Cold Pressed Juice: Is it really better?

You may have noticed a lot of of juice shops selling cold-pressed juice recently.

Cold-pressed juice can even be found in various restaurants, grocery stores, or even some coffee shops. The claim is that cold pressed juice is healthier (or maybe just trendier) than traditionally extracted and pasteurized juices. But, what exactly is a cold pressed juice and is it really better for you?

Freshly squeezed juice has a very short shelf life, as it is easily contaminated by harmful microbes that can make us sick. Therefore, most manufacturers use pasteurisation, or heat, to reduce the amount of bacteria in the juice. Much of the juice kept at room temperature on the grocery shelf has been pasteurised in order to maintain shelf life. Additionally, sometimes sugar or other preservatives are added to help extend the shelf life further.

Although these methods are meant to improve the safety of these juices, they also may decrease heat and light sensitive vitamins and minerals found in the juice. Also, many people do not feel comfortable with added sugars or other preservatives in their juice.

Enter cold-pressed juice

Cold pressed juice uses pressure to reduce the bacteria in the juice instead of heat, allowing the juice to last longer without harming any of the beneficial vitamins, minerals, or enzymes. This process called high pressure processing (HPP) exposes the fresh juice to extreme pressure which kills most of the harmful microbes. The HPP method allows the juice to last longer and maintain its freshly-squeezed taste.

Proponents of cold-pressed juice believe the taste is superior to pasteurized juice, which uses heat. Whether or not it truly contains more vitamins and minerals is still unclear as there are no studies showing it is significantly beneficial when compared to juices extracted via traditional methods.

According to some, cold-pressed juice is tastier, but it also comes with a hefty price tag. The average price is $9-$12 for a 470 mL single-serving bottle. Companies who make these juices state the high cost is related to amount of fruits and vegetables that go into making one bottle of juice as well as the cost of the HPP machine, which can be up to $800,000.

Many juices are promoted for “cleansing” purposes but the lack of fibre and protein, and the high sugar content, will likely make you a lot hungrier in the end, making most juice cleanses hard to stick to.

Although juice does contain vitamins and minerals, it should not be used as a substitute for eating whole, fresh fruits and vegetables. The primary issue with juice is the lack of fibre. Most juice is made by squeezing out the juice from the fruit or vegetable and throwing the pulp (fibre) away. Fibre is critical to digestive health and may help counterbalance the high sugar content of fruit by helping regulate blood sugar.

Juices can also contain a significant number of calories and sugar. Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight, you should drink juices in moderation, watching the calorie content closely. Juices that are primarily made of vegetables are generally lower in calories than those that are fruit based.

Overall, although cold-pressed juice may be super trendy, there really aren’t any significant health benefits to justify the higher cost.

The Heart Foundation Controversy

You may have heard in the news lately that the Heart Foundation is involved in a bit of controversy with the nutrition community. As a dietitian, practising here in Australia, I thought I would weigh in on the subject.

First of all, the Heart Foundation is an organization dedicated to helping decrease the rates of heart disease and stroke in Australia. It does this by educating the population about the risks of cardiovascular disease and also partners with health organizations and community groups to develop programs to reduce the risk of this disease.

The specific program involved in the controversy at this time is called Tick, which was designed 25 years ago to help consumers make heart-healthy choices at the supermarket. The Heart Foundation labels certain items with an approved “Tick” so that shoppers will know which products are considered the best choices. There are over 2,000 products at this time that carry the Heart Foundation tick. These foods are Tick approved because they are lower in saturated fat, sodium, and calories and may contain more fibre and calcium than other choices. Generally, a program like this is great for shoppers in that it makes identifying healthier choices a lot easier.

The controversy lies in that in the 25 years since the program was developed, the nutritional science behind this advice has changed. The current advice by the Heart Foundation is based around consuming low fat or fat free foods that are generally highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar.

When fat is removed from food, something must be added for taste, usually food companies will add more sugar or salt to improve the palatability of the product. An example is Milo Cereal, which has received the Heart Foundation Tick since it is low in fat and contains some fibre, but is over 25% sugar! There is significant evidence that high sugar intake is actually linked to cardiovascular disease. A 2000 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates (ie sugar)  were significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease within a 10 year period, even when other factors such as weight and smoking was taken into account. But the Heart Association seems to completely ignore this fact and continues to label these foods as heart healthy.

