"Star Slims Down with Healthy Juice Cleanse."
It's the kind of headline you're no doubt used to seeing splashed across weeklies, tabloids, and celebrity gossip sites. (And why not? You figure, if there's anything a Hollywood actress should know about, it's healthy eating.) Last year, it was reported that Mad Men's January Jones allegedly dropped two dress sizes after following a strict juice diet, and A-lister Salma Hayek is such a fan of juicing that she was inspired to launch her own line of products. But in all seriousness, this is one headline you shouldn't be so quick to write off as attention-grabbing gossip.
Could it be? A popular Hollywood diet trend that's actually legitimate? Proponents of juicing and juice cleanses are quick to point out that they are great ways to get your daily dose of fruit and vegetables — and all the health-promoting vitamins, nutrients (antioxidants in particular) they contain. Says Kelly Aronica, MS, "To be honest, it's much easier to drink a glass of juice than it is to eat several pounds of vegetables. It's also easier to get variety in a juice. You can add a bit of a bunch of things, which probably isn't the way most people cook."
Ashley Koff, R.D., a celebrity dietitian, agrees — juicing is one way to try new foods and get essential nutrients. "What's so wonderful about juicing is that it gives you the opportunity to introduce foods into your diet you wouldn't normally eat," she says.
OK, so how does one get started on the juicing trend? We asked nutritionists their opinion on some of the best and most popular fruits and vegetables for juicing. Leafy greens, cranberries, pomegranates, and parsnips all made the list. However, the most important quality to look for in your veggies: whether or not it's organic. Koff notes that if you're juicing one of the "dirty dozen" fruits or veggies, you're likely getting a mouthful of pesticides. "If you're juicing for nutritional values, you have to make sure you're getting organic produce," she says. "If you get a kale smoothie at a store and find out the kale isn't organic, you're basically drinking a concentrated amount of pesticides."
Aronica also notes that in addition to fruits and vegetables, healthy fats are also great to include in juices. "Freshly ground flax seeds, avocado, almond milk, coconut milk, tahini, or walnut oil could be tasty ways to add a little healthy fat to your juice," she says. Koff makes note that many of the phytonutrients in plants are fat-soluble, meaning they are best absorped with a little fat in the diet.
However, not all juices are equal: the newest research shows that how you make your juice could affect its nutritional content. Says Koff, blenders can heat up your juice, causing the fruits and veggies to lose some of their key nutrients. "Even with the best blender, you're getting your fruits and veggies at a higher temperature," she says. Cherie Calbom, M.S., C.N., author of The Juice Lady's Turbo Diet and The Juice Lady's Living Food Revolution, says it's because of the friction of the blades. Blenders and juicers can also strip away fiber from certain veggies. And, Calbom notes, a blender is not the same as a juicer: "You're really getting a blended concoction, instead of a juice," she says. To make her juices creamy, she usually makes her juices in a juicer, than pour its contents into the blender and adds spinach, avocado, or parsley.
One solution to hold onto nutrients: cold-pressed juices. Calbom says in some studies, juices made from cold-pressers had more nutrients than those made in a centrifuge juicer. However, cold-pressers can take up to seven times longer to make one juice, and the difference in temperature between a cold-presser and a juicer is very minimal, she says.
Additional research by Marcy Franklin and Michelle Loayza.
This story was originally published on April 20, 2011 and updated.