Vegetable and fruit juices sound super healthy (and they are actually excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidants), but as we've warned at Eatthis.com many times before, it is possible to sip a lot of juice calories in a sitting without even knowing it and experience many of those aforementioned downsides.
"Juice lacks the fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables [because] the juicing process strips fruit and vegetables of their fiber," Sarah Rueven, MS, RD, founder of Rooted Wellness tells us. That's why she always recommends grabbing a piece of fruit over a glass of fruit juice. Or, if you'd still prefer to drink your produce, consider blending whole fruits and vegetables into smoothies, which will retain the fiber that's missing from the juicing process. (Related: Dangerous Signs You're Not Getting Enough Fiber.)
While experts may recommend whole fruit over juice whenever possible, that doesn't mean you need to avoid the fruit beverage entirely—especially since juice can provide your diet with extra antioxidant vitamins and minerals hidden in plants. To get the most out of this juice, we wondered, what is the best juice to drink?
"If you are going to drink juice, be sure it's cold-pressed juice from fresh fruits and vegetables," says nutritionist Heather Hanks, who specializes in holistic nutrition for USA Rx. "Cold-pressed juices are not heated to high temperatures, meaning that they still contain most of the antioxidants and vitamins that are killed off during pasteurization."
Cold-pressed juices are just that—they are made with a hydraulic press that squeezes the juice from fruits and vegetables cold, unlike juices that go through the pasteurization process, which involves high heat. While the heat and oxygen used in pasteurization kill off harmful bacteria in the liquid, it also destroys many of the nutrients in the process. The upside of pasteurized juice is its long shelf-life, whereas cold-pressed juice needs to be consumed quickly, within a day or two.
Unless you make the cold-pressed juice yourself, "make sure your juice contains no added sugars, colors, or food dyes," says Hanks. "The ingredients should be fruits and vegetables only with no fillers or preservatives."
As for types of fruits and vegetables that make the healthiest juice, nutrition research points to these. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries contain anthocyanins, red and purple plant pigments that offer strong antioxidant activity that reduces inflammation. In animal studies published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, rats were fed a high fat diet and either freeze-dried tart cherry powder or a control diet of equal calories but without the tart cherry addition. Only those fed the tart cherries experienced a 9% reduction in abdominal fat and other markers of metabolic disease. Tart cherry juice is also a sleep enhancer, the anthocyanins and tryptophan compounds in the juice boost production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Another juice that's rich in anthocyanins (you can tell by the red color) is cranberry. Registered nutritionist Jay Cowin, director of formulations for ASYSTEM calls it one of the healthiest juices you can drink. Loaded with cell-protecting antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, "cranberry juice has also be found to be anti-inflammatory and may help to ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and offer protection against heart disease," he says.
When buying cranberry juice, it's important to check the label and make sure that it says, "Contains 100 percent juice" and does not contain added sugar, preservatives, or additives.
If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor about drinking beetroot juice, which contains nitrates that have been proven to improve blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. "Beetroot juice is low in sugar content in comparison to other juices and is also an amazing source of vitamin B-6, calcium, and iron," says Elliot Reimers, a sports nutritionist certified by the International Society of Sports Nutrition and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The deep red of beets is due to pigments called betalains, phytonutrients that "inhibit signaling pathways that are connected to many inflammatory diseases," Reimers says.
Turning a couple of stalks of celery into pulpy juice may help with weight loss because it has only about 30 calories in 16 ounces and delivers 3 grams of filling fiber. Plus, celery has been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties to remove free radicals, according to a study in The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
Watermelon juice is touted as an excellent low-sugar beverage for sports rehydration by physician Mark Hyman, MD, the New York Times best-selling author of Food: What The Heck Should I Eat? The amino acid L-citrulline found in watermelon helps move lactic acid out of muscles, reducing soreness and fatigue, another reason to drink it after a tough workout. Researchers in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that athletes who drank watermelon juice as an exercise beverage reported less soreness and slower heart rate 24 hours after working out.
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