Ask a doctor: Is juicing healthy?

by Kaiser Permanente |
Person pours green juice into a cup

In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in cold-pressed juicing. Many people see it as a quick way to eat healthy — getting their vegetables and fruits in just one drink. Juicing has become so popular that its market size is expected to grow to over $1 billion globally.* That’s a lot of green juice. But is juicing the healthy eating option it’s made out to be? Sean Hashmi, MD, physician and regional director of weight management and clinical nutrition for Kaiser Permanente Southern California shares why juicing isn’t always the best healthy eating choice.

What is juicing?

Juicing has come a long way from the usual orange or cranberry beverages found at a grocery store. In cold-pressed juicing, a heavy press is used to squeeze out liquid while removing pulp and seeds. This method is different from blending a smoothie, where you keep in the pulp.

Are there health benefits to juicing?

Since no heat is used in this process, most of the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and fruits stay in the liquid. Some people say that cold-pressed juicing lets you get a more concentrated, or stronger, dose of these good-for-you nutrients. Other health benefits that juicing supporters claim are that it can aid in aid in weight loss, remove toxins from the body, and even promote better digestion. However, it’s not just about what’s kept in cold-pressed juices, but what’s taken out.

Why juicing isn’t always the healthy option

Juicing cuts fiber and can spike sugar

During the cold-pressed juicing process, most of the fiber that’s found in pulp is removed. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, promote heart health, and help regulate the body’s use of sugar — preventing blood sugar spikes. And if your juice contains fruit, that can lead to a big dose of sugar. That’s because while fruit offers many health benefits, it can also be high in sugar. When eaten whole, fruit provides that helpful  fiber. However, juicing eliminates fiber. "You’re getting all the sugar straight," says Dr. Hashmi. "So, juicing is often a great way to elevate your sugars." Removing the fiber from juice raises an additional concern. Dr. Hashmi explains that fiber is a prebiotic, which is necessary for gut health. "All those wonderful bacteria you have are going to eat that fiber and grow and be able to do all sorts of amazing functions, including making several vitamins for you." Juicing deprives your body of this benefit.

Juicing can leave you feeling hungry

Some people use juicing as a meal replacement. Others grab a juice on the go as a quick meal or snack. "There’s a trend to get everything faster," says Dr. Hashmi. And because juicing lets you skip past chewing, it means the liquid gets absorbed by the stomach quicker. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Dr. Hashmi explains that when a person juices, they "bypass all of our defense mechanisms that are designed to help us feel satiated." When you don’t chew your food, you skip important parts of eating and digestion that help you feel full. So you may feel hungry soon after drinking a juice.

Blended is better

There are also still plenty of ways to get your fruits and vegetables — that are also fast and convenient. "Blend, don’t juice," advises Dr. Hashmi. So skip the cold-pressed juice and instead use a traditional blender. That way the produce maintains healthy elements, like fiber.

Go big on vegetables

And when deciding how many fruits versus vegetables to use, go for what Dr. Hashmi calls, "the healthy plate model." This consists of two-part vegetables and one-part fruit. Dr. Hashmi also suggests sticking to dark and colorful choices. "The darker the color, the richer the quality and quantity of antioxidants." You can try adding kale, spinach, cucumbers, or cooked red beets to your next blended smoothie. And if you do grab a cold-pressed juice, remember to be mindful of the ingredients. Aim to choose one that includes mostly veggies, like kale or cucumbers.

* "Cold-Pressed Juices Market," Market Data Forecast, January 2022.