Cold pressed juicing has become all the rage these days. From Blueprint to Evolution Fresh, cold pressed juices are found on shelves in yoga studios and Whole Foods Markets across the country. We have been told that the best way to induce and maintain health in our bodies is to consume this “liquid gold.” Persuaded by all the hype I also have believed this for quite some time, and while I still do not believe there is anything wrong per say or detrimental to consuming these juices, after many months researching health and nutrition, I am now not so convinced that this really is the best way…
Cold pressed juices are traditionally produced using a juicer to extract the liquid “nutrients” of the fruits and vegetables out of the juice. The most common type is the centrifugal juicer where food is simultaneously chopped and placed in a basket that spins at rapid speeds which lets the juice pass through and the pulp, or fiber, stay behind. More recently the main stream cold pressed juice companies extract the juice using a new high pressure technology that supposedly kills the “bad” bacteria (I’m still not sure how they do this without simultaneously killing the “good” bacteria) thereby extending the shelf life by a few days to a couple weeks.
But let’s step back for a second, put on our more academic hats, and look at the health benefits of this with a scientific perspective…
Evolutionary biology is incomprehensibly complex. The way our bodies create and maintain health is the result of millions of years of evolution – not just of individual cells, or organs, or functional systems, or even the entire body, but of the body as part of our great ecosystem and all of nature. To illustrate, let’s look at something as simple and unassuming as an apple. What happens when you eat an apple? The answer is vastly more complex than you can imagine…
Nutritional science has now discovered that the known vitamin and mineral components of a single apple are highly variable. Not to the extent of what they know as the amount “contained within” it but more the amount absorbed and used to repair and replenish our cells. For example, when chemically analyzed in isolation, 100 grams of fresh apple (about 1/2 cup) contains about 5.7 milligrams of Vitamin C. But after consumption, digestion and assimilation that same 100 grams of apple accounts for over 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C absorbed into our system (about 3 times the amount of an “isolated” vitamin C supplement). This means that when taken in the context of the whole apple and its complex interaction with the human body we found the vitamin C to be an astounding 263 times as potent as the same amount of vitamin C found in isolation in the apple before consumption(1). Confused? Yes, it is confusing..
To put it more simply, every apple contains thousands of antioxidants whose names, beyond a few like vitamin C, are still undiscovered and unfamiliar to us. And each of these powerful chemicals interact in a highly complex and variable manner. In short, the process of nutrition is profoundly holistic; the way the body uses a particular nutrient depends on what other nutrients are ingested along with it. These nutrients impact thousands upon thousands of metabolic reactions inside the body, but calculating the specific influence of each of these chemicals isn’t nearly sufficient to explain the effect of the apple as a whole. Because almost every chemical can affect every other chemical, there is an infinite number of possible biological consequences.
What we ultimately realize is that the summation of this interaction is much more effective in the context of the whole apple then when it is consumed in an isolated form (i.e. supplementation, fortification or even cold pressed juicing with pulp removed). And where are these “other” nutrients found for the apple to function optimally within our system? In the very place we are not looking, or should I say discarding when taken in in isolation… in the rest of the apple. And even though we understand this, for some reason we always want to tinker with nature’s separate elements, taking the whole apart and using the pieces to create our own distorted reality. Even when we realize the powerful impact of nature in its purest form, we still look for ways to reduce it, to change it into something we think is “better”.
Nutritional science, has been and continues to be stuck in a reductionist mindset, but I think a revolution may on the horizon. We are now starting to understand the complexities that exist within our ecosystem and our bodies as part of that ecosystem. Most importantly we are beginning to understand that the answers to our deep delving questions of what chemicals, reactions and processes take place when a particular food or food substance is consumed may continue to be beyond our scope of understanding, and in a much more vast way than we had originally thought. But what is the most profound realization of this gap in our understanding is that we do not really need to know how everything happens, we just need to know that it does and we need use this information to change our way of thinking when it comes to the foods we eat and its implications our our long term health.
So, now when we look back at the cold-pressed juicing craze we start to see the fallacy in the argument of its nutritional benefits. We do not know what we remove when we discard part of the whole, in this case the fiber from the fruit or vegetable. But we can say with 100 percent certainty that all we are throwing away is not just the fiber. No, it is not just the pulp. We still do not know what exactly is encased in the cells of that fiber and more importantly how it reacts with the rest of the liquid juiced out of that produce. But we do know that nature got it right. Nature and our bodies, over millions of years of evolution, got the formula just right. So really, should we still be messing with it?
So at the end of the day what’s the answer to our long term health? Well, instead of trying to analyze all the intricate components I think it’s best to look at it from the 10,000 feet perspective. Eat (or drink) whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods, with little or no added oil, salt, or refined carbohydrates. That’s it. It’s really just that simple.
(1) M. V Eberhardt, C. Y. Lee, and R. H. Liu, “Antioxidant Activity of Fresh Apples,” Nature 405, no. 6789 (June 22, 2000): 903-4.
A special thanks to: Cornell University for introducing us to the powerful impact of nutrition and health and to Dr. T. Colin Campbell for his life long work in the field of nutrition and his revolutionary book “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition” from which many of the above observations and realizations are based.