A Juicing Skeptic

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I’m often asked if I juice. Not steroids, but with fruits and vegetables. The answer is I don’t. I remain unconvinced that juicing offers the health benefits its fans claim. Before I get attacked in the comments, I’ll explain why I am a juicing skeptic. I could be wrong.

Whenever I run into a fan of juicing, the story is almost the same.

  1. Their health wasn’t great.
  2. They stop eating crap and start juicing.
  3. Their health improves and they credit juicing.

My opinion is the most dramatic health benefits come from removing the crap, not from the juicing. My crap foods were gluten, vegetable oils and unfermented soy. Even though I added more nutrient dense foods, it was removing the toxins that allowed my body to heal.

Another reason I am a juicing skeptic is that it doesn’t seem natural to buy a massive amount of fruits and vegetables, pulverize them into a shake and then throw out all the vegetable fiber. The juice consumer then slams their body with a concentration of vitamins never found in nature at that level. The expectation is the body will be able to absorb and thrive by overloading nutrients. I understand the argument that in order to get that much nutrition, juicing solves a problem that cooking doesn’t. When you cook the vegetables, you can eat more at one sitting, but you end up losing some of the nutrients.

There are two other solutions that have been available to mankind for many thousands of years. Neither requires buying massive quantities of fresh vegetables or purchasing a kick ass juicer. When it comes to nutrient density in a real food form that our ancestors thrived on, but modern man mostly ignores, we have offal and fermentation.

Back in the old days, we didn’t have planes flying fresh aspargus from Peru to our air conditioned grocery store. We also didn’t have the technology to them turn those fresh vegetables into liquid for our morning smoothie. We didn’t even have refrigeration. How did we survive and get the nutrients provided by vegetables, especially outside harvest time? One method was eating animals, particularly their organ meat. FreeTheAnimal did a post showing that 1/4 pound of beef liver has as much nutrition as 5 pounds of fruit. You see Mother Nature has a plan for us that doesn’t involve 7 easy payments. But wait there’s more!

Mankind also figured out that fermentation not only preserved vegetables beyond harvest, but they became softer to eat and they had higher nutrient levels than fresh vegetables. Yes, fermented vegetables can have 2 to 3 times the vitamin levels of fresh vegetables. I can also eat a bowl of sauerkraut or kimchi a lot easier than raw cabbage. Plus they have healthy probiotics that you do not get from juicing.

3-jars-kimchi

3 jars of kimchi

I also want to briefly touch on a topic that I’ll explore more in a future post. It is about nutritional arrogance. Regardless of if you’re Paleo, vegetarian or even a Dr. Oz follower, we discuss nutritional properties of food as if it is settled science. It might be settled science, but I don’t believe so. In the entire history of world, it has only been 99 years since we discovered Vitamin A. Folic Acid wasn’t discovered until 1941. Our understanding of Omega 3 ratios was primitive until the 1990s. Hell, in the last few years we’ve seen major breaks in our understanding dietary inflammation, gluten and gut flora. There are over 3,000 derivatives of Vitamin D3 and we’ve only have published biochemical data on 1,000 of them.

This tells me that there is a good chance that there is A LOT MORE we have yet to learn about food. We may still be in the Stone Age when it comes to nutrition. When I eat beef liver or sauerkraut, I’m eating in harmony with the way my ancestors did. With juicing, I don’t know how my body will respond to the nutrient overloading or what good things are being thrown away. Traditional eating doesn’t require nutritional science for validation. Our existence is proof it works.

Would I ever juice? If I were sick, had removed all the toxins from diet, was consuming offal and fermented foods and was still nutrient deficient then I might. I’d likely work with a nutritionist and get blood work done also. Most people do not fall into this camp. They want the damage from their cupcakes to be washed away by slugging a glass of blended produce. And liver is too yucky for them.

18 thoughts on “A Juicing Skeptic

  1. Kate

    In all fairness, who wouldn’t want a magical cupcake eraser? Eat anything you want and still feel great would be pretty awesome.