Secondly, processed foods, which are most of what is recommended by the Tick program, contain very little nutritional value. Most processed foods need to be fortified with vitamins and minerals, since most of the nutrition content is lost during the manufacturing process. Other products that have received the tick include McCain’s Ham and Pineapple pizza, margarine, and pasta sauce, and even for a short time the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish. Many foods on their approved list contain very few nutrients, a significant amount of sodium, and artificial sweeteners.

Lastly, there has been a significant amount of research in the last few years that has debunked the connection between saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease. In 2010, researchers conducted a meta-analysis or a review of 21 studies on the connection between saturated fat and heart disease to determine if a connection really exists between the two. This analysis found there was no connection between saturated fat and heart disease. Since then there have been multiple other studies that have continued to disprove the saturated fat hypothesis, but the Heart Foundation continues to cling to this outdated belief. Instead it recommends unsaturated oils, such as margarine, that have been found to be problematic for people with cardiovascular disease, actually increasing risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. This is not a green light to eat as much saturated fat as possible, as other, healthier fats such as monounsaturated fats and omega-3s are still the best choices.

The bottom line is this, health authorities need to be willing to evaluate current research and modify recommendations based on new evidence. It has been accepted in the nutrition community for some time that processed foods are simply not as healthy as real, whole foods. Although these new recommendations are not a go-ahead to eat lots of saturated fat, nor should they be viewed as a scare tactic to tell people to stop eating all sugar, the research still needs to be evaluated.  As healthcare providers we want people to eat wholefoods that are unprocessed as the basis for their diet – and if that involves a little coconut oil or a little (note, only a little) butter, then that is ok – I’d rather that than white bread spread with nutella or jam! Luckily, it does seem that the Heart Foundation is listening to the petitioners. They have recently decided to review the tick and instead focus on the new star rating program by the federal government. They have yet to come out with new recommendations based on this review, but at least there is some hope for real health-promoting recommendations in the future.

The Truth About Stevia


Stevia is one of the latest in a long list of artificial sweeteners, products that provide sweetness without added calories. The producers of stevia claim that it is better because it is “natural” and derived from a plant. But, there are many different things to consider before adding stevia as a permanent fixture to your diet. Here is the truth about stevia.

Stevia comes from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana that is native to Paraguay and Brazil. People in these countries have used stevia leaves for hundreds of years to help sweeten foods. Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It has been used in traditional medicine for stomach problems or for the treatment of burns. The fact that stevia is sourced from a plant may make it more appealing to some people, but this does not make it inherently better than chemically-based sweeteners.

There has been a significant amount of research on artificial sweeteners and even though they do not contain any calories, they still may stimulate appetite and sugar cravings. There is a mismatch between the perception of sweetness (via an artificial sweetener) and actually calories provided by a sweet food. Artificial sweeteners have been found to actually increase appetite, lead to weight gain, and cause more metabolic dysfunction than regular sugar would. Since stevia is a non-caloric sweetener, it has the potential to cause similar metabolic damage as other chemically based sweeteners such as aspartame.

There is also some concern that stevia can cause low blood pressure, which may have an effect on people taking blood pressure medications. It has also been shown to interact with certain medications such as anti-inflammatories, anti-fungals, antibiotics, and some anti-cancer drugs, therefore a doctor should be consulted if you are taking any medications. Most people should not have a significant issue with stevia in small amounts, but it is best to talk to your doctor if you have any significant concern.

Stevia is being sold via the brand names Truvia, CSR Smart, SteviaSweet, Sweetin, PureVia which are a purified version of the original plant sometimes mixed with other ingredients. Truvia is a product by the Coca-Cola company that contains both rebiana (a derivative of stevia) and erythritol.  PureVia is a similar product made by Pepsi. These two brands are highly processed stevia derivatives and some people believe organic or more natural versions may be a better choice. Like any non-calorie sweeteners, it has no calories or carbohydrates and should not significantly impact your blood sugar.

Stevia may be a good choice for people watching their calories and blood glucose, in moderation. The exact level of how much is safe to consume is still unknown. Adding a bit to your tea or coffee in the morning is likely safe, whereas consuming large doses may have consequences.  Some other alternatives include: xylitol, raw honey, or date sugar. But, best thing to do when trying to cut back on sugar is to break the addiction. Once you stop eating foods high in concentrated sugar, you will begin to appreciate the sweet taste of fruit or other natural sugars.



Should I Count Calories?

Zero fat You may have heard the phrase “calories in versus calories out” when it comes to losing weight. It is true that calories do count for losing weight. The idea of counting calories started around the turn of the 20th century with the invention of a machine that helped measure calories or energy in food.

