Should you juice your fruits and vegetables?

Focused on Health - April 2014

By Brittany Cordeiro 

Heard of juicing? It’s the latest diet trend. Instead of eating your fruits and vegetables, you can drink them.juice drinks

“Juicing can be a great way to get the nutrients and phytochemicals your body needs to help lower your cancer risks,” says Sally Scroggs, a nutrition expert at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “But you have to be mindful about what you put in your drink, or you’ll create a juice loaded with extra calories and carbohydrates.”

That’s because juicing extracts the most calorie-dense part of fruits and vegetables: the juice. But the juice also contains most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help you stay healthy and cancer-free.

“If you want to get the full benefits of fruits and vegetables, your healthiest option is to eat them in their whole state,” Scroggs says.  However, juicing can be a healthy choice, too – if done right.

Scroggs offers tips on how to juice the healthy way.

Watch calories and carbohydrates

The calories in a juice drink can range from 100 to 800, depending on the fruits and vegetables you add. And, while fruits may taste better, they also have more calories and carbs than vegetables. So, opt for more vegetables than fruit.

Adding a protein-packed ingredient, like skim milk or non-fat yogurt, gives your drink more texture and thickness, similar to a smoothie. And, it may help prevent muscle mass loss. But, protein also adds more calories. So, factor this into your daily caloric intake.

Lastly, keep the serving size of your drink to one cup to keep calories in check.

Choose your produce wisely

Pick a colorful variety of non-starchy fruits and vegetables that are nutrient-dense, such as:   kale

  • Dark green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach
  • Tropical produce, like mango, papaya and kiwi

Your body needs at least two-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables daily to reduce your risk of certain cancers, including stomach, lung, colorectal and prostate cancers. Even if you juice, it’s still important to add vegetables and fruits to your meals and snacks.

Keep the pulp

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, but it’s all in the pulp and skin. And, juicing removes the pulp. So, you must add it back in to reap the health benefits.

Fiber keeps you full longer and helps you maintain a healthy weight,” Scroggs says.  

Not a fan of drinking pulp? Take the pulp from the juicer and add it in your soup, sauce or other dishes that you cook. Eating beans and foods rich in whole grains also add essential plant-based fiber to your diet.

Drink your juice right away  

“As your juice sits, it loses antioxidants that prevent contamination,” Scroggs says. These antioxidants also protect your cells from damage that may cause cancer.   

If you can’t drink your juice right away, refrigerate or freeze it. It should save in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Just make sure to check it before drinking. If your juice no longer looks fresh or the mixture has separated, it may be teeming with harmful bacteria.

Juicers are optional

Juicers separate the pulp from the juice in fruits and vegetables. And, they can be expensive. juicer

If you want a cheaper option, use a blender. Plus, your blender won’t remove the pulp – so you’ll get all that great fiber. You can always add water if your mixture becomes too thick.

“Whether you choose to use a juicer or blender, make sure you thoroughly clean your equipment,” Scroggs says. A dirty machine can become a haven for bad bacteria.

Keep eating fruits and veggies

Remember, juicing shouldn’t be a meal replacement, cleanse or detox. And, eating your fruits and vegetables is always the healthier option.

When you eat fruits and vegetables in their natural state, your body expends energy by processing the food. “This burns calories, and keeps your digestive system and gastrointestinal track healthy,” Scroggs says.

That said, if you juice, follow our expert tips and you’ll get the health benefits your body needs to fight cancer.