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Is Juicing a Raw Deal?

Open any magazine devoted to health and nutrition, and you are sure to see an advertisement for a juicer. Juicing is good for you, the ads say, and to really take advantage of the power of juicing, you have to buy a juicer. Juice!, the ads say, and spend a few hundred dollars on a superjuicer!

A few hundred dollars is a lot of money. This is especially so for those who tend to wonder, as many no doubt do, if juicing, and by extension, fruits and vegetables, (ever heard of juicing meat?) is worth the paper its good press is printed on. What are the concerns that some might have? Letís start at the beginning. Why not meat? Why fruits and vegetables? Why raw fruits and vegetables? Why juice? Why a juicer? Why hundreds of dollars?

Why not meat?

Most North Americans eat meat. It is generally considered the best source of protein (although there are those who contend that the protein in cooked meat is not usable) and has a high position in the food pantheon. North Americans worship meat by making it the centerpiece of many of our important celebrations: Turkey at Thanksgiving, turkey on Christmas, and so on. You do not often hear people discussing their Christmas broccoli, or the wonderful stuffed peppers they had for Thanksgiving.

However, health experts all agree that meat is not the most healthy food option. A diet high in meat, in particular red meat, has been linked to increased incidences of heart disease and a number of cancers. Much of this is probably due to its fat content. Is meat inherently bad? Many would say yes, but much of its bad reputation comes from its overconsumption.

Why fruits and vegetables?

Now that we have taken care of the first question, letís move on to fruits and vegetables. In the last few years there have been nearly countless studies on the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and health professionals worldwide are recommending that we eat more of them. Important substances in fruits and vegetables called phytochemicals are being studied for their positive effect on preventing health problems and sometimes for treating health problems.

Some of the research on phytochemicals is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has launched a multimillion-dollar project to find, isolate, and study phytochemicals. The result of this and similar research is an ever-increasing wealth of data that point to the possible positive effect of fruits and vegetables on our health.

For example, research has shown that broccoli contains the substance sulforaphane, which may prevent breast cancer. Citrus fruits contain limone, which increases the activity of enzymes that eliminate carcinogens. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and similar vegetables contain indoles, which might lower the risk of breast cancer.

An article published in the April 12, 1995, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), looked at the protective effect of fruits and vegetables against stroke. This study followed a group of 832 men for 20 years. The incidence of stroke in this time period was figured to be 191.7 per 1,000 in the men who ate two or fewer servings of fruits and vegetables a day, compared to 78.7 per 1,000 in the men who ate eight or more servings a day. The study concluded that "The more servings of fruits and vegetables they ate, the lower their risk of stroke."

Since late 1995, there has been a spate of publicity on tomatoes and prostate health. The December 6, 1996, edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute contained an article that discusses carotenoids and retinol (vitamin A) in relation to risk of prostate cancer. The article notes that the "Combined intake of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, and pizza was inversely associated with risk of prostate cancer," and "Our findings support recommendations to increase vegetable and fruit consumption to reduce cancer incidence but suggest that tomato-based foods may be especially beneficial regarding prostate cancer risk." Lycopene, a phytochemical found in tomatoes, was credited for the anticancer effect.

An article in the February 27, 1996, issue of Cancer Letters looked at beet root and cancer. An animal study showed that beet root has a significant tumor inhibitory effect and that "The combined findings suggest that beet root ingestion can be one of the useful means to prevent cancer."

More recently, evidence has been found that eating fruits, vegetables, and grains is a good way to prevent cancer of the colon and rectum. While many previous studies looked at specific substances in foods and their relationship to health, a recent report in the American Journal of Epidemiology (1996: 144) says that a whole food effect may be what is important in preventive health. Researchers found that anti-disease effects persisted even when individual nutrients in a food were low. In other words, it may be the total synergy of nutrients that provide benefits, not individual substances.

Of course, this should be nothing new to us. After all, for years, moms around the world have been telling children to eat fruits and vegetables. Where moms and juicers differ, however, is in how to eat the fruits and vegetables.

Why raw fruits and vegetables?

Mom did say to eat vegetables, but often in the wrong form. Many people remember vegetables as mushy piles of discolored slop. In other words, mom had the right idea, but she tried to cook vegetables as she cooked meat: well-done. Well-done is not how vegetables (and fruits) should be prepared.

Why raw foods are better has to do with what they contain: important nutrients. Raw foods are still living; they still contain vitamins and minerals. Cooked foods are not quite so alive. When we cook foods, whether vegetables, fruits, or meats, we destroy many of their nutrients--ówe give ourselves less nutritional bang for our buck. These destroyed nutrients could include phytochemicals such as lycopene, as noted above. Although some vitamins and minerals survive heat, enzymes do not. They begin to weaken at temperatures of 118 F , and are destroyed at 130 F.

