Juicing: Stupid and Pretentious or Nourishing and Enlightening?

by | Jan 22, 2014

Photo by maebmij

I typically don’t like to get involved in religious debates, but I find the current green juice frenzy way too amusing to resist throwing in my own $0.02.

You would have to be living in a wifi-less cave to have not noticed the incredibly vocal community who believes juicing is the panacea of all that is good and healthy on earth.

These people make health claims ranging from silly, unprovable promises like “detoxifying the body” to egregious lies like “juice cures cancer.” They love their juice and get very angry if you suggest even a little bit that juicing isn’t equal to nutritional perfection. If you don’t like juice, you probably don’t like kittens or rainbows either.

On the other side of the spectrum there’s the more recent anti-juice backlash. These folks point to the hand-wavy research testimonials by juice proponents and mock the lack of solid science behind the craze.

They sit smugly on their high horse, but are not-so-secretly fuming that green juice has become a pretentious, high-priced status symbol for celebrities and wealthy, West Coast elitists. They hate that everyone else is so dumb, and wish we’d all stop talking about it already.

And let’s not forget the people who think juicing is something else entirely.

Scientists, in contrast, have been conspicuously silent on the juicing front. Though a few have come out in interviews suggesting that too much fruit juice (naturally very high in fructose) can be dangerous, they are reluctant to condemn the consumption of more vegetables.

Vegetables are good. But fads are bad. And there isn’t any real long-term data. We’ll just be quiet now.

While the devotion of green juice evangelists can certainly be comical, the lack of data is what brings the juicing debate closest to a religious one. Plausible explanations and testimonials can be found on both sides, and without any actual facts to point to it’s hard to convince anyone of anything. (Not that facts hold much status in national debates these days, but that’s a different problem.)

There isn’t much precedent for juicing vegetables the way people are doing it today. This means we don’t have a lot of information on how it will affect people long-term.

There are many other unknowns as well, including the effects of juicing different kinds vegetables and fruits (can excessive kale juice really inhibit your thyroid?), how much juice is beneficial or safe to drink, the impact of removing or adding back fiber from vegetables, how juice storage impacts nutrition, and the effect of different juicing methods. How do these things change if people are healthy, sick, underweight or obese?

Until these factors have been tested in controlled trials, any speculation on them is purely theoretical.

We know even less about subsisting exclusively on juice for various amount of time. I did a quick Pubmed search to see what science had to say about “juice cleanse.” As you can see, I didn’t come up with much.

 

The science of a juice cleanse

The science of a juice cleanse *chirp* *chirp*

 

Of course this doesn’t mean we can’t make educated guesses about the pros and cons of juicing. It just means we should be a little skeptical about everything we read until better information is available.

I’ve explained before that I personally really like the stuff. Unlike those who’ve described it as “like drinking everything bad that ever happened to me in high school,” most of the juices I’ve tried have been delicious.

My beef with juice isn’t the taste or snobbery, but all the shopping, storage and cleanup necessary to make juice at home. I happily pay an extra few dollars for the local, heirloom, organic, bespoke, artisanal, hand-crafted, and not-made-by-me juices I get from my favorite juice vendor at the farmers market.

What else would you expect from a West Coast elitist?

I even tried a juice cleanse once, since after Thanksgiving there wasn’t a single person in San Francisco not doing one. I told myself I was just doing it for research purposes, but I’ll admit I was curious what all the fuss was about. Would I feel enlightened by infusing myself with vegetable goodness for 24 hours?

No, it just made me really, really hungry.

As you can probably tell, I have trouble taking this stuff too seriously. I already love vegetables and eat really well, so I wouldn’t expect green juice to change my life. If you don’t normally eat a lot of veggies, I can see it being a great addition to your healthstyle (though I would still prefer you eat your greens).

That said, I don’t think obsessing over any part of your diet is healthy. Using juice cleanses and “detox” as an excuse to treat your body horribly on weekends, or as a veiled strategy to lose weight by starving yourself, is even worse.

In general I think green juice is a welcome addition to the American diet, and I look forward to the day when vegetable juice bars are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. I just hope we can stay sane about it.

Please share your indignation in the comments.

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101 Responses to “Juicing: Stupid and Pretentious or Nourishing and Enlightening?”

  1. Judy says:

    I came across your blog while looking for what to do with a delicata squash (thanks for the tip to leave the skin on!), and couldn’t resist taking a peek at your juicing article.

