Juicing for health

An array of fruit and fresh juices.

Drinking our way to good health has never been more popular.

Trendy juice bars line the streets, countless health gurus punt their miracle juice detox programmes, and food bloggers the world over gush about their latest and greatest juicing combinations.

So why, you might wonder, would thousands of people choose to drink their food, rather than opt for a good old-fashioned knife-and-fork meal?

The answer lies in one word – nutrition. When a glass of fresh, raw juice enters the body, it delivers a powerful nutrient kick.

A glass of juice can contain far more fruits and vegetables than you would usually eat in a given day.

This means that juices offer a concentrated form of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants commonly found in fresh produce.

Additionally, because the body does not first have to break down the food, the nutrients are absorbed and utilised very quickly.

Although juicing removes insoluble fibre from the produce, raw juice contains soluble fibre, which can contribute to improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as the formation of good gut bacteria.

Research also supports the notion that consuming raw juice is good for overall health.

A recent study found that the high polyphenol – a type of antioxidant – content in juices assists in stimulating beneficial gut bacteria growth.

This is extremely important, as a healthy gut microbiome is the foundation for good health.

If your gut functions well, your body can absorb all the nutrients it needs, and expel all the toxins it doesn’t need.

Ultimately, this leads to a more energetic, radiant, healthy you. Raw fruits and vegetables also contain a host of living enzymes, which further aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Another study found that regular fruit and vegetable juice consumption – three times per week or more – was associated with a 76% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Beetroot juice in particular is associated with improved cognitive function – largely due to its high nitrate content.

A separate study published in Physiology and Behaviour in 2015 found that when volunteers consumed 450ml of beetroot juice, they performed significantly better in pre-set cognitive tasks than their control group counterparts.

This suggests that adding some beetroot to your juicing routine may help you stay mentally alert and focused.

Lastly, a 2016 study in the Advances in Nutrition journal also observed positive effects on cardiovascular health and weight loss after a three-day juice cleanse.

Of course, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective. Juicing, when done in excess or with the incorrect ingredients, can have negative side effects.

For example, spinach, Swiss chard, and beetroot – common ingredients in green juices – contain high concentrations of oxalates.

Oxalates may contribute to kidney stone formation in individuals that are prone to kidney stones or have a family history of kidney stones.

Juicing with a higher concentration of fruits than vegetables also poses risks, as fruit juice is naturally high in sugar (fructose).

The sugar is more concentrated in juice, as the insoluble fibre that slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream is completely removed.

Always aim to add low glycemic index (GI) fruits such as apples, lemons, and berries to your juices in small quantities.

Make sure that the rest of the juice comprises fresh raw vegetables.

Also remember that juices can serve as a nutritious supplement to your main meals, but should never be used as a long-term meal replacement or prolonged detox/fasting aid without clear guidance from a qualified healthcare professional.

If you want to make the most out of your juicing experience, follow these guidelines:

Invest in a good juicer. Masticating (slow) juicers offer the best nutrient extraction. This is because the juice is extracted at low speed, which generates minimum heat.

Heat damages enzymes and nutrients, so the faster your juicer works, the more potential for nutrient loss due to heat damage.

Drink immediately or store wisely. To minimise nutrient loss, juices should be consumed immediately, or if needed, stored in an airtight glass container for no longer than 24 hours.

Fill the container to the brim if possible to prevent any excess oxygen entering.

Use organic produce. Research confirms that organic produce can contain up to 40% more antioxidants (including polyphenols), 27% more vitamin C, and 21% more iron than conventional produce. Additionally, you’ll also avoid dozens of disease-promoting pesticides if you shop organic.

If you don’t own a juicer or don’t have the time to make fresh juices every morning, there are also numerous raw juicing companies that supply fresh or flash-frozen juices. You can usually place weekly orders, and some companies even offer delivery.

Lastly, feel free to have fun and experiment with different flavour combinations.

With millions of online recipes and several best-selling juicing recipe books at your disposal, a world of flavour and wellbeing awaits.