Juice. When it comes to nutrition, health and weight loss, is there any drink more controversial?
On one hand, you have the experts saying again and again that juice is just as bad as soft drink and that it shouldn't be considered a 'healthy option' -- as well as the claims some brands of juice actually have more kilojoules in a serving than a Big Mac.
But then there are the countless 'juice cleanses' spruiked online as an effective means of 'detoxing' and weight loss, as well as the general idea that because fruit is good for you, juice must be too, right?
At the end of the day it can all get pretty confusing, so we spoke to accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Themis Chryssidis, to get the low-down on all things juicy.
Juices: the lowdown
Detoxes and cleanses
"I do think juices get a positive rap at times and maybe we sensationalise them a little bit," Chryssidis told The Huffington Post Australia. "You'll see they are used for detoxes and cleanses and all these things, but in actual fact, there's no scientific evidence such cleanses benefit the human body.
"In actual fact, our liver has the ability to detox our body better than anything else we can do. Further to that, we know that cleanses and detoxes starve our bodies of some essential things such as fibre, which most fruit juices don't have, and is really, really important to our gut health and vital in terms of keeping us full and satisfied and energised.
"So while everyone enjoys a juice from time to time, I think sometimes they think they are making the right choice [for their health] when in fact there are better choices out there. A typical juice will have a few vitamins and minerals, which is good, but that's about it.
"To enjoy a meal and wash it down with a juice, then you are just adding extra calories. You are far better off consuming whole fruits and veggies."
In one glass of juice you're looking at upwards of four to five pieces of fruit.
Probably the biggest concern when it comes to fruit juices is the sugar content, which most health professionals agree is often deceptively high.
"Fruit juices aren't the best option because at the end of the day, they do contain lots of natural sugars, and we know that ultimately we have to manage our sugar intake," Chryssidis said.
"No dietitian or health professional will say 'fruit is bad for you' but in concentrated doses -- which is effectively what fruit is -- it can actually increase our sugar intake and that's not ideal.
"In one glass of juice you're looking at upwards of four to five pieces of fruit that have been pressed. That is a lot of sugar without the fibre and nutritional content."
Chryssidis also points out the potential damage excess sugar can have not only on our waistline, but in our mouths.
"When you consider the effects of tooth decay, fruit juices aren't ideal," he said. "They have very similar effects on your teeth as soft drink does.
"If you do drink some fruit juice, you should always brush your teeth afterwards or consume it through a straw. Don't let it hang around in your mouth for a long period of time."
While juice may be better nutritionally than a can of Coke or other soft drink, Chryssidis says the fact you're still craving something sweet is something that may need to be addressed.
"The other reason fruit juices aren't ideal is, while you might be feeling like you're making a better choice in terms of soft drink versus fruit juice, you're not changing your behaviour or habits," he said. "So you're not altering your taste buds' desire for something sweet.
"When it comes to drinks, really, water is always best."
Another point to make about juices is they don't give you much bang for your buck in terms of keeping you full.
"Fruit juices often mean low fibre intake because the pulp is usually discarded," Chryssidis said. "And the pulp is so nutritious and so important. It's actually a form of food for the good bacteria in our gut.
"But what leaving the pulp out also means is juice tends to not be satisfying. They contain a lot of kilojoules, but they don't actually satisfy us or keep us feeling full for long."
All of this isn't to say juices are a strict 'no go' in terms of your diet. According to Chryssidis, there are ways you can have your juice and drink it, too.
When it comes to juices, vegetable juice tends to be preferable to fruit because it contains less sugar. (Depending on the vegetable it's made with, of course).
But while the thought of cabbage juice might not float your boat, Chryssidis says even adding a couple of veggies to your fruit juice can make your drink healthier overall.
"By adding veggies and other components, we can decrease the sugar levels," he said. "I use things like beetroot and celery and ginger. By adding these to our juices, they are certainly bringing the sweetness back a little bit. Plus I know I'm getting a lot of nutrition when I consume these things.
"By having all these different colours in my fruit juice, it tells me I'm having a variety of nutrition as well. I wholeheartedly believe that we should try to get as much colour onto our plate or into our cup as possible, as an indication we have a variety of nutrients as well as vitamins and minerals."
Keep the pulp
In other words, don't throw the good stuff out.
"Try to find a blender that has the capacity to include the pulp and include the skin as well," Chryssidis said. "They both contain so much fibre and valuable antioxidants.
"Personally, I use a Vitamix, which blends up the skins and everything really easily. Not only are you getting more nutrition, but you are going to feel fuller with all of that stuff kept in it rather than discarded."
Watch your portions
When making your juice, Chryssidis advises only using one or two pieces of fruit, and to use them whole.
"No more than one or two pieces of fruit should be in your juice," he said. "Try to get as much as that whole fruit in there as well, and dilute it with two or three veggies or water."
Enjoy the following juices and smoothies without having to fear your sugar levels are going to skyrocket through the roof.
- 1 cup coconut water.
- 1 Lebanese cucumber.
- 1/2 avocado.
- 1 cup baby spinach.
- juice of 1 lemon.
- handful of mint leaves.
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds.
- any other greens in your fridge.
Place all ingredients in a high speed blender until well combined. Add a little filtered water if needed for consistency.
Recipe source: I Quit Sugar.
- 1 - Banana
- 1 - Date
- 3/4 cup - Milk of your choosing
- 1/4 tsp - Ground cardamom
- 15 g - Ginger (1 large knob)
- Garnish - Cacao nibs
1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and whiz for 30 seconds
2. Pop in a glass and sprinkle with cacao nibs. Add a couple of chunks of ice if needed.
Recipe source: That Sugar Film.
- ½ a grapefruit
- 1 apple
- 3 medium carrots
1. Peel the grapefruit, and quarter the apple.
2. Push the grapefruit, carrots and apple through a juicer, straight into the glass.
3. Stir well before serving.
Recipe source: Jamie Oliver.