Enzymes spark the hundreds of thousands of chemical reactions that occur throughout the body; they are essential for the digestion and absorption of food, for the conversion of food stuffs into body tissue, and for the production of energy at the cellular level. In fact, enzymes are essential for most of the building and rebuilding that goes on in our bodies every day. When foods are cooked, enzymes can be destroyed; that is why raw foods are so important to us. They provide us with an excellent source of all-important enzymes.

Why juice?

So, why not just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables instead of going through the trouble of juicing? This question is a pulp of contention in the juicing world. According to some juicing authorities, there is no reason to eliminate the fiber, as the fibery pulp which is eliminated does contain nutrients. More importantly, fiber is good for you. It is nearly universally accepted that a diet high in fiber results in reduced risk of colon cancer, lower cholesterol, and other healthful benefits.

Others feel differently about fiber. Although they acknowledge fiberís health benefits, they feel that in the case of juicing, the fiber should be eliminated. Taking the fiber out makes sense because you are simply saving your digestive tract some work and you some energy. What our digestive tract does to whole foods is change them to a liquid; if we start with a liquid, we are helping it out.

Fiber also inhibits the absorption of nutrients. According to Norman Walker, D.Sc., in Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices, eliminating the fiber from fruits and vegetables means that valuable nutrients get to you faster. Although this may at times seem insignificant-- "hey, I can wait an hour"--in other situations it may be important. For many, there is a need to receive the benefits of juicing as quickly as possible. Walker gives the example of using celery to combat extreme heat. If you eat celery, and then wait a few hours for it to be digested and absorbed, it may be too late. However, if you drink celery juice, you receive the relief you need immediately.

What is Norman Walkerís expertise? Although Dr. Walker does have credentials and devoted his life to the study of a healthy diet, perhaps more impressive is the effect juicing had on him. Dr. Walker was an early advocate of natural health, and wrote his first book in 1936. However, he became seriously ill in his early 50s. He began juicing and using raw fruits and vegetables, and lived to the ripe old age of 119 (reports of his age vary from 109 to 130)!

Of course, personal validation, such as Dr. Walkerís and many othersí, is not always taken seriously. There are, however, facts behind the stories. A USA Today magazine story (October 1996; vol. 125, no. 2617) reported a study done at the University of Wisconsin on drinking grape juice. Researchers reported that drinking multiple glasses of grape juice may have anti-clogging effects on the arteries. This is probably due to naturally occurring components known as flavonoids, that, in this case, reduce the "stickiness" of platelets, the cells that "stick" together to enable blood to clot.

A MedLine search (MedLine is a database containing articles published in a wide range of medical journals) turned up the following titles on fruits, vegetables, and juicing: "Dietary supplementation with orange and carrot juice in cigarette smokers lowers oxidation products in copper- oxidized low-density lipoproteins." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 95: 6, 1995. June. 671-5.

"The bioavailability of iron in different weaning foods and the enhancing effect of a fruit drink containing ascorbic acid." Pediatric Research 37: 4 Pt 1, 1995. April, 389-94.

"Infection control. The therapeutic uses of cranberry juice." Nurs Stand, 9: 34, 1995. May 17-23, 33-5.

Why a juicer?

The best way to ask "why a juicer" is to look closely at the label of most fruit juices. What comes first? Corn syrup? Sugar? How much fruit (or vegetable) is actually in the juice? Unfortunately, most of the easy-to-buy, right-off-the-shelf juices available in grocery stores are not so much the juice from raw fruits and vegetables as they are sugar water with a bit of fruit or vegetable juice. These juices also generally contain a number of preservatives, coloring agents, and other unnecessary and possibly detrimental additives.

That brings us to juicing your own fruits and vegetables. This can be done by hand of course, but see how many eight-ounce glasses of orange juice you squeeze before getting tired. Or, for a greater challenge, try juicing vegetables or grasses. Thatís why a juicer.

Why hundreds of dollars?

There are many juicers on the market, ranging from inexpensive to expensive. They all have certain features, and make certain claims.

A juicer will make juicing easier. Of course, the money you spend on a juicer will not be your only expense. There is also your time. It takes time to run the juicer and keep it clean afterward. Many people feel that they do not have this time.

The answer

Is juicing a raw deal? No. It seems evident that the benefits of raw fruits and vegetables and juicing them far exceed the money and time incurred in juicing. Ideally, many people believe that we should only eat raw foods, but the reality is that this is nearly impossible for most of us. The answer, as is often the case, is a matter of balance. Balance your diet so that the scales do tip in the direction of raw fruits and vegetables. Drink juices for fast and complete nutrition, but also eat fiber to gain its benefits.

Finally, if you have trouble finding the time to juice, consider using whole food concentrates. They can provide you with the benefits of juicing without the hassle. See the BarleyLife, Just Carrots and RediBeet products.

Suggested reading

Blauer, Stephen. The Juicing Book. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group. 1989.

Heinerman, John. Encyclopedia of Healing Juices. West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Co. 1994.

Walker, Norman W. D.Sc. Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices. Prescott, AZ: Norwalk Press. 1970.

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