It’s a well-known fact that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet. They provide an array of nutrients and minerals, and they support a healthy body.
But getting in your recommended nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables can seem difficult.
Juicing has become popular over the past few decades, and many claim it’s a great way to get in your daily fruits and vegetables. Does juicing really provide you with all of the nutrients you need? Can juicing help you to reach your new health goals? And can juicing support hair health?
In this article, we’ll look at all sides of the juicing “debate.” This will include a look at the scientific evidence, as well as myths and facts surrounding the practice.
What is Juicing?
Juicing is a process where juice is extracted from fruits and vegetables.
The most common technique for juicing is with a juicer. There are other methods, though, including manual.
As juicers go, there are also different types to choose from. They are:
- Centrifugal force
- Twin gear
- Juice press
Each of the above has its benefits, such as ease of use (centrifugal), longer juice shelf life (masticating), versatility (twin gear), and greatest nutritional value (juice press).
Is Juicing ‘Good’ for You?
Since the late 90s, juicing has been touted by many as the be-all-end-all of health and wellness. As with any trend, the benefits have been largely overblown.
So what is the truth? Is juicing good for you and, if so, how?
The Potential Benefits of Juicing
Let’s look at a few potential benefits of juicing and the scientific research that backs these claims.
You’ve likely heard from a young age that you must get in your nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The nutrients and minerals help you to grow big and strong, and they maintain your health and wellbeing as you age.
For many people, though, nine servings doesn’t seem realistic. This is especially true for those with fast-paced lives who may not always have time for home-cooked meals.
This is where juicing can help.
Juicing is a practice that enables you to add more fruits and vegetables to your daily life without too much effort. You can make a batch of juice once per day (or every few days depending on your juicer) and drink throughout the day to meet your daily recommended intake.
Juicing should not be used to meet all of your daily servings, but it enables you to fill a large gap that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
With regular consumption of juices in addition to various servings of fruits and vegetables at meal times, you can be sure to receive the recommended daily values for vitamins, minerals, and nutrients (1).
In the earliest years of the juicing craze, juicing as a way to lose weight was popularized.
While juices should never be used as meal replacements and you should still aim to consume a healthy number of calories for your body, a side effect of juicing may be weight loss.
Juices can be filling and low in calories when compared to other common snacks or beverages. This may support your weight loss goals as you aim to replace higher-calorie, less nutrient dense food with more filling and nutritionally-loaded foods and beverages.
Can Juicing Support Hair Health?
It’s unlikely that juicing alone will contribute to healthy hair and scalp. This is especially true if you suffer from an underlying condition or pattern balding. That doesn’t mean that juicing can’t offer some benefits when it comes to supporting hair health.
Let’s look at just a few of the ways that juicing can support hair and scalp health.
It’s a Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Hair health starts from the inside. And what’s the best way to ensure a healthy body? With adequate intake of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals.
When added to an otherwise balanced diet, vegetable juicing can help you to “fill in the gaps.” This means you can be sure that your body – and by extension, your hair – is getting all of the nutrients it needs to thrive (2).
As hair growth is a non-essential function, it’s pushed to the back burner when nutrients and minerals are lacking. This is because the nutrients are needed for essential functions. With juicing, you can ensure that your body’s necessary and unnecessary functions can take place.
It Can Combat Free Radicals
Free radicals are often assigned with aging, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding them.
So what are free radicals, and what role might they play in poor hair health?
Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. As such, they “scavenge” and steal electrons from surrounding structures.
It may not seem like a big deal for a few molecules to lose their electrons every now and then, but free radicals can quickly take over. The more molecules missing an electron, the more scavenging that occurs. And the cycle continues.
This eventually leads to the breakdown of critical structures, and it contributes to signs of aging like wrinkles, greying hair, and hair loss.
What’s the best way to combat free radicals? With antioxidants!
Antioxidants are like food banks for free radicals. They donate an electron of their own to reduce scavenging and prevent molecular breakdown within the body.
Juicing is a great way to get more antioxidants into your body (3). This is because fruits and vegetables are full of them, and juicing allows you to get more servings on a regular basis.
Can Juice Be Used Topically to Support Hair Health?
When you think of juicing, you likely think of juicing for the purpose of consumption. What if I told you that some people juice certain foods to apply topically?
It’s well known that juicing is not the best way to consume your fruits and vegetables. This is because fiber and other crucial components of whole fruits and vegetables are lost during the process.
But in other ways, the juicing process can make certain components more readily accessible. Take, for example, onion juice.
Onion Juice for Hair
Within the hair loss community, there is one unlikely juice that is thought to contribute to hair health: onion.
Onions contain sulfur, a nutrient that may offer support to proteins like keratin and collagen (4).
Keratin is essential to the growth of healthy hair as it’s the main protein found within hair strands. It’s thought that onion juice’s high sulfur content supports the structure of hair.
As for collagen, this is the protein that is responsible for elasticity, strength, and the overall production of healthy skin cells (5). As skin cells make up the bulk of hair strands, it’s important that collagen production is supported for healthy hair growth.
You may be wondering, is there proof to support onion juice for hair health?
One 2002 study did show that individuals who applied onion juice topically saw marked hair growth over those who did not apply onion juice topically (6). It’s interesting to note that men also saw greater results than women.
Of course, further research on the topic is needed.
The Best Vegetables for Juicing
If you want to get the most out of the process, it’s important to pick vegetables with strong nutrient profiles. That’s not to say that other vegetables can’t be used. However, the vegetables below can make a great, nutrient-dense base for your various juicing recipes.
With their high nutritional value and familiar flavor, carrots are a great addition to any juicing regimen.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of carrots is their high antioxidant content. Carrots are high in carotenoids, a pigment that includes beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, alpha-carotene (7). These work to prevent diseases and combat free radicals within the body.
