Is Juicing Worth It? (
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.
- 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.
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!