Blending vs Juicing – does either live up to the hype?

Recently, blending and juicing have been very popular with many believing that the pulverizing or extraction processes better ‘release’ the micronutrients from your fruits, vegetables or nuts to allow more efficient absorption. Others believe that such liquids – especially when green and containing expensive ‘superfood’ powders or herbs – become magical concoctions which can ‘detox’ you and aid in weight loss.

However, what is the truth in all this and if you are keen to give it a try – is blending or juicing better?

Firstly, allow me to deal with the ‘detox’ claims as that’s fairly straightforward and our recent article To detox or not to detox? deals with this question in depth. However, in summary – no, there is no scientific basis or clinical evidence that nutritional ‘detoxing’ is required or effective.  The best way to maximise the function of your natural detoxification system, is to provide your body with optimal nutrition in the long-term. Most detox diets are low in proteins or amino acids, fibre, probiotics and ‘good fats’ – unfortunately, some of the key nutrients that our main ‘detoxing’ organs need to be fully functional. This can lead to impaired organ function and actually allow more toxins to accumulate.

So, assuming you don’t intend to use blending or juicing as a ‘detox’ approach – why else might you want to occasionally blend or juice?

Such drinks are easy to consume ‘on the go’ – much quicker than juicesitting down to eat a salad or dealing with the mess of trying to peel a mandarin on the way into a work conference! Many people report that they don’t like consuming solids first thing in the morning, but on the other hand, they don’t want to leave for their day with nothing in their systems – a nutritious liquid that ticks off a few fruit and vegetable serves early in the day could be a good compromise. Kids who turn their noses up at fruits or vegetables may be convinced to drink some ‘monster juice’ – my little one went through a fussy patch at around 3 years old, and green blends were a very effective way at upping her fruit and vegetable intake. And some may simply like the taste – though I’ve seen some horrendous green goop recipes doing the rounds!

At Life Nutrition, we strongly believe that if you do not enjoy what you’re eating and drinking – then aside from not being sustainable from a dietary perspective – you are not truly enjoying life in the meantime. We can’t have that!

One of the key concerns when dietary intake is restricted – either to lose weight, or due to poor eating habits, is the possible development of micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. Synthetic vitamins/supplements have been shown to be generally acceptable in raising vitamin status in cases of deficiency, but they are not the best way to ensure safe, adequate intake as your body doesn’t fully absorb them and they’re often present in different forms to that occurring naturally in food. Excess in one supplemented vitamin or mineral can have unintended, unpleasant and at times dangerous side-effects or have detrimental interactions with medications. So unless totally necessary, I highly recommend that you refrain from taking supplements and instead work on obtaining adequate micronutrients from real, whole foods.

For me, juicing – where only the liquid of the fruit and vegetables is kept, just doesn’t cut it and doesn’t meet the definition of consuming fruit-juice‘whole foods’. Lack of fibre is the main reason for my opinion. Insoluble fibre from the plant’s stucture – eg from the skins or stalks, is great for bowel health and soluble fibre slows the rate of gastric emptying of all these nutrients/energy. This is excellent for blood cholesterol levels, blood glucose control (reduces sugar ‘spikes’), satiation, better nutrient absorption and is strongly associated with reduced cancer and heart disease risk. However, sadly all of this beautiful fibre is thrown out in juicing!

Negligible fibre in juice means that all the sugars will be absorbed far quicker with low satiation which can lead to over-consumption of energy and weight gain. If you juice too often and your fruit content is very high, your liver may not be able to keep up with fructose metabolism, leading to fat being stored around your organs and in the liver itself. It is this fat is the main contributor to metabolic dysfunction. Additionally, often antioxidants found in the skins, pulp and seeds of fruits and vegetables are left behind in the juicing process.

