Wellness Wednesday: Squeezing the most health benefits out of your juicer

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Lemon skin on juicer in shape of a human head.
A lemon sits on top of a fruit squeezer. (OLIVER LANG/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)
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Squeezing the most health benefits out of your juicer
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One of my pandemic impulse purchases has been a juicer, and I've actually been using it. So I'm kind of proud of myself there. I've been digging into some recipe books; I'm buying a lot more produce, which is good, but it can be expensive. And I found myself asking some questions about juicing.

Is all the effort worth it? Is there enough of a health benefit to juicing? Am I wasting all the fiber content? What do I do with all this pulp?

So all these questions have been rattling around in my head, and since I can't answer all those questions myself, we call on an expert: Jason Ewoldt, a registered dietitian with the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

Every Wednesday morning at 8:30 CST, Jill Riley connects with experts and local personalities for some real talk about keeping our minds and bodies healthy — from staying safe in the music scene, to exercising during a pandemic, to voting and civic engagement. Looking for more resources and support? Visit our friends at Call to Mind, MPR's initiative to foster new conversations about mental health. Subscribe to Wellness Wednesday as a podcast on Spotify, Apple, RSS, Radio Public, Stitcher, or Amazon Music.

Jill Riley: I guess my first question, just real general, you know, what's up with juicing? I mean, is it still hot? Why did I make this impulse buy? There must have been something in my brain that made me do it.

Jason Ewoldt: Very well could have been. As far as if juicing is still popular, I would say it has waned from maybe the height a few years ago, to where it is today. But I feel like nutrition trends, which juicing would fit in that category, is much like fashion where it's cyclic; you know, it comes back around. So though it has waned, my guess is it will get popular once again, probably not so far into the future.

I used to work in the middle of the night on radio. And there were always those, like, Jack LaLanne juicer infomercials. I just remember it being like this hot thing for a moment there. But I know a lot of people who, again, are probably more health conscious lately. And so that's kind of part of it. So smoothies, juicing, what are the health benefits there?

Yeah, well, I mean, any time that we can increase fruits and vegetables, it's going to be a net positive when it comes to health and wellness. You know, we know that hands down. And the recommendation today, hasn't changed, is still five to 10 servings daily of fruits and/or vegetables.

So juicing, or smoothies even, can be a vehicle to increase the servings daily of fruits and vegetables.

Absolutely.

What's the kind of important thing maybe to remember when blending juices and doing, like, the veggies and the fruits because I feel like at times, I'm just throwing everything in but the kitchen sink.

I think that the big thing when we're looking at well, especially juicing, is we don't want to rely too heavily on just simply fruit. I think that's kind of our, you know what we prefer just because it's sweet, obviously, you know, that's the natural sugar in fruit.

It tastes good, right?

It's good, you got it, we're all human. But the issue there is if we just choose fruit or we use a lot of fruit, what we're left with is potentially a juice that is very high sugar, albeit natural sugar, but in turn also very high calories. So that's something you know, we are juicing, we'd suggest focus more on the vegetables, and then maybe add a serving or two servings of fruit just to kind of increase that sweetness factor a little bit. But again, getting more of the vegetables rather than the fruit.

Yeah, I've been kind of flipping through this juicing recipe book that I have. And there's a lot of mention of green juices in there, which I see a lot of celery and spinach. And in fact, I've been doing celery juice. I don't think I've ever consumed so much celery juice in my life. And I wonder, because I've seen this pop up in my book, as well. Do people still do cleanses? Is there a benefit to a juice cleanse? And are they healthy?

Good question. And again, in my experience cleanses is one of those things that it kind of, you know, comes and goes. It seems to be kind of on the downswing. It's still around, though. When we're looking at cleanses, I think what we have to acknowledge is usually they're referring to detoxing our body. And really, there is no current research that juicing or smoothies or those types of things has any real benefit when it comes to detoxification. And our body does a phenomenal job of it on its own, usually with the liver and perspiration and excretion. So when we're talking juicing and cleansing, it's more, I would argue, marketing, not necessarily a health benefit in that regard.

So I've been doing celery juice, which I've read that there are just as far as like hydration benefits there. I've been doing carrot juice, I probably get the most vitamin C from red bell peppers. And so I'm juicing all of these vegetables, right? But then I'm thinking, well, am I missing out on some fiber intake?

