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Juicing and Food Safety
Juicing is the process of extracting the juices, along with most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, from fresh vegetables and fruit and enjoying it as a drink. While juicing has increased in popularity the last few years, there is still discussion around whether it is a healthy addition to the diet. One side argues that juicing takes out too many nutrients and fiber, and is too high in sugar; while the other side maintains that juicing is a great way to increase your nutrient intake.
Americans take in an average of 1 cup fruit per day and less than 1.5 cups vegetables; well below the recommended 1.2 to 2 cups fruit and 2 to 3 cups vegetables per day. Moreover, this is a 7% decline in consumption of fruits and vegetables between 2004 and 2014.
It’s important to get the majority of your vegetables and fruit in the whole form. Yet if you feel your or your children’s produce intake is lacking, juicing correctly and in addition to a well-balanced diet can be a convenient way to include more nutrients in your daily eating pattern.
Let’s take a closer look at sugar, fiber, and nutrient content; as well as safety concerns.
- Are juices too high in sugar? People tend to gravitate towards sweeter tastes, and therefore juices higher in fruit are prevalent. Too much sugar at one time, in an easily digestible form such as a juice, can spike your blood sugar then drop it quickly, leaving you feeling fatigued and irritable. Beyond these immediate symptoms, eating too many foods that spike your blood sugar (easily digested carbohydrates/ refined grains) have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and overweight.
To help lower the amount of natural sugar in juices, make or choose juices that contain mostly vegetables. While freshly-made juices still contain sugar, it is naturally occuring sugar from the produce used, which also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Are store-bought juices as good a choice as fresh-juiced drinks? Store bought fruit juices can be high in added sugar and may have minimal nutrients compared to a fresh-made juice. Additionally, since they are made of all fruit they likely have more sugar per ounce as well. Store-bought vegetable juices, such as those that are tomato based, are typically high in sodium, and just as with fruit juices have likely lost nutrients during processing.
If you do want to purchase store bought juice, look for one that is 100% juice, is made mostly of vegetables and does not have added sodium
- What about fiber? During the juicing process, insoluble fiber is removed from the produce, leaving the soluble fiber, nutrients, and fluids. Fiber is an important nutrient that most Americans need more of, so juicing all the produce you consume is not recommended. Also, some antioxidants and nutrients are bound to the insoluble fiber, so they would not be imparted to the juice.
Smoothies are a good way to keep all nutrients and fiber in your drink. Even with smoothies, try to include veggies – such as baby spinach, kale, or even canned pumpkin puree – to help boost the nutrient profile and fiber content.
- Juice fasts. Juice fasts involve drinking only fresh-made juices all day for an extended period of time. It is not recommended to do a complete juice fast, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women. While fresh-made juices are high in some micronutrients and antioxidants, there are many other nutrients our body needs which they either do not provide, or have minimal amounts of, including: healthy fats and essential fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and protein.
Instead, if you choose to consume juices add them to your diet as a snack or part of a meal for enhanced nutrient intake.
Food Safety and Juicing
- Always wash your fruits and vegetables properly before eating, juicing, or blending, this can help reduce external bacteria.
- Clean knives, cutting boards, juicers, and all other equipment thoroughly both before and after making a juice.
- Drink a fresh-made juice within 24 to 48 hours as any bacteria that was on the original produce prior to juicing or blending can colonize in the juice.
- Store juices in the refrigerator, or cooler with ice packs, until ready to drink. This helps to keep nutrient quality as well as help prevent bacterial growth.
- Be aware that unpasteurized juices may be dangerous for young children and pregnant women to include in their diets. This is due to potential bacteria exposure in the face of weaker immune systems as well as potential harm to the baby.
- Any store-bought bottled juices should be pasteurized.
In conclusion, juicing can be part of a well-balanced, healthy diet. It can be a way to increase our total vegetable and fruit intake, and while focusing on whole produce is important, occasionally including blended and juiced produce can add variety.
What to Do
Focus on water
Fresh juices can be one way to get more produce into your diet. However, keep in mind that water is best for hydration, so be sure to meet your needs!
Wash all produce and equipment before and after use to help avoid and reduce food-borne bacteria in your juice. Keep juices in the refrigerator or cooler with ice packs until you are ready to drink, and drink the juice within 24 to 48 hours.
Go for fresh versus store-bought
Store bought juices can be high in added sugar and may have minimal nutrients compared to a fresh-made juice. Look for – or make – juices that are mostly vegetable.
Drink juice as an addition to, not basis of, your total diet
Juice diets do not provide all the nutrients our body needs. Having juice as a snack or part of a meal can be a great way to boost nutrient intake. Also be sure to have most of your produce be from whole raw or cooked vegetables and fruit!
Note: While giving your child some freshly-made vegetable and fruit juice can be part of a healthy diet, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only 4 oz per day of 100% juice, and to concentrate more on whole produce in your child’s diet. (Read Alternatives to Naturally and Artificially sweetened beverages and juices for more information).