However, doing a blend occasionally (maximally one/day), where whole fruits and vegetables get both annihilated and consumed, does fit in with our ethos and can certainly be a handy top up to your micronutrient and fibre intake. So long as you don’t use too much fruit, you can get a really good nutrient intake for your ‘calorific buck’. Note though: unless you like drinking gritty salad purees, you’ll definitely need a high speed quality blender!

With blending, one lesser-known thing to watch out for though is that the acidity, natural sugars and colours in these blends can be very detrimental to your dental health and can cause staining if you blend too much over a long period of time, so minimise contact of the liquid with the teeth by using a straw, drinking your blend within a short time and then rinse your mouth and teeth with water after finishing.

So, if you are interested in blending, please see our Recipe page for some of my favourite recipes and blending tips – please give them a try and let me know if they hit the spot for you too –  otherwise I’d love to hear yours!

 

To detox or not to detox?

Detoxing is huge news at the moment – today, a Google search for ‘detox’ alone brought up over 76 million hits. So there is much excitement (and billions being made) out there by alternative therapists who are offering to ‘cleanse’ your body and detox you of all sorts of nasty chemicals and ‘toxins’ – but does the human body even need help detoxing?!

Approaches to detoxing can include colonic irrigation, homeopathic remedies, teas or use of electromagnetic devices. And then there are of course a whole suite of detox diets – often celebrity-endorsed and involving copious amounts of green juices and exotic, expensive Amazonian berries, exclusive herbs or mysterious root extracts. It is the efficacy of these which are going to be addressed in this article.

So, if your definition of ‘detoxing’ is a few days or weeks of easing off chocolate or alcohol, cutting back on processed foods and doing a bit more exercise in the interests of improving your health, then by all means – go for your life. Doing so will improve your intestinal microbiome, blood glucose levels and give your liver and gastrointestinal system some ‘breathing space’ to adjust, especially after a period of over-indulging.(1-3) However, undertaking such temporary ‘detoxing’ unfortunately barely begins to make up for long-term dietary abuse (sorry!). You’re far better off aiming for long-term lifestyle and dietary improvements for optimal health and nutrition.

So, lets discuss detoxing in the context of ‘toxins’.

By definition, toxins are small molecules, peptides or proteins that, though medically useful in some cases – may in sufficient doses potentially contribute to the development of disease through contact with or via absorption of body tissues. Most toxins that cause issues in humans are actually of bacterial origin, including those which cause tetanus, toxic shock, cholera or Botulinum neurotoxins – the toxins responsible for the potentially fatal food poisoning disease botulism (possible culprits – raw honey, poorly canned food).(4, 5) No amount of green blends, juices, herbs, superfoods or celebrity ‘detoxing’ program is going to remotely deal with such toxins. Needless to say, if you are suffering toxicity from any of these – please go see your doctor immediately and I also strongly encourage you to take preventative steps by accessing the wide range of potentially life-saving vaccines available.

On the other hand, toxins can be found in our environment, including heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), dioxins or asbestos and these should certainly be minimised through product choices and optimising your living or working environments.(6-10) High levels or over-exposure of environmental toxins in humans has been linked to increased cancer risk, endocrine disorders, skin issues, liver damage, headaches and a host of other adverse medical consequences.(6, 10) Toxins can even be found lurking naturally in our food supply – whoever would have suspected the humble, unassuming broccoli of containing the potentially deadly mitochondrial toxin cyanide?!(11) However, don’t panic and clear out your vegetable drawer of this wonderful vegetable – there are no reports of anyone who has managed to achieve cyanide poisoning by munching their way through daily mountains of raw broccoli. In fact, in small amounts, this cyanide in broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) has actually be shown to be beneficial for some enzyme functions in the liver.

