When it comes to beverages, pretty much anything in a can or bottle is bad for you. Last time that I was in a supermarket and thirsty, the only options for a cold drink were beer, soda and juice. Soda is something no-one needs to put into their bodies. It was a little early for beer, so I chose something that the label cheerfully informed me was orange juice. Water, for whatever reason, wasn’t sold chilled.
About halfway through the bottle, I got a headache. This prompted me to finally look at the nutritional information. Not only did the “juice” contain less than ten percent actual fruit product, it had 30g (1 oz) of sugar added to it! That’s seven and a half teaspoons, or approximately the amount of added sugar I consume in a normal week. If I’d known this beforehand, I would have gone with the beer.
Drinking Yourself to Death
The problems with sodas, and we can easily lump most brands of packaged juice into that category, is not just that they contain few nutrients. They actually have negative nutritional value. Digestion uses up nutrients just like any other bodily process, even when all you are digesting is sugar. As a general rule, whole foods contain the nutrients consumed in their digestion, so you tend to come out ahead. This is not the case with refined products, which is yet another reason to avoid them.
When it comes to sodas, the situation is actually worse than merely consuming a huge number of empty calories. Phosphoric acid is a common ingredient in soft drinks (though few other foodstuffs) and interferes with the absorption of nutrients, particularly calcium. Sodas are typically sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which happens to be a particularly harmful form of sugar, or with artificial sweeteners. This may even have worse effects over the long term. Drinking soda when thirsty or dehydrated is a losing game. Processing that amount of sugar, caffeine, and sodium will make your body consume more water than the soda actually contains.
Having a few sips will not kill you, but making a habit of drinking manufactured beverages will seriously impair your health over the long term. Diet soda and bottled juice really aren’t much better choices.
As far as healthy hydration goes, you simply cannot go wrong with water. This assumes, of course, that the water you’re drinking is actually pure enough to consume safely. Although, this is frequently not the case with tap water in the United States. Investing in a reverse osmosis or activated carbon filter does not cost the earth. It may even be all that’s needed to avoid contamination by heavy metals or arsenic.
Clearly, the same principle applies to drinks you make yourself with ingredients you have control over. But, trusting a corporation to place your long-term well-being before their profitability will usually have disappointing results.
It’s not impossible to work the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables into any diet. But, it does require a bit of planning, perseverance and remembering not to fill up on foods poor in nutritional values. Juicing offers at least a partial solution to this. Juicing makes it possible to consume all the nutrition of fresh, raw fruit and vegetables in a convenient way that sacrifices nothing in terms of taste.
The main benefit of juicing is the way it concentrates a huge amount of nutrition into a format that’s easy to sip along with a solid meal, or as a snack. What would otherwise be an intimidatingly large salad can now be gulped down in a minute or so? Almost any kind of fruit or vegetable can be prepared in this way, especially with hundreds of recipes available online. Although, there is no scientific proof of this. Numerous people have claimed to have cured chronic diseases simply by incorporating juicing into their diet.
Why Fresh, Raw Vegetables Are Good for You
As vegetables age, they begin to lose their nutritional value. This process starts long before they visibly begin to wilt or turn brown, which is something to keep in mind when visiting the supermarket. “Fresh” produce can be anything from weeks to months old. This makes it worthwhile to find a traditional market or greengrocer who won’t be shy about telling you where your food actually comes from. For similar reasons, it’s advisable to drink juice on the same day it’s made. Once the cell structure of a vegetable has been disrupted, its nutritional value inevitably begins to decline.
Not all vegetables can be eaten raw for best effects. Some simply can’t be digested without cooking, while others (such as mushrooms) have tough cell walls, preventing them from giving up most of their nutrients in raw form. In fact, it’s not always true that raw vegetables are healthier. Some phytonutrients are indeed destroyed through cooking, especially for extended times. Others are simultaneously made more available. The best strategy appears to be to combine both in moderation.
Disadvantages of Juicing
Juicing machines discard the vast majority of the fruit or vegetable pulp, meaning that juice contains much less fiber than whole veggies. The pulp may later be added to soups or sauces. Although, anyone buying a juicer should understand that they won’t be getting all the insoluble fiber their gut requires in this way (soluble fiber is a different matter, and homemade juice is indeed a good source of this).
Fruit and vegetable juice by itself is not a replacement for other kinds of food. It’s better to think of a glass or two of juice daily as a cheap, tasty, and nutritional supplement that offers better absorption rates than capsules. You’ll still need protein and bulk in your food, even if you trying to lose weight.
Finally, the same level of nutrient concentration that makes juicing such a valuable dietary tool can actually lead to some risks. You wouldn’t be able to eat twenty oranges in two minutes, but juicing makes this possible. Even natural sugars and vitamin C can be harmful in such amounts. Unless consulting a doctor or dietician, combining a variety of fruits and vegetables and drinking a moderate amount of fresh juice daily will yield great benefits without going overboard.