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think if there is a downside to juicing, you just nailed it. If I'm juicing, I get all that. Well, I get most of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, I'll say, but what is left behind, I would argue, is just as important if not more important when it comes to health and wellness, and that would be that fiber. So that's where juicing, one could argue, does fall short is yes, I'm getting the vitamins and minerals, but we're leaving behind something that is just as powerful.

And maybe that's where the whole smoothie thing might come into play where you're just more of like blending your vegetables and your fruits together.

Absolutely. Making a smoothie like that it would have all of the benefits of the vitamins, the minerals, antioxidants, but also all of the benefits of getting that fiber. So it would be more of the whole package rather than just, you know, the partial package, if you will.

Well, Jason, so you're a dietitian, how many servings of fruits and vegetables should we be getting a day?

The recommendation is still five to 10 or more fruits and vegetables. When we're looking at the research, you know, one in 10 of us reach that level. So it's something I think we could all improve, but it's a little intimidating.

When you think of five to 10 servings, it seems like a lot.

Absolutely. I think that's the the challenge. We've known these recommendations for a very long time, yet most of us aren't doing it. It's not a knowledge gap. It's an implementation gap. And it is hard to do. And that's where planning does need to happen to some level, but also something like making a smoothie or even juicing can help bridge that gap. And I think that's where it can be beneficial is if that's my goal of increasing fruits and vegetables, I want to get to, you know, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten servings, I'm at two now, which is the average, you know, maybe I do start juicing, and that's slowly working my way up. But the ultimate goal, I would argue, is can we just get more of those whole fruits and vegetables?

Yeah, and really, planning is a big part of it. Because, I mean, I'm buying a lot of produce lately, and I don't want to let it go to waste.

Right. Well, and I think that's a challenge with buying produce is it's not something we would just put in the pantry and we pull out two months later, it's something that we buy, and we have to use probably within that week, otherwise it's being thrown out. And that's I think a big commonality with most people is they say, yeah, you know, I went to my doctor, they told me to eat more fruits and vegetables. So I went to the store, I bought it. I didn't know what to do with it a week later, it's spoiled, it's thrown out. That's the last time I tried to do that.

So that's where again, that conversation does come back to hey, what's have a plan of buying these, you know, fruits and vegetables for these specific reasons. Much more likely that we'll actually eat them. You know, some fresh fruits and vegetables. You know, they're hard to find in Minnesota during the winter. I mean, they're there, but they're going to be more expensive. I mean, I think this is everyone's big issue when it comes to the winter months here in Minnesota and a couple of things that we can do: I know there are indoor farmers' markets that — and again, kind of the seasonality of it's gonna be limited, but usually they'll have this time of year like spinach, maybe some tomatoes, greens, asparagus, those types of things.

Some things I've tried as well personally would be like the subscription boxes, so your produce box, like the ugly vegetables and types of things, which was kind of fun. I think the challenge here though, is they're still going to be limited to what's in season. So if you are getting zucchinis or something, chances are it's not from the area, it's going to be from, you know, another country where they can grow those things this time of year.

But I would say probably the most realistic and the easiest, cheapest way is just simply frozen fruits and vegetables. We're looking at, nutrition wise, pretty much the same frozen vegetables or fruits to fresh and you can use them in a multitude of different dishes, including juicing or making smoothies. In fact, I would argue like making smoothies, frozen fruits and vegetables really lend themselves because the texture is not really a big deal because you're blending it all up anyway.

It kind of depends on what my goal is. And if my goal is to get more fruits and especially vegetables in my diet, then juicing can't really hurt.

Yeah, I think again, juicing can be kind of a bridge. I think ultimately we want to be using it as kind of getting to the more of the whole food but if I'm using it because I'm not where I want to be or I'm not quite there yet it can be beneficial getting those vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

But it's not gonna probably change the direction of my life.

Most likely no.

Not gonna become a new person. Okay.

It could be a start, though.

Well, it's a start and and we've got to start somewhere. Right?

Exactly. Absolutely.


Wellness Wednesday is hosted by Jill Riley, and produced by Anna Weggel and Jay Gabler. Our theme music is a portion of the song "F.B. One Number 2" by Christian Bjoerklund under the Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 International License.


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