Can I drink just juice and not actually have to eat vegetables?
September 23, 2006 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Do juices of fruits or vegetables count as part the daily recommmended intake for vegetables or juices? What is better about actually eating the fruit / vegetables?
posted by vionnett to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Fiber, mostly.
posted by sugarfish at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2006

Yes, the juices absolutely count. The difference between the juice and the whole thing is the fiber, as sugarfish said. Sometimes I make what's called Energy Soup, and some call it Live Salad. Basically you puree the vegetables you want to eat with some water, just a little to get it going in the blender. Then you warm it in a saucepot until it's just warm, not hot. My favorite combination is avocado, kale, dulse (seaweed flakes), and red bell pepper. It's pretty orgasmic. And I get the fiber without all the chewing!
posted by iconomy at 9:59 AM on September 23, 2006 [5 favorites]

As sugarfish notes, the fiber is a main benefit of eating the whole fruit or vegetable. You can substitute juice for some of your RDA. However, you should be careful of the sugar levels you'll encounter in juice. Some add a lot of refined sugar to their product, which isnt a very healthy replacement for the natural sugars you'll encounter in the real thing. Also, I think it's much easier to consume more calories (or servings) in liquid form. Studies show that even though the calories we consume via drinks like juice and soda count towards our daily intake, our bodies don't register them even remotely as effectively. In other words, you could consume as many calories in juice and soda at a meal as actual food and you wouldn't feel as if you ate twice as much, even though as far as your body is concerned, you did.
posted by theantikitty at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2006

Juicers vary a lot in their effectiveness in grinding pulp, so low cost juicers often leave most of the fiber in the filter screen tray, as sugarfish notes. Thus, your system doesn't get the "benefit" of passing fiber (assuming you don't have IBS, Crohn's disease, or some other digestive problem that would be exacerbated by fiber). But nutrionally, juice is essentially a more concentrated form of fruits and vegetables, with a smaller (1/2 cup) individual serving size.

I'm clearly reading into your question with this next comment, vionnett, but it sounds like you are one of those who just doesn't like the taste or mouth feel of fruits and vegetables, either. Maybe it's worth thinking about that, and seeing if your dislikes have some other basis, such as chewing problems, that would have other solutions. Identifying what you don't like about fruits and vegetables, and working around those factors, getting dental problems fixed, or getting digestive issues addressed, etc., could add a lot of interest to your diet. And personally, I think chewing also helps digestion by releasing flavors from food into the mouth and nose tastebuds, stimulating the production of saliva and digestive enzymes; there's something to be said for giving your body time to enjoyably process its nutrition.
posted by paulsc at 10:06 AM on September 23, 2006

For what it's worth, many fruits aren't actually that nutritious - they're mostly cellulose, water, and a whole lot of sugar. Veggies tend to be more fortified in nutrients that we need.

The antikitty is right on about many fruit juices too. Lots of sugar there, and not a lot of nutrition. Something like V8 is much more healthy, but you're still missing out on the fiber.

Oh, and why is fiber important? Well, in addition to keeping you regular, it helps prevent colo-rectal disorders, including colon cancer.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:30 AM on September 23, 2006

To get an idea of how healthy the juices are without the rest of the fruit: it's all fruit bats eat. They chew the fruit, drink the juice, and spit out the rest.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2006

Fiber content of various foods here. Obviously, you can get fiber from different sources -- fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, and nuts all have it -- but because there are different types of fiber (i.e., soluble and unsoluble -- and your body needs both), it's best to try to get your fiber from a wide variety of sources. 20-35 grams a day is the recommended intake for most healthy adults.
posted by scody at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2006

Iconomy, what do you have against chewing?
posted by growabrain at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2006

I remember reading or hearing a study comparing nutrient absorbtion from an apple, apple sauce, and apple juice, and the results showed the apple was best, apple sauce second, and juice last. Sorry, no citation, just an admittedly fuzzy memory.
posted by daisyace at 10:47 AM on September 23, 2006

I don't eat vegetables - at all. Never have, just always too horrid-tasting for me. As far as fruit -- well, an occasional banana or apple is about it. I recently started drinking one of the V-8 "Splash" concoctions (strawberry banana flavored?), which advertises "one full serving of fruit and one full serving of vegetables" in each 8-oz glass. Tastes OK, so I'm trying it out.
posted by davidmsc at 10:55 AM on September 23, 2006

I've always thought that the rec to eat 5-9 servings of vegetables or fruits a day was a double recommendation. On the one hand it encourages people to get the good stuff in fruits and veggies, which, except for fiber, are also available in their juice. On the other hand, it serves to replace fat and empty carb calories with calories that are better for you. Juice largely fails by this standard as it's very high calorie for what it delivers. The fiber that you get from the whole fruits serves to lower your overall intake of calories, while juice may raise it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2006

Silentgoldfish writes "To get an idea of how healthy the juices are without the rest of the fruit: it's all fruit bats eat. They chew the fruit, drink the juice, and spit out the rest."

This is inane. Koala's subsist on eucalyptus leaves, but that doesn't make them healthy for humans to eat!
posted by OmieWise at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2006

Fruit juices are often very high in sugars, but low in nutrition. YMMV.

