Update! I posted this yesterday, and today the NYT totally backed me up!
I AM FREAKING OVER JUICE.
Truthfully, I’ve been over juice for a long time. It’s just that right now seems like the right time to publicly declare my over-juiceness. I will not be silenced on the topic of juice any longer! Ain’t I a woman?
(It’s not that gender politics has anything to do with juice whatsoever—though I’m sure I could work it in, actually: juice diets/juice cleanses/juice enemas—juice is a gendered food!
Mostly though, I just like working Sojourner Truth quotes into my everyday speech whenever possible.)
Here is the kind of juice I’m not talking about: citrus juice you have once in a while when you go to a diner late at night. Boxed orange juice you get in airports when you are searching wildly for something even vaguely fresh-tasting. The first apple juice of the season when you live in apple country. Those, to me, are incidental juices. Once-in-a-while juices. Those citrus juices are months- or years-old and made with artificial chemicals—yuck. Those are desperation juices (well, except for the first apple juice of the season. That’s just nice.).
The kind of juice I’m talking about is Fancy Juice. Cold-pressed juice you watch being made in front of you from organic ingredients from a wicker basket on the corner. $9 a glass juice. That kind of juice. Kale-cucumber-ginger-apple juice.
First of all: if you like juice, please keep drinking juice. Go forth with your juice! I like eating caramels, so I will continue eating caramels.
But let us not pretend that juice is the path of health, OK? Because that is just patently crap.
Now, I like me a good carrot juice now and then, make no mistake. Sweet and invigorating. Karma Road, the lovely vegan café in my town, makes wonderful juices, and I love them. But I try not to lie to myself about how healthy my occasional juices are.
First let’s get into the science. Not to get all paleo on you, but there is absolutely no reason that drinking juice is better for you than just eating the foods juice is made from, and there are reasons it is worse.
Juice is not a whole food, unless you have a Breville juicer or some super fancy machine like that, whereupon you can cold-juice the whole thing. Otherwise, with a centrifugal machine you’re throwing away (or, horror of horrors, making into god-awful muffins and things that everyone in your life pretends are tasty) the pulp, which is where mostly all the nutrients in fruits are.
So what you’re left with is sugar water. Concentrated, vegetal, kaley sugar water. Because it lacks fiber, which makes you feel full, you can drink tons of juice without your body sending you signals to stop—thus filling up on sugar water.
There is nothing wrong with drinking sugar water, except that it’s terrible for you. I wouldn’t own a chocolate shop if I didn’t believe in eating things that are terrible for you at least once a day, but I don’t get why people waste their terrible-for-you food allowance on juice when they could be wasting it on, say, almond toffee. Yes, almond toffee is worse for you than juice. But how much worse? I wonder, because our almond toffee pieces come in 14 gram pieces and I see people drinking these insane 20-ounce (600 grams or so) juices all the time.
Yes, your sugar water is made from fruits and vegetables, which makes it seem healthier, I get that. It is not though. Seriously. I guess if you never eat fruits and vegetables, a glass of cold-pressed juice will help your diet. If you’ve just left a steakhouse and need to round out your meal, sure, have a juice as dessert. But if you’re a sane eater and don’t usually leave steakhouses, if you’re someone with tries to live healthily, why get into juice? Or, more precisely, why treat juice like a meal, when it’s a treat? If you make juice yourself, it takes so much time and effort and cleanup. Why? Just eat food! Snack on some cucumber sticks, instead of downing a giant cup of cucumber juice.
There’s something else too, something more personal.
I’ve tried, with the juiceheads, I really have.
But it seems to me that those who love juice usually don’t love food. This is fine, I guess, or whatever, but it sure bums me the hell out. To each their own and whatnot. But juice offends me. Juice is sort of—and I fully recognize that this sounds idiotic—an affront to fruit. And an affront to fruit is an affront to my soul.
I’ve spoken before in this space about my fruit fetishism. For someone who lives for fruit—for the totality of fruit, the soul of fruit, the fruit-ness of fruit—there is something straight-up sad about juice.
Fruit is a sensual experience, and for the aesthete, all the specialness of fruit is missing when it’s mashed up into a thick, warm cup of juice. The pop of a cherry skin, the onrushing heat of a mango eaten over the sink, homegrown watermelon with sweet flaky salt sprinkled on top. These experiences do not translate to juice.
Every Sunday when I make a special trip to the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market for Aba’s Falafel, I wash it down with freshly picked and pressed black currant juice. Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. But black currants are not a fruit I desire to eat alone, and the juice is highly sweetened, which makes it a treat. Sunday mornings are my treat-time. And I fully, wholeheartedly, absolutely believe in treats. (Bet you couldn’t have guessed that.)
Juice is fine, but let’s not kid ourselves: it’ll never be more than that. Fruit, on the other hand, is life itself.