Consumption of fruits and vegetables in the United States declined by 7 percent during the past 5 years, according to a 2015 study by Produce for Better Health Foundation, which is a public-health organization. Today, only about 1 in 10 Americans eats the federal dietary recommended daily servings of 1-1/2–2 cups of fruit and 2–3 cups of vegetables, according to a 2015 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’re concerned about Americans’ poor fruit-and-vegetable diet, considering that 10 nutrition and dietetics experts tell us that consumption of fruits and vegetables helps to control cholesterol and decreases a person’s risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
These trends are marketing gold for manufacturers of juice extractors, which often cite the statistics to promote their products. We found 25 manufacturers and online juicing proponents that claim that extracted juice is a fast and easy way to boost your immune system, remove toxins from your body, reduce your risk of cancer, aid digestion and generally help you to feel healthier.
However, experts tell us that no scientific evidence exists to prove that extracted juices are as healthy as are the juices that you get from eating whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, experts tell us that extracted juices are less healthful than are whole fruits and vegetables, because juice extractors remove nutritious fiber.
“Most of the claims that are out there don’t have any science behind them,” says Kristen Gradney, who is the director of nutrition and metabolic services at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and a spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is an organization of nutrition professionals. “Juicing is not going to be a cure-all, but what I find is that people get excited about juicing, and then they start to consume more fruits and vegetables than they ever did before.”
Although extracted juice includes most of the minerals, nutrients and vitamins that are found in whole fruits and vegetables, whole fruits and vegetables also contain insoluble fiber, which typically is lost during juicing. Juicing advocates and manufacturers say juicing is an easier way for your body to process nutrients, because your digestive system doesn’t have to expend energy to break down insoluble fiber. That isn’t true. Furthermore, experts tell us that insoluble fiber helps to regulate your bowel system, lowers cholesterol and aids immune function.
Experts say extracted fruit juice also is packed with excessive amounts of fructose.
“If you’re juicing vegetables, you can go to town and drink as much as you want,” Gradney says, “but you can easily drink too much fruit juice.”
Most juice extractors include at least a 20-ounce container, and we found that manufacturers constantly are tweaking their products to extract more juice than ever before. However, Gradney and other nutritionists recommend that you drink no more than 4 ounces, which is a single serving, of fruit juice at a time. Four ounces of fruit juice can raise your blood sugar by at least 15 points, Gradney says. A 15-point spike can pose a serious problem if you have diabetes or other problems with processing sugar, she says.
THE LATEST CLAIMS. Manufacturers tweak their products in different ways to produce more juice, depending on the type of juice extractor.
Centrifugal juice extractors, which use centrifugal force to shred and then pull juice from the pulp, now spin as fast as 22,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), compared with a maximum of 13,000 rpm before. Almost all models (starting at $70) now have a maximum speed of at least 12,500 rpm. You’d have had to pay at least $200 to get a centrifugal juice extractor that was that fast in 2011.
What’s the benefit of speeds that are higher than 12,500 rpm? Experts tell us that you might save a few seconds in juicing time and extract a few more drops of juice out of vegetables that have tough fibers, such as beets, carrots and ginger. All centrifugal juice extractors use a blade to shred fruits and vegetables and then use centrifugal force to spin the extracted juice through a filter and into a container or cup. A high speed means that the juice extractor produces a high amount of force. However, experts say 11,000 rpm is an adequate amount of centrifugal force for all fruits and vegetables.
Experts also tell us that if you juice soft fruit, such as a tomato, you’ll want to use a slower speed if you want to limit the amount of froth that’s in your juice. What’s good news is that it now costs as little as $40, compared with $70 before, for a juice extractor that has multiple speed settings. You’ll pay at least $130, compared with $200 before, for a model that has five speed settings, which is the highest number of settings that’s available.
Masticating juice extractors use an auger to crush and grind fruits and vegetables and then slowly squeeze the pulp to extract the juice. All experts agree that masticating juice extractors typically extract more juice than do centrifugal juice extractors.
What’s new in the past 4 years is that manufacturers of masticating juice extractors and juicing websites introduced the theory that centrifugal juice extractors produce so much force, friction and speed that the resulting heat and oxidization kill the beneficial enzymes that are in juice. Every nutrition expert whom we interviewed tells us that this theory is false.
“If I were boiling fruits and vegetables, it could affect the nutritional value, but a juicer doesn’t create the level of heat or friction that would cause that level of nutrient degradation,” Gradney says.
Nevertheless, to create less friction and speed, almost every masticating juice extractor (starting at $200) is now a “slow” juice extractor, which means that they produce 110 rpm or less. We also found that manufacturers of masticating juice extractors are hung up on what Nick Ledger of retailer UK Juicers calls “the backwards race to make juicers [slower] than everyone else’s.” In other words, manufacturers differ on how slow of a speed is ideal. At press time, Omega’s VSJ843 ($430) generated just 43 rpm, which was the lowest speed that we found.
In addition, five manufacturers say their masticating juice extractors use a dual-stage or triple-stage process that extracts more juice than do single-stage masticating juicers. Dual-stage models now start at $300, compared with $400 before. Tribest’s Green Star Elite ($629) is the only model that uses a triple-stage process: The juice extractor crushes fruit and vegetable cell membranes to extract juice in the first stage, rubs the crushed membranes together to loosen them during the second stage and presses the crushed, rubbed membranes to extract more juice in the final stage. Experts tell us that dual-stage and triple-stage juice extractors extract an ounce or two more of juice than do single-stage juice extractors.
Samson and Tribest now say their masticating juice extractors include bioceramic magnets that react with the juice, preserve the nutrients and keep the juice fresher for longer than do conventional juice extractors. No scientific evidence proves that bioceramic magnets deliver any benefit.
Most models (starting at $159) also now have masticating augers that are made of GE Ultem, which is a plastic polymer that’s supposed to be eight times stronger than are typical plastic polymers. Manufacturers say GE Ultem augers are more rugged than are augers that are made of other plastics and don’t wear down while they extract juice from hard vegetables, such as carrots. However, we haven’t heard of a non-GE Ultem auger wearing down. Consequently, no one could tell us whether GE Ultem is a feature that consumers should pursue.
PLASTIC PROBLEMS. Previously, manufacturers started to move away from using bisphenol A (BPA), which is a chemical that often is used to make polycarbonate plastics that are used in beverage and food-storage products. Numerous peer-reviewed studies link BPA to cancer and other health problems, and numerous other peer-reviewed studies show that BPA can leach from BPA-made polycarbonate into beverages and food. In 2012, the United States banned BPA in baby bottles and children’s sipping cups, but BPA still is allowed in all other products. However, we found that almost all juicer and juice extractor manufacturers now use BPA-free polycarbonate in models that are in all price ranges. We found that polycarbonate commonly is used in juicer and juice-extractor containers, jugs and lids.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of studies in the past 4 years that indicate that BPA-free polycarbonate also leaches chemicals. No federal law requires chemicals to be proven safe before they’re allowed in the market, and no law requires manufacturers to disclose what BPA-free chemicals that they use.
“We don’t know how to accurately measure the actual risks of BPA and its alternatives in juicer parts,” Ledger says.
If you’re starting to freak out about the polycarbonate parts of your juicer or juice extractor, you should know that juicing occurs at cool temperatures, and experts agree that plastics leach chemicals only at high temperatures. In other words, unless you pour hot liquids into your polycarbonate container or unless you heat up your container in a microwave, you shouldn’t be at risk of ingesting leached chemicals.
That’s a good thing to remember the next time that you decide to make some juice.