By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist; Certified Diabetes Educator, PearlPoint Cancer Support
Juicing is a MUST for cancer survivors. False!
Juicing is a way to make beverages by turning fruits and vegetables into their liquid form. The pulp and fiber are removed so just the juice remains. Juicing is a great way to get concentrated nutrients, fluids, and mega-calories in one glass. Juicing produces a refreshing beverage with no preservatives, artificial colors, or additives. It’s one way to add more fruits and vegetables to your menu. However, here’s the bad news…
Juicing yields a high-calorie beverage that provides little or no protein. Most cancer survivors need extra protein to heal after surgery and treatments and to boost the immune system. Fiber and fat are also absent from juice. Fiber is an important antioxidant and dietary fat helps the body absorb vital nutrients called fat-soluble vitamins. Juicing as your only source of nutrition removes these important nutrients from your diet even though they are important to stay well-nourished. Being well-nourished also leads to more successful treatment outcomes.
Beverages made from juicing can also be very sweet. This may not be appealing to some cancer survivors dealing with changes in taste and smell as a side effect of treatment. Juicing drinks also can fill you up quickly which can prevent you from eating well balanced meals and snacks.
The costs of juicing can be steep. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often expensive and so are juicing machines. The prep work involved in juicing may also require too much effort for a cancer survivor struggling with fatigue.
Juicing may also cause you to lose the social aspect of meals. Don’t turn down a meal with friends and family to juice instead. Socializing helps combat the isolation many cancer survivors feel.
This isn’t to say juicing is all bad. As mentioned above, juicing can be an excellent way to add nutrients and fruits and veggies into your meal plans. However, juicing should complement your regular meals, not replace them entirely. If you juice, the goal is to add juiced drinks to an overall healthy menu.
How can you juice and still be healthy during treatments? Here are a few suggestions:
- Eat food first. Get your nutrition, including your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, through eating food first. You can then add juicing to give you an extra boost of nutrients. Good nutrition is achieved with a variety of foods including protein, low-fat dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats—not just juice.
- Pump up with protein. Choose a side of protein while sipping on your juice. Or, add protein to your juice. Ask your healthcare team what protein supplement is best for you. Many protein supplements add 6 to 10 grams of high biological protein per each serving.
- Size up servings. Know what a serving size is for fruits and vegetables. Often it’s ½ cup (4 ounces) for sliced or chopped produce, and 1 cup (8 ounces) for leafy vegetables. Use the same serving size for juicing. If the juice tastes too sweet, use more veggies. That keeps the taste not-so-sweet and the calories more balanced.
- Fight with fiber. Since juicing removes fiber from the fruits and veggies, consider smoothies instead. Smoothies are blended drinks so the skins of the fruits and veggies are include in the beverage, which means fiber is included in the beverage. Smoothies also may include sources of protein such as yogurt or nut butters. Both juicing and smoothies can help with nutrition if you are having trouble swallowing and chewing regular foods, but smoothies carry more nutrients.
- Be social. Make juicing a family affair. Share a beverage with a friend. In hot weather, freeze juices into popsicles for desserts or snacks. When cold weather arrives, warm up with a hot juice beverage.
Remember - before changing your diet, ask your healthcare team for guidance.