  2. Bob

    We don’t juice but on occasion use a vitamix for mixing and consuming vegies. The fiber is consumed as well.

  3. garymar

    If you, for example, juice a whole carrot, don’t you get the fiber as well? I’m talking about when you use a blender.

  4. I’ve only seen one juicer up close. There was a tray that collected “stuff” that couldn’t be blended. Maybe each juicer is different.

    I forgot to address the convenience factor. Yes it is a time saver when you make it. But, you have more cleanup and more trips to the grocery store. Fermenting is a lot of work up front, but then it is all time savings.

    @crunchysue – Liver is yummy! Especially as pate. 🙂

  5. Stuart

    So you’ll back:

    -bone broth
    -fermented veggies
    -organ meat

    as viable concentrated sources of nutrition but you draw the line on vegetable juices?

    I think you’ve had a dramatic childhood experience with a can of V8 and have not fully recovered. =)

    Not all juicers are created equal. I had a Breville, used it regularly and felt no difference. I just bought a masticating juicer and will let you know if I like it in a few weeks.

  6. @Stuart – Yep. I favor concentrated sources of nutrition that have historical track records. When I see a juicer, I see man trying to outsmart a system he doesn’t fully understand. I’m not saying who is right or who is wrong. I’m saying I don’t know and I’d prefer to side with the traditional food preparation techniques. If my way fails and I still need nutritional assistance then yes I would investigate juicers. BTW, I like V8.

    One more thing I didn’t think of before. All fresh vegetables have trace amount of pathogenic bacteria on them. That is what causes them to eventually mold. Cooking and fermentation are two methods to deal with the bacteria. Normally trace amounts of a pathogenic bacteria off fresh vegetables would be harmless, but I wonder if there is a downside risk to consuming larger quantities of fresh vegetables than we were ever designed for. Just a thought.

  7. Karl

    At this point I’ve really lost all interest in trying to beat the system so I completely agree with your take here. A friend of mine was just explaining the power of wheatgrass shots, PH and all the other benefits of it to me the other day and I realized something very pleasant. I just didn’t care and wasn’t interested. There wasn’t even a tweak of interest to run home and do research or try for myself. I just comfortably knew that there wasn’t anything to it that would possibly matter to me. I don’t think I would have gotten to this point without years of obsessive research and tracking behind me, but I’m glad I am.

    Things like juicing may help, they may not, but I think they are entirely marginal vs just eating real food, sleeping a bit more and dealing with stress. Worrying about micromanaging vitamin intake is like having a flooded basement and ignoring the powerful electric pump in favor of sprinting up and down the stairs with a dixie cup worth of water.

  8. James Steele II

    How about smoothies in a blender? Granted I have never ‘juiced’ (like a pro bodybuilder or a vegan) and I very rarely consume fruit that isn’t solely digested by my own anatomy and physiology, but occasionally I’ll chuck a few banana’s or berries into a blender on low with some raw milk and raw honey.

  9. Geoff

    I am thinking about the puréed carrot soup I made this week with bone broth. It wasn’t that far from a warm carrot smoothie. Now I don’t think it had magical health properties, but enjoying a smoothie (or soup) from the whole food every once in a while really can’t be harmful, can it?

  10. @Geoff – No. I’m sure it is fine.

    My primary point was that magical health benefits from juicing are more likely a result of removing the crap foods. And then after those crap foods are removed there are food preparation methods with much longer track records.

    I’m not anti-juicing. I’m just skeptical it is necessary.

  11. Txomin

    Fruit/veg juice is great. So are purees, creams, or mashed dishes, for example.

    Pulverizing food is one of many forms of preparing food. Nothing wrong with that.

    However, if it turns into a dogmatic practice then…

  12. charles grashow

    I have a protein shake after I workout – it ends my 16 hour fast and includes fruit

    Sometimes I blend in raw liver instead of protein powder (about 1 pound per month)

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