Juicing is popular. But before you give it a whirl, you might want to know what it may -- and may not -- do for your health.What are the nutritional benefits and drawbacks? Can you juice for weight loss? What about food safety and claims about cleansing your system? Here's what you need to know.
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Jennifer Barr, a Wilmington, Del., dietitian, often makes fresh juice as a snack for her kids. Her favorite juice combines kale, carrots, ginger, parsley, and apples. She then adds the leftover pulp from her juicing machine into muffins.
“If you’re not big into fruits and vegetables, it’s a good way to get them in. It can help you meet daily recommendations in one drink” and be part of a healthy diet, says Barr, MPH, RD, LDN, who works at Wilmington's Center for Community Health at Christiana Care Health System.
But you shouldn't count on juicing as your sole source of fruits and vegetables.
"Don’t think because you’re juicing that you’re off the hook with eating fruits and vegetables,” says Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesman and founder of Eating Free, a weight management program.
Aim to eat two whole fruits, and three to four vegetables a day. They should come in different colors, as the colors have different vitamins and minerals, Barr says.
A juicing machine extracts the juice from whole fruits or vegetables. The processing results in fewer vitamins and minerals, because the nutrient-rich skin is left behind. Juicing also removes the pulp, which contains fiber.
You can add some of the leftover pulp back into the juice or use it in cooking.
Besides muffins, Barr uses other combinations -- such as spinach, pears, flaxseed, celery, and kale -- to make broth for cooking soup, rice, and pasta. She calls it "going the extra step to fortify your meals."
Juicers can be expensive, ranging from $50 to $400. Some more expensive juicers will break down a lot of the fruit by grinding the core, rind, and seeds, Barr says.
You may not need a juicing machine to make juice. You can use a blender for most whole fruits or vegetables to keep the fiber -- add water if it becomes too thick, Villacorta says.
You’ll also want to remove seeds and rinds, and some skins.