Is Juicing Worth It? (

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Below is an email I received from a friend and ex-college teammate of mine that I felt would lend itself to an interesting discussion.

Before I begin, though, let me just say that while I consider myself well informed, my formal education is NOT in nutrition. As a fitness professional, and more specifically as a strength coach, most of my extracurricular reading falls in the “program design/performance/assessment/how to make people more diesel” category.

Some may not agree with my train of thought, but this is my blog, so there!

Q:  Could you do an article with your thoughts and opinions regarding the movies Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead?

Six weeks ago I became a vegetarian and two days ago I started juicing. I have never felt so good in my life. This has prompted me to work out-because I actually want too (first time ever) and be as healthy as I can be.

Not only did I give up tobacco, but coffee and other sources of caffeine as well.

I can’t get enough of the juice….kale, celery, ginger, carrrots, spinach, fruits….so effin good. BUT, there has to be a catch. This is where you come in. I respect your expert opinion and advice and want to know what you think of a diet like this. I think the rest of your readers would be interested as well. Thanks in advance.

A:  Dude, I’m happy for you and I’m STOKED that you’ve finally turned the page and are making a concerted effort to implement healthier life choices.

When the movie first came out, I wrote a brief preview to Forks Over Knives HERE.  For those too lazy to click on the link, to summarize, I LOVE the overall message, but a few red flags went up once I picked up on the “meat is bad for you” vibe from the film makers.

Maybe it’s the blatant bias I have towards eating dead animal flesh, but I have a hard time succumbing to the notion that it’s the absence of meat that’s the “x” factor here.

A few things to consider:

  • As with anything, I think it comes down to where your meat, dairy, or other sources of protein comes from.
  • Dairy:  Grass-fed pasture-raised dairy contains far more omega-3’s, CLA, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2-MK4) compared to their conglomerate, factorized farming counterparts
  • As my friend and colleague, Brian St. Pierre as noted on several occasions:  “Cows moved off family farms and onto Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations; basically huge conglomerate farms where they are fed tons of corn, stand in their own shit, are given antibiotics to prevent the illnesses from that corn consumption and the unsanitary living conditions, as well as given copious amounts of growth hormones to speed their growth and increase their milk production.”

Not exactly appetizing, but this is what the majority of people are eating nowadays.

Note:  for a REALLY eye-opening glimpse into this shady side of the food industry, I’d highly recommend reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

Fair warning, it’s not light reading.

  • Bringing this a little closer to the discussion at hand, you can make the same argument for eating red meat.  Humans have been eating meat for thousands of years, with little to no health ramifications. What they haven’t been doing for thousands of years – more like 100 years – is eating the Western Diet, which is about as nutritional as eating lamb’s anus.  Actually lamb anus is probably an upgrade.   Combine a diet that’s rich in highly processed sugar and flour, with meat (beef, chicken, pork) that’s raised in an environment that’s about as far removed from their natural state as possible, and you have a recipe for disaster.

  • Everyone knows the saying, “you are what you eat.”  Well, I think a more appropriate saying is “you are what eat, eats.”  If you go out of your way to purchase food that’s raised in its natural environment and fed its natural diet, the quality of meat is infinitely better.

Case in point, here’s what Jonny Bowden has to say on grass-fed beef:

The fat content of grass-fed beef is quite different from that of grain fed because the diet of the animals significantly alters their fatty-acid composition. Cattle that are primarily fed grass enhance their omega-3 content by 60 percent. A massive amount of research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation ad help prevent certain chronic diseases

The ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is of enormous importance to our health. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease, while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health.

Our Paleolithic ancestors consumed a ratio of between 1:1 and 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3, which is believed to be optimal. The typical American diet is between 11:1 and 30:1 in favor of the pro-inflamatory omega-6s.

  • Putting a nail in the coffin – at least in my eyes – beef is also a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), B-vitamins, and heme iron. What’s more, half the fat content in beef is of the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety.  The other half – saturated fat – isn’t nearly as detrimental to health as many health professionals will have you believe (but that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open here).

Of course, all of this is moot if one chooses not to eat meat for other reasons – religious beliefs, moral beliefs, what have you. And that’s cool.  I can respect that.

But in terms of the actual topic – is juicing worth it, and is there a catch? – I think it depends.

Think of it is this way, you’re now making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables.  You’re mom would be proud!

