By: Jefferson Tobkin
The main focus here is on the amazing health benefits of juicing, but seeing how diet and nutrition are related, I feel that it is important to elucidate some concerns of mine first. I will suggest things that you should do, but also recommend small tricks to avoid some things you shouldn’t. I don’t know about you, but as a kid growing up, when it came to consuming the recommended daily intake of vegetables, more often than not I was significantly insufficient. Ay, I know I’m not alone in this! And don’t tell me that mashed potatoes, french fries, and corn count towards your daily vegetable intake! Unfortunately they are one of my weaknesses.
A big part of a healthy lifestyle is mental. You have to change how you view food as well as your body. Respect matters: respecting others, respecting yourself, respecting food, and respecting all of life really. These days, most people want instant gratification. We want results as fast as possible with the least amount of work. I’m there too… I can’t deny that. If I can get fast results I’m all for it, but not at the expense of my health or at the expense of others. Greater results are accomplished through delayed gratification. It’s the ability to push on further through your mental perseverance to withhold rest or indulgence until later. It is a quality that, if practiced and mastered, will really build character, will power, and patience, setting you up for success in whatever endeavors you wish to pursue.
It’s hard to keep a healthy lifestyle with junk food being more easily accessible than wholesome, healthy food. I totally understand and can personally attest to the hardships people face in this country and abroad; I used to be over 200 pounds and would eat fast food often. I wasn’t obese, but I was definitely overweight. I’m currently around 150-155 pounds and much leaner. I should mention that just because I was overweight, it didn’t mean that I didn’t care about my health. It was quite the contrary actually. I was always trying to find ways to combat my weight issues, but when you don’t have the sufficient knowledge and know-how, it is literally like flying blind.
A few things like understanding what carbohydrates are, what kinds of carbohydrates affect fat storage more than others, and understanding that not all calories are equal, really could have given me a head start on my journey to optimal health. I knew that fast food and soda was bad, but I didn’t realize the importance of other aspects of diet and nutrition. Things like eating a lot of rice or drinking bottled/canned fruit juice were things that I just didn’t know were all that important, which left me consuming all of this excess sugar unknowingly.
Why Should I Juice?
So why should one feel the need to even take up juicing in the first place? It takes some time, money, effort, and some life changes… and can’t we just go down to the local grocery store and pick up some orange juice or some mix of vegetables and fruit juice? Well, I’m glad you asked!
In this world of processed foods, juices are definitely not excluded from the mix. I’m talking about processed juice that you buy in the store, not freshly juiced. Even if juice bought in the store is labeled organic, there are so many other factors involved in reaping the health benefits of freshly made juice.
First, let’s take a look at what exactly goes on during the process of producing juice on a commercial scale. A lot of commercial mass producers of fruit juice label their product as fresh, natural, or not from concentrate, giving the consumer the false impression that their juice is a superior product than others. They’ll have a picture of a straw stuck straight into an orange or things of that nature to make an association how fresh it is. An example of this false advertising is orange juice. In the process of producing tons of orange juice daily, some companies store the juice in multimillion gallon, oxygen-deprived storage tanks. The elimination of oxygen is done so that the orange juice can be stored for a long time, in many cases several months, depending on if the fruit is in season or not. When removing oxygen, the juice itself actually loses its famous orange smell and flavor. There are over 40 natural compounds that give orange juice its flavor and aroma. So what these juice companies will do is hire flavor and fragrance companies to produce a formula of chemicals and compounds to create flavor packs for the flavorless, aroma-less orange juice. They’ll break down the natural oils and essences into isolated chemicals and reformulate them to create different flavors. Many of these companies make perfumes for the fragrance industry and one compound, ethyl butyrate, is found in high concentrations in orange juice flavor packs in most of the North American market. Ethyl butyrate is also an ingredient found in perfumes and colognes, yet we as consumers drink this processed juice, thinking that it is fresh and healthy. Without the flavor packs, the stored orange juice would actually just taste like sugar water. It is because of these added flavor packs that products like Minute Maid have a consistent, candy-like flavor all year around. Companies usually add much higher concentrations of these flavors than is naturally found in an orange.