If we could measure calories, then it must be useful to be able to count them. This belief has stuck with us for the last 100 years and has spurred the idea that you must eat fewer calories in order to lose weight.

Creating a calorie deficit is meant to force your body to look for calories elsewhere, hopefully in your fat stores, which will eventually lead to weight loss. It has been traditionally believed that you need to be in a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound.

Most health professionals recommend a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day over the course of a week to achieve a pound of weight loss per week. But, as many of us who have tried these calorie-controlled diets know, every calorie is not created equal.

It is also very difficult to count calories accurately. Most of us have “portion distortion” where we don’t have any true understanding what a real portion looks like. This is made worse when we consume foods at buffets or at restaurants that serve huge portions. Even dietitians and nutritionists have a hard time accurately estimating calories.

When 200 dietitians were shown different restaurant meals, they were unable to accurately estimate the calories in the meals. Sometimes they were off by as much as 50%. If you want to more accurately estimate calories, it is important to actually measure or weigh your food instead just guessing on the exact amount. This is difficult to do in a restaurant setting since you don’t know the exact ingredients in the food, therefore it is best to prepare the food yourself for the most accurate measurement.

Not all calories are created equal. Some foods tell our body to store fat or release insulin more than other foods. Some foods have a thermic effect, meaning they use more energy when they are digested. The differences are small, but it they can add up. Foods that take more energy to digest and absorb are generally foods that are high in fibre and protein. For example, whole grain bread takes more calories to digest than white bread due to the fibre content. These high fibre, high protein foods also increase satiety or feeling of fullness, leading you to also eat fewer calories overall.

So should you count calories? Calorie counting may not be for everyone. If you are just starting out on a weight loss program, first begin by improving your food quality and eating less quantity to see if that gives you the results you want. Increase your intake of high fibre and high protein foods. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and cut out high sugar and processed foods.

After a few months of improving your diet, if you are still not getting the results you want, then you may want to consider counting calories to see if you are eating more than you think. There are many smartphone applications that help make calorie counting easier. Just make sure to actually measure your food before you consume it so you can begin to learn what a real portion looks like and get an accurate perspective.

Diet Soft Drinks and Weight Loss

Diet Soft Drinks
Diet Soft Drinks

Sweetened drinks including regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened teas, usually contain a significant amount of calories, sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. Adding just one of these drinks to your diet every day can add 54,750 extra calories in a year enough to make you gain 7 kg. Sweetened drinks may lead to weight gain because liquid calories do not increase satiety, therefore people do not compensate for the calories by eating less overall.

For those of us trying to lose weight, it may be tempting to start consuming diet drinks, which have no calories, but still contain some flavor. But, diet soft drinks may not be the weight loss solution we have been looking for in the long-run. Artificial sweeteners found in drinks include: sucralose (Splenda), saccharine (Sweet n’ Low), and aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet).

Several long-term studies have shown connections between increased diet soft drink consumption, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. The MESA study found that for those who consumed greater than one serving of diet soft drink daily, the risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms including abdominal obesity and glucose intolerance) was 36% greater than those who did not consume soft drink regardless of calorie intake or other factors. Those who consumed diet drinks had a 67% increase in risk for type 2 diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners may trigger receptors in the tongue, which are meant to identify sweet-tasting foods, even those that do not contain calories. The receptors trigger the body’s natural response to sugar which is to release insulin. When there is insulin released without calories, this may throw off the body’s natural response to insulin, possibly leading to insulin resistance.

Part of the connection between diet soft drink consumption and weight gain may also be related to our perception of how many calories we are actually saving. An average regular soft drink has between 120-150 calories, which you can save by drinking diet soft drinks. But, many people go overboard and believe they are saving many more calories, therefore they eat significantly more than they normally would. This skewed perception of the actual number of calories saved may be part of the reason we see people who drink diet soft drinks gaining weight.

Alternatives to Diet Soft Drinks

Based on current research, it is probably best to avoid or significantly limit your consumption of diet soft drinks. If you must have something sweet, some good low-calorie choices include: Stevia, xylitol, raw honey, or date sugar. Even though these may be “healthier” choices, they will still add additional carbohydrates to your diet or may influence your insulin levels.

The best thing to do when trying to cut back on sugar is to break the addiction. Once you stop eating foods high in concentrated sugar, you will begin to appreciate the sweet taste of fruit or other natural sugars. Start drinking more water. You can even flavor your water by adding fruits such as orange slices or strawberries to it. There is no need to drink diet soft drinks or any type of sweetened drink as water is really the optimal and healthiest option.