Quick: How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you really need to consume every day? Depending on which health organization you ask, you should be consuming somewhere between 1.5 cups (World Health Organization) to 4.5 cups per day (American Heart Association).
The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a free personalized fruit and veggie calculator that factors in age, gender and level of physical activity to come up with a personalized prescription—a 45-year-old woman who exercises fewer than 30 minutes per day, for example, needs 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.
“That’s a lot of produce to work into three meals,” says Joe Kearney, a behavioral health specialist at Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management. “A third of adults never hit those goals. Our fast food culture makes it hard. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be time-consuming to prepare, and some people just don’t like the taste or texture of some vegetables.”
Drinking fruit and vegetable juice is a simple way to boost daily intake of fruits and vegetables, but don’t just reach for a gallon of orange juice before considering your reasons for juicing. In fact, drinking juice juicing is generally not recommended for people with diabetes or weight loss goals, as it does not enhance weight loss and, in most cases, impedes progress.
“If you eat 8 oranges, you’re going to be a lot fuller than if you drink a large glass of juice,” says Kearney. “When you drink strained juice, you aren’t getting fiber, so it’s very easy to pile calories onto your diet than if you stick to pure fruit juice.”
Because of the concentration of fruit sugar calories and their rapid effect on blood glucose, juicing isn’t a winning strategy for weight loss. Even with the addition of vegetable juice, which has roughly half the calories of fruit juice, the effect could be weight gain. Kearney suggests adding protein to help turn an occasional glass of fruit and vegetable juice into a nutritious snack. The key, as in all things, is moderation.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing juice, and you can even purchase pasteurized commercial fruit/veggie/protein combos at most grocery and convenience stores.
With one large glass of juice, you could hypothetically consume up to a full day’s recommended produce.
Like whole fruits and vegetables, juice contains rich antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Buying fresh, organic produce can really add up, and pre-made bottled juices typically cost far more than a 72-ounce Giant Gulp from the convenience store (although nutrition-wise, anything made from fruits and vegetables is a better investment in your health).
All calories count, so adding a brand new juice habit to your regular daily diet could actually cause you to gain weight. A 20-ounce glass of juice can contain 400 calories; just eight of those can add up to a pound of fat if not offset elsewhere. If you choose to juice to boost your produce consumption, make sure you aren’t exceeding your previous daily calorie intake.
The simple sugars in pure fruit juice give you an immediate glucose spike, which could actually be dangerous for people with diabetes. Adding protein and vegetables to your garden cocktail will go a long way to minimizing a drop-off in energy later and will prolong the occasional smoothie’s filling effect.
Be sure to talk to your doctor, particularly if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, before making changes to your diet.
The free personalized fruit and veggie calculator is not available at this time.