So, toxicity hugely depends on the toxin itself, the dosage and the human body’s ability to do with it. Anything is toxic in the right amount – even oxygen or water. The mode of exposure as well as the gender, genetics, age, general health and nutritional status of the exposed individual will all affect whether accumulation of a toxin occurs and whether that will cause health issues.(12) It is more than worthwhile noting that symptoms of toxicity from heavy metals or pesticides do not include generally feeling a little blergh or getting a few extra pimples. They can involve heart palpitations, breathing difficulties and loss of muscular control – so if you have these – again, we highly suggest you get yourself off to your hospital for immediate treatment (possibly involving dimercaprol chelation and atropine but certainly not involving ‘Ultra-slimming, Quick-cleanse lemon-coconut-detox’).

Our body’s detoxification organs work 24/7 and include the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and lymphatic system.(7, 12) These are constantly breaking down toxins into other forms which we can then excrete via urine, faeces, sweat or via our respiratory system. Most of the time, for the vast majority of us, our body can handle the typical toxin load and accumulation will not result. Therefore, the best way to ensure that this natural detoxification system is working at optimal levels, is to provide your body with optimal nutrition to support the function of these organs.

Most detox diets or juice cleanses are low in proteins or amino acids, fibre, probiotics and ‘good fats’ – unfortunately, these are many of the key nutrients that our organs need to be fully juicefunctional. This can lead to impaired organ function and actually allow more toxins to accumulate causing many adverse and potentially dangerous side effects.(12, 13) Additionally, those detoxes that involve high volumes of juices can cause dangerous blood sugar swings which could also be potentially very dangerous for diabetics.(14, 15) Also, what many people may not realise – the manufacture of these products is very unregulated and there is no true review or control over the inclusion or quantity of many of the ingredients which result in a range of unintended interactions with medications and adverse, potentially dangerous side effects.

Though lots of fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, pulverising kilograms of raw fruits and vegetables over several days or weeks may actually stress organs which suddenly have to deal with a huge quantity of oxalates, nitrates and ironically your exposure to pesticides could increase during such a ‘detox’. The headaches commonly reported during detoxes, have nothing to do with the clearance of any toxins, but more to do with energy restriction, electrolyte imbalances, possible withdrawal from caffeine and potentially also nitrate overload (as nitrates promote vasodilation).(16) Also, there are compounds called goitrogens in raw green vegetables which if consumed in great quantities can also negatively affect thyroid function in some susceptible people.(17) None of this is usually a problem for fruit and vegetables consumed within a normal, healthy dietary context – but can become significant problems when over-consumed in a detox or juice ‘cleansing’ context.

Therefore, in conclusion – no, there is no scientific basis or consistent, reputable clinical evidence that nutritional ‘detoxing’ is required or effective in removing ‘toxins’ from the body.(12, 13) If you’re feeling generally unwell or run down – it is far more likely to be due to poor diet, fatigue, stress or a general virus or infection.

Other reasons people may want to go on a ‘detox’ diet, has nothing to do with ridding their bodies of toxins, but has more to do with the weight loss that some celebrity experienced while doing it. Restricting calories significantly (as is usually the case on a detox diet), will cause a very rapid ‘weight’ loss of around 2-3kg within the first few days or week which seems fantastic on paper. However, hold back your excitement as most of this is merely the 500g or so of glycogen in your muscles and 1.5kg of associated water which your body has had to use up in the absence of sufficient caloric intake.  It will come straight back as soon as you start eating normally again.

Detoxes can lead to disordered eating and will only contribute to the mindframe of yo-yo dieting – there is nothing logical about the idea of taking a ‘week’s holiday’ from long-term poor lifestyle and imbalanced dietary intake. Additionally, if you continue detox diets for more than a few days, you risk the development of micronutrient deficiencies and you will also start to lose muscle mass which is detrimental to long-term weight loss. Life Nutrition is able to show you much better strategies to enhance your health, maximise your natural detoxing abilities and lose weight safely and keep it off.

Please do not resort to celebrity detox diets or purchase expensive magic herbs and restrict dietary groups to cleanse your liver and colon – the only thing that will be detoxed and lightened is your wallet.

 

References

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