Is juicing healthy or not?
Juicing is at an all-time high, and several recent reports suggest that we should be consuming seven portions of fruit and vegetables daily for optimum health.
These recommendations are largely due to the results of the Health Survey for England (published at the end of 2013), which reported that there appeared to be a direct association between consumption of fruit and vegetables and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the study, health benefits seemed to increase as more fruit and vegetables were eaten. The greatest benefits were noted when seven portions of fruit and vegetables are consumed each day, suggesting that five portions is not sufficient for continued good health, and we should be aiming for seven portions a day.
Our own ‘five a day’ campaign in the UK remains the same, largely because as a nation, only a third of us manage to consume the recommended ‘five a day’ intake. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and various other health organisations have been campaigning for an increase to ‘seven a day’ for a while, but there is little point in doing this when many of us fail to consume ‘five a day’, which was originally based on robust research linking consumption of fruit and vegetables to reduced risk of health issues such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Is too much fruit unhealthy?
Several television and radio programmes have illustrated a dark side to fructose (sugar found primarily in fruit), advocating that we should not consume too much fruit or fruit juice. Meanwhile, Australia’s version of our ‘five a day’ message is ‘Go for two and five' with daily fruit intake advised to be just two portions a day, and the larger intake from vegetables. Interestingly, the Health Survey for England also found that vegetables seemed to be more beneficial than fruit. The British Nutrition Foundation state: ‘The finding that vegetables seemed to be more beneficial is interesting and it is worth noting that vegetables do provide a number of nutrients, minerals in particular, that are not found in fruit’.
The potentially harmful effects of excess fructose are not new news. Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolised only in the liver, so the effects of excess fructose intake are primarily seen in the pathophysiology and functions of the liver. Although fructose is metabolised into glucose and other substances that can be used as fuel, too much fructose will increase the amount of lipids formed in the liver, contributing to dyslipidemia (elevated blood triglycerides and cholesterol), obesity, fat around the organs and heart disease.
So is your daily juice healthy after all? The answer, as in much regarding nutrition, is that fruit is healthy but in moderation. Eating it in its most natural form will always be the best way to consume fruit - the same can be said for vegetables. Eating whole fruits provides the maximum fibre and nutrient content, and the fibre content helps to limit the amount of fruit consumed. It’s the same story as eating dried fruit - you may not consume ten apricots in one go but wouldn’t think twice about eating the same amount of dried apricots, and the same can be said of the amount of fruit consumed in a juice.
It is important to consider the total amount of fructose in your diet, and avoid consuming fructose or high fructose corn syrup in processed foods and drinks. If you are juicing daily you should also eat the remainder of your fruits and vegetables whole rather than drink additional carton juices or smoothies.
If juicing for one meal a day helps you meet your five - or seven - daily servings of fruit or vegetables, and replaces a less healthy meal, then this is going to be beneficial, but living on juice alone will not provide the balance of nutrients required for overall good health.
Making sure your juicing habit is healthy:
- Alternate fruit-based juices with vegetable juices.
- Take a handful of the fibrous residue usually thrown away and add it back into your juice - you might have to blend it back in!
- Blending rather than juicing fruits and vegetables keeps the fibre and micronutrients in your liquid meal.
- Keep the volume of juiced fruit quite small - you should be drinking a small glassful, not a pint!