Dining PRIME MAGAZINE — 17 May 2015
Is juicing a healthy alternative, or simply fad?

By Rebecca Cahilly

Beets, cucumbers, kale and spinach are having their day in the sun. “Juicing,” the process by which the juice of fresh fruit and vegetables is extracted and consumed, is fast becoming the poster child of health and balanced living. Touted by television health experts as a surefire way to set out on the path to overall health and wellness, juicing has taken the world by storm. Trendy juice bars are popping up in major cities and small towns, juicers of all shapes and sizes are flying off the shelves, and public consumption of gloopy green liquid concoctions no longer invites strange glances.

The benefits of juicing were never better illustrated than within the 2010 documentary film, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which chronicles the story of an overweight man who sets out on a 60-day tour of the United States, interviewing people on their views about health and wellness along the way and consuming only the juice of fresh fruits and vegetables for every meal during the entire period. The outcome exemplified that the change in his diet — from processed, fatty foods so commonly available to fresh vegetables and fruit — yielded not only dramatic weight loss, but also the reversal of a chronic health condition and overall positive impact on his life.

In the United States, obesity continues to affect over a third of all Americans (about 78.6 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and juicing is proving its worth as a fast, efficient and tasty way to increase one’s intake of leafy greens, fresh fruits and other antioxidant and nutrient rich foods that might otherwise be avoided in a mainstream diet.

MIND THE SUGAR

“[Juicing] certainly has increased the intake of fruit [mostly] and vegetables,” says Marilyn Gordon, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University. “People find it easy to throw a bunch of fruit and vegetables in a blender, transfer it to a cup, and consume on the way to work or school. So in that respect, many more people are having breakfast rather than skipping that meal.

“Unfortunately,” she continues, “most juices and smoothies are utilizing more fruit than vegetables and this drives up the calories from simple sugars. I have had numerous clients report weight gain since beginning to juice. They had heard that juicing was so healthy but forgot to consider that fruit and vegetables do have calories. Depending on the fluid used, unless it is water, it also has caloric value. For some reason, people think that if you stick it in a blender with some kale, it becomes low calorie.”

Gordon also cautions that juicing is not a viable diet choice for those with diabetes as it can increase blood glucose level, particularly if the person consumes more fruit juices, which contain a higher sugar content. For those on thyroid medications, too much kale or vegetables with goitrogens (spinach, soy, broccoli, cauliflower) can interfere with thyroid function. She advises that anyone with these conditions consult with an endocrinologist before embarking on a juice-based diet.

Consuming natural, unconcentrated sugars is significantly healthier than ingesting a diet rich in corn syrup sugar, and for this reason nutritionists are quick to caution against a juice diet regime that includes a high concentration of fruit juices. “I would suggest proportionally to use more vegetables than fruit to lower the calorie and simple sugar content,” Gordon says. “Most people are pretty good about eating enough fruit because it is sweet. The vegetable group is where we are lacking because vegetables tend to be bitter, pungent, and sometimes sour. Mixing the two creates a little balance of flavors due to the sweetness of the fruit.” Gordon recommends the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. The DASH plan encourages 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. One serving of vegetables would be 1 cup of leafy greens or ½ cup of cut up raw vegetables. “You can see how adding a few vegetables to a powerful blender could help us achieve our goals,” she says. “Vegetables are extremely low calorie when compared to fruit. According to the USDA SuperTracker program, one cup of kale is 36 calories and 1 cup of spinach is 7 calories. Compare that to 1 cup of mango at 100 calories or 1 cup blueberries at 85. In short, fruits are nutritious but easy to overconsume.”

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Nutritionists recommend that you do your research before incorporating juice into your diet. All fruits and vegetables have a variety of nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals that can be combined in various ways and address various ailments and health needs. “Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, beta-carotene, antioxidants/phytochemicals and are a very necessary part of the healthful American diet,” says Ronni Litz Julien, Registered Dietician and President of the Julien Nutrition Institute. “The antioxidants in most fruits and veggies have been known to fight diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Americans do not consume enough fiber, which, when sufficient in the diet, may prevent breast cancer, perhaps lung and prostate, and certainly colorectal cancers.”

COLD-PRESSED OR NINJA’D?

The popular cold-pressed method of juicing has risen to the forefront of pro-juice vernacular and is offered through many new organic juice bars and juicing companies as a quick, easy and nutritious juice option. Because traditional pasteurized juices contain added sugar and preservatives, this high pressure processing technology provides a way to mass produce super premium juices for health conscious consumers on the go.

