To Juice or Not to Juice
How Juicing is Contributing to Food Waste
It’s been called “the moral equivalent of an Egg McMuffin” by the Los Angeles Times, and although it’s true that juicing shares in the fast food item’s popularity and claims to cleanse your body along with your conscience, it’s less clear whether followers and promoters of the diet trend consider their ethical standing in reference to the tons of food going to waste at the hands of Americans each year. The liquid cleanse, which typically extracts only the juices of fruits and vegetables, discards the pulp, rind and fibrous meat of these items, leaving consumers with a neat little glass of moral glory — and the messier dilemma of food waste masquerading as a popular nutritious diet. While some are grappling with the question of what exactly we’re getting when we order a “green machine” or “citrus sunshine,” the larger problem seems to be the fate of what we’re not getting, and how this adds to an enormous global issue.
While there is no proven research that the body absorbs nutrients from fruits and vegetables in liquid form any easier or more efficiently than it does when eaten whole, it’s undeniable that condensing multiple servings of each is a timely way to ensure you’re getting the recommended daily two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables. In a haste-hungry world demanding that convenience and health coincide, juicing is believed by many to be a viable and healthy option for people with goals such as weight loss, body cleanse/restoration or a quick energy fix. But at what additional cost are twelve-dollar glasses of produce extract attracting the support of consumers?
In February of 2015 The New York Times published an article warning about the cumbersome costs of food waste, an issue still all too relevant over a year later. The piece reminds readers that food waste not only contributes to an increase in social costs, but to economic and environmental costs as well. With each pound of food wasted, more precious water, fertilizer and land must be produced — and in addition to their costly monetary value, these demands put a colossal strain on natural resources.
Equally troubling is how juicing is strengthening the presence of methane in our atmosphere. Once the dehydrated (and still edible) portions of fruits and vegetables are discarded, the majority sit in landfills where they decompose and produce the powerful greenhouse gas. The gas, which can be used for fuel when captured and contained, is significantly destructive to the earth’s climate when left to the open air. When methane is released it absorbs the sun’s heat and warms the atmosphere, altering the natural and sustaining climate. Without this potent natural gas being harnessed and turned into energy, it is harmful to the earth, and any contribution to food waste is a contribution to these destructive emissions.
Along with encouraging this unhealthy distribution to the environment, the juicing trend is also persuading consumers that it is providing their bodies with nourishment, when in reality, that’s not the case. Fruits and many vegetables are high in sugar, a fact that is usually a fair trade when considering the other satisfying options they provide such as fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Most juicing diets, however, fail to include any of the fiber (found in the pulp or meat of produce), a vital element to sustaining our systems. In turn, replacing solid food with juice for a day or more becomes a recipe for depletion, causing spikes in blood sugar levels which will leave you tired, unfulfilled and susceptible to binge eating. While the remedies to these ailments are rotting away into wispy instruments for global warming, our rumbling stomachs are regretting having ever put them there.
As for our attention, new health food movements vie for that every day, requiring that we swap out our daily bread for carb-free alternatives, our sugar packets for artificial sweeteners and our table salt for Himalayan — but a larger, more pressing food movement away from the squander of edible items needs to be the centerpiece of our conversations just as often. If we weigh our ethics based on how much chocolate we’ve eaten in a week rather than how much edible food we’ve tossed, we must be reminded how all of our habits — not just the ones that determine our weight — directly impact the economy and the environment. Before unleashing our toxic moral baggage, it’s only fair that we consider where it will land.
If you do occasionally juice, here are some ways to reuse as much of the fruits and vegetables as possible:
• Use your juiced lemon halves paired with baking soda or salt to clean up household messes
• Revitalize your cocktails or food dishes with zest scraped from leftover rinds
• Incorporate carrot and other vegetable peels into stock
• Add the pulp back into your juice for fiber and nutrients