Juicing: Healthy Habit or Blood Sugar Bomb?

Lots of people are juicing for health and it can be a good way to get more vegetable nutrition.  But could it be doing a number on your blood sugar? Nutrition Diva weighs the pros and cons.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #247

Michael writes:

"My fiancee and I have started juicing for a healthier lifestyle. We make fresh juice using  a variety of fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, carrots, kale, spinach, celery, apples, and mangos and drink 16 ounces every 3-4 hours throughout the day, followed by a healthy dinner. But after reading your article about the potential for fresh juice to cause blood sugar spikes, I'm concerned that this might not be a healthy habit. What do you think?".

I've noticed that when people start juicing, they tend to go big. Like Michael and his fiancee, they suddenly start drinking several quarts of fresh juice a day. They often consume nothing but juice for one or more meals. But the concern that Michael raises is a valid one.

As anyone who has ever made fresh juice knows, it takes several pounds of produce to produce 16 ounces of juice. And that's part of what makes juicing seem like such a healthy habit.  We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. And we constantly hear that people are falling short of the recommended intake, which is 5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit.  Fresh juice seems like the perfect solution.

Theoretically, you're getting the nutritional equivalent of at least a dozen servings of fruits and vegetable in every glass. The problem is that juicing also concentrates the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables while separating out all the fiber that would normally slow the absorption of sugars. If you drink the juice all by itself, those sugars will be quickly absorbed into your bloodstream.

See also: What Is High Glucose?

How Much Sugar Is in Fresh Juice?

Below, you'll see a little table I put together of the 8 fruits and vegetables that Michael mentioned in his email, showing how much of each it takes to produce 16 ounces of juice and how much sugar that amount contains.  As you can see from my chart, it takes between 2 and 3 pounds of produce to make 16 ounces of juice. The sugar content varies quite a bit. Fruit is the highest of course, followed by high sugar vegetables like beets and carrots. Green vegetables are the lowest.  So, the sugar content of your mixed juice is going to depend on what combination of fruits and veggies you select.  Also, keep in mind that not all of that sugar will end up in the juice. Some will be left behind, along with the fiber, in the pulp. For the sake of argument, let's say that only 75% of the sugar makes it into the juice. 


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.