Anecodote: My dad had triglyceride levels that were through the roof. His doctor told him to stop drinking fruit juice, and make no other changes to his diet. Shortly thereafter his triglycerides fell to low-normal levels. Make of that what you will.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 AM on September 23, 2006

On the other hand, it serves to replace fat and empty carb calories with calories that are better for you.

I tried to eat the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables for a week, as inspired by this article. It was much harder than I thought -- all my snacks (I loves me my snacks) had to count towards it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2006

Fruit juices are often very high in sugars, but low in nutrition. YMMV.

Very true. Another reason to read the label.
posted by gimonca at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2006

For the nutrition geeks among us: the author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy (which, coincidentally, I just recommended in another thread a day or two ago), makes an excellent argument as to why the current USDA Food Pyramid is basically flawed, and offers an alternate food pyramid that's actually supported by current scientific data (rather than Agriculture Dept. propaganda -- I mean, honestly, 11 servings of bread/rice/pasta a day?).
posted by scody at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

The UK Department of Health guidelines say that you can only count one portion of juice towards your 5 a day: A glass of 100% juice (fruit or vegetable juice) counts as 1 portion. But you can only count juice as 1 portion a day , however much you drink. This is because it has very little fibre. Also, the juicing process 'squashes' the natural sugars out of the cells that normally contain them, which means that drinking juice in between meals isn't good for your teeth.
posted by jack_mo at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2006

As theantikitty noted, drinking juice doesn't make you feel nearly as full as eating your fruits and vegetables the old fashioned way. Even the soup that iconomy suggested won't do the whole trick. We associated meals with chewing, and we've taught our bodies to feel full only after we've mulled things around in our mouths, swallowed the pulp, and felt it meandering through our stomachs. Liquid doesn't require much chewing, washes quickly down, and lacks the weight and consistency of real food. So while you could be getting all your nutrients and calories from the soup/juice, you'll be hungry much more quickly.

Also, doesn't heating up the veggies kill some or most of the nutrients?
posted by zoomorphic at 4:49 PM on September 23, 2006

Eating fruit and vegies is all about the secondary metabolites. Ployphenols, carotenoids, isoprenoids, vitamins, etc, etc). These are produced by the plant to stave off disease or insects or seduce birds into spreading their fruit, etc. They are the compounds that give colour and flavour to the fruit or vegetable, and different classes of secondary metabolite give different (and often overlapping) health benefits to the person eating them. This is why the five plus a day recommendation says each handful should be a different colour, it's a quick and dirty way of covering all your bases healthwise. Fruit and vegetables aren't so much about 'nutrition', rather the secondary metabolites help you live longer and be healthier (anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardio protective, immunomodulatory, all kinds of other good-for-you words).

Many of these metabolites are found in only part of the fruit, the skin or the pith or whatever. Many of them are destroyed or lost during processing. And many don't developed in the first place when the plant is grown quickly or poorly or the fruit not ripened properly (as is found in many modern horticultural practices). Therefore commercially made fruit juice is often way lacking in the possible health-giving compounds it could have. I'm not convinced great quality fruit is always used for juice when that could be sold for more money as fruit and when the juice can be pumped with sugar or otherwise processed to make it taste OK regardless. Add in the other things mentioned (lack of fibre, ease of overindulging) and you're selling yourself short by drinking bought juice instead of eating actual fruit and vegetables. And even more so if you brush off fruit and vegies as not nutritive and unimportant and don't eat them at all. Five handful sized servings each day isn't hard, I don't like vegetable and I still manage it.

If you eat enough fibre otherwise and you make the juice yourself from fresh, good quality fruit and eat the correct amount, then it's a different story. It becomes a concentrated shot of good health and I've read a few papers demonstrating the long term health benefits of consuming this kind of juice regularly. For many people it's much easier to drink a couple of glasses and get everything they need rather than slog through vegetables they don't like. Eating the fruit and vegetables themselves is still going to be better, but not by a great deal and not if you won't actually eat them.

The exact combination of fruit and vegetables that is going to give most benefit to each person will vary by person so there's no one thing to do that will make you all healthy, but again this is why eating a variety of colours and types will make sure all your bases are covered. I am not a nutritionist, but I am a PhD student investigating the health benefits of a set of polyphenols in a specific fruit extract in the context of Crohn's disease, and work with a bunch of fruit scientists working with all kinds of secondary metabolites. I've not only been reading widely in this field, but started eating a lot more fruit and vegies in the past year.
posted by shelleycat at 5:23 PM on September 23, 2006 [4 favorites]

Oh, here is the NZ five plus website. Our recommendations fall within international advice (so isn't radically different to other countries and certainly applies to people in other 'westernised' societies) and is backed up by the Cancer Society who do a lot of research into the relationships between diet and cancer (and disease in general), so the science is really sound. I also found the Consumer magazine summary of all this very good and more accessible.
posted by shelleycat at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2006

And it's more than fiber. The most nutritious materials of many fruits & vegetables (especially the antioxidants and the material [forgetting the name] that helps your joints and bones) are concentrated in the skins and the things that hold together the watery parts. Oranges are a good example -- their juice is sugar water with lots of vitamins, but the skin membranes around their sections, and their white parts, are very nutritious in totally different ways. Same with tomatoes: their juice is good for vitamins, but their seeds & skins are where their intense concentrations of antioxidants are.
posted by lorimer at 8:17 PM on September 23, 2006

What about juice drinks like Odwalla and Naked? I was never a big fruit eater, but in the past year or two I've really grown to like these drinks.

