"If man made it, don't eat it. " - one of my favorite Jack LaLanne quotes and perhaps the foundation of my nutritional philosophy. I'm a big fan of LaLanne's work and have been since I was just a little kid. Growing up, I never thought I'd work in the field of nutrition or health, much less natural health. But that didn't stop me from spending every morning of a rainy March Break watching Amazing Discoveries, fascinated as much by the Jack LaLanne juicer as I was by the man himself.
Now, many years later, I look back at a lot of LaLanne's work and realize that he was in many ways ahead of his time. Even though he wasn't a scientist, nutritionist or physician, he understood that when North America switched to a carbohydrate diet in the 70's, it was headed down the wrong road. In running away from fat and cholesterol, leaning on staple foods like grains and potatoes, and embracing processed food products, we were over-doing the simple carbohydrates, cutting out key nutrients and setting us up for an increase in nutrition related diseases and disorders including hypothyroidism, diabetes, cancer, depression, and obesity. But when it comes to juicing, I have to disagree with LaLanne's legacy.
While juicing many fruits and vegetables is a great way to get lots of micronutrients; vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into our diet, it often comes at a cost of excess sugar. Now I hear you saying, but I thought fruit sugar is healthy. And in moderation, it is. We need carbohydrates in our diet to give us energy and fuel our brains. However, with juice, the carbohydrates are simple sugars that have been isolated from the fiber in the fruit. Not only is fiber beneficial for digestion, elimination and regulating blood cholesterol, it also helps to slow the digestion of simple sugars. Therefore the fiber found in fruit, helps to prevent a blood sugar spike. Further, when we drink juice, even if it's home made, we are often having more than one serving of fruit at a time. If you have juiced in the past, you know as I do, it often takes several pieces of fruit to extract enough juice to make up a serving. This is where the problem lies.
To illustrate, while loaded with vitamins, the small Caja juice, from Booster Juice contains 52 grams of carbohydrates, 46 of which are sugar.* If you were to eat a banana, an orange and a serving of pineapple all at once you still would not hit 52 grams of carbs. In fact, it would total approximately 47 grams of carbohydrates, 31 grams of sugar, but you'd also get 15 grams of fiber. Even still, this is too much all at once, for most. If you have a body like the late Jack Lalanne and his activity level, you might be able to pull this off healthfully. Or if you have really good insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, this might be manageable. But for most of the clients I work with, this is far too much. For many clients, this is more than half a days carbohydrate needs in one sitting. This is why I've heard on more than one occasion, "I tried a juice fast to lose weight, and gained weight instead. "
If you are going to drink juice, go for vegetable juice. If you're buying it in the store, be aware of additives and added sugar. It's not uncommon for prepared juices to contain added sugars and even high fructose corn syrup for sweetness. If you're making your own, know that aside from carrots and root vegetables, most veggies will not be too high in sugar. But you're still missing out the benefits of fiber. Also, don't be fooled by green juices. While some are healthier options, many have lots of sugar and fruit to offset the taste of the greens.
Your best option is to go for fruit and vegetables in their natural form, whenever possible. Or try blending juices. You don't need an expensive blender to pull this off. Most food processors or bar blenders will do the job. You will have to add water, and the juice will be more fibrous, for obvious reasons, but it's definitely the healthier option. Better yet, make a shake or smoothie with added protein and fats. These too help to slow digestion and round out the nutritional profile of your drink. Try the recipe below and happy blending.
*data from BoosterJuice.com
Hi, I'm Shara Vickers, a Nutritional Health and Fitness Specialist located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Please have a look around to find out more about my approach to health and the coaching and consulting services I offer to both local and long-distance clients.