What you need to know before just juicing it

Once again we ask the question: Can you drink your way to weight loss?

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As the temperatures slowly but surely creep up, so will the realization that soon you will have to ditch those big, slouchy sweaters you’ve been using to hide the signs of your guilt-free winter feasting.

What will also begin to make an appearance? The number of people strolling around with brightly colored drinks, likely flaunting their supposedly healthy liquid breakfast or lunch with a trendy Instagram photo.

But is this aesthetically pleasing approach truly a good one? We asked registered dietitian Deborah Jeffery, Fairfax resident and owner of Reston’s Fairfax Nutrition.

“There’s no science done or research or documentation that the juices enhance the absorption of the vitamins or minerals in any way,” Jeffery says. “Although sometimes that’s one of the claims that [people] make about juicing, that nutrients are better absorbed, there is no scientific documentation that that is indeed the case.”

Typically, juice bars use machines that, when breaking down the solid fruits and veggies into a blended liquid, strip the resulting beverage of fiber. And to be clear, juicing and making smoothies are not the same thing: Juicing is exclusively fruits and veggies (and possibly water if you want to make the drink less thick) while smoothies can be a mix of things with Greek yogurt or milk added.

“It’s not something that I generally recommend because I think it’s better to eat the whole piece of fruit or vegetable because then you get the benefit of the fiber. … The fiber is filling, there are health benefits [and] it delays absorption, whereas if you are just drinking a lot of fruit that is blended up, the liquid is easily digested and it is not very satisfying long-term,” explains Jeffery, who typically works with people seeking help with weight management and would likely benefit more from a satiating solid. “But on the other hand, if someone is not a vegetable or fruit eater, and this may help them take in more fruits or vegetables, that would be a positive to it.”

Jeffery also warns that juicers may begin to have “a false sense of security,” feeling that because they drank fruits and veggies for a meal, they can eat poorly the rest of the day. And, if you are ordering from a juice or smoothie bar, be aware of what they’re mixing up. Some places like to use frozen ingredients or fruit syrup rather than the real deal.

Though drinking your fruits and veggies certainly has nutrition pros, a con is that the beverages are absent of protein and other nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D. If you choose to use juice as one of your meals, take a hard look at what else you eat throughout the day to ensure you’re following a balanced diet. Doing this can also inform you about what juice to make or order.

“You may have heard the term ‘eat the rainbow’ because different colors of fruits and vegetables have different nutrients and different antioxidants,” Jeffery says. “You want to look at your overall diet, so if every night at dinner you are eating green beans and that’s a green vegetable, then in a juice, to get a variety of nutrients you may want to have some sort of orange vegetable added.”

Keep in mind that fruits have lots of sugar, and as such, a juice that’s heavier on the fruits than the veggies can rack up serious calories. Those with high blood sugar should stick to veggies because a fruity, sugary liquid that is absorbed quickly can cause a blood sugar spike.

If you’re worried about replacing a meal with a fruit/veggie drink and then gaining weight upon switching back to solids, Jeffery offers some reassurance that this may not be the case.

“I don’t think you would gain weight back because what you are drinking would still have calories, so maybe if you switch to eating something like oatmeal, it would be a wash,” Jeffery says. “It would be something to take into consideration and watch just in case.”