Why This Bottled “Health Food” Isn’t

You hear it all the time, and everybody seems to be in 100% agreement. I’ve never met a doctor who didn’t tell me that it’s great for you. It’s like a default position that you should be drinking more fresh-squeezed fruit juices.

But wait a minute… let’s take a step back and look at juice. Is it really as healthy and natural as people say?

The juice producers love to tell you how “healthy” their juice is. How it’s like a multivitamin, and you should have some every morning. The cartons scream at you that it’s “100 percent natural” and has “no added sugar” or “no preservatives.”

And what’s not to believe? Seems simple… you pick the fruit, squeeze the fruit, and put the juice in a container, with pulp or without. Delicious and freshly squeezed… right?

Not really.

Fruit juice is not natural at all. And it’s not even so much that they ruin the juice in the processing. But by grinding it up, you’ve changed the fruit’s very nature and character. It’s much more high-glycemic, which raises your insulin levels and can lead to obesity and diabetes.

Normally, the fruit and our digestive systems – and our metabolisms – are made for each other. We co-evolved at the same time, and the fruit evolved as it is for a purpose. So that animals would eat it and spread the seeds. It wouldn’t evolve in a way that makes animals sick and die.

To make juice, on the other hand, you have to break the pulp of the fruit open and expose the monosaccharides (natural sugars). Normally they’re enclosed in “packets” of pulp that are made for your digestive system. They survive the ripening of the fruit and your peeling them, and they don’t begin to be released until you start chewing them.

Even then, most of them are not released until it hits your small intestine. It’s like a slow-release capsule made by nature!

But we’ve decided we are going to take that fruit and mechanically expose all of the sugar at once. So that as soon as it hits your mouth, you get a rush of sugar straight into the bloodstream.

It’s not natural. In fact, juicing in general is not such a great thing. If you do juice, you should drink it immediately. But for most of us, you’re better off just to eat the fruit.

This is also true for vegetable juice. Carrot juice is a great example. Carrots have a low glycemic load, but carrot juice is high on the glycemic index. Why? Because carrots have so much fiber, and the monosaccharides are so well-contained in them that it takes a long time for your body to get to the sugar.

Make carrot juice and suddenly that carrot, which tasted mainly like a root and not that much different than a potato, tastes very sweet. Because you’ve broken all that sugar out of the fiber.

I don’t buy juice. I do have a juicer, but I use it for tropical blends, and things like ice cream.

Fortunately, you can still get fresh, locally grown organic fruits and vegetables almost wherever you live – and avoid juice. Here are a few tips:

1. If you do live in the South, you can easily grow your own fruit trees. I have a sour orange, a grapefruit and a lemon tree in my yard. If you’re going to grow an orange tree, keep in mind that it needs full sun all day, and moist but not wet soil to grow in. It’s good to keep a six-foot circle of mulch around your tree to help the soil stay moist, and use a dripper if you can when watering.

You can buy seeds and even baby trees online at:

  • Trade Winds Fruit: www.tradewindsfruit.com
  • Gurney’s Seed and Nursery: www.gurneys.com
  • Dave’s Garden (it’s a great resource): www.davesgarden.com

2. The best way to get fresh fruit may be to find a local grower who grows them organically, or gets them from another locally-owned organic farmer.

To find a grower or farmer’s market with fresh fruit near you, here are some online resources:

  • organicvalley.coop – This cooperative will help you find a farmer near you no matter where you live. Just go to the “Who’s Your Farmer” index and type in your zip code.
  • localharvest.org – Click on the “farms” tab and you can search for farmer’s markets near you for fresh oranges and juice.
  • pickyourown.org – Click on the “start here” link and they’ll help you find organic growers where you can harvest your own crop of fruit.

Also, www.eco-farm.org has links to the different organic associations from various states. And www.organicconsumers.org has a drop-down list where you can choose your state and it will take you to a page full of information on local resources.

3. As far as juice goes, I don’t recommend pre-packaged juice drinks of any kind. Even organic juices are only slightly better. If you want to drink orange juice, you should squeeze fresh oranges and keep as much of the pulp in the juice as possible and drink it right away. That way, you get benefit of the fiber, plus the vitamins, minerals and co-factors nature intended.