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To Juice or Not To Juice

Should You Be Drinking Your Salad?

by Gerri French, MS, RD, CDE

Whether you are a believer in the low-carb or high-carb diet, Paleo, South Beach or Forks over Knives, all credible diets agree that vegetables are super foods. The resurgence of juicing sounds healthy. But is it? This article will not be addressing juicing as a method of “cleansing” or detoxifying the body, but as an adjunct to eating and obtaining concentrated nutrition.

Are Juices Healthy? They Can Be.

Drinking a blended salad that is somewhat “pre-digested” can be useful for people with digestive problems, and a way to obtain concentrated nutrients in a form that is easier to take in.

The digestion of food, particularly starch, begins in our mouth where digestive enzymes are found in saliva. Drinking our food quickly misses out on the first step to good digestion. So, think about taking a pause, smelling your food, tasting it and experiencing the flavor. This is called Mindful Eating and has been found to dramatically improve digestion and reduce caloric intake.

Juicing provides an opportunity to drink a delightful beverage that contains a mixture of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Plant foods can feed and maintain healthy microflora in our gastrointestinal system which stimulate our immune system, normalize our metabolism and improve our cardiovascular health.

So if you want to drink a green juice, what type of vegetable juice is recommended? First of all, drinking a vegetable juice is extremely different than fruit smoothies, which contain an abundance of calories from carbohydrates that are usually recommended for active people.

The two main types of vegetable juices are 1) those prepared in a juicer or 2) those prepared in a blender.

Juicers

Traditional juicers use centrifugal force to pulverize the vegetables and produce a liquid separated from the pulp of the plants. Many of the new juice companies in town are using a method where the juice is extracted by a “cold pressed” system which claims that the damage to the plant is less dramatic, reduces oxidative stress and the overall nutrition is improved. It is true that any juicer that separates the pulp from the liquid will be removing most of the fiber. However, without the fiber, the nutrients are condensed and in a form that is better digested. The quality of any juice can be improved when the vegetables are fresh, free from chemicals and prepared organically where the soil is nourished accordingly. In addition, adding herbs and spices such as cilantro, ginger and turmeric will significantly improve its medicinal properties. Food from your own garden is ideal!

Blenders

Blenders are good for mixing, cutting or emulsifying fruits, vegetables and other food substances because it operates with a rotating blade. Most standard blenders will require water or some type of liquid to create the juice. Adding fruit juice will add natural sugar, blood sugar raising potential and calories. Some people will add yogurt or various types of milk (cow, almond, soy, rice, coconut) to create a richer tasting juice. Adding only water will make your green drink very green and may taste bitter to some, while others will enjoy its tang with or without added lemon and ginger.

I recommend that people consider drinking vegetable juices regularly instead of eating bars, crackers and snack foods. Though the protein and/or fat content is not significant, people claim that they stay fuller longer with an afternoon vegetable juice. Some people add healthy plant fats such as avocado, nut butters or coconut for texture and satiety. Many people claim that they feel more vitalized after drinking a concentrated mixture of fresh produce. Sounds good to me!

Gerri French, MS, is a registered dietitian (RD) and certified diabetes educator (CDE) for Sansum Clinic. Gerri has been a clinical nutritionist and cooking instructor for 30 years. She is also a mother and enjoys sharing practical information and recipes with her patients and their families.

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