    Weighing over 200 pounds for my entire adult life, I’ve bought in to the juicing hype several times in a desperate attempt to fix my body and mind. Lofty promises like jump start weight loss, “detox” my body, or eliminate cravings for bread and dairy are hard to resist. So I bought a juicer, a shamefully large amount of fresh produce, and went at it full speed ahead.

    In a stark contrast to the testimonials (lol “research”) in the previous comments – my testimonial is that it’s all bunk.

    My first juice fast lasted 3 days. During those 3 days, I experienced intense hunger, weakness, inability to think clearly, rage, self-loathing, severe headaches, muscle cramps, dry heaving, bad breath and fuzzy tongue, dizziness, and painful elimination. All normal parts of the “detox” process, they said. By day 3 I should be feeling great, with glowing skin and diminished hunger and tons of energy! I did not. The morning of day 4 I almost passed out while brushing my teeth, and said screw it I’m eating something. By that evening all my symptoms disappeared.

    That experience should have taught me all I needed to know about juice cleanses, but rose-colored glasses kicked in over time, and a year later I was feeling terrible again and stumbled upon a blogger raving about her juicing experience. I began to question my previous attempt – maybe I just didn’t give it long enough the first time. I dusted off my juicer, bought another shameful haul of produce, and resolved to give it a full week before quitting.

    Fail. Failfailfail.

    Not fail on my part. I did succeed on juicing for a full week. But by the end of the week, I had still experienced no beneficial side effects – and all the negative ones from before. I was hungry and weak. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone exercise. I spent my days laying on the couch, half-watching Netflix, waiting for the clock to tell me it was time to go make another juice. I was miserable.

    I did succeed in losing 10 pounds over the week – 7 of which were immediately regained when I started eating whole foods again. I did not experience any beneficial effects from the cleanse, aside from better skin – which I believe is more from increased fluids than the juice itself, since the same happens when I up my water intake.

    There is nothing wrong with fresh vegetable juice. It’s a great way to get in additional nutrients, particularly if you don’t eat many veggies normally. But juice fasting is not a viable solution to weight loss or health, in my opinion, and I feel that it is dangerous for people to tout it as such.

  2. McBryde Mats says:

    Juicing is the greatest thing since blending, I would be nowhere without it!, Thanks for the article, great read!

  3. Amanda says:

    I could not agree more with this post. We live in a world where the newest health craze becomes overwhelmingly popular in a matter of days, yet no one stops to think about the evidence-based research that is lacking. There is nothing wrong with being interested in a new area of nutrition, but obsessing is an entirely different story. As mentioned, green juice is a welcome addition to the American diet and we hope to see it incorporated into more diets, however, most are using them for the wrong reasons. If one chooses to juice because they enjoy juicing and the outcome of juicing, so be it. Unfortunately, many are using them for what they believe is a “recovery” from treating their bodies poorly and looking for a quick fix. From my personal view, you did an impressive job supporting both sides of the juicing obsession and I found it to be very comical!

  4. Green_Gene says:

    Honestly, I looked forward to reading this article but really found it a bit rambling. I couldn’t quite find the point halfway through so I just skipped to the end.

    I feel that maybe you’re trying to be too soft with your approach even though you have a lot to say.

  5. I was very ill and was introduced to juicing by
    Dr. Max Gerson his concept was very sound. When you are sick it is less stressful on your stomach to consume some juice, you still need whole food. He wanted to save more energy for healing. He was one of the most brilliant men in his field, had he lived longer he would have modified he would have made great advances. It did help me survive, from there we evolved to a living plant diet everything is alive when we process it. All the veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, fungi, bacteria, is our staple. The legumes and grains are all sprouted before cooking. Because of my health we also use a immune system diet where any food that acts to suppress the immune system is avoided, in that everybody is different. For me its coffee,meat,dairy,eggs, any product processed by manufacturing.
    Randolph Kent Torres @
    Coopered Patterns-Avalanche

  6. Chance the Inflammed says:

    Hi Darya,

    Great article, I have been looking up a lot of stuff on juicing and this article (and your previous “6 Things to Consider Before Juicing…”) have provided a very welcome unbiased and research founded approach. I know this article is a bit old, but if you still check it I would love to ask you a few questions on juicing and fighting inflammation?

