Juicing: How healthful is it?

Man says practice cured intestinal woes; nutritionist says it's good way to get fruits, veggies

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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How often do you drink homemade fruit and vegetable juice?

  • Never. I stick with the store-bought stuff. 38%
  • I’ve tried it, but it’s too expensive. 11%
  • I've never tried it, but I want to. 13%
  • Regularly. I like raw juices. 39%

93 total votes.

Every morning, Arron Barnes starts his day with an unlikely fruit-and-vegetable concoction.

Some days, it's a mix of cucumber, mint, pineapple and pear. Other days, it's a blend of kale, lemon, ginger, apple, celery, cucumber and spinach.

Whatever the combination, the 42-year-old always drinks a bottle of homemade raw juice.

Barnes said he started juicing about two years ago. He had suffered from irritable bowel syndrome for nine years. He took medication for the IBS, but didn't like how it made him feel. After a flare-up at work sent him home writhing in pain, Barnes started researching home remedies. He discovered juicing.

Barnes already owned a juicer, so he printed out some recipes from the Internet and gave it a try. He drank about 16 ounces of fresh, raw juice every day.

He noticed he was sleeping better and wasn't as stressed. He became more active and more alert. After a few months, he realized he had lost four pounds and a couple inches off his waist. He felt great.

"That told me (that) in this country, we are vitamin and nutrient deprived," Barnes said.

Barnes has continued to drink 16 ounces of juice a day — some days he has a second 16-ounce bottle — and hasn't had an IBS flare-up since.

He believes in the power of juicing so much that he's turned it into a business. Last April, Barnes launched Absolutely Juicy, a mobile juicing business. He also bottles juice for sale at events and for home or office delivery.

The juices are not pasteurized, a process used to kill bacteria, and don't include any ingredients other than fruit and vegetables.

Jendy Newman, a dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, said drinking juice in lieu of eating one or two servings of fruit or vegetables is a good way to meet daily diet recommendations. Still, she warns against ditching whole fruits and vegetables entirely.

Depending on how the juice is made, the juicing process may mean losing nutrients and fiber, she said.

The skin of fruits and vegetables is nutrient-dense. If juice is made without the skin, it won't be as nutrient-rich as the whole pieces, Newman said. In addition, the pulp contains fiber that may be lost during juicing, she said.

Using a blender is a good way to keep the nutrients and fiber that could be lost by using some juicing machines, Newman said.

One benefit Newman sees to juicing is it can expose people to fruits and vegetables they may not otherwise eat, Newman said.

"If people are trying it in some juices, that helps adjust their taste buds so they may be willing to try them in other things," Newman said.

"Sometimes it's a good bridge to get people acclimated," she added.

Barnes said his customers typically use the juice as a meal replacement or supplement. Some people, he said, do purchase it for juice cleanses.

People who are using juice as a once-a-day meal replacement really should eat a healthy protein with their juice, Newman said. Greek yogurt, flax seeds, peanut butter and tofu are good options, she said.

As for juice cleanses, Newman said little research has been done on the effectiveness and benefits of the cleanses. In addition, cleanses are only a temporary "fix," she said.

"We'd rather have people think about how they can fit more clean nutrients in their day," Newman said.

Barnes said he sees juicing as a way to do just that. He's never tried a juice cleanse. Instead, he urges people to try drinking a couple cups of juice a day and see how they feel.

"When you start doing one healthy thing, it snowballs," Barnes said.

Before opening a bottle of store-bought juice, Newman advises people to take a look at the label. Juice can contain high amounts of calories and sugar, particularly if they're heavy on the fruit.

"An ounce of fruit juice and an ounce of soda have about the same amount of calories and sugar," said Newman, adding that the juice would be more nutritious, however.

Even homemade juices can be high in calories.

A medium piece of fruit has about 60 calories. A cup of vegetables has about 25 calories, and 3 cups of leafy greens have about 25 calories. Each 60-calorie serving of fruit equals about 4 ounces of juice, according to WebMD.

Before making any significant diet changes or trying cleanses, Newman recommends checking out reputable sources of information — such as WebMD and the Mayo Clinic — and consulting with a physician.

"I think it has a place, but people should just be aware," Newman said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.