There’s a lot of hype about the health benefits of cold-pressed juices. Pretty much every health store is selling them but the truth is, they’re not really that good for you. They’re also expensive, environmentally wasteful, and can actually be counter to a healthy lifestyle.
So the next time you consider forking out $10-$15 for a cold-pressed juice at Whole Foods – remember the following:
Juicing eliminates all the beneficial fiber.
You know all that fibrous by-product of juicing that you throw in the trash? Well, that’s all the natural fiber once the juice is extracted.
We all need at least 30 grams or more of fiber daily to keep our intestinal tract working optimally, help eliminate cholesterol, support healthy levels of blood glucose, and prevent energy dips. Fiber actually counteracts the glycemic (sugar) spike that you get from eating the vegetable or fruit in its natural form. When you juice, the juicer separates the fiber from the juice. You are basically just consuming green sugar in a form that is going straight into the bloodstream. It’s no different than having a Coke as far as sugar content.
Also, fiber makes you feel full – which helps with weight loss. Another reason you want to keep all that fiber in tack!
Cold-Pressed Juices (and smoothies) are mainly expensive sugar.
It’s a juice! It’s green! And it’s sold in health stores! So it must be healthy right? Well, as I stated above, most of these drinks are deceptively high in sugars, with some providing nearly as much or more than you’ll find in soft drinks.
For example, Jamba Juice offers six unique flavors, all organic but packed with sugar. One 12-ounce serving of Organic Mango Limeade, for example, provides 37 grams of sugar, while Organic Tropical Greens comes in at 35 grams. (A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar.) Smoothies by the same manufacturer contain enough sugar and calories to be a bona fide health hazard. One 16-ounce Banana Berry Smoothie, for example, kicks in with 59 grams of sugar and 280 calories. Their Aloha Pineapple Smoothie kills with 67 grams of sugar and 310 calories for 16 ounces.
Ok, they are smoothies, but what about fresh juices?
Green Grove by Evolution Fresh, which is made from kale, spinach, oranges, spirulina, and seven other fruits and veggies, packs 36 grams of sugar into each 11-ounce serving. Sunshine State (contains orange, grapefruit, ginger, cayenne) by Paleta, contains 22 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. Dr. Earth Raw Juice Blend contains 21 grams of sugar, zero fiber, but at least it provides 330 percent % Daily Value of vitamin A (but… see below). A 16oz mixed fruit and vegetable juice like you would order at Whole Foods (containing beets, carrots, kale, cucumbers, apples, spinach, and celery) packs about 400 calories and over 50 grams of sugar. The price of these as “cold-pressed” bottled juices are about $10 per bottle and up. That’s a lot to pay for sugar.
Juicing can prevent absorption of essential vitamins.
On the surface, The Romanian, a green juice made from romaine lettuce, turmeric, celery, and green chard, states that each serving provides half of your daily requirement for vitamin A. But most people are unaware that since vitamin A is fat soluble, it needs to be consumed along with fat if you want to absorb the vitamin efficiently.
Yet The Romanian has 0 grams of fat. Another example is Dr. Earth Raw Juice Blend that provides an huge 330 percent of %Daily Value for vitamin A, yet only 1.5 grams of total fat.
Whether you eat your salad or drink it, you need fat grams (more than 6 grams according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report) to facilitate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. So you can’t rely on the %Daily Value claims as these depend on a specific nutritional environment to facilitate absorption that doesn’t exist when drinking the raw juice alone. See more on this below.
Commercial juices aren’t eco-friendly.
Don’t think you’re benefiting the planet as well as your body when downing a cold-pressed juice. First of all, it takes about 2 to 4 pounds of fruit and vegetables to make a single 16-ounce serving of juice. All of this produce needs land, nutrients (organic or conventional fertilizers), pest management, labor to harvest, water, storage, and transportation. Sure, this has to happen anyway—but all of this just for a bottle of green juice that you down in 30 seconds?
It’s one thing to exert all of these efforts to produce 2 pounds of apples, which you can enjoy for days and reap all the nutrients and fiber from them. It’s quite another to take those same 2 pounds of apples, juice them down to a few ounces that you have to drink in less than 20 to 30 minutes or risk losing valuable nutrients, and toss away the fibrous pulp to boot. It just seems wasteful to me.
Consider this environmental impact as well: Once the fruits and veggies are pressed, the juice is exposed to tremendous energy-sucking and polluting pressure and cooling, then typically packaged in a plastic bottle (which may be BPA-free, but the alternative to BPA is just as harmful).
So how is all this waste good for the environment?
Their shelf life is questionable.
The extreme pressure applied to juices to make them earn the name “cold-pressed” is supposed to make any pathogens inactive and also make the juice last for several weeks on the shelf as compared with fresh juice, which has about a two-day shelf life. The pressure technique is called high pressure processing (HPP), and according to a recent article on Daily Burn, “HPP neutralizes molecules that cause juice to spoil faster. This allows HPP-treated juice to last up to 45 days, roughly nine times longer than a freshly made cold-pressed juice.” This technique now allows cold-pressed juice producers to expand their market – mainly to retail outlets.
But do you really want a so-called “fresh juice” that has been sitting on the shelf for 45 days? I personally don’t trust the “sell by” or “use by” dates on cold-pressed juices. Yesterday I went to sample a coconut juice from Shakti out of a fridge at my gym. It was rancid. I tried another one as they both had “use by” dates that were about 2 weeks away. It was also rancid – and bubbled over when I opened it like some crazy science experiment. On top of all that, they both smelled like a petri dish.
Whole Foods also now has cold-pressed juice “dispensers” available in stores. To me, it just doesn’t seem right or consistent with the whole philosophy of juicing in the first place. The fact that juice is now available out of a dispenser just seems wrong – and more evidence of a large corporation trying to milk the benefits from an ill-perceived health benefit of which the general public has limited understanding.
You lose antioxidants and other nutrients quickly.
When fruits and vegetables are juiced, the cell walls are broken, which in turn activates the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in the produce. Depending on which items are in your juice, the amounts of available antioxidants and other nutrients will vary. One thing is certain: Most of these nutrients are susceptible to oxygen exposure and thus oxidation, which reduces the nutrient value in the fruits and veggies. Unlike an apple that you cut and expose a surface to air and oxidation, juices are even more vulnerable to this process because all of the fruits and vegetables juiced are exposed. The essential nutrients in juice begin to deteriorate and are nearly entirely gone within 20 minutes. Another thing to remember, as I mentioned before, is the unavailability of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, which need fat to be absorbed. Cold-pressed juices typically do not contain the fats necessary for this to happen.
So if you are hoping to get your antioxidants and other nutrients from juices, steer clear of cold-pressed juices and make your own juices at home and drink them immediately. Better yet, stick to the “real” thing—whole, organic fruits and vegetables—and get all the nutrients plus fiber in every bite.
Can juicing be good for you at all?
The best way to get your nutrients from fruits and vegetables is to eat them whole, fresh, organic, and often. In the end, you’ll be healthier for it, and less light in your wallet. Two to four pounds of fruits and vegetables is a LOT (the amount needed for a 16-oz juice) – and will last you more than a few days if eaten raw and in their natural form.
Having said all that, I still do “technically” juice. But not in the form above, and I don’t drink or buy the cold-pressed, or any other commercially made juices. Nor do I use our juicer at home that has sat lonely and untouched for quite a while now.
But if processing a piece of fruit or a vegetable in an electronic device is juicing them I’m guilty; BUT here’s how I do it – properly.
I use a blender, not a juicer. The Magic Bullet is awesome. You can put in whole bits of fruit or vegetables and it will turn it into liquid. You use a tiny relative amount of the fruits and vegetables you would otherwise use – and you get all the benefits of the fiber that is fully retained in the liquid. Fill it up half way with water and add your chopped up vegetables and other ingredients (like raw ginger, almonds, turmeric, beets, etc). Crank it up and drink it straight away. All of the health benefits of vegetables – and none of the waste. It’s that simple. Too me it’s just the same as eating raw vegetables – kinda like drinking adult “baby food” (see below my “go-to” juicing recipe).
Some special juicing tips for athletes.
For all you athletes out there it’s important to know the best way to juice to reap the most health benefits and avoid getting fat (yes you can get fat from juices). So here are some important tips on how to juice at home.
Use a blender not a juicer (see above).
Don’t use so much fruit.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when juicing is to use too much fruit.
When you juice fruit, you are left with a high concentration of fructose sugar. Since liquid is digested much faster than solids (as in eating an apple or pear), this high concentration of fructose hits the body and your liver is charged with processing it. The fructose is transformed into free fatty acids, very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are stored mainly as fat.