Are they good for me, or just more sugar?
posted by jeffbarr at 9:26 PM on September 23, 2006

As for Odwalla, Naked and their ilk, the consensus in this thread is that in terms of nutritional benefits & healthiness there is a clear hierarchy, from most to least beneficial:

1) whole (unprocessed) fruits;
2) Juice drinks that are 100% juice;
3) Juice drinks that add refined sugars and other sweeteners/fillers.

The natural juices are usually in the second category (but check labels). So while they're not as *broadly* healthy as whole fruits (since they don't provide all the fiber & nutrients), they're definitely the best solution if, as you suggest, you wouldn't otherwise be eating much fruit.
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:47 PM on September 23, 2006

Actually, I'd add an extra tier and a little more complexity:

1) whole (unprocessed) fruits;
2) drinks that are 100% pulp, preferably home made;
3) Juice drinks that are 100% juice, also preferably home made;
4) Juice drinks that add refined sugars and other sweeteners/fillers.

Drinks made from pulp rather than just juice adds back in a lot of the polyphenols etc found in non-juice parts of the fruit as well as much of the fibre. And home made is much better because of freshness, fruit quality and lack of processing (stuff is done to your bought juice, even if it's 100% fruit, to make it look nice and last longer).

I don't know about the brands mentioned here, haven't heard of most of them, but reading the label and understanding what is in them and how they were made should tell you where they sit on the list goodness-wise. Many 'fruit drinks' are just as unhealthy as drinking soda all day but that doesn't need to be the case.
posted by shelleycat at 10:01 PM on September 23, 2006

Hmm, Just noticed my last comment focussed totally on fruit. It all goes equally for vegetables.
posted by shelleycat at 10:02 PM on September 23, 2006

I don't know that science can back up all of shelleycat's enthusiams for "natural" fruit benefits; I'm not a nutrionist, or a doctor, or a food scientist of any kind, but from what I read on the topic, the food scientists and nutrionists that comment on these theories with any institutional support, do so pretty guardedly.

Fact is, the pre-history of the human race teaches us that people are remarkably good at getting nutrients from abysmmal quality sources. You can get enough Vitamin C from fairly infrequent handfuls of dandilion greens to avoid scurvy, and they taste bad and are slightly toxic, raw. I bet Odwalla and its brethren are at least as good for you as a handful of thistle fruits, or a clump of muscadine grapes.

And if you have certian kinds of digestive abnormalities or disease, dumping a lot of fresh fruit into your system can be fatal. So, you have to know your system, and eat sensibly, given your system's tolerances. Substituting fresh fruits and vegetables sensibly, for cola drinks, lattes, and liquor may be great, if you are healthy, and like it. But if you can find your nutrients and bulk from other sources [such as multi-vitamin supplements and fiber drinks], I don't know that you are shortening your life by doing so, to the degree we know smokers are, scientifically.

But beyond the pure health issues, or their lack, I believe that finding more foods you like and can tolerate makes for a more interesting diet. If one of life's simple pleasures is eating well, why limit yourself to the same old stuff, for years, just because you aren't willing to try new things? And of all the new things you could eat on any given day, many more of them are going to be of fruit or vegetable origin, than any other source.
posted by paulsc at 10:36 PM on September 23, 2006

I don't know that science can back up all of shelleycat's enthusiams for "natural" fruit benefits

We're working on it. Secondary metabolites generally don't keep you alive as such, the focus is more in improved health. Barring vitamins (which can be got from other sources and aren't really the point here) you can get by without fruit or vegetables, but your life will generally be better with them as part of your diet. We can't yet give exact descriptions of what and how much each specific person should eat, thus the continual emphasis on variety and moderation. Even though who gets benefit from which compounds or the mechanisms of action of each compound aren't yet understood, the health benefits themselves have been shown to exist (want references? email is in my profile).

I never advocated 'dumping a lot of fresh fruit into your system', five is a good and standard number of servings (that's fruit and vegies combined). I did mention that different people need different things and there is no one answer for everyone. Multivitamins don't have polyphenols or other secondary metabolites and will never replace a variety of fresh plant products in this regard. Again, nutrition and vitamins aren't the point, all the other anti words I mentioned above are.

Certain types of fruit and vegetable juice will give you similar health benefits to whole fruit/vegies, and other kinds won't. I and others have given reasons why. That's the whole take home message here and the correct answer to the question.

I'm not a nutrionist, or a doctor, or a food scientist of any kind

Neither am I. I'm an animal physiologist doing biomedical research. Which, in this case, is even better. I don't really care too much about food, I care about how the compounds in there interact with and affect the biochemistry and physiology of those that eat them.
posted by shelleycat at 3:54 AM on September 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

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