Juicing has been popular for a while. Also in vogue are juice cleanses, where you drink nothing but juice for up to a week. In fact, the juice craze has attracted a following of people who see it as a strategy for losing weight. When you’re constantly barraged with ads showing before and after photos of people who have followed a juice diet, you might think this strategy works. Of course, with all of the digital enhancement apps available these days, you have to question the authenticity of the photos you see online. At best, juicing will likely lead to only temporary weight loss and you’ll quickly see your weight rebound once you’ve abandoned the juice diet. Here’s why drinking fruit and vegetable juice is not an effective strategy for controlling your weight long term.
Liquids Aren’t as Satiating as Solid Food
One of the biggest problems with juicing is that your body doesn’t compensate for calories you consume in liquid form. Although results are mixed, a number of studies show that you don’t eat less solid food to compensate for calories that you drink. Plus, you’re even less likely to compensate when you drink something with a thin texture, for example, a glass of juice without fiber as opposed to a thick smoothie or bowl of soup. The calories you take in from juice simply aren’t as satiating as those you get from solid food. When you drink a glass of fresh juice in place of a meal, you will likely still feel hungry and make up for the lack of satiety by eating more.
Juicing is Not Blood Sugar Friendly
Another reason drinking juice, particularly fruit juice, leads to greater hunger than eating solid food is that juice lacks fiber. When you juice fruit, you retain only 10% of the fiber but all of the natural sugar in that fruit. That’s not beneficial when it comes to your waistline. Fiber lessens the rise in blood sugar that occurs when you eat a meal and slows the release of insulin. Without fiber, you get a spike in blood sugar, followed by a precipitous drop several hours later. That’s when hunger sets in and you start to crave solid food. Plus, your insulin level rises more and stays up longer and that makes it easier to store body fat. By drinking juice, you create conditions that aid in fat storage and you’re still hungry! That’s not a good combo.
Lack of Protein
Protein is the macronutrient that’s the most satiating and fruit and vegetable juices are low in protein. In addition, studies show that diets higher in protein are more effective for weight loss. The lack of protein is most problematic if you’re doing a juice cleanse or fast to lose weight and are consuming nothing but juice. You need protein for satiety and to limit the loss of muscle tissue when you lose weight. Weight training helps prevent muscle loss as well.
If you juice as a way to lose weight and make it the bulk of what you consume, expect to lose water and muscle tissue as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and think juicing is an effective weight loss strategy when you see your weight drop but it isn’t all fat loss. Another problem is people who juice fast for short-term weight loss often consume too few calories. If you do this for a sustained period of time, your metabolism slows and you burn less body fat as fuel Once you stop the juice fast, your weight will likely rebound.
The Calories and Sugar Add Up
If you juice mainly fruits, you’re getting a concentrated quantity of natural sugar without fiber or protein. Plus, when you add a high ratio of fruit to a juicer, the calories add up quickly too. If you’re drinking juice along with your regular diet, you’re adding significant calories to your daily intake from liquids alone. You can lower your calorie intake by eating whole fruits and vegetables and feel more satisfied as well.
You Lose the Natural Synergy Present in the Fruit
Whole fruits and vegetables are bursting with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Juicing separates these components from one another and reduces their natural synergy. Some of the antioxidants in juices are bound to the fiber in fruits and vegetables, so you’re missing out on some antioxidant benefits when you remove the fiber. On the other hand, for some fruits like oranges juicing makes some of the antioxidant flavonoids more bioavailable. Antioxidants are an advantage of juicing but the whole fruit has antioxidants and other components that offer the greatest benefits in the setting of the whole fruit.
If you juice, use a high ratio of non-starchy vegetables to fruits. Vegetables contain less natural sugar and won’t cause the same rise in blood sugar as fruit juice. Avoid commercial fruit juice at all cost since it usually contains added sugars and fillers. If you enjoy drinking some of your meals and snacks, smoothies are a better option. These blended drinks have a thicker texture and are more satiating than a thin juice. Plus, you retain the fiber. Just as importantly, you can easily add a source of protein like a protein powder to make the macronutrient composition more balanced.
A positive aspect of juicing is you add more colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet. The disadvantage is you’re discarding all but a portion of whatever you’re juicing. Hang on to the pulp that your juice machine separates out and add to soups and stews. You can find other creative ways to use the fiber-rich pulp online. Some people add it to pancakes, hot cereal, baked goods, and even eggs. The pulp is too fiber rich to toss.
Finally, if you juice, do it on occasion rather than adopting juice cleanses and detoxes where you drink nothing but juice for 24 hours or longer. Any weight that you lose will be difficult to maintain and it isn’t necessarily body fat. You’ll be most successful in losing weight if you avoid fad weight loss techniques like this and adopt a balanced, healthy, whole food diet combined with exercise. Juicing and juice fasts aren’t a shortcut to weight loss.
Research Gate. “Solid Versus Liquid Calories: Current Scientific Understandings” January 2014.
Mayo Clinic. “Is Juicing Healthier Than Eating Whole Fruits or Vegetables?”
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