Juice gets a lot of hype as part of a healthy diet, but it’s not the healthy silver bullet we think it is. In fact, it’s pretty easy to argue that most juices are bad for your health.
THE CASE AGAINST JUICE: THE SHORT VERSION
If you want to seriously oversimplify this issue, you can think of fruit juice as non-carbonated soda with a few vitamins thrown in. It’s basically the water and sugar from fruit with none of the beneficial fiber. The sweeter and more clear the juice, the less healthy it is (I’m looking at you, apple juice!).
THE CASE AGAINST JUICE: THE LONGER VERSION
Of course, the long version of this story is more complicated, and a recent article from Time Health dives into some of juice’s problems and inaccurate health claims. Get more details from the Time article and elsewhere below.
All about that Fiber
Sure, some vitamins and minerals end up in your glass of juice, but it doesn’t retain all of them. You know that juicing removes some or all of the fiber (depending on your juice and your method), but did you know that there are actually nutrients that bind to that fiber? They end up in your compost bin, along with the rest of the pulp.
In fact, Dr. Michael Greger points to a Harvard School of Public Health investigation into the health benefits of juice versus whole fruit. When we eat fruit, our risk of developing type 2 diabetes and our cholesterol numbers go down. But when we drink juice, both actually go up.
That’s why it’s better to drink a smoothie than a glass of juice. While smoothies have gotten some bad press lately, at least they retain that healthy fiber and the nutrients that bind to it.
For more on why leaving all of that fiber behind isn’t doing our health any favors, read Dr. Greger’s Care2 article right here.
A Glassful of Sugar
Remember what I said about juice basically being non-carbonated soda? That’s because most juices are very high in sugar. If you are drinking cucumber-celery juice, you don’t need to worry about the sugar so much. But if you’re adding sweet fruits, like apple and pineapple, to the mix, the sugar content skyrockets.
A glass of apple juice, for example, actually contains more sugar than a glass of Coca-Cola. An eight ounce glass of apple juice has 120 calories and 28 grams of sugar. A twelve ounce can of Coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. If you do the quick math, you’ll find that eight ounces of Coke has about 93 calories and 26 grams of sugar.
And since neither the juice nor the soda contains fiber, there’s nothing to slow that sugar’s absorption. That means a spike in blood sugar and the eventual crash that comes with it. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, which is why you don’t get that spike and crash when you eat an apple but you do when you drink apple juice.
It’s also just easier to overdo it with the sugar in juice. Remember that glass of juice and its 39 grams of sugar? How long would it take you to drink that? A few minutes, maybe? Compare that to how long it takes to eat a medium apple, which only contains about 19 grams of sugar. You’d have to eat two whole apples to get the same amount of sugar in one glass of apple juice.
Juice doesn’t help you lose weight.
Packed with sugar, bereft of fiber—chances are you’ve already figured out that juice isn’t your weight loss pal. Yes, doing a juice cleanse may help you lose weight in the short-term, but that doesn’t translate to long-term weight loss. You lose weight quickly on a juice cleanse because you’re not getting enough calories.
In the Time article, Scott Kahan, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C., makes this point very plainly: “I have never in my career seen a reputable scientific study showing that juicing and cleansing has any effect on weight loss or other positive outcomes.”
In fact, drinking sweet juices long-term is likely to cause weight gain, because taking in calories without fiber actually makes us hungrier.
Is the occasional glass of juice going to ruin your health? Probably not. But making juice into a daily habit isn’t doing you any favors.