Honey I've been juiced

6 January 2020

It’s easy to be swayed at this time of year that drinking juice is “healthy” and that it will negate all the sins for which we’ve committed in December! 

We are encouraged by very persuasive and attractive marketing to purchase 3, 5 or even 10-day (drinking liquid only for 10 days-in cold January - how grim) juice cleanses and detoxes to help our health and be pushed across the line by promises of dramatic weight-loss. Pinterest boards are awash with ideas to start our days with a large glass of “juice” - for the antioxidant content to “ Kickstart the New Year”. And of course we think we are giving our children a healthy alternative by letting them drink box after box of “pure fruit juice”. It’s pure fruit juice, so it’s good for us, right?

Juice, whether it is store-bought (the worst), or freshly made at home seems to be promoted as a healthy choice. But, contrary to popular belief, juice, purchased from the supermarket, is not far from drinking pure liquid sugar. And in truth, it’s not much better than drinking a can of fizzy drink, in terms of how your body deals with it. 

The sugar that comes from fruit is called fructose. Same as the sugar in high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is not a healthy sweetener, in spite of its natural source. Fructose, unless it is wrapped up in a whole fruit, with all that natural fibre is bad news for your body and our weight. How so? Nearly every cell in the body can use glucose for energy. In contrast, only liver cells break down fructose. What happens to fructose inside liver cells is complex - but one of the end products is a triglyceride, a form of fat. Uric acid and free radicals are also formed. None of this is good for health. Triglycerides can build up in liver cells and damage liver function. Triglycerides released into the bloodstream can contribute to the growth of fat-filled plaque inside artery walls. Free radicals (also called reactive oxygen species) can damage cell structures, enzymes, and even genes. Uric acid can turn off production of nitric oxide, a substance that helps protect artery walls from damage. Another effect of high fructose intake is insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas, the consumption of foods and beverages containing fructose produces smaller postprandial insulin excursions than does consumption of glucose-containing carbohydrate. And because leptin production is regulated by insulin responses to meals, fructose consumption also reduces circulating leptin concentrations (Leptin - from Greek λεπτός leptos, "thin" is a hormone predominantly made by adipose (fat) cells and enterocytes in the small intestine that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn diminishes fat storage!). The combined effects of lowered circulating leptin and insulin in individuals who consume diets that are high in dietary fructose could therefore increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae - obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

And while it’s perfectly balanced when eaten in single portions of fruit, because you do not get large, concentrated quantities of it, drinking in litres of fructose in the form of fruit juice will lead you down a path of poor metabolic health.

When you drink a glass of juice, for example a 340ml glass of orange juice that I've shown here either in a bottle or glass so you can have a clear vision of what that represents (flowers optional!). 

You hit your system with a whopping 25 grams of sugar in the form of mostly fructose. That’s as much as 250ml bottle of Coke! - I took this straight from their website, 26.5g of sugar. 




But juice has loads of vitamins and minerals doesn't it?

Sadly the calories and the sugar grams in juices, are simply not worth the vitamins and minerals they provide. There is little vitamin C, antioxidants or arguably the most important of all - fibre in juice. Fibre is what helps produce the health-giving short-chain fatty acids in the gut, keeps you fuller for longer and enhances regular bowel movements for optimal and natural detoxification.

A single serving of just 1 kiwi fruit as shown here provides so much more -  and costs just 50p! If you eat the whole piece of fresh fruit, you’re eating the skin, flesh and possibly the seeds, so you’re getting all the fibre and the juices in a controlled portion - you’re not getting the excess sugar from three or four pieces of fruit at one time. 

Even one serving (330ml) of the health-promoting brand Innocent’s orange juice contains 4 “juicy oranges” -  that’s a lot for just a drink.

As fruit juice contains minimal or no fibre and is a very concentrated source of liquid sugar it is extremely easy to consume massive amounts of sugar from juice in a very short time. Fructose then gets sent straight away to the liver for processing and some of it is quickly turned into fat cells. And the biggest problem with liquid calories is that you still continue to eat as much or worse more! They just don’t make you feel full. 

Pressed juice vs processed juice

Let’s chat a bit about how most juice is made. Most processed juice—even 100% juice–that you buy in the supermarket undergoes a very unnatural process.  Using orange juice as an example, oranges are picked, the juice extracted out, heated and pasteurised, and then stored in gigantic vats, where the oxygen is removed so it can be stored for up to a year or more. Removing the oxygen (to prevent oxidation - see this blog here) removes a lot of the flavour, so big juice companies like Tropicana hire flavour and fragrance specialists to formulate “flavour packs” that make the orange juice taste like oranges again -  INSANE right! Even if you think you can buy ‘healthy’ fruit juice smoothies, like Innocent  they are still very high in sugar, and heated and pasteurised so they can be bottled. Innocent’s standard 250ml smoothie serving contains:

They lose most of their antioxidants and vitamins from the pasteurisation process, along with just the amount of time they sit on a store shelf. 

The trendy cold pressing process, does admittedly negate the pasteurisation pitfall, BUT most commonly these are pushed within juice cleanses or detox and when you’re on a juice cleanse, you are cutting out whole food groups -  there’s no protein in there, which is vital for detoxification! 

In summary, if you are thirsty, drink water. You can make your own flavoured waters by using filtered water, chopping up an orange or dropping in a few raspberries, fresh ginger or mint leaves.

And if you want to “detox or cleanse” I’d say give up alcohol and late nights for 4 weeks,  avoid the centre of the supermarket aisles and top up on WHOLE foods in the form of fresh vegetables and some fruit and drink plenty of water - that’s going to cleanse your body more than a juice cleanse, AND save your pennies at this time of year! 

In health, Tanya x