Juicing is one of those health fads that rears its head every January.
After the Christmas period of gluttony and excess, juicing is an easy sell, given that Brussels sprouts were the only veg in sight for the past month, and no one even ate them.
After the Christmas period, many people are rundown, sluggish, fatter and lack energy. Juicing is plugged as an antidote to all these ills, using industry buzzwords like ‘detoxify’, ‘cleanse’ and ‘energize’ to lure people into spending ludicrous amounts of money.
So let’s get a couple of things straight about this stupid fad, so you can put that money into something else, like paying off your post Christmas credit card debt.
Or put another way, you are not inherently full of “toxins”.
So you had a few more pints, mince pies and leftover sandwiches over the period. Even with that, there is nothing to detoxify.
We have an in-built, highly efficient system designed to process and eliminate anything the body wants to get rid off – whether that’s a ‘toxin’ like alcohol, or caffeine.
The liver and kidneys are working all day, around the clock. 24/7, 365. They have evolved with the specific purpose of processing and eliminating any unwanted byproducts of metabolism.
And they don’t take a break for Christmas.
The liver detoxifies in two phases: Phase I is responsible for conversion of substances into more water-soluble compounds that are more easily eliminated through urine, sweat, and bile (ultimately in faeces). Phase II is the phase responsible for the elimination process.
The irony of juicing is that it will tend to overly stimulate Phase I, leaving you with more unwanted substances than before, which can’t properly be cleared because juicing lacks fibre, amino acids, and other key nutrients like selenium, zinc and molybdenum required for proper Phase II elimination pathways (see point 3 below).
The liver and kidneys pass unwanted materials out of the body through urine, faeces, and sweat – so unless these functions shut down on you, you can safely say that your channels of removal are open.
The bowels themselves are another organ, evolved over thousands of years, to do a job they do very well – elimination. In this role, there is a direct link to the liver known as entero-hepatic circulation. This system is a perfect example of the intricate nature of detoxification and elimination from the body (one that requires fibre – see point 3 below).
The one thing you probably haven’t done over the last few weeks was work up a sweat – but you can start doing that again immediately.
So while your liver and kidneys may certainly be working harder during the month of December, they don’t need some ridiculously restrictive, self-punishing juice ‘detox’ to regain function they never lost in the first place.
There are people for whom I do think juicing can be of benefit: those who already know how to eat a nutrient dense diet. They have a habit of eating well. Those habits are lasting, sustainable. Sure, they’ll indulge in the festive period as much as anyone. But then they’ll just pick up where they left off in January.
For such people, a juice here or there just bolsters an already nutrient dense diet.
For everyone else? Get your diet right first. That starts with eating. Develop the habit of eating vegetables every day. Some fruit. But more vegetables.
Eat different coloured veg. Try eating 3-5 different colours each day.
Sure you could drink something someone else made for you. But you don’t learn anything doing that.
Unless you’re already eating a wide array of vegetables, every day, with every meal, then juicing in your New Year resolution is the very definition of a fad, short-term diet.
You’re not going to learn consistency. You’re not going to develop the habit of eating vegetables every day.
And let’s be clear – eating will always trump juicing in every nutritional way, for the following reasons…
On a nutritional level, there is one glaring hole in the idea that greens juices help detoxification – the lack of amino acids. Amino acids are essential to the pathways of liver detoxification.
The whole point about detoxification is to eliminate unwanted compounds from the body – a process that requires optimal functioning of Phase II liver detoxification.
The most important nutrients for Phase II function are the amino acids cysteine and methionine, contained in sulfer-rich foods like egg yolks, dairy, meat, fish and poultry.
The primary vegetable sources of these amino acids are beans, nuts and seeds – which are not contained in any juice you’ll find.
So you can down all the greens you like, but in the absence of amino acids (i.e. protein), you’re not boosting detoxification capacity.
And remember the process of entero-hepatic circulation in point 1? The integrity of this process is dependant on the presence of fibre. Juicing vegetables and fruits removes their fibre content.
This is an important point in understanding why juicing is a crock; getting rid of these ‘toxins’ we’re so concerned over requires elimination. Detoxification is just one step, without elimination then it’s a broken system.
And elimination from the bowel requires fibre, in order to bind to the eliminated products of liver detoxification and remove these waste products through the bowel.
Without fibre as a binding agent, these waste products are reabsorbed to the liver.
Oh, the irony.
This is the classic misinterpretation in health and fitness of cause and effect.
December was a month of excesses, in alcohol, rich foods and late nights. You feel sluggish, tired and a bit out of sorts. So you plunge into January, and buy your course of ‘cleansing’ juices as part of your January assault for the new self.
You’re eating right, sleeping, getting back in the gym…and, hey presto, you feel great! All that energy from the vibrant plant power! Wow! The juices have worked, praise be!
Ok, I’m being cynical. Of course you feel great. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve gone from averaging a bottle of wine a night sitting on the couch to getting your diet back on track and exercising again.
You’re doing good things for your body after a month of doing not-so-good things to it. How did you think you’d feel?
Juicing is not a panacea of feeling better and more energetic.
Not boozing until 2am, eating crap and doing it all again for 10 days has more to do with your new self than the juice.
Don’t confuse cause and effect. Feeling better in January has more to do with what you’re not doing, as much as what you are doing again (or for the first time).