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August 26, 2018


If you’ve seen the documentary film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2010), now available on Netflix, you would’ve seen how the main subjects in the film lose weight and lead healthier lifestyles after going on a 60-day juice fast. The main protagonists — Australian businessman Joe Cross and Phil Staples, a morbidly-obese truck driver whom Cross befriends in Iowa during the making of the film — are on juice fasts monitored by nutritionists and doctors to ensure that their health is in check. By the end of the 60-day period, the men are transformed and their health problems, magically resolved.

This film has been credited with promoting a food trend that has caught on at a global scale: juicing. Its popularity seems to have reached Pakistan as well. Walk into any major department store and you’ll find a section dedicated to fresh juices — often owned by small, independent health food and/or ‘wellness’ companies attached to another enterprise focused on your well-being: gyms.

While establishments offering fresh juices along with desi fast food have been around for some time, they weren’t really associated with being healthy due to the ‘additional’ items on their menu — halwa, puri, paratha rolls, etc, — which are very oily, very indulgent and not exactly good for you. In complete contrast to that are the juice bars popping up in popular malls and major service stations. They offer all of nature’s plant-based goodness, totally fresh and without any additives, made on-the-spot and in a variety of combinations. One cup, depending on the size, is priced anywhere between 200-500 rupees, which to be honest, is how much the ingredients used in it cost anyway. Where value for money is concerned, it’s a good deal.

Juicing fresh vegetables and fruits is all the rage these days. But how good is it really?

But how healthy is juicing anyway? Proponents claim that you can get up to 95 percent of the vitamins and enzymes our bodies need by juicing raw fruits and vegetables. According to the website, “When you drink juice, highly concentrated vitamins, minerals and enzymes rapidly enter the bloodstream absorbing all of the nutritional benefits of the fruits and vegetables and giving your digestive organs a much-needed rest.”

The other claim is that you can’t possibly eat the same amount of fruits and vegetables that go into making one glass of concentrated juice. From personal experience I know that it takes four medium-sized beetroots, three large carrots, two apples and half a lemon to make a classic ABCL — apple, beetroot, carrot and lemon —juice. While it takes me five to 10 minutes to have it, slowly, I don’t think I’d be able to eat all of that in one sitting.

For anyone who wants to know, the entire process of making an ABCL takes roughly about an hour — from prepping the ingredients by washing, peeling and cutting, to passing it through the juicer to the tedious process of cleaning and washing up the various components of the juicer afterwards.

Surely, you have to clean up right after prepping your juice — if left for long and allowed to dry, fruit juice can leave stains that are hard to completely remove.

When to have it: It’s good to have it as soon as possible or within half an hour of extracting. If you must extend, then it’s best to have it within the same day the juice is pressed. The main reason for that is, as soon as any juice meets the air, it begins to oxidise and starts losing its nutritional value. One way to extend the lifespan of fresh juice is to quickly store in a tightly-sealed container and pop it straight in the fridge to keep it cool. Having said that, keep in mind that there should be no ‘gap’ in the container — fill it to the brim with the juice to delay complete oxidisation.

When you drink juice, highly concentrated vitamins, minerals and enzymes rapidly enter the bloodstream absorbing all of the nutritional benefits of the fruits and vegetables, giving your digestive organs a much-needed rest.

Proponents recommend that it’s best to drink juice on an empty stomach or an hour before a meal — this maximises the nutrients absorbed into the body.

Juicing is not a replacement for meals: While it is true that you can get a lot of micronutrients — vitamins, minerals, vital phytochemicals found exclusively in fruits and vegetables — through the fruits and vegetables pressed into your container, a big part of the fibre contained in the produce is lost through juicing. While juices do contain some fibre, most of the fibre present in whole fruits and vegetables is lost in the juicing process.

Joe Cross from the documentary film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2010)
Joe Cross from the documentary film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2010)

While it is true that our body does not absorb fibre, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t use it. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibre moves through our gastrointestinal tract to help regulate healthy digestion and keep us full for longer. It also aids in improving heart and digestive health.

While our bodies will benefit with the additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants extracted in fresh juices, they alone will not keep our bodies satiated. It’s recommended that juice fasts be undertaken as a supplement to our modern, processed-food-and-protein-heavy diets since those do not include the amount of fruits and vegetables our bodies need.

If, like the protagonists in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, you intend to go on a juice fast, it might be advisable to start small by doing a one or three-day fast. A first-time fast that lasts longer than seven days should ideally be monitored by a nutritionist and/or a medical health professional. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

Published in Dawn, EOS, August 26th, 2018