Monday, March 10, 2014

Whole vs Processed

When I share that I eat a plant-based diet, people often assume one or more of the following:
1. That all I eat are vegetables (FALSE)
2. That must mean the same thing as juicing (FALSE)
3. *Weird look* That I'm a crazy hippie. (Ok, you got me with this one - TRUE!)

First things first, a plant-based diet is not restricted to vegetables only. As I've said previously, eating vegetables are wonderfully healthy, but eating only vegetables will result in an insufficiency of calories because a pound of vegetables have only 100-200 calories on average. It's very important to eat legumes, whole grains, potatoes, and starches in addition to fruits and vegetables.

Second, juicing continues to be very popular. First let me say that the idea of juicing several vegetables as a way to consume vegetables and all its healthy nutrients is fine in theory, but is not superior to eating whole vegetables. Allow me to elaborate...

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Whole, War-of-the-Worlds-looking carrots are superior to carrot juice

Juicing Removes Fiber
When you run vegetables or fruit through a juicer, it removes all the flesh and fiber, leaving only the juice behind. Though occasional vegetable/fruit juice is perfectly fine, juice should not replace a meal on a regular basis. Fiber is helpful for many reasons. It promotes a feeling of satiety. It helps you to feel full for a longer period of time than non-fiber foods. The two types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) help lower cholesterol and estrogen levels in the body and help regulate bowel movements, which helps protect against several chronic diseases. The more fiber you can consume from whole, plant foods, the better. Juicing does not help achieve that goal. (And recall that animal foods contain zero fiber.)

Concentrated Calories
Because the flesh and fiber are removed from fruits/vegetables when juicing, a person is likely to consume more calories overall and at a much faster rate than if he/she ate the fruits/vegetables as whole foods. A whole apple is more filling and satisfying as a meal or snack than eating a bowl of applesauce or drinking a glass of apple juice.

The Idea of Juicing is Based on the Idea of Nutrient Deficiency
One of the key selling points of the juicing world is that there is no easier way to consume the same amount of nutrients from vegetables/fruit if you were to try to eat them as whole foods. While that point is true, it is also misleading. This selling point implies that the people in this country are suffering from diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies. This simply is not true. The people in this country are suffering from diseases of excess, not deficiency. Too much fat, calories, sugar, cholesterol, and protein. So my big question to people who promote juicing is what about the rest of your meals each day? Are you consuming an excessive amount of animal foods, processed foods, or calorie-dilute foods? I say this often, but it is so important to look at the totality of your diet, not one single food item or meal.

Bottom Line: Do not be fooled into believing that juicing will save you from chronic diseases. You must consider all of the meals you eat each day. Focus on eating whole, plant-based foods most of the time, and then enjoy juicing as an occasional treat.

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