    To keep the pitty party short, after years of lower and upper back pain (6 years… >.>> If I juice all the anti-inflammation foods and drink it, will that have the same beneficial effect as just eating these foods? AND do you think that is a realistic approach to consuming what I need to on a daily basis??

    I honestly don’t know what is in those foods that make them good for inflammation, but I know the anti-inflammatory diet is a real, well researched method to help control inflammation. I just want to know if juicing would make it easier to consume more of those foods, and if more even would help?

    I really don’t need to worry about calories, if anything I need more… the freaking inflammation really makes it difficult to eat 2K calories per day. Also I am under no illusion that an anti inflamatory diet will be able to stave the need of my current medication prednisone and future medication methotrexate. Anything that can help with the day to day pain would be great though.

    Thank you in advance,
    Chance the Inflammed

    • Darya Rose says:

      Juicing isn’t innately bad if you aren’t worried about weight gain. Will it be just as good or better than eating veggies and fruits? I don’t know and there’s nothing stoping you from trying. You can certainly consume more that way, mathwise. Keep in mind though that for anti-inflammatory diets to work your entire diet needs to be anti-inflammatory whether you’re having juice or not. That means minimal to no sugar, refined grains, refine fats, refined proteins, and focusing on Real Food with plenty of nutrients including natural fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

  7. jakob says:

    The proclamation that juicing is detoxing and cleansing is particularly hilarious. The only thing that can detox a human are our skin, lungs, kidneys and liver.

  8. Catherine N. says:

    I juice on and off. I do a farmshare/CSA so it can be a good way of dealing with the “too many veggies” syndrome. It is a bit of a pain cleaning the thing. Basically, it is a good option if you are too hot to eat/cook, or if you just want a simple option once in a while. Not an everyday thing, not a magic bullet.

    Good article. (I have noticed that a lot of the commercial juices seem to be mostly apple juice based, I don’t tend to buy grocery-store juices)

  9. Grant says:

    I don’t use it to cleanse, but more like a supplement to good eating. Like sometimes I still crave sugary drinks so I will make a super healthy juice along with it to kill the craving. I know I feel better when I do it, but it’s not a long term strategy and the clean up gets old.

  10. Maria says:

    I have severe RA diagnosed when I was 25 I was given 5 years to be in a wheelchair. The medications made me depressed, anemic, tired, gave me nausea and made me suicidal I had my medication changed many times but I always had something wrong and would end up in the hospital. I finally had my medication changed to something that helped and I thought it was good till I started to get cyst all over due to medication Embrel which one of the side effects is cancer. I was in a lot of pain and running out of options I saw Joe Cross movie and did my research on fruits and vegetables I did juice for 3 months only consuming fruit and vegetable juice. I felt wonderful and was able to eat everything I wanted for 5 years without pain, inflammation or deformation plus I lost 65 pounds which was not the reason I did it, to begin with. I was also able to go back and play soccer I am now 34 and keep juicing on and off to keep healthy in my case I do believe juicing really helped. But I respect your opinion.

  11. Debbie says:

    I’ve enjoyed your articles, except for this one, which seemed to be mocking juicing. I’ve been juicing since 1980, and love the results. I don’t juice daily – but when I do I feel so good…my energy is through the roof and my skin glows. I’m not a crazy juicer- and if I juice greens – I only use a few leafs. I’m not as interested in the statistics and research as I am in results. I think the debate is silly. I’m not an advocate of commercially bottled juices, as I feel this damages the potency of the enzymes. I Use an Omega Juicer that juices very slowly keeping the enzymes in tact longer. If juicing has helped someone manage chronic illness, or whatever – thats amazing. I say if it helps, and you feel great – keep juicing and ignore the naysayers. Peace!

  12. Debbie says:

    I’ve enjoyed your articles, except for this one, which seemed to be mocking juicing. I’ve been juicing since 1980, and love the results. I don’t juice daily – but when I do I feel so good…my energy is through the roof and my skin glows. I’m not a crazy juicer- and if I juice greens – I only use a few leafs. I’m not as interested in the statistics and research as I am in results. I think the debate is silly. I’m not an advocate of commercially bottled juices, as I feel this damages the potency of the enzymes. I Use an Omega Juicer that juices very slowly keeping the enzymes in tact longer. If juicing has helped someone manage chronic illness, or whatever – thats amazing. I say if it helps, and you feel great – keep juicing and ignore the naysayers. Peace!

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