So, the question then becomes:  is it because you’re making healthier food choices – and as such, eating LESS processed crap – that’s making you feel better?  Or is it the lack of meat?

I’d lean more towards the former.  But that’s just me.  Again, I’m admittedly biased.  What can I say: I like eating Bambi’s mother.

Either way, you’re making strides to better your life, and that is never a bad thing.  The only thing I’d note is to continue what you’re doing for 1-2 months, and then slowly introduce meat back into the diet and see how you feel.  Some people do have a hormonal or bodily aversion to meat, so that’s something to look into and rule out.

Additionally, and this is just something that popped into my head as I was typing, for the more active population (lifting heavy things), relying solely on juicing may not be the most viable option, considering the amount of tissue turnover, and subsequently, protein requirements needed.

Granted, there are plenty of active vegetarians who are able to do it, and prosper  – Coach Mike Mahler, Coach Dos Remedios come to mind offhand – but it’s definitely going to take some long-term planning and dedication on your end.

At the end of the day, however, the important thing to realize is that you’ve latched onto something you’re excited about and that you’ll seemingly stick with for the foreseeable future. I’m all for it.

To Summarize:

1. I know it’s been 14 years since we played together, but don’t think I forgot about the $20 you owe me!

2. Juicing is an easy and convenient way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, which is never a bad thing.

3.  I’d be reticent to think that it’s SOLELY the absence of meat that’s making you feel better. Because you’re going out of your way to eat less processed gunk seems to be more of a determining factor in my view.

4.  As Jack LaLanne proved, juicing will make you live until you’re 187 years old.

 5.  And that’s it for 2011.  See you in 2012!

 

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Derek Kendig

    I think that's a good review Tony. If anyone wants a more super-sciency post about the movie Forks over Knives I recommend the review below by Denise Minger. WARNING: It's a long post but it's well done. She's not even much of a meat-eater (if at all) but that doesn't prevent her from dissecting bad science or incorrect conclusions drawn from that science. Basically, the science says it's okay to eat copious amounts of animal flesh!!! WIN! http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/09/22/forks-over-knives-is-the-science-legit-a-review-and-critique/ Anyway great blog this year Tony and I look forward to more awesome content in the year to come. Everyone have a happy and safe holiday weekend.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:25 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Derek - Thanks for sharing the link, and I'll definitely check it out once I have a few minutes. I have an inkling I'm going to nod my head in agreement the whole time. Likewise, thanks for the kind words and for the support. Happy New Year!

      December 30, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brad

    Just watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead last night so this is well-timed. The message is solid: being obese and eating shit makes you sick. But, meat eating is not the culprit otherwise many more of us would be sick, etc. Juicing is a good way to get a bunch of good stuff into one's pie hole and the low calorie aspect of it helps with weight loss. Juicer sees results and has a glimpse of feeling like a super hero (i.e. positive reinforcement) and then swears by the lifestyle. While I agree that there are positives here, it's not for everyone. Like other restrictive dieting ideas, some could binge back to reality. BTW, Longtime reader, first time commenter. Happy New Year!

    December 30, 2011 at 10:02 am | Reply to this comment

  • Neal Putt

    I feel that juicing in the right proportions can be beneficial, but there are limitations. Firstly, you are being robbed of the fiber benefits and there are toxins in all natural foods and juicing is concentrating most of these phytochemicals. I guarantee you will get sick if you eat a pound of strawberries due to the ingestion of a high total volume of specific phytochemicals and this is what too much juicing will provide. Eat the entire pulp and the juice and the benefits will be greater.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:01 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Neal - I had meant to say something about the fiber component, but I wasn't sure whether or not ALL juicing machines made it so that all drinks were devoid of it. Thanks for chiming in with that important piece of info!

