Juicing 101: Nutrition Tips for Consumers

USDA. NAL. Food and Nutrition Information Center.

Juicing in the home has gained popularity in recent years, but is it good for you? You may have read or heard things like “juice cleanse,” “detox,” or that juicing is a good way to lose weight. Juicing is a term that refers to combining fruits and/or vegetables in a juicer or juicing machine, which breaks these foods down into a liquid form.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (DGA) reports that most Americans over the age of four years are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and do not get enough dietary fiber, important minerals such as folate, potassium, magnesium, or vitamins A, C, and K in their diet. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of folate which is especially important for women who may become pregnant. Juicing can be one way to add more fruits and/or veggies into your day. With so much information available in the media, it can sometimes be difficult to know what’s true and what’s false. Read the following Q&A to get the facts on juicing.

Are there benefits to adding juicing into my eating plan?
This depends on many factors including your lifestyle, dietary preferences, health conditions, etc. The DGA recommends that the majority of fruit intake come from whole fruits, including canned, frozen and dried forms. Juicing can be one way to increase your nutrient intake, and incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables that you may not normally eat, such as kale or spinach, however you should not rely on juice as your sole source of fruit or vegetable intake. To improve taste, some juicing recipes may include added sugars, such as sugar, honey, turbinado, raw sugar, maple syrup or molasses. Most Americans need to reduce their intake of added sugars. Choose juicing recipes that don’t include these ingredients or use non-caloric sweeteners instead.

Will juicing provide all the nutrients I need in my diet?
No. Juicing can be a good way to introduce new fruits and vegetables, but a diet containing only these ingredients is missing some major nutrients. For example, protein and fat will only be present in very small amounts, so they will need to be obtained from other foods. Important vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, calcium, and iron may also be lacking. In addition, the amount of fiber may be reduced if the skin and pulp are removed in the juicing process. If you choose to juice, incorporate it into a healthy eating plan that includes foods from a variety of sources such as whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, and protein foods. You can read more about building a healthy eating pattern in Let's Eat for the Health of it [PDF|968 KB].

Is there a difference between a juice and a smoothie?
Yes. A smoothie typically contains fruits and/or vegetables, but other ingredients, such as milk, yogurt or protein powder, may be added as well. Smoothies can contain lots of ingredients: flaxseed, green tea, kefir, herbs and more. This is another option to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, which may also increase your intake of calories and nutrients, like protein, vitamins and minerals. Juicing typically includes just the fruit and/or vegetable that has been liquefied. Some juicers remove fiber from the whole fruit or vegetable. Fiber is an important nutrient and many Americans need more fiber in their diets. Read on for more about fiber below.

Will you always lose the fiber?
No. It can depend on the types of fruits and vegetables you use, as well as the equipment, and your personal preference. There are some products that do not extract, or remove the pulp, such as a blender. If you would like to keep the pulp in your juice, be sure to research the properties and functions of the equipment you are considering.

Will juicing help me lose weight?
Not necessarily. A juice may contain a considerable amount of calories which should be taken into consideration when managing your weight. In order to maintain your body weight, you must expend, or “burn” the same amount of calories that you consume, and therefore taking in more calories than you use will lead to weight gain. For example, if your daily calorie needs are about 1600, and you consume 2100, you will experience weight gain, which may not be desirable depending on your current weight status. Try these tools to help you understand your daily calorie needs, and to get a better idea of how many calories are in your juice:

Should I talk to my doctor before juicing?
Yes. Juicing is not appropriate for everyone. For example, if you have diabetes or kidney disease, you may need to limit, or monitor your intake of certain nutrients such as carbohydrates, potassium or phosphorus, and adding certain fruits or vegetables may not be recommended. For example, fruits such as melon and banana are high in potassium, and someone with kidney disease may be instructed to avoid these foods. Also, a juice made of mostly fruits can be high in carbohydrates, and could cause a rise in blood sugar, which could be problematic, especially in diabetics. In addition, juicing may also be a source of considerable calories, depending on the size, and content of the juice you make. Consuming excess calories can lead to weight gain, which can increase risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor, registered dietitian, or other healthcare professional to help you determine if juicing is a healthy option for you.

Will juicing reduce my risk for certain diseases?
The Dietary Guidelines state that that intake of at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits per day is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. In addition, fruits and vegetables contain more fiber when eaten whole, which may reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Fiber can also play a role in providing a feeling of fullness, and promoting healthy laxation. Most Americans don’t consume enough dietary fiber, and should increase their consumption of whole fruits and vegetables to help meet the recommendation for fiber. Since juicing fruits and vegetables can sometimes remove some of the fiber, it is not clear what the relationship is between juicing and health. If you choose to juice, try adding the leftover pulp from your juice to soups or muffins to help add the fiber into your diet.

Will juicing help to detoxify my body?
There is no evidence showing the benefits of a juicing detox, juice cleanse or juice fast, which is when one drinks only juice and does not eat any solid foods for a set period of time. Doing this doesn’t detoxify your body. Your body naturally filters and removes most toxins.

How much should I expect to spend?
Juicing machines can be costly, and could range from $50 to $500 or more. In addition, depending on the quantity or type of fruits and vegetables you use, you may see an increase in your grocery bill. You can try using frozen or canned foods to help manage your budget, and look for options that are low in sodium and added sugars, such as fruit canned in water or lite syrup. Fruits and vegetables from your home garden are also a good option. Learn how to plan, shop, and budget your trip to the grocery store using resources available to you by visiting Shopping, Cooking and Meal Planning from www.Nutrition.gov.

What are some other things to consider?

  • Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting or putting them in the juicer. Do not use soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes. If you are cutting your produce, use a clean knife and cutting board, as well as a clean juicer. Make only what you are able to drink or refrigerate in clean, covered containers. Wrap any leftover portions of fruits and vegetables tightly and refrigerate. They will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator; after that they may spoil. Be careful when washing your juicer, as many contain sharp blades or other surfaces that might be harmful if mishandled, and clean it thoroughly after every use.
  • If you buy fresh squeezed juice from a store or juicing stand, be aware that these may contain harmful bacteria if they have not been pasteurized, or treated to kill harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized (raw) juices are not recommended for those at risk for foodborne illness, such as children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Those at risk should look for a warning label before purchasing. More information about food safety can be found on the Food Safety Education page of the FSIS website, or Nutrition.gov’s Food Storage and Preservation page under Shopping, Cooking and Meal Planning.
  • Juicing should not be used as a quick way to lose weight. Consuming only fruits and vegetables, even though they are nutritious, is not considered a balanced diet. A healthy weight loss goal is ½ to 2 pounds per week, and can be achieved with healthy eating and activity habits. Talk with your doctor about safe and effective ways to control your weight. You can also visit the Weight and Obesity page of the FNIC website for more information and resources.

Are there any other resources I might find helpful?
Check out these links for more information on fruits and vegetables, recipes, and other ways to eat a healthful diet: