Eat your veggies, don't drink them

Categories: Diabetes Center
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
by Mary D' Avila, Guest Columnist for the Orange County Register

We all know a healthy diet hinges on an average of seven servings of fruits and vegetable a day. What people don't realize, though, is that they're supposes to eat those fruits and veggies.

Just as ketchup should not, under any circumstances be considered a vegetable, the trendy offering at juice bars can't replace can't replace a healthy salad or an apple grabbed on the go - no matter how much bee pollen is added to the elixir or how ludicrously expensive it is.

While health-conscious people are not flocking to juice bars for a day's worth of produce crammed into a single cup, dietitians like me are skeptical. Drinking a vegetable is simply not the same as eating one. The juice lacks the peels and pulp that make produce so important to our daily diets.

True, juices still offer the vitamins of their intact counterparts, but fruits' and vegetables' fiber literally gets squeeze out the picture. And the average American diet is already sorely lacking in fiber.

Fiber helps prevent constipation and slows digestion, which helps curb appetites. Fiber also helps blunt the effect of sugar in the blood, while is particularly important when you consider that fruits and vegetables contain natural sugar an fructose, which can spike your blood sugar when eaten in large quantities if you have diabetes.

One of the other key difference between drinking your veggies and eating them is portion size. I remember my grandmother serving me orange juice in a 4-ounce glass. Now a glass that small would be considered a sample cup, or a thimble by some.

By gulping juices from 24-ounce cups, we are no longer eating a carrot or a serving of kale. In order to fill those giant cups, we have to juice lots of carrots, kale or spinach - and add fruits or sweetness. There can be more than 60 grams of carbohydrates lurking in those juice blends, which for many diabetics is almost the limit for a whole dinner.

Even for nondiabetics, this produce overload is too much of a good thing. I tel my patients that veggies are considered a "free food," meaning that for most healthy diets you can east as much these as you want. But "eat" is the operative word. I don't expect anyone to chew eight giant carrots in a single sitting, but if you drink your veggies, it's easy to consume that many and still be hungry.

This is why drinking juices is a particularly ineffective way to lose weight. Some of these juices run 240 to 440 calories, with 57 to 79 grams of carbohydrates. If you're on a 1,500 calorie-a-day reducing plan, you drink a quarter of your daily calories with a single juice.

Also, not all juice bars serve just juice. Come of what you get in popular chains are a bunch of fruits thrown into a blender with yogurt and a host of questionable powders. I'm a registered dietitian but I can't tell you what food group "awakener" falls into or what a juice bar's "detoxifier" will do to your carb intake.

If you want to grab a juice every once in a while, that's fine. It's definitely preferable to a soda or a milkshake. But if you're relying on juices for your daily intake of fruits and veggies it's time to pour those healthy foods out of your cups and put them back where they belong: on your plate.

- Mary D'Avila is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach