Is Juicing Really As Healthy As It Claims To Be?

Whether you prefer a glass of orange with your breakfast or a squeeze of lime in ice water, chances are that you have a favorite form of juice. According to Statista, roughly one-quarter of Americans drink juice every day, and nearly a third sip it several times throughout the week. The practice of drinking juice dates back to biblical times but gained popularity in contemporary health circles during the Natural Hygiene movement of the 1800s. Fresh juicing as we know it today was primarily pioneered by Dr. Norman W. Walker, an English physician who lived to be 118 years old. The authors of "Juice Alive" note that Walker is responsible for the earliest prototype of the modern juicing machine, a 1930s device that he dubbed "the Norwalk."

More recently, celebrities and fitness enthusiasts alike have taken to the idea of fresh-pressed juice as a healing tool. The Master Cleanse, a lemon-infused juice regimen popularized by Beyoncé, still makes headlines nearly two decades after its introduction (via USA Today). Beyond Bey, many of us have heard about the gospel of juicing thanks to health-conscious stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kourtney Kardashian. But as with any health trend, it's essential to take a closer look at what we've heard through the grapevine. So, is juicing really that good for you?

What exactly is juicing?

Although it's easy to conflate fresh juice with smoothies or other beverages, juicing typically refers to the freshly-extracted liquid from fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Thanks to Dr. Norman Walker and modern health advocates like David "Avocado" Wolfe, cold-pressed juice is widely considered to be more beneficial than processed or pasteurized varieties. Proponents of juicing believe that it's a quick and easy way to take in vital nutrients without having to consume several pounds of produce in one sitting. "Many people don't really like to eat fruits and vegetables, and [juicing] gives them a way to feel like they are doing something good for themselves," nutrition director Gayl Canfield tells CNN.

During the cold-press juicing process, the liquid is extracted directly from produce without the use of excessive heat, which preserves temperature-sensitive nutrients and enzymes. "Raw" juices are typically available from juice bars or health food cafés, but consumers can craft their own at home using anything from a citrus press to a high-powered juicing machine. Keep in mind, however, that not all juicing devices are created equally. "Citrus juice has the best taste when using a citrus juicer because there is no bitter taste from the pith that could be found when using a centrifugal juicer," consumer test kitchen manager Lynne Just tells Parade. Those who prefer to grab their drinks on the go can even find cold-pressed juices in their grocer's produce section.

Expert opinions on the healthfulness of juicing

When it comes to juicing, experts remain divided on whether it's truly as healthy as some claim. On the one hand, cold-pressed juice is an excellent source of phytonutrients, enzymes, and vitamins. But critics of raw juices believe that the lack of pasteurization could pose safety risks to consumers. Admittedly, pasteurization may destroy some of the nutrients available in fresh juice. "However, something like orange juice has so much vitamin C to begin with that a small loss still leaves a lot, and it similarly still remains a good source of folate," Sarah Ash, Ph.D, tells Self. To minimize the risk of spreading pathogens, thoroughly wash or scrub the surface of any fresh produce you intend to juice – even varieties with thick rinds, like melons.

On the subject of juice cleanses, which often incorporate fresh juice as a substitute for solid foods, there lies a clearer answer. While it's true that juice can provide the body with an array of nutrients, many experts believe that cleanses may be unnecessary, if not detrimental. "People are interested in this so-called detoxification, but when I ask them what they are trying to get rid of, they aren't really sure. There is no good scientific evidence that a juice cleanse, or any other food for that matter, is particularly relevant to removing toxins," Dr. James H. Grendell tells The New York Times. Others express concern that removing solid food from the diet for the purposes of a cleanse could contribute to disordered eating habits.

The benefits of adding juice to your diet

Despite the potential risks associated with unpasteurized juice, there are many who still believe that juicing is the key to good health. In Reddit's /Juicing community, proponents of the practice say that it's cleared up everything from their skin troubles to persistent brain fog. Some choose to go on "juice fasts" or cleanses, while others simply add juice to their daily intake. "My cystic acne that wasn't improved much by Accutane is now almost gone," writes one Redditor. Beyond anecdotal evidence, research published in Scientific Reports suggests that juice fasting can promote weight loss and increase good bacteria in the gut.

Although talk of celebrities following juice trends has faded somewhat in recent years, there's no shortage of A-listers who diligently sip their fruits and veggies. In star-studded locales like Hollywood and New York, you can take your pick from several juice bars frequented by famous faces. "In the last year, I've been doing celery juice first thing in the morning," Jennifer Aniston told Allure during a 2019 interview. Aniston isn't alone in her love of celery juice, either — fans of the green drink include Pharrell Williams, Jasmine Tookes, and Kim Kardashian, per Us Weekly.

How to make juicing work for you

While it's easy to become a regular at your local juice bar, there are many advantages to making fresh juice at home. With regular use, a well-made juicer will quickly pay for itself — plus, you can customize your cold-pressed concoctions as you see fit. Some people enjoy the simplicity of single-ingredient juices, like celery or carrot, while others are keen to include superfood add-ins, from turmeric to wheatgrass. What's more, you can even save the leftover pulp from juicing to add fiber, color, and nutrients to your favorite recipes, from veggie burgers to baked goods. "The pulp [from juicing] contains all the fiber, which is essential for blood sugar control, weight management and overall health," nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos tells The Globe and Mail

Above all, it's important to consider the risks and possibility of any pre-existing health conditions before embarking on any juicing journey. "Juicing can be healthy in a lot of ways — if done properly. If you're juicing too often or not in the right setting, it can lead to unfavorable health consequences," Dr. Ken Winnard tells Stuart Magazine. For some individuals, the excess fructose, or fruit sugars, present in high-glycemic juices may lead to side effects such as digestive discomfort. To achieve optimal results from juicing or a juice cleanse, be sure to speak with your doctor prior to introducing it to your routine.