Juice has long held a special place in pop nutrition and pop health as a holy grail of vitality. In a certain sense, this is true, being rich in some vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients. However, it’s not this simple by any measure and as the oft quoted phrase goes, it can easily be “too much of a good thing,” if what you’re drinking is really a good thing at all. At the worst, commercially made juices are mostly water and heaps of sugar, with a scarce amount of fruit juice (if any) and a smattering of artificially created vitamins and minerals that our body doesn’t absorb well, that may even cost us more vitamins and minerals to digest that we absorb, on top of artificial chemicals of all kinds (preservatives, color packets [which aren't generally listed on the ingredients] food coloring, etc.). Most of the time, these juices are even made with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which despite the ridiculous ad campaign by the corn industry that without actually directly claiming anything, try to suggest that HFCS is the same as table sugar, and that our body doesn’t know the difference. To those that have any nutrition background with biochemistry knowledge…this is ludicrously and laughably insulting. On top of it’s use as a health product, we overload our children with juice boxes and 5% fruit juice in general, which just kills me to see.

For more information on how fructose specifically affects us differently than glucose, sucrose, or other sugars, and how it’s really a toxin…take a look Here. I have covered at length elsewhere how refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, are among the biggest scourges to our health, and this is one of the biggest problems with juice. Fructose is essentially a toxin to our body, requiring our liver to digest it (our main detoxing organ) and the very epitome of a ‘hollow calorie.’ In nature this isn’t a serious problem because sugar always comes with what is essentially its antidote: fiber, and we didn’t have constant heaping amounts of it in ancestral times, just a sizable amount during seasonal periods of availability. In juice, whether it’s homemade or from the store, fiber has been almost entirely removed unless you used a high grade blender and didn’t remove the skins. I won’t go into the topic of fiber here beyond to say that fiber is immensely important, and is crucial when eating such foods as those that are heavily saturated in fructose. Our diets are already terribly low in fiber as almost all of our modern carb sources are heavily refined (their fiber removed). We spent hundreds of thousands of years only getting fructose from fruit and vegetable sources that were encased in fiber.

Aside from the fiber, as I said at the beginning, most of the nutrients in fruits and veg are in the skin and pulp. When juiced, almost all of this is removed, and with it most of the nutrients. I will not deny there are some in the juice, but the majority are now gone and must be artificially added via elemental sources which are not derived naturally. These ‘fake’ vitamins and minerals are not the ones your body has evolved to digest, and so the body has a lot of problems ‘recognizing’ them and taking them up for use; they have low ‘bio-availability.’ The real problem with this comes from the fact that to absorb minerals, a large amount of minerals are used in our intestines to digest and absorb our food. If our food is without more vitamins and minerals than we use to digest our food, we become nutrient deficient over time (think of it as constantly investing in a stock that only goes down in value). Again we can easily see how juice can be ‘hollow calories,’ quite similar to soda in most respects (and almost identical if it is low in actual fruit juice, and uses HFCS).

Another nail in the coffin is the common practice of using preservatives and other strong chemicals in commercial juices as mentioned above. Some are known carcinogens, some are endocrine disruptors or hormone mimickers (as too are the plastic containers they come in as well, quite commonly) which wreaks havoc on our metabolism, mood, energy levels, reproductive function, and really pretty much every aspect of our health. Regardless of their specific effects, the chemicals present can be considerably dangerous. So too can the chemicals in the commercial fruit fertilizer, the pesticides used, the irradiation process on most fruit that kills many of the nutrients before even being juiced, and so on and so forth. Local organic non-GMO or home grown with organic non-GMO seeds and methods gives you a better chance, but still doesn’t alleviate many of the problems we have here, mostly just those concerning chemicals.

So is juice a total write-off? While I certainly haven’t covered all of the reasons to not drink juice, I’m not going to tell anyone to go completely cold turkey. At least…not for homemade or other quality organic non-GMO juice. I personally go for Good Belly juice, an ounce in the morning and again in the evening with a pro-biotic. This juice is an organic super-food and pro-biotic packed blend, and I suggest you find a similar juice to enjoy when you fancy, or make your own in a high speed blender that includes the liquefied skin and pulp, but try to keep it to a small glass a day of good quality juice regardless of its source (Never anything less than 100% fruit/veg!) and taken with a decent fiber source (as in not in-between or before meals, have it with food) and also preferably only in a diet that has done well to avoid other simple carbohydrates in any abundance (don’t have a diet high in sugar and then just pile on more with your juice, no matter how nutrient filled!). In this way juice can be something to be enjoyed, just as any other treat, but it has to be seen with the knowledge that it isn’t a magic shot of health without any qualifiers. All things in nutrition in balance, juice certainly not being an exception.