Is Juice Worth the Squeeze?

A healthier alternative to juice-cleanse diets

I’ve never done a cleanse. I’m never going to do a cleanse. I don’t believe in cleanses, including the latest one, which involves prettily packaged $10 bottles of fresh, cold-pressed juice. Some of these juice brands claim that if you drink a sequence of their beverages over a period of several days, you’ll feel more euphoric, lighter, and ostensibly better about your overindulgence in holiday champagne and sugar cookies. (As if there is such a thing!)

I’m not anti-juice, so don’t get me wrong there. I love juice, and those $10 bottles with all their fancy kale-and-beet blends from places like the new Truce Juice in Uptown are no exception (although I do gag a little on the price). But whenever a diet advocates for a strict regimen of only one thing, I wince.

So I called Teri Rose, a licensed nutritionist who provides dietary consultation through her south Minneapolis business, Perfectly Produce, to discuss my Andy Rooney attitude. When I referenced a recent Slate article by Katy Waldman (“Stop Juicing: It’s not healthy, it’s not virtuous, and it makes you seem like a jerk”), she laughed; she’d seen it, too. She didn’t disagree.

“There really isn’t any science to support a juice cleanse,” she says. “What gets me excited about the juice trend is that it will increase people’s produce consumption. If you drank nothing but juice for three days, you would do minimal damage to your body. But there’s very little benefit, too. …Often, people feel better on cleanses because they are substituting healthy juice for the crap they’ve been eating—not because they’ve cleansed a magical toxin out of their bodies.”

Rose and I quickly came to the agreement that if juicing is done right, it can be hugely beneficial to an already-balanced diet. “That’s why we’re saying you need to eat whole foods—they support your liver, which does your detoxing, every day. A short-term cleanse is just silly. But there is consistent validity in supporting your liver daily.”

So I can have a tasty juice for reasons that are medically sound?  This I can get behind. Rose was then kind enough to share a few pointers. Her first item of business? Ditch the juicer.
Wait. What?

Juicers, she explains, extract the liquid of fruits and vegetables, but leave a lot of other good stuff behind. “Save the money you’d spend on juices and buy a Vitamix blender,” she says. “You can throw in ginger or beets with the peel on. There are bioflavonoids in pith and peels, and the Vitamix doesn’t eliminate all the fiber. Mother Nature packages things much better than we ever could.”

Vitamix, check. Next, she says, regardless if you are drinking liquid juice or what she calls “whole-food juice” from your Vitamix, it should be three-quarters veggies—especially the ones that you don’t understand how to cook or don’t normally make the time to prepare. (“People can always find a way to eat banana or pineapple,” she explains.) Use one fruit to sweeten the veggies, say an orange or apple. Any time you drink juice, it should be as part of a balanced meal or accompanied by at least a small portion of good fats, so that your body can absorb the fat-soluble vitamins—a tablespoon or two of nuts will do the trick.

Last thing to keep in mind: Different veggie colors really do mean that they contain different nutrients. But instead of the old health mantra “eat the rainbow,” Rose suggests “green, white, and bright.” Meaning be sure to get plenty of greens and light-hued veggies, such as garlic, onion, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and potato, as well as bold-colored berries, cherries, watermelon, grapes, and pomegranate.

“Everything you eat has to support all the jobs the body does—not just provide one or two nutrients,” she says. “It’s why whole foods and a produce-based diet are so critical to healthy aging.”

Once again, we come back to the age-old adage: moderation. Juice won’t undo an overdo, but it will help you recalibrate. And it is just one way to eat more of the veggies and fruits that will help you stay vibrant and healthy. 

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