Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

Juicing: Fad Diet or Healthy Habit?

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First it was Atkins, then came Weight Watchers, and now there is juicing! With millions of Americans looking for a quick-fix, juicing has become another trendy way to lose weight fast. What I'd like to know is: Is juicing actually even good for you? Is it safe? Or is it just another hyped up way for us to feel better about skipping the gym and eating the right foods?

Lets be honest. Most of us don't eat nearly enough fruits and veggies these days (and certainly not enough to reap their bennefits). The National Cancer Institute recommends 5 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables per day. Am I supposed to eat an apple or a handful of carrots along with every meal? Do I have time for this? Well, even though the answer might be yes, I'm not sure that I want to do that.This is where juicing comes in.

What is juicing?

The type of 'juicing' I'm referring to is a diet plan in order to lose weight, eating only the juice from fruits and vegetables and nothing else for a period of time, such as 3-5 days. Juicing is a way of extracting the juice from a whole fruit or vegetable while leaving the fiberous skin behind. This is where the great debate begins. Some experts say that leaving the skin behind is a bad idea because this is where all the nutrients are. This is the idea that nothing beats eating the whole food. On the other hand, proponents of juicing say that the average American eats only 1.5 servings of veggies and no fruit per day so jucing is an easy and healthy way to introduce them into your diet. Also, many nutrients are trapped in the fiber of fruits and vegetables so jucing removes the fiber, therefore letting our bodies absorb them.

Lets break it down. For example, if you eat a whole carrot, you would only absorb about 1% of the beta carotene. However, if you juice a carrot, your body is able to absorb nearly 100% of the beta carotene. Another reason juicing can be benneficial to your diet is water. Water is essential for good health and most of us don't drink enough water every day either. The Institute of Medicine states that an adequate intake of water is about 13 cups for men and about 9 cups for women. If you're like me, you don't necessarily meet those requirements on a daily basis. Fruits and vegetables are full of fresh clean water. By jucing them, you are making them that much easier for your body to absorb and digest that water.

By now, you might be thinking, "so what's the down side?" Exactly. Just like everything else in life, juicing isn't perfect. First of all, you are depleting your bodies calorie intake, at times taking in fewer than 1,000 calories a day. As a general rule, one pint (16 oz.) is the minimum amount of juice you need to ingest in order to provide any perceptible results. And on top of that, any juice squeezed should be consumed within 30 minutes. If you're like me and have the urge to clean up right away, you can forget about that! And don't plan on making juice ahead of time and saving it for later either. Drink your juice right away and dont save it for more than one day. Fresh squeezed juice is breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Yuck!

So, is juicing good for you? In my opinion, juicing is a great way to introduce fruits and veggies into your diet. Also, with juicing, you are more likely to try new fruits and veggies since you'll eventually get bored of using the same recipe over and over. So far, so good. Now come the side effects. Wah, wah.

If you do in fact decide to juice, here are some things you'll want to be aware of:

1. Decrease in Energy Level: You may notice a drop in energy levels the first day or so. This is because you're not consuming all the carbs and protein your body is used to.

2. Headaches: You may also experience headaches. If you are used to having caffeine and sugar on a regular basis, this type of headache is a result of your body simply craving the stuff it's used to.

3. Nausea and Vomiting: Another possible issue is nausea and vomiting. Ingesting higher doses of nutrients than you're normally used to without the accompanying fiber and protein, might cause you to feel queasy. A good tip for beginners is to dilute your juice with water to prevent this overdose.

4. Bad Breath: is also an another unpleasant side effect of changing your diet to include juicing. This is due to your body flushing out waste and toxins through your skin and exhalation. And last but not least, we have

5. Constipation and/or Diarrhea: which is attributed to the lack of fiber. You aren't eating many solid foods and your digestive track is being cleansed.

After reading all this, you may want to run for the hills--as I did. But, remember, all those side effects are just temporary. It's up to you to decide whether or not jucing is for you. I leave you with these parting thoughts. There is no sound scientific evidence that shows juice from juicing is any healthier for you than the juice you get from eating the whole food itself. Juicing removes the pulp and fiber from all fruits and vegetables which--if you have an appetite like me, will leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. You could always add the pulp back in, but then why not just stick to eating the whole darn apple?

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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

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Dr. Sarah LoBisco has been involved in wellness for over 8 years. Her experience includes mentoring with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. Read more...