Squeezing truth from trend

In a city embossed with a culture asking everyone to feel good and look even better, diet fads and weight loss trends always come and go – the South Beach, Atkins and Paleo diets all held their moment in the spotlight. So while the latest method isn’t extraordinarily new, a slew of recently opened shops and businesses seem to have reintroduced Miami to juicing.

Like its name suggests, juicing is basically the process of digesting “nutrient-rich” foods not typically consumed in an average American diet (like kale, celery and other green vegetables) in liquid rather than solid form. Regular adopters of this lifestyle often replace one or two meals a day, several times a week, with a 12- or 16-ounce bottled juice. Others undergo seasonal juice cleanses which involve replacing all solid foods with juices for up to seven days. But what purpose does juicing serve?

“Most students juice because they want to lose weight,” said Lisa Dorfman, director of the master’s degree in nutrition for health and human performance program in the department of kinesiology and sport sciences. “Because of fruits and added sugars, juicing may actually add considerable calories to your diet. You may also lose the valuable nutrients found in the skin of foods, like fibers, phytonutrients, antioxidants, anticarcinogens and antimicrobial agents.”

According to Dorfman, however, college students could benefit from juicing, primarily because it allows the body to absorb a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables not typically consumed. It would also help anyone who regularly skips a meal to add calories to their diet.

Despite these possible benefits, Melissa Kaplan, a clinical dietician at the Miller School of Medicine and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, encourages students to exercise responsibility while juicing.

“Because there’s no evidence showing that juicing is at all beneficial, it’s not recommended to do it for any long duration,” Kaplan said. “Our body has the ability to detox itself through the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin.”

Both Dorfman and Kaplan noted that it’s important to understand the difference between a juice cleanse and juicing. The former is performed seasonally and involves only digesting liquid foods for a set schedule. It is designed to cleanse the system of toxins; doing this for longer than two or three days can cause nutrient deficiencies, nausea, constipation and dizziness, Dorfman and Kaplan warned. The latter, however, can fit into anyone’s daily diet and can prove to be part of a healthy diet regimen.

Dorfman and Kaplan agreed that students could benefit from the extra vegetables and fruits that juicing adds to anyone’s diet, but they warned of the health risks associated with both juicing and juice cleanses. Juicing doesn’t necessarily equate to weight loss, they said. In fact, continued calorie restriction can slow metabolism and can lead to weight gain.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding juicing, juice cleanse and detox companies are major advocates of this lifestyle.

“If a college student incorporated one green juice into their life on a daily basis, I believe their academic performance would increase,” said Kiki Fries, a certified holistic health counselor and studio account manager at Cold Pressed Raw, a juice cleanse company established last June. “I think that their physical and mental stamina would increase. I think it would be an excellent practice.”

Companies like Cold Pressed Raw use organic produce for their juices, which, according to them, contain enough natural sugars, nutrients and calories to sustain a person each day. Like Dorfman and Kaplan, they also warn their clients of associated health risks.

“Cleansing is really meant to be done seasonally, to stay out of the doctor’s office,” said Matthew Sherman, owner of Jugo Fresh, another juicing company based in Miami Beach. “There’s an effectiveness to it, but there’s a danger when you’re using it to answer an imbalance.”

After graduating in 2011, UM alumna Brittany Bomnin tried juicing.

“By the time I graduated, I realized I had let myself and my carefree relationship with food get the best of me,” Bomnin said.

She said she’s experienced significant weight loss since then and also has a new outlook on nutrition.

“I was eager for knowledge, and I find I learn by doing,” she said. “I now encourage others who are interested in adopting similar habits to join me on my next cleanse, which I plan on keeping up at least twice a year for good housekeeping.”