Roasted beets. Baked butternut squash. Green bean casserole. All low-cost recipes with minimal ingredients and high nutritional value that few of us are actually eating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 87 percent of Americans are not getting adequate daily servings of vegetables. Low and behold, Juice Plus, a billion dollar direct-sales company, is trying — although mostly unsuccessfully — to remedy our nation’s veggie deficiency.*.
The Tennessee-based multilevel supplement company has sold millions on the belief that you can replace vegetables with powder-filled capsules. Juice Plus isn’t marketed as a diet but as a lifestyle. Customers purchase capsule and chewable packages that claim to contain concentrated forms of vegetables. A four-month supply of Juice Plus costs $71.25 and contains 30 vegetables and fruit — such as prunes, dates, papayas, beet, spinach, and kale — powdered and condensed into 360 capsules. At only five calories per capsule, customers are suggested to take six capsules a day in order to meet the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) daily recommended serving of vegetables.*.
Juice Plus was founded in 1993 by Jay Martin, a former high school teacher and fire detector salesman who saw an open market for fruit and vegetable supplements. Juice Plus rode the tail of the USDA’s 1992 launch of the Food Guide Pyramid, which promoted three to five daily servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit. Similar to Avon and Tupperware, Juice Plus makes it money through network marketing, or colloquially known as the pyramid scheme. The strategy involves recruiting individuals as independent contractors who make money by recruiting others to sell the product. According to the Federal Trade Commission, only one out of 238 independent contracts make money from multi-level marketing companies and 996 out of 1,000 contractors experience a negative profit.*.
Regardless of the slim chance of financial success, Juice Plus and other multi-level marketing companies are nevertheless teaming with independent contractors.
Juice Plus supplements are branded as fancy, curated multivitamins with names like “Orchard” and “Garden Blends”. Taylor, a Juice Plus representative, insists that Juice Plus isn’t intended to be a substitute for real meals. “You would be very hungry if you ate the capsules instead of real food,” she says. “Juice Plus is for people who can’t stand the taste of fruits and vegetables and need to get their recommended dosage of nutrients.” Taylor adds that people who take Juice Plus supplements get sick less and experience other physical benefits like improved skin or lowered cholesterol.
In terms of nutritional value, Juice Plus supplements only contain vitamins A, C, E, and folate (or vitamin b-9). The vegetable and fruit supplements provide 24 to 55 percent of the recommended daily value of folate. It’s very easy to get your daily recommended dosage of folate without out consuming vitamins and supplements. Folate can be found in most processed bread products such as cornmeal, pasta, and rice. Folate can lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and breast cancer, however, it can also be dangerous to ingest too much. The Harvard School of Public Health warns that excessive folate can speed up the growth of tumors, conceal the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia – a long term effect that can lead to dementia or permanent damage to the nervous system.
According to a study from The John Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center, vitamin C and E supplements do not reduce any risk of cancer or disease. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that only very select populations should be taking regular supplements — pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, women with heavy menstrual cycles, or those who recently had invasive surgery.
At $213.75 a year, buying fruits and vegetables and incorporating them into your daily meals would be cheaper than participating in Juice Plus’s program.*.
Yet, as so few Americans consume sufficient portions of produce, Juice Plus might be one of few appropriate alternatives for people who lack adequate fruits and vegetables in their diets. According to the CDC, only half of the total U.S. population consumed more than a cup of vegetables and one and a half cups of fruit daily, whereas the USDA suggests consuming double those amounts. The World Health Organization estimates that 6.7 million people worldwide have died due to lack daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Regularly eating fruits and vegetables has overwhelming benefits. It can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, types of cancer, and stroke. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, healthy portions of vegetables can enhance vision and gastrointestinal health. That’s where Juice Plus’s success comes in, everyone knows that vegetables have overwhelming health benefits, yet those who live in poor and rural areas usually have less access to fruits and vegetables than those who live in middle or upper class communities. According to a 2016 study conducted by the CDC of economically deprived neighborhoods in Oakland, California, 39 percent of the population claimed to not have enough time to prepare fruit and vegetable-based dishes, 29 percent said the price of produce was too high, and 38 percent complained of the taste of vegetables. On average, residents only consumed 2.4 servings of both fruit and vegetables —around 50 percent less than what the USDA recommends.
The company’s supplements contain fewer nutrients than a cheap bottle of multi-vitamins yet they ring in at quadruple the price. The company lures potential customers with a catalog of research that has all been funded by Martin himself. Better to stick to the real deal – a can of green beans – than signing up for Juice Plus.
*Please keep in mind that with any diet or weight loss program, individual results will vary.
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*Individual results will vary.
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