Not only will beets add a vibrant color to your juices, but they’ll also add a unique blend of nutrients.
Beets are an excellent source of folate, manganese, and potassium among other vitamins and minerals. Its color also lends to its antioxidant properties, and it’s a solid source of dietary fiber.
While the beetroot can be earthy and slightly bitter, you can pair it with fruits like orange and grapefruit for a toned-down flavor.
As a leafy green, kale is closely related to other greens like cabbage, broccoli, and collard greens. And just like them, kale is packed full of vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants.
Did you know that kale is high in beta-carotene, the same antioxidant found in carrots?
This mild-flavored vegetable is also a great source of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as manganese and potassium (10).
Speaking of leafy greens, spinach is another one to add to your diet.
With a slightly more bitter flavor than kale, spinach isn’t exactly on the top of everyone’s list of favorite vegetables. But its versatility makes it a popular choice among health enthusiasts.
Spinach is a rich source of vitamins A, K, and C, manganese, calcium, and folate (11). These support a healthy immune system and strong antioxidant activity. Even just a handful can add a boost to your favorite juice recipe.
Celery juice has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, but you don’t need to drink pure celery juice to experience its benefits.
Celery is a bitter, fibrous vegetable that is often used in soups, stews, and stir-frys. It softens as cooked though its most nutrients when eaten raw. What nutrients exactly? Riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesiums and phosphorus just to name a few (12).
Juicing does remove the bulk of celery’s outer fibrous layer, which is where many of its nutrients are contained. You can easily add the pulp back into your juice, though, for a bite-y texture.
As a powerful source of vitamins A, E, K, zinc, and copper, wheatgrass has acquired a dedicated following in the health and wellness community (13). It’s also a unique source of protein and iron which is great news for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone with an iron deficiency.
Wheatgrass is known for its bitter flavor which is why it’s not a common ingredient in many popular juicing recipes. There are ways to offset the bitterness, though, so you can benefit from its intake.
One way to cut the bitterness of wheatgrass is to counteract with sour. Lemons, lime, and even oranges can significantly reduce the bitter flavor. Citrus fruits are also their own source of vitamins and minerals, and they’re low in sugar, so they’re a great addition to your juice.
Juicing Myths and Facts
Juicing has been popularized since the 90s and, as such, there is plenty of conflicting information surrounding the practice. Let’s look more closely at the myths and facts about juicing so you can make an informed decision.
Myth: Juicing helps to “cleanse” and “detoxify” the body
The truth is, your body already has an organ whose job it is to filter out harmful and potentially harmful contaminants. This organ is the liver.
The liver has two main functions:
- To filter out contaminants from the blood and turn them into waste products.
- To metabolize nutrients and medications.
In this way, a healthy liver provides you with all of the “cleansing” that your body needs.
How can you support the liver in its functions? According to the American Liver Foundation, you can do so by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet among other things (14).
This doesn’t mean that juicing can’t be part of your balanced diet, but everything in moderation.
Myth: Juicing is the best way to consume fruits and vegetables
While juicing offers an easy way to get in your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, it’s not the best way.
Many juicing enthusiasts will claim that juicing enables you to more easily absorb the nutrients within fruits and vegetables. According to the latest research, though, fiber (i.e. the portions of the fruits and vegetables that are often left out of juices) can be just as important.
Fruits and vegetables contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber slows digestion while insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools and supports healthy digestive functioning. In many cases, vitamins and nutrients can be found within the fibrous tissues of fruits and vegetables.
The problem with juicing is that the majority of the fiber is removed from the final product (15).
You can add some of the fiber back in by adding the pulp to your juice, though you’re still missing out on the bulk of the natural fiber.
So while juicing offers an easy way to get in a lot of your daily recommended nutrients and minerals, it’s not the best way to consume fruits and vegetables. The best way is by eating them whole either raw or partially cooked.
Fact: Juice can be high in sugar
Juices that contain more fruits than vegetables are often very high in sugar. Fruit-based sugars like fructose can still increase your health risks (16). This is why you must choose what you juice carefully.
A vegetable-based juice is the way to go as vegetables naturally contain less sugar and higher fiber content. You can certainly add in small amounts of fruit to add a touch of sweetness, but do remember that not all fruits are created equal.
The fruits with the lowest natural levels of fructose include strawberries, honeydew melon, blackberries, grapefruit, and peaches (17).
To further lower sugar content, consider “cutting” your juice with water. While this will dilute the nutrients and minerals as well, the benefit may be worth it depending on your health needs.
Fact: Juicing for weight loss can be detrimental to your health
There are plenty of diet plans that claim to help you drop weight in just a matter of weeks. These plans, especially ones that severely limit the food groups you can eat, can be detrimental to your long-term health.
As mentioned above, juices are not likely to contain all of the nutrients and minerals your body needs. Juice can also be low in fiber, so if you aren’t consuming enough fiber elsewhere in your diet you could suffer from digestive issues.
Are the health risks not enough? Then consider that crash diets can also work against your weight loss goals (18).
You may lose weight quickly in the first few weeks, but your metabolism will eventually slow. This means that it will take further deficits to see those same results. A juicing diet is also hard to sustain, so you may gain the weight back just as quickly as you lost it.
Juicing provides you with a way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. This leads to a higher consumption of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
Does this mean juicing is the best way to supplement your diet? No.
While juicing is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all, the best way to consume fruits and vegetables is to eat them whole. This is because juicing can remove beneficial parts of the food, like fiber.
That’s not to say that juicing doesn’t have its benefits, but they’re just not as miraculous as many juicing supporters claim.
The good news is that, when added to an otherwise well-balanced diet, juicing can help to support your health goals and it may even contribute to hair health.