Squeezed Out

Are liquefied fruits and vegetables easy, refreshing and natural ways to get nourished … or are some juicers and producers all wet?

Much has happened in the years since the Florida Orange Growers Association declared that orange juice was "not just for breakfast anymore."

We have been treated to all kinds of would-be liquid miracles, from "super fruit" blends (acai, mangosteen and other exotic wonders from various far-flung lands) to fruit-veggie hybrids to smoothies that promise saintly nutrition in a sinfully dessert-y format.

Juice bars have suddenly become as popular a hangout as the neighborhood coffeehouse. There are even vitamin supplements that promise the miracles of fruits and vegetables in an easy-to-swallow condensed form.

Though there is no shortage of products intended to quench consumers' thirst for easy nutrition and tasty refreshment, some schools of thought suggest that people need to think before they sip.

"For the money, you cannot beat juicing at home," says Dr. Marvin Kunikiyo, author of Revolutionizing Your Health. "In fact, the first thing you should look at is the ingredients list on the bottle, because it often tells the whole story. Many products have some kind of sweetener and water additives, and those things will be listed before the desirable ingredients that got your attention, such as acai or mangosteen, noted for their phytochemicals and immune-boosting substances."

He adds: "While these fruits (in their natural form) have a lot of good nutrients, the products are often made out to be a miracle food that will turn your health around."

Even with vitamin enrichment, says the doc, "many packaged juices can't really deliver what they promise."

Kunikiyo goes on to offer his home-juicing "prescriptions" for vegetables and fruits that offer a myriad of benefits: Carrots and celery, for example, are high in organic sodium, which moderates blood pressure and aids digestion; kale is rich in calcium; while parsley is rich in iron and manganese, and is especially good for the kidneys, the genito-urinary tract, the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Vegan pro-triathlete and fellow author Brendan Brazier (Thrive Fitness) brings up another common-sense argument in favor of home-juicing: Packaged juices, even those sold at higher-end supermarkets, will be pasteurized, which removes or deactivates digestive enzymes via the heat involved.

In other words, while packaged juice adds things the body really doesn't need, it also takes away some of the benefits.

Though Kunikiyo and Brazier are very persuasive regarding the benefits of home-juicing, there is another catch … seeking a juicer out with a slow motor.

In fast-motor juicers, the heat generated during the juicing process, like pasteurization, can burn off the benefits and add a few other undesirable effects, such as a bitter, "burnt" aftertaste. The slow motor, in contrast, does not burn the fruits or their nutritional benefits, and preserves the true flavor.

For busy people on the go, however, owning a juicer can be much like owning a pet, with the added responsibilities of food prep and clean up.

"I am finding that I often prefer blending over juicing because [this] does not remove fiber from the mix," explains Brazier. "If you buy from a juice bar, it is best to go to one where you can watch the juices being made in front of you. Some Whole Foods stores have a program where you buy the vegetables yourself and pay the juice bar a small fee to juice them to your specifications."

'Feel Less Full'

Fitness expert Ben Greenfield (www.bengreenfieldfitness.com) of Spokane, Wash., can also offer a few more juice caveats, particularly for those watching their caloric and sugar intake. He emphasizes that all juices have a high glycemic index, which means that they will raise one's blood sugar very quickly as the natural sugars from fruits and vegetables are extracted and digested.

Homemade and high-quality — fresh — juices will have higher amounts of fiber, which, in turn, will slow the release of some of the sugars and decrease the absorption of fats you may take in your food during the day.

"Though good juices made from scratch have the same antioxidant, fiber and nutrients that you would get from the fruits themselves, a big problem is you take in more calories, but feel less full," cautions Greenfield. "Even if the label says you may be consuming the equivalent of several fruits or vegetables in an eight-ounce glass, you will not feel full because you are not masticating the fruits and there is less water content at work."


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