      December 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    I have been a vegetarian all my life and have no business commenting here, but here's my two cents. I started "going to the gym" about two years ago, and have actually been training only for the last ten months. And only in the last ten months have I thought about my diet carefully. It is true that it is harder to get enough protein as a vegetarian, but not impossible, I find. I drink tons of milk, and I have to admit I don't go for the grass-fed variety. Its harder to find, and also if you go through a gallon in three days, not an economically viable option! The one stumbling block as a vegetarian is getting a good protein diet for dinner without a ton of carbs. While legumes are good, they don't fit the bill. I have bit the bullet and relied on cottage cheese even though its kinda expensive, given soy has mixed reviews! I am not entirely convinced about the whole "paleo" thing either for meat eaters. Given we have only archaeological evidence to go by, statements like "Our Paleolithic ancestors consumed a ratio of between 1:1 and 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3, which is believed to be optimal" make me go WTF?? That assumes we know exactly what and how much they ate, which is BS. I believe they were healthier (if at all they were) because they had a more active life-style. You have a good point about the western diet. Let me contrast that with the eastern diet, taking the example of India, where I am originally from. The diet there hasn't changed appreciably, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is as strong as men two generations ago (my great grandfather, for instance, was a farmer, and lived till ninety-six, had crazy broad shoulders and as far as I know, never did any lateral DB raises). A very happy and successful 2012 to you and all readers of this blog. Now if you'd excuse me, I gotto go back to my honey-glazed doughnut.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • B Curtin

    Tony- You're $20 is in the mail. Not really, as I don't remember wtf you are talking about! Great summary and thank you for your input. I would like to just ask why it is that our society as a whole is seeing more and more cancers, diabetes and generally debilitating diseases. Obviously, as people increase the amount of man made "foods" the risks rise. But as a Western society that eats mostly meat and dairy, how can you argue with the results of the China Study. You are correct, we are what we eat, eats. As farmers continue production by using shortcuts made of chemicals and corn, we are consuming more concentrated levels of these poisons. Grass fed is great if it is actually so. I know a farmer that told me he raises "Certified Grass Fed" beef cows and all he had to do to obtain certification was send a picture of his cows in a field---that's it! No inspector has ever stepped foot on his property. Furthermore, the Northeast region has only 2 inspectors capable of investigating. I can't help but think that, as with organic produce, we are being scammed as consumers. I do want to point out that the beef and dairy industry is HUGE business in our country and knowing this, I can't help but think that the money aspect behind these lobbying groups help sway public opinion as well as "science" reports much like those of the tobacco industry 20 years ago. Don't let the "science" fool you. History has taught us that our government is not always looking out for our best interest. If 25% of our population were to stop eating meat and dairy tomorrow our country would fall into another great depression. So there is much incentive for "science" to continually state that eating copious amounts of meat and dairy is good for you. All I ask of anyone is to do their homework. Learn for yourselves. Visit a farm or a slaughterhouse. If after all of this you are still cool with eating meat and dairy, then knock yourselves out. At the end of the day, I am eating much smarter and much more healthier than I was 6 months ago and whether it is the lack of meat or the increase of fruits and vegetables, the point is that I am sure I much better off for it. Thank you for the blog Tony, I am honored to be apart of it. Keep doing what you do best and I will keep you posted as my journey continues. If you want your $20 you are going to have to come watch a game on LI this summer- BC

    December 30, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      B - I never read the China study - but I do know a lot of my colleagues who have, and they aren't fans and have openly taken a shit on much of the research behind it. I'd suggest looking into it on Brian St. Pierre's site. To be honest, while there's no doubt that the quality of meat and dairy we eat plays a role, I still feel that it's the copious amounts of highly processed sugar/flour/starches that we eat that plays a bigger role in the amount of disease in your society. But that's just me talking. At the end of the day, you've found something that works for YOU, and that's what the most important. As some other readers have suggested, though, I wouldn't rely SOLELY on the juicing. I'd still like to see you eat the actual fruit and veggies, too.....;o)

      December 30, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Michael Ward

      B Like Tony, I appreciate that you have found something that you are excited about and is working for you. Also like Tony, I really like eating meat so.... To answer your question, "why it is that our society as a whole is seeing more and more cancers, diabetes and generally debilitating diseases", it seems to me that blaming meat consumption for this is not logical. Meat has been eaten for thousands of years, so continuing to eat meat doesn't seem to be the likely culprit. Mike

