Although we are all aware that fruit and vegetables are a healthy and essential addition to our diet, few of us manage to meet the recommended five daily portions. As a result, we can end up falling short of vitamins and minerals that play an important role in our general health, as well as the antioxidants that may protect against chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A low intake of fruit and vegetables can also make weight gain more likely and weight loss more difficult to achieve. However, even though it is often a struggle to consume five portions of whole fruit and vegetables each day, fruit and vegetable juices also count towards the quota. A daily glass of juice is therefore an easy way to gain an extra portion and get a step closer to the target.
Juices versus smoothies
Traditionally, fruit and vegetable juices only contain the liquid part of the produce in question, which means they offer the majority of the micronutrients, but not the fiber. Smoothies meanwhile include all parts of the blended fruit and vegetables, as well as juice, so they are just as high in vitamins, minerals and fiber as the whole product. The higher fiber content of smoothies means that they are a more filling choice, helping to prevent you from overeating, but the fiber can also slow the rate at which the body absorbs natural sugars. Better blood sugar control is important for anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes, anyone who has weight loss in their sights and for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. However, while most commercially bought juices are still sold without the pulp in them, some of the juicers that you can buy to use at home allow you to retain the pulp, adding the extra goodness back into the drinks you make.
As juices largely have the same micronutrient profile as the whole fruit and vegetables they come from, the same nutritional benefits are available when consumed in liquid form. You should bear in mind though that as fruit and vegetables offer a diverse range of protective nutrients, you should try to vary the juices you drink to maximize the nutritional benefits. For instance, citrus juices are a rich in the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as the B vitamin folate. Meanwhile, juices that contain tomatoes offer significant amounts of the blood pressure lowering potassium and are one of the best sources of cardio-protective lycopene. Alternatively, juicing green vegetables, such as spinach, kale or broccoli, offers a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants. However, it is important to remember that fruit and vegetables cannot meet all our vitamin and mineral needs. For example, fruit and vegetables, with the exception of mushrooms, are not a source of vitamin D, so in this instance the inclusion of oily fish, eggs and foods fortified with vitamin D is essential to help meet your needs for this micronutrient.
Pros and cons of making your own juice
Besides being an easy way to get an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day, there are additional advantages to juicing. Firstly, by avoiding the peel, you can largely avoid pesticide residues that are found on whole items of produce, which is good news, as some pesticides are linked to the development of cancer and problems with the nervous system. Secondly, juicing is an effective way to concentrate beneficial nutrients, allowing you to focus on those linked to particular health benefits. For instance, juiced beets are known to have a positive influence on blood pressure. Another benefit is that unlike commercially produced juices, those you make at home aren’t pasteurized, which helps to retain the nutrients from the fruit and vegetables. Finally, you can use juices alongside a healthy eating plan to promote weight loss, though restrictive detox diets that involve purely fruit and vegetables are best avoided, due to the risk of developing other nutrient deficiencies. However, you should consider the initial cost of purchasing a juicer and that although juices are rich in antioxidants, the process introduces air, which interacts with some of these nutrients to reduce their overall content in the juice.
Pay attention to ready-made juices
While making your own juices can be more economical in the long run and allows you to make them exactly to your own taste, you may decide to buy those that are ready-made for ease. However, if you choose to do so, it is important to know that some juices you can buy are not made purely from fruit and vegetables. Some have added sugar in and others may not contain any natural juice at all. For these reasons it is essential to check the label of any juice items you buy. In the grocery store you should look for products that are 100% juice, as these don’t contain additional sugar, sweeteners or any other additive. Juice drinks are another matter though, as although they do contain natural juice, they also have other additions, which mean their overall fruit or vegetable content is typically less than 50% and they often have a high content of added sugars. Meanwhile, you should avoid fruit-flavored drinks, as despite their fruity taste, they don’t contain any juice and the additional vitamins and minerals added rarely compensate for the fact that they are devoid of natural fruit.
Herbalife, Eat your fruit and veggies, accessed August 2014
Sugar Leaf, Ten frequently asked questions about juices and smoothies, accessed August 2014
Harvard School of Public Health, Vegetables and fruits: questions and answers, accessed August 2014
NYU Langone, Lycopene, accessed August 2014
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Juicing fruits and vegetables, accessed August 2014
Mayo Clinic, Do detox diets offer any health benefits? Accessed August 2014
Rutgers University, How to squeeze the most nutrition out of your juice, accessed August 2014
*This article is contributed by one of our readers, Jennifer Goode