After embarking on her own personal path to holistic eating and wellbeing, Susan Mussaffi opened Apura Juicery & Coffeehouse in Boca Raton. Mussaffi prepares cold-pressed juices, cold-brewed coffee and handmade nut “mylks” as well as a variety of delicious whole, plant-based food items. Prepared daily and sold by the bottle, Apura’s juices are cold-pressed, unpasteurized and feature complex flavors incorporating specialty ingredients like golden beets, fennel, kumquats, dandelion and kefir lime mixed with traditional vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.

Apura is one of many juice bars popping up to cater to the juicing craze, but one that has done its homework. Its cold-pressed juices may have a shorter shelf life than their pasteurized cousins, but the extraction process is said to preserve some nutrients, particularly Vitamin C, that are sensitive to light and heat — which is generated in the traditional blending process.

While juicing is certainly a way to consume larger quantities of fruits or vegetables than one would typically eat, nutritionists are quick to caution against at-home juicers — including those of the touted cold-pressed variety — that extract the juice but send the essential fiber to waste. “For home, I would use a blender such as the Vitamix or similar powerful juicer that utilizes the whole fruit or vegetable to make the juice and then drink it immediately,” Gordon says. High-speed extractors like the NutriBullet or the Ninja blender are sought after for their powerful functionality and ease of maintenance. Plus, they come equipped with accessories for juicing on the go.

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

Juicing, overall, is about increasing one’s intake of whole fruits and vegetables and substituting these foods for other processed and less healthful foods. “The trend continues to be a popular one, but personally, I think a silly one,” Julien says. “When did we decide that juice was more nutritionally beneficial than eating the fruits and/or the vegetables? The bottom line is that as nutrition experts we encourage everyone to eat their foods, not drink them. Whatever form the fruit or vegetable is in, the nutrients remain, but since fiber is a very minimally eaten nutrient for most Americans, I discourage juicing for most of my clients.”

“Balance is the key, as with pretty much everything in life,” says Bruce Miller, Registered Dietician. “The real issue is the choice to be able to carry around, conveniently, a concentrated fruit and vegetable foodstuff that can provide the nutrients that are otherwise difficult to consume for the average person on the go. Juices and smoothies meet that need well, they don’t involve carrying around a bunch of broccoli and whatnot. As an alternative, which is the real conversation that most people are having, a juice is far better than nearly any other easily portable, convenient foodstuff and, in many cases, a very healthy option.” λ

ONLINE BONUS Three at-home juicer recipes

Green Food Lover’s Blast

A juice that is great for green food lovers who like their juices to taste great but not be too sweet. This is a great juice for weight loss and is packed with energy, fiber and vital nutrients.

¼ cucumber, sliced
¼ zucchini, sliced
1 celery stalk
½ cup fresh pineapple
1 large handful of chopped kale
1 large handful of spinach
1 large handful of fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp maca powder
1 cup unsweetened coconut water (optional)

Add all ingredients to your (24 oz.) juicer cup, fill with water to about 3/5 of the cup and extract until smooth. Serve and enjoy immediately.

Dreamy Creamy Berry-Tini

This insulin-regulating shake will help keep blood sugar levels in check. Cinnamon is a great diabetic-friendly boost, while avocado adds a creamy consistency. Swirl in some blackberries and you have a sweet treat with no refined sugars.

2 cups spinach
½ avocado
1 cup blackberries
¼ cup oats
2 tsp cinnamon

Add all ingredients to your (24 oz.) juicer cup, fill with water to about 3/5 of the cup and extract until smooth. Serve and enjoy immediately.

Mood Improving Shakes

This juice contains several mood-boosting ingredients: Swiss chard contains magnesium, a natural stress reliever; while basil contains eugenol and rosmarinic acid, compounds that boost the brain’s production of dopamine and serotonin. Cinnamon and avocado both help slow the release of glucose into the blood stream, calming blood sugar flucatations.

1 cup Swiss chard
Handful of fresh basil (about 6 large leaves)
4 leaves fresh mint
1 fresh scallion, white part removed
1 cup strawberries
1 carrot, washed, peeled and cut into rounds
½ avocado
2 tsp cinnamon

Add all ingredients to your juicer (24 oz.) cup, fill with almond milk to about 3/5 of the cup and extract until smooth. Serve and enjoy immediately.

- Recipes courtesy of NutriBullet®

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