      December 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Greg Ohnoez

       Hi there BC, I know it's been a month, but I am re-reading this article and just wanted to take a moment to respond to your point of "Certified Grass Fed".  Before I do that, just a tidbit about me:  I am in the process of changing my eating habits, and that includes trying to move to a grass-fed and free-range beef/poultry solution.  Part of this process has been writing to different local farms about their cattle raising practices and whether or not they are in farmers' markets, if they sell meat at their farm, etc. Below is the excellent response I received from one of the farmers I emailed, that I'd like to share with you: "In your new pursuit on finding grass fed beef, there are a couple of questions to ask or look for in your research,  Are the animals totally grass fed, or grass finished (grain or corn feed until the last 30, 60, 90 etc days) ?  Pasture exposed means animals are allowed on pasture, but could be grain or corn fed.  Unfortunately, wording can mean several different things and to the unaware may be purchasing a product they do not want.  If you don't get a straight answer than chances are it is not the product you are looking for."  -- Tim Henderson, of www.mainstonefarm.comI'm not sure about what that certification entails (from that farmer's description, not much), but I would just ask the farmers directly.  I think the bigger stamp of approval to look for is 100% grass-fed, free-range beef.  As you can see from Tim's response; the Word Game is something everyone plays now-a-days.  I know for me, it has opened my eyes to what questions I need to be asking, and what some of those answers might REALLY mean.All the best,- Gregps - Tony, as always, great article.  I appreciate your humility with disclaimer you aren't a nutritional expert.

      February 25, 2012 at 9:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jeff

    From what i understand about juicing, i believe it reduces the anti nutrients of certain fruits and vegetables and makes them more digestible. Therefore, juicing or lightly cooking vegetables may help you digest and absorb more nutrients and less anti nutrients. As for the whole vegetarian thing. Good luck with that. Tony is bang on. Invest in quality properly raised meat. Don't let some movie made from some vegetarian quacks trump what we have evolved to eat. Its the same idea with buying certain fruits and vegetables. Locally grown and organic are obviously the better choice. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/ If not you may want to look into supplementing certain nutrients that vegetarians become deficient in like B vitamins, Zinc, Amino Acids and Fat Soluble Vitamins.

    December 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Reply to this comment

  • NATALIE S

    Tony! I'm just doing some serious blog catching up since I don't often have internet or any other form of worldly connection these days :)... keep up the good work and congrats on how everything is going - hope everyone at CP had lovely holidays! I plan to visit when back in the states, and can't wait to tell you all the crazy theories I have concocted, and new and various sports I have taken up to fill the void of slamming tires and working out at a legitimate gym... doing my first fell running/adventure race on sunday (barefoot - why not?!)... You should tell clients who insist on running to do fell running - it's like doing intense hill sprints on rough terrain and kick-ass scenery! Either they'll fall in love or learn to hate running and quit it altogether - a win win! oh, I should write something pertinent to this post. hmmm... I love juice! I prefer red with my steak, and white with my fish. ;)

    December 30, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Ward

    Oh that type of juicing... One nit-picky comment about the post. You wrote, "Grass-fed pasture-raised dairy contains far more omega-3’s, CLA, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2-MK4) compared to their conventional counterparts." Is it just me or shouldn't Grass-fed actually be referred to as conventional!!! Maybe it is just because I live in New Zealand and see grass-fed animals on a daily basis that I think this way, but still, it's a shame. Anyhoo, thanks for your awesome blog Tony and best wishes for 2012. Mike

    December 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Hockeykid1991

    "Of course, all of this is mute if one chooses not to eat meat for other reasons – religious beliefs, moral beliefs, what have you. And that’s cool. I can respect that." - I think the word you're looking for there is moot, not mute, mr. G.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Everyday Better

    thank you for this article. we watched that movie over the weekend and have started adding juice to our diet (resolution and fad alert, yikes!) . i'm all about moderation so i don't think i'll ever go full hardcore but i agree that it's a great way to add vegetables and fruits to your diet. plus, it means that we are eating less crap so it's an all around win. ~amy www.EverydayBetter.com

    January 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Whitey_iz

    Wow Tony! I have only recently started reading your blog regularly and enjoy the content that you provide. I enjoyed reading this post to see your view on this subject as I have recently read The China Study and watched forks over knives to find out what the arguments were for plant based diets. I was still sitting on the fence because of the conflict of arguments on diet that Brian St. Pierre puts forward and those of which are put forward in these publications. The points you have made in this article also back-up the position that Brian St. Pierre has posted previously... Still not convinced either way :S So I browse through your comments section to see the views of others on this issue and found Derek's link to rawfoodsos (thank you Derek). I then spent the next 4 hours reading the post on that link and 1 or 2 others as well and I'm well and truly convinced that animal flesh is the healthy option. So, thank you for this post today and I guess I will have to read the rest of your articles tomorrow. :)

    January 5, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply to this comment

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