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Is juicing fruit and vegetables good for you?

Health gurus claim turning whole fruit and vegetables into a liquid gives a ‘vitamin boost’ and is a good way to get fruit and vegetables into the diet.  However, some scientists argue juices (and smoothies) may not be as healthy as they appear, and it is better to eat whole fruit and vegetables.

Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of turning whole fruit and vegetables into liquid and the effect on your diet.

Juices verses smoothies - what is the difference?

Put simply a juice is water and some of the nutrients extracted from a fruit or vegetable.

Smoothies are pulverised whole fruits and vegetables.

What are the pros and cons of juices?

Pros

  • 150ml glass of a fresh unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice counts as one of the ‘Five a day’ recommended for health.
  • Colourful fruit and vegetable juices contain a range of vitamins, minerals including vitamin C, beta carotene (converted into vitamin A in the body), sodium, potassium and a range of phenolic compound which are important for health.
  • Juices containing vegetables can provide more nutrients and less sugar than juices made up of fruit.
  • Juices are a delicious alternative to alcoholic drinks.

Cons

  • Juicing breaks down cell walls to release sugars and nutrients from inside plant cells but discards dietary fibre. Fibre is beneficial for both gut and heart health.
  • Fruit juices typically contain 30g free sugar in each 150ml glass.
  • Juices can cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash, affecting hunger and energy levels in some people. Also having so much free sugar in a drink can affect blood glucose control in people who are prediabetic or diabetic.
  • Juices containing spinach and kale may contain high levels of vitamin K which may be a problem for some people on blood thinning medication.
  • Juices can be high in calories.
  • Some fruit and vegetable juices are high in a group of substances known as polyols which can cause bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

What about smoothies?

When fruit and vegetables are pulverised to form a smoothie its food matrix is broken down making sugars and nutrients more readily available to the body in a similar way to juices. The big difference is smoothies retain dietary fibre whereas juices do not.

Can juices and smoothies play a role in a healthy diet?

Juices and smoothies can play a role in a healthy diet but due to their free sugar and calorie content, should be limited to 150ml per day.

The myth of ‘vitamin boosting’

There is no advantage to taking in more vitamins and minerals than your body needs. Some micronutrients are toxic in large doses. The juice from one orange provides your daily intake of vitamin C, anymore and you will just pee it out. If you are already getting a healthy, diverse diet, you’re unlikely to be deficient in most vitamins.

Is it better to eat whole fruit and vegetables or drink Juices & smoothies?

Whole fruit and vegetables do not need to be strictly limited because their naturally occurring sugar takes longer to digest and be absorbed. Juices and smoothies need to be restricted.

What is the best way to prepare juices?

  • Include the juice of half a lemon or lime. Both are low in sugar, add flavour and help to prevent discolouration of the juice.
  • Use vegetables with great colours such as beetroot and carrot.
  • Add fresh ginger to give flavour. Ginger is low in natural sugars.
  • Top up 150ml of juice with sparkling water and ice to make a longer thirst-quenching drink.

What is the best way to prepare smoothies?

Think of a smoothie as a small meal or snack rather than a thirst-quenching drink.

  • Avocados can be added to smoothies to give a luxurious, smooth texture without adding sweetness.
  • Add other ingredients such peanut butter, Oat Drink or yogurt to smoothies to make them more nutritious.

Buying juices and smoothies off the shelf

Check nutrition labels and choose smoothies and juices with no added sugar.