In fact, one third of fructose calories consumed are stored as fat. So if there are 180 calories of fructose in your juice, 120 of them are stored as fat. In addition, the created fatty acids can gather in your liver and skeletal muscles and eventually lead to insulin resistance, which then can progress to type 2 diabetes. Fructose also converts to a glycerol that is used to transform free fatty acids into triglycerides.
Also, when your liver is metabolizing fructose, it creates toxins and waste material, including uric acid, which can heighten blood pressure and cause gout. Another problem with all that fructose is that is goes mainly toward replacing glycogen in the liver rather than muscle. So unless you are in a calorie-deficient mode, the fructose readies your body to store fat rather than helping you out in the muscle department in the gym, on your bike, or on the road.
Don’t use just any juicing recipe.
There are lots of juicing books out there as well as websites offering scores of recipes. However, most of them don’t focus on vegetables and alkalinity, and the impact on athletes.
If you exercise moderately and especially if you’re an intense athlete or exerciser, then lactic acid, pyruvate acid, and carbon dioxide accumulate as you work your muscles. When muscles become acidic, they become fatigued. During long training or exercise sessions, the rise in acidity reduces the amount of time you can exercise and lengthens your recovery time.
What you want is a more alkaline environment so you can avoid the build up of lactic and other acids that can hinder performance. A healthy alkaline balance raises the pH of your cells and tissues and neutralizes acids. However, most juicing recipes use fruits that do not create alkalinity in the body.
The best alkalizing fruits are lemons, watermelon, cantaloupe, limes, and mango. Alkalizing vegetables include broccoli, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. The fruits and vegetables you want to avoid when juicing are chard, corn, cranberries, dates, figs, green peas, plums, pomegranates, string beans, tomatoes, and zucchini. These are classified as acidic to varying degrees.
Eating alkaline foods can help athletes maintain health and performance, aid recovery, and avoid stress on the body associated with consuming too many acidic foods.
Don’t forget fats and proteins.
Athletes need healthy fat and protein, and without sufficient amounts of each they can expect lean muscle tissue breakdown, muscle fatigue, accumulation of fatty tissue, lack of energy, and poor athletic performance. Yet you don’t see sources of healthy fats or protein in most juice recipes. In fact, some commercial juices and juice recipes are quick to point out that they are low-fat or fat-free.
Yet you need fat for your body to transport the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) that may be provided by the juice. Without the fat, you won’t reap the benefits of these vitamins, which are involved with bone and nervous system health, hormone production, cell membrane formation, and regulation of heart rate and blood pressure, while also providing a slow-release form of energy.
Some of the prime fat choices are chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and raw, unprocessed coconut oil. Generally, about one ounce of the seeds or 1 tablespoon of the oils is recommended. You can also add almonds or walnuts for additional fats. They blend up with no problem when using the Magic Bullet.
As far as protein is concerned, I recommend you use a serving of an organic vegan protein powder. Stay away from whey and soy protein powders.
Add a performance booster.
Numerous studies have shown that raw beet juice can enhance exercise performance. Beets are also especially important for heart and sexual health. So you might want to consider adding raw beets to your juice recipe like I always do. You may also want to add a serving of this stuff.
Enjoy juice with other healthy foods.
Adding foods that contain fiber, healthy fats, and/or protein will not only round out the meal nutritionally, but will also slow the absorption of sugars from the juice. When it comes to digesting sugar, slower is generally better. Nuts or nut butter, whole grains, Greek yogurt, avocado, olive oil, fish, and/or whole fruits and vegetables are all be good complements to fresh juice.
So what does all that look like in my Magic Bullet? Here’s my go-to juice:
2-3 cups water;
Serving of BeFit WHEY – Chocolate Flavor;
Sprinkle of organic cayenne pepper;
2 tablespoons of raw coconut oil;
½ teaspoon organic ceremonial matcha green tea powder;
Handful of kale;
Handful of spinach;
½ raw beet;
Sprinkle of Chaga mushroom powder;
½ inch piece of raw turmeric; and
½ inch piece of raw, peeled ginger.
There you have it, my manifesto on cold-pressed juices and juices you make at home. The bottom line is, choose whole, natural, organic, fresh fruits and vegetables over juices. However, if you like to have an alternative, especially when you are training hard, then make your own juices at home following the suggestions provided here. To your health!