Molds, Pesticides, and Heavy Metals
In the process of squeezing massive amounts of oranges in factories, any oranges that have been damaged and contains mold gets into the juice. Pesticides are another concern when the source of fruit comes from other countries. For example, when Valencia oranges are not in season in Florida, which is where most oranges come from that are used for producing orange juice, companies will import oranges from places like Brazil, which has less regulations in the cultivation of oranges. Apple juice has been known to have the highest concentrations of pesticides. This makes sense, as conventionally grown apples are known to have the highest amount of pesticide residue on them.
Another issue with conventional processed juice is the possible exposure to heavy metals. Dr. Oz, who has his own show on the Fox Network, claimed that apple and grape juice both were found to high levels of arsenic. His team tested over 50 brands of apple juice and all of them contain high levels of arsenic. It should be noted that his team tested for both organic and inorganic arsenic. However, Consumer Reports did a test of their own on apple and grape juice and came to the same conclusion that they high amounts of heavy metals. Out of 88 samples of apple and grape juice tested in the tri-state area by Consumer Reports, 10% had inorganic arsenic levels more than the FDA’s 10 ppb (parts per billion) limit. Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. On top of that, 25% had lead levels higher than the FDA’s five ppb limit that is enforced for bottled water companies. The FDA released results of 70 samples of apple juice over a six-year period, stating that the total amount of arsenic in apple juice was typically low, but they failed to take into consideration the additional 8 samples that they tested, which they released later on to the public. All 8 samples had arsenic levels of 23 ppb or more. Remember, the FDA limit is currently at 10 ppb.
Dangers of Arsenic
Arsenic is known to have increased risks of various types of cancer, including but not limited to lung, bladder, and skin cancer. It also increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and reproductive issues. There are studies that have linked arsenic exposure to lowered IQ’s, memory problems, concentration issues, poor language function, and learning disabilities. Early signs of arsenic poisoning are chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal problems, and skin discoloration.
Sugar Content in Fruit Juice
Beyond the issue of processed orange juice is whether or not the pros of drinking orange or other fruit juices, processed or freshly squeezed, outweigh the cons. The fact of the matter is that fruit juice contains large amounts of fructose. A typical 8-ounce glass of orange juice has around 6-8 teaspoons of sugar, which is comparable to a can of soda, which has about 10 teaspoons, although soda is sweetened by high-fructose corn syrup, which is worse than normal fructose or sucrose (table sugar). Now you may ask, if drinking fruit juice, whether processed or freshly squeezed is so unhealthy because of the amount of sugar, then what about eating fruit? Well, the big differences between the two are that when you eat fruit, it comes with natural fibers, which slows down the absorption process, thereby causing less of a spike in your blood sugar levels in comparison to drinking it. The skin of many fruits are usually where most of the antioxidants and nutrients are, plus some fiber, so when drinking only the juice you are missing out on a lot of the beneficial components of fruit. Also, to get enough juice for an 8-ounce glass, you need a lot of fruit. You’ll need around 2-4 medium oranges for an 8-ounce glass.
Do you still want to drink that glass of juice?
In the end, you may be unknowingly be drinking a concoction of pesticides, heavy metals, molds, and chemicals. Mmmm sounds delicious doesn’t it?! So next time you think of buying some juice from your store, just keep that in mind.
Buying organic can help deal with the heavy metal and pesticide issue, as well as potentially avoiding a source of mold, but still, there is also the issue of consuming all that sugar that is commonly found in processed juices. Sugar alone accounts for the majority of negative health effects. Feel free to look further into these issues yourself. I encourage you to! It’s quite disturbing… People need to make it a habit of verifying claims themselves, instead of simply taking things as fact, whether they come from reputable sources or otherwise.