers in excessive quantities can cause diarrhea, and there’s no way to sugarcoat this fact.
But there is a workaround. You have to start with smaller quantities, no matter how tasty the juice is. Our bodies are not exactly used to processing this much nutrients at once. When we eat whole foods, the larger chunks get processed slower, and the smaller bits get through quickly. With juices, everything rushes into the bowels at the same time, causing a mess. I am aware of the fact that I can sound repetitive with this, but – moderation is the key.
However, bowel movement issues are not the biggest risk here. A lot of people think about juicing as a weight-loss method. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Weight loss is based on calories you ingest vs. the calories you spend throughout the day. Just because the juice you’re drinking is made of fresh natural ingredients, it does not mean that it isn’t rich in energy. To make things even worse, by having all the calories in a liquid state, the percentage that gets used is really high. I said this once and I’ll say it again – juices are no magical weight loss elixirs!
The Truth About Detox and “Cleansing Juices”
I can’t talk about juicing without mentioning the whole detox aspect of the story. You see, there are people in the wellness industry that like to promote healthy juices as a way to detoxify your body from every day “toxic exposure”. While it is true that we expose ourselves to all sorts of environmental toxins (smoking, traffic, unwashed food, etc.), we also have a natural way to process and excrete these harmful substances. Actually, it’s an organ – the liver.
Juices cannot directly affect the number of toxins your body is able to process. But, on the other hand, implementing juices to reinforce the more discrete bodily functions can be more than useful. By exercising and taking the right amount of micro and macronutrients in, you help your liver and kidneys do their job better.
Now, a word of caution. If you get on the juicing train and experience more swearing, and a frequent need to go to the toilet, it is not a sign of detoxification. This is rather the effect that the extra liquid, sugars, and fibers have on your body. Do not mistake the urge to go to the toilet more often with body cleansing, because it isn’t.
How to Properly Add Juices to Your Diet
Now, let’s talk about the right way to implement fresh juices to your diet. Yes, there is the right way and a lot of wrong ways to do this. I mean, you shouldn’t be able to do much damage if you rush into the whole ordeal, but the side effects of not doing it may include:
- Weight gain due to extra liquid calories you are ingesting
- Irregular bowel movement duo to fiber intake
- Insulin spikes caused by all the sugars from fruits and veggies high on the glycemic index scale
So, to avoid these pretty common beginner mistakes, I’d like to suggest a way to introduce juices to your regular diet. Here are a few quick tips and tricks to keep in mind, especially as a beginner:
- Start with the plants you eat on a regular basis – the key is not to surprise your IG system with the plants your body already knows well
- Don’t go overboard with the quantity – one glass a day for a couple of weeks is enough until you get used to juicing. A four-ounce glass will do fine.
- Do not forget the greens – even though greens like spinach do not bring a lot of caloric value, they are rich in vitamins and micronutrients.
- Add the pulp later – Juicers will separate the pulp into a separate container. You shouldn’t get all the pulp back in, but that doesn’t mean that you can experiment with it. Start with a teaspoon and build your way up.
- Add whey or other protein sources to your juices – people are hesitant to experiment with protein because they are not exactly fruit nor veggies. However, consuming sugars and fibers only will not get you far if you want to work on your body, both weight, and health-wise.
Can You Replace Meals with Juices – The Verdict
The shorts answer is – No, juicing cannot replace meals. Implementing juices into your diet is a healthy thing to do, it has a lot of benefits, and the downsides are usually only related to the amount of juice you drink. But our bodies are not made to process liquid and solid food the same way.
Trust me, no one would like liquid meals more than I do. It would be a convenient way to get all the energy for the day, gym, or not. Unfortunately, juices should have the same status as snacks. Energy-packed, healthy snacks that can promote a better lifestyle if taken as supplements, not the main nutrient source.
Before You Go
A healthy lifestyle, being it a new diet or exercise regimen, is not something you do for a month or two. The only way to truly become and stay healthy is to be in it for the long run, not just until you shed a couple of pounds. The things it – everything you need to be healthy is already there. Your body is perfectly able to maintain and detox itself. All you have to do is motivate it with the right food, and juices are a good way to supplement that need.
Nothing beats eating whole foods, not even the healthiest of juices. But a glass of juice a day can help you get to that healthy limit of vitamins and other essential nutrients. Now go get yourself a glass of freshly squeezed juice, and as always, remember – moderation is the key. Cheers!