Juicing fruits and vegetables is widely considered a healthy habit, even though most nutrition experts caution against the excessive sugar and calories you get from juicing.
Although I’ve had tons of questions about it, I’ve avoided discussing juicing at Summer Tomato because I didn’t think there were enough positive things to say to warrant an entire blog post.
That is, until I got a juicer.
Two months ago a Breville juicer and blender magically appeared in my kitchen. I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but agreed to participate in the ensuing juicing experiment—for research purposes, of course. The idea was to start juicing a few mornings a week, just to see what happens.
(Update: it’s been a year now, and while I don’t juice regularly (see reason #6) I still enjoy it on occasion)
I was more than a little surprised how much I enjoyed it. Even though it was mostly vegetables, I expected the juice to be very sweet, which it wasn’t. Instead it was bright and refreshing, like a summer salad. It also tasted and made me feel good, and as long as I kept the serving size to 8oz or less it was easy to maintain my weight.
I also find that fresh juice is a great way to fend off a cold, when I feel one coming on.
But juicing is not for everyone. And before jumping in head first, there are a few things you should consider.
Update: Read this for more on the science and health of juicing.
6 Things To Consider Before Buying A Juicer
1. Fruit juice and vegetable juice are not created equal
It may sound counter-intuitive, but fruit juice may actually raise your risk of heart disease. Fructose, the primary sugar found in fruit, is transformed into triglycerides in the liver and promotes insulin resistance, both of which promote heart disease. Similarly, fruit juice increases type 2 diabetes risk while whole fruit lowers it.
Why do you think high-fructose corn syrup is so bad for you?
While whole fruit does not typically pose a problem because of its high fiber content, concentrating fruit by juicing it increases the fructose per serving dramatically. Think about how many oranges go into making one small cup of OJ, and you’ll start to see what I mean.
If you’re getting a juicer because you think apple-orange juice is going to make you healthier, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Plan to juice mostly vegetables or else getting a juicer is not a particularly healthy choice.
2. You still need to eat your vegetables
Don’t assume that drinking your vegetables is the same as eating them. Yes, as in the case with fructose you will be concentrating vitamins and minerals from your vegetables, but you will also be losing a lot of fiber that slows digestion and helps you feel full.
The rate you digest food and your satisfaction after eating are just as important to your overall health as the nutrients you consume. So while juicing can add to your overall nutrient intake, it cannot replace your daily vegetable consumption.
3. Juicing may stall weight loss
Though vegetables have less fructose than fruit, it is still an incredibly efficient way to take in calories, something most of us don’t need. If you choose to experiment with juicing while attempting to lose weight remember that you still need to watch your portion size, and consider reducing it if weight loss stalls.
I recommend no more than one 8oz juice serving per day if you are trying to lose weight. This is pretty small.
4. Prepare to do a lot of shopping
As noted in the above points, juicers take large quantities of vegetables and turn them into small amounts of juice. Additionally you need to continue buying and eating vegetables for your regular meals.
All this means you’d better plan to do a lot of shopping for produce if you want to keep your refrigerator stocked. If you aren’t prepared for this, you might find you don’t get the use you expected out of your new purchase.
5. Expect to drop some cash
Juicers aren’t cheap, nor are all those shopping trips. Consider juicing a luxury, not a necessity. So if money is an issue for you, you might want to look elsewhere to upgrade your healthstyle.
One thing we’ve experienced with the Breville juice and blend is that it feels like overkill for the kind of juicing we’re doing at home. While some of you may be juicing for large groups, juicing for two does not require an industrial strength machine.
Keep in mind that a larger, more powerful juicer will be harder to work, harder to clean and difficult to store. Consider a smaller size if possible. This smaller model from Breville looks like a fantastic option for a 2-person household.
Here’s a good midrange option: Breville Juice Fountain Elite 1000-Watt Juice Extractor
6. Expect a time commitment
All the shopping, juicing and cleaning does take some time. Making juice for two and cleaning up takes about 10-15 minutes each morning. And as I mentioned above, extra shopping is required (we can no longer fit a week’s worth of vegetables in the fridge, so multiple store trips are necessary).
While the extra work is worth it if you enjoy the juicing experience, you should factor it in while making your purchasing decision.
A few other tips for juicing
If you do decide to take the plunge, here are a few suggestions we’ve found make the best juicing experience:
- Focus on vegetables, but include some fruit. We’ve found that one small apple makes a huge difference in flavor. This is all we recommend so far in the fruit department.
- Include 1-2 root vegetables–such as carrots or beets–to add additional flavor and antioxidants. We like to include either 2 small carrots (1 large) or 2 small beets (1 large). These tend to contribute a tad more sugar and a nice earthy flavor, adding complexity.
- Add at least one leafy green vegetable. We’ve been happy with kale, broccoli and chard (currently in season), but others likely work as well.
- Include one watery vegetable. Cucumber, celery and other watery vegetables help dilute the too-strong flavors of the previous 3 ingredients. This can make a big difference in drinkability, while adding some nice flavor and additional vitamins.
- Don’t forget a garnish. A small amount of a strong flavored item such as ginger, lemon, mint or other herb can make your juice a real pleasure to drink while adding highly concentrated antioxidants.
- Consider adding back a few scoops of the fiber that is filtered out by the juicer. This will make your juice more filling.
Originally published February 24, 2011.