Like avocado toast and colorful kilim rugs, the juice craze is a trend that just won’t quit.
Consumers spent a mind-boggling $200 billion on juice last year, and that number is only expected to grow, according to a recent IBISWorld report. Presumably, we’re shelling out for these $12 drinks in the name of better health. Juice, after all, makes it possible to consume pounds’ worth of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in just a few fast swigs.
Which seems like a great idea. But in fact, juices—even cold-pressed ones made with veggies—aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Here are four reasons why, that just might convince you to kick your liquid habit for good.
Just in case you’re new to the world of juicing, let’s quickly rehash the basics. When you stick produce in a juicer, the juice gets extracted from the fruit or vegetable pulp. The bright, colorful juice pours into your glass, while the pulp is spit out into a separate container and (likely) discarded.
The juice is loaded with vitamins and minerals, as well as the sugars that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. But it doesn’t have any fiber—that’s all in the pulp. That’s bad, because fiber is the thing that slows your body’s absorption of all of the sugars found in fruits and vegetables. Without the roughage, that sugar gets absorbed much faster—causing your blood sugar to quickly spike, explains registered dietitian Georgie Fear.
An hour or two after guzzling your juice, your sky-high blood sugar will start to crash. As a result, you’ll probably find yourself low on energy and craving more sugar to bring your blood sugar levels back to baseline. Which is the same sort of sugar-induced roller coaster as what happens when you drink empty-calorie beverages like soda.
What about green juice, you might say? It’s true that veggie-heavy juices will contain less sugar than ones that are made with fruit. But they still don’t have any fiber, so the benefit is pretty marginal, Fear says. (Here's what to eat to get your blood sugar under control.)
You might not be reaping the benefits of all those nutrients, anyway
OK, so your juice is sorely lacking in the fiber department. But surely all those vitamins and minerals still make it a healthy choice, right? Sorry, not really. According to Fear, most of us would still probably get enough of the vitamins and minerals we need without drinking juice. “After all, dietary deficiencies are rare in our society,” she says. Hmm, good point.
But even if you were in desperate need of more nutrients, your juice might not help you. Many vitamins—including A, D, E, and K—need to be consumed with some fat in order to be absorbed by the body, so drinking them in the form of a fat-free fruit and veggie juice won’t do you much good. (Check out the healthy fat you're not eating, but should be.) What’s more, cooking actually enhances the antioxidant capacity of many fruits and vegetables, found one Italian study. So that raw, cold-pressed juice might turn out to really be a waste of money after all.
It’s not as satisfying as actual food
Drinking all that liquid will leave you full to the point of being bloated. But the feeling won’t last long, and before you know it, it’ll feel like you didn’t eat anything at all. Because, well, you didn’t. “Without fiber or solid components, the stretch receptors in the stomach aren’t stimulated as much to trigger a feeling of fullness,” Fear says. The lack of fat and protein only adds to the problem. Without them, “your satisfaction pathways aren’t triggered, because amino acids and fat digestion are some of the key signals your brain waits on to shut down hunger signals,” she adds.
Research backs this up. One British analysis found that calories from liquids have a weaker satiety effect than calories from solids. As a result, your ultra-healthy juice could drive you to take in more calories than you would have if you just ate a solid meal. Over time, that could actually put you at risk for gaining weight, according to a review published in Trends in Food Science & Technology.
It’s insanely wasteful
If the nutritional downsides of juice aren’t enough to get you to stop drinking, consider its impact on the environment. It takes around 4 pounds of produce to make a 16-ounce juice—and a whopping 3.5 pounds of that will end up as pulp, according to Kaitlin Mogentale, founder of the juice pulp snack company Pulp Pantry. Some manufacturers might find ways to deal with their pulp responsibly, by composting it or using it in other recipes. And companies like Pulp Pantry focus solely on churning out snacks made from juice pulp, like granola, veggie chips, and even gluten-free baking mixes.
But that isn’t always the case. Manufacturers often have trouble finding farms who are willing to use their pulp as compost. “Farmers are often driving far to pick up the pulp, and they already have their own organic waste, so there’s not much incentive,” Mogentale says. Even at-home juicers who like the idea of composting might find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of pulp spit out of their machine. Which means that more often than not, the pulp ends up in landfills. There, it decomposes while emitting tons of methane—a greenhouse gas with more than 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Still not convinced?
Fine. But if you’re going to drink juice, at least try to be smart about it. Keep your consumption to less than 4 ounces per day, and opt for juices that are mostly made of vegetables, Fear says. (These guidelines can help you figure out whether your juice fits the bill.) Try to have your juice with a solid meal instead of drinking it solo, so you get some fat, fiber, and protein.
If you get your juice from a juice shop or pre-bottled, make it a point to buy from manufacturers that repurpose their pulp or dispose of it responsibly. And if you make your juice at home, find a way to deal with all that pulp that doesn’t involve throwing it in the trash. If composting isn’t an option, consider adding it to your pet’s food, using it to make popsicles or energy balls, or even stirring a little bit of it back into your juice.