Juicing: Is it bad for you? Christine Lennon investigates.

By Christine Lennon


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The Hunger Games

Given the choice between eating skewered squirrel, à la Katniss Everdeen, and drinking green vegetable juice, the decision to go with a liquid lunch (and breakfast and dinner) would seem an obvious one. And indeed, hordes of women have become juicing addicts. Forget the Céline clutch; the new accessory du jour is a square plastic bottle full of liquid in a shade of green only slightly less electric than antifreeze. Most of these ladies live and work within a mile of some of the world’s most delicious and celebrated restaurants, and yet they’re starving themselves.
It’s healthy, right? To forgo actual food in favor of a lawn-mower bag’s worth of expressed and blended “greens”: kale, parsley, watercress, romaine, celery, spinach, chard, cilantro, cucumber, and maybe some apple thrown in to sweeten the deal. Sipped slowly, throughout the day, sometimes through gritted teeth, we profess how much we like it—seriously, it’s not so bad with a squeeze of lemon and maybe a little ice once it gets to room temp. And it’s only 170 calories a pop and fat-free to boot. We do it in the name of purity and cleansing. It’s not a crash diet! It just so happens that while adjusting the level of acidity in the body, returning it to a natural, healthier, more alkaline state, we drop six pounds in a week. Our teeth and gut weren’t designed to masticate and digest real food, no sirree. Through all of human evolution, they were just passing time waiting for the invention of powerful, high-speed blenders to do the work for them. Are you with me?
But woman cannot subsist on vegetable juice alone. We need protein. We need fat. Without them, our bodies suffer. We may look appropriately twiggy, but we’ll be doing it with less hair. “If I told you the number of people who came in over the last couple of months as a result of these juice cleanses, you wouldn’t believe it,” says trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a 23-year veteran at the renowned Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York City. (They are the reigning experts in hair and scalp health.) “They see dramatic shedding from the juice cleanses three months later. You can mark your calendar.” That’s not the only issue with juicing mania. There are other side effects, like oh, say, dizziness, blood sugar spikes, and headaches. “It’s become a quick fix for people to take off a few pounds, and that’s sort of an omen of danger,” says Tricia Williams, a Fitist holistic nutrition expert and the founder of Food Matters NYC. Cleansing and working out at the same time depletes one’s energy. “You’re creating stress, putting your body in starvation mode, and still going at life full speed ahead.” As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Opt for one green juice a day, not five, and not in place of solid foods. Macerated mulch does not a meal make.
Yet as a pure business model, juicing companies like BluePrintCleanse, Organic Avenue, and Pressed Juicery are nothing short of brilliant. There’s no troublesome washing, chopping, and cooking of a plateful of healthy greens. The companies just whir them all together and dump out the cumbersome pulp instead. Now the cleanse craze has gone mass-market, which is genius in an emperor’s-new-clothes kind of way. Many green juices are even available at your local grocery store. (Psst … they’re over there, next to the food.)