The truth about juicing

Can help you lose weight and boost health, if you do it right

Pacific Islander woman making green smoothie in blender

Juicing has taken the diet industry by storm in recent years - but is it really good for you? Rather than help you detox, some nutritionists warn that juicing can cause you to pile on the pounds. Like most things, there are pros and cons - and while some forms of juicing CAN be bad for you, there's a way to use it to help you lose weight and improve your diet.

See also: Five best juicers to suit every budget

See also: Six ways to eat clean

Pros and cons of juicing

Research shows that we need to eat 10 portions of vegetable and fruits per day for optimum health - twice the government's recommended five-a-day. Eating that much can be near-impossible, which is where juicing helps. It allows you to increase antioxidant intake from a wide variety of vegetables and fruit that you wouldn't otherwise be able to eat in one day.

So why is juicing seen as unhealthy?

Juicing has got a bad rap recently, as health experts rightly point out that many juices contain too much sugar and not enough fibre. If you are juicing mainly fruit – such as oranges, pineapple, mango and banana - then you may well be consuming too much sugar.

In contrast, juice made mainly from vegetables and a few low-sugar fruits, such as kale, celery, spinach, cucumber pear, lemon, and berries, provide a hit of antioxidants without the sugar rush. It might just take a while for your taste buds to get used to the flavour!

What about the fibre issue?

If your goal is weight loss, fibre is important as it slows the progression of food through the digestive tract, helping you to feel fuller for longer, and slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Fibre from whole fruit and vegetables also helps promote beneficial bacteria in the gut, preventing constipation, and is known to help keep our immune systems healthy as well as preventing conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, bowel cancer and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.

While it's true that we'd be better off eating fruit and vegetables whole to benefit from their fibre, that doesn't necessarily mean juicing is a bad thing, particularly if it boosts your antioxidant intake.

It's just important to eat whole fruit and vegetables too. And if you've invested in a juicer that removes the pulp from the juice, add half of it back into your drink and stir thoroughly before consuming.

Will it help me lose weight?

If you are looking to kick start your weight loss, following a juice cleanse for a few days can help you drop a few pounds. You will get around 600-1000 calories from three to five juices per day, which leaves you with a calorie deficit. Just avoid sugary fruits like mango and pineapple and stick to green vegetables, such as cucumber, spinach and kale.

It's important to get at least 800 calories a day - eating too few calories makes it harder for the body to lose weight, and also makes you likely to regain the pounds once you go back to eat normally.

Be aware that juice isn't a meal replacement – as it won't contain adequate fibre, protein or fats - and it's not something you should do long term. Most people find it hard to stick to a juice diet for more than a few days anyway, as the lack of carbohydrate, protein and fibre is likely to make you feel irritable, hungry and tried.

On the positive side, some people find that doing a juice cleanse for a few days can help to re-set their eating habits. At the end, you may find you're more aware of the food you eat, and your taste buds will have changed so that you are more sensitive to sugar and salt.

Replacing one meal a day with a low-sugar vegetable juice can help to keep the weight off in the long term – just be sure that the rest of your meals are nutritious and well balanced.

Can I detox on a juice diet?

Drinking juice won't detox the body (it does that naturally by itself), but it will give your digestive system a rest, and provide plenty of antioxidants to help support your liver.

Remember that eating more fibre is one of the best ways to help your body cleanse itself. Fibre helps to take waste out of the body, including excess hormones – another good reason to eat plenty of whole fruit and veggies, rather than juicing them.

If you're concerned about detoxing, be aware that non-organic fruit and veg is covered with pesticides, so if you're juicing large quantities of fruits and vegetables at home, you might want to go organic.