Just as there are trends in fashion and beauty—coral lipstick or lacy shorts, anyone?—there are trends in health, too. One year it was acai berries, the next it was quinoa flakes, then it was the chia seed. Now it’s all about juicing. I usually don’t fall for the health hype easily; I have a handful of tried-and-true foods that I’ve always stood by. But when a friend of mine got me into a smoothie kick, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the world of juicing as well.
Juicing is stripping the natural juices from fresh fruits and vegetables through the feeding chamber of a juicer. The juicer purees and separates the juices from the vegetable or fruit. The result is a liquid that contains most of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in whole vegetables and fruits. It’s important to note that juicing is different from preparing smoothies; unlike juicing, smoothies do not strip the fiber found in vegetables and fruits. Proponents of juicing argue that juicing is healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables because it helps your body absorb nutrients better and gives your digestive system a rest from working on fiber, but there isn’t reliable scientific evidence to prove that this method is indeed superior.
Either way, juicing is a delicious and interesting way to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet. But what put juicing under the healthy-food spotlight is its supposed health, weight-loss and detox benefits. Proponents of juice cleanses claim that juicing can help prevent cancer, reduce your risk of disease, strengthen your bones and immune system, and even prevent aging and catalyze weight loss. Through a juice cleanse or fast, which involves consuming raw vegetable and fruit juice and water only for a short period of time, usually a span of three to five days, you detoxify your body of its impurities and nourish it with vitamins, antioxidants and disease-fighting phytonutrients. During this time period, a person drinks anywhere from 2.5 to 6.5 cups of organic vegetable and fruit juices daily. Juicing guidelines recommend five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and the cleanses range from 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day. However, like all major diet changes, it’s important to consult with your doctor or health professional before starting a juice fast—it can cause dizziness, hypoglycemia or nutrient deficiency if prolonged.
Another word of caution: Juicing leaves out other essential nutrients you need to function properly, like protein, calcium and good fats. So if you’re interested in juicing, be sure to enjoy it with a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and low-fat dairy. Moreover, while juicing can help you lose weight in the short-term, following a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine will help you lose weight faster and keep it off. Also, be prepared to spend a significant amount of money if you decide to dive in: juicing costs $30 to $300. Some popular juice cleanses worth checking out are the BluePrintCleanse, L.O.V.E. (live, organic, vegan experience) and Cooler Cleanse. As for me, I think I might be sticking to my smoothies, but I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to do a juice cleanse for three days.