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Juicing, another way to eat your vegetables

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- For people who have trouble eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day, juicing may be a good way to do it, said Lynn Holum, clinical dietitian with Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

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Consuming four or five cups of fruits and vegetables daily can be daunting, especially if you don’t like the taste of certain foods but do like their nutritional benefits, she said.

Daily dietary recommendations say to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate.gov.  

“The biggest advantage (of juicing) is for the person who struggles to eat fruits and vegetables but wants to increase the nutritional variety in their diet,” Holum said. “For example, they may not like the taste of kale eaten plain, but they may juice it with berries” to make it palatable.

Holum said she is seeing evidence of juicing’s growing popularity, with more juice bars and places that specialize in juicing. “Making juice that you can grab and go, that convenience can be a plus.”      

Eating more fruits and vegetables provides a number of health benefits, such as improved weight management and control of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, she said.

Healthier?  

Juicing provides benefits and can add some zest and variety to your diet, but claims by juicing proponents that it is healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables are often far-fetched, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Some proponents say juicing is healthier because the body can absorb the nutrients better and it gives the digestive system a rest from working on fiber, said Jennifer Nelson, a Mayo dietitian, in an article for the Health Letter.

“They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help you remove toxins from your body, aid digestion and help you lose weight. However, there’s no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself.”  

The liquid that’s produced by the juicing process contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in the whole fruit, according to MayoClinic.com. But whole fruits and vegetables also have healthy fiber, which is lost during most juicing.

“Eating whole food is probably ideal because of the fiber and pulp,” Holum said. She would not recommend a diet that consists only of juicing.

“Eliminating an entire food group, that’s always a concern nutritionally. You’d be missing nutrients that you need.”

Including juicing as part of a balanced diet is better, she said.

Cleansing, weight loss

Some of the patients Holum works with at Altru have turned to juicing as a way “to cleanse or detoxify the body, or as a way to jump-start weight loss,” she said.

But “there’s no scientific evidence showing that juicing removes toxins from the body. The body has a natural ability to remove toxins … with a healthy diet.”   

Managing or losing weight “is not the result of one single factor, so it’s not realistic to think that one thing, like juicing, will take care of that,” Holum said.

A better approach might be “meal replacement,” she said. “For example, do juicing for breakfast and have whole fruits and vegetables for lunch and supper.”

Some people have trouble staying on a liquid diet because, generally, juice doesn’t provide the protein or fat necessary to reach satiety, a sense of feeling full, after a meal.

People who want to control or reduce weight need a plan they can use long term, she said.

Juicing may actually contribute to greater calorie intake, according to MayoClinic.com.

Some homemade juices can contain significant amounts of natural sugars and may contain more calories than you think. It’s easy to drink a lot of liquid calories without realizing how much you’ve taken in.  

Equipment

Juicing has come a long way in recent years, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Trendy juice bars and TV ads promoting juicers are commonplace.       

Juicing appliances to use at home may range from $30 to more than $300.   

Juice extractors, which are usually advertised on TV, use whirling blades that chop the food into tiny pieces that are then spun or pressed to separate the juice from the dietary fiber of the plant.   

What you’re left with is liquid and varying amounts of pulp, which is dietary fiber. Some juice extractors can be adjusted so that you can filter out more or less pulp. Juice with a higher level of pulp will have a more pudding-like consistency. With less pulp, the juice will be more watery.

In addition to the cost of equipment, juicing may mean buying more fruits and vegetables, which “in this area can be quite costly depending on the season,” Holum said. Also, “it would take a fair amount of fruits and vegetables to produce the juice.”  

But if you already drink a lot of juice, the cost of buying a juicing machine and juicing at home may be lower over time than is regularly buying bottles of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, according to Mayo’s Health Letter.

Juicing tips  

When making your own juice, try to include as much plant fiber — which is found mainly in the skin — and pulp as possible, Holum said. “You can save it and add it to soups and stews or bake with it.”   

Also, make only as much juice as you intend to drink immediately, she said. Juice that is not consumed right away can harbor harmful bacteria.

If you buy commercially produced fresh juice from a juicing stand or store, select a pasteurized product, Larson recommended.  

“You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your taste,” Larson said.  

But don’t take an “all or nothing” approach with juicing, Holum said. “Eat a balanced diet with less processed foods.

“Try to eat more whole foods and nutrient-dense, colorful foods. Those are indicators of nutritional value.”

Daily servings of fruit

2 to 3 years old: 1 cup

4 to 8 years old: 1 to 1½ cups

9 to 13 years old: 1½ cups

Girls 14 to 18 years old: 1½ cups

Boys 14 to 18 years old: 2 cups

19 to 30 years old: 2 cups

Women 31 and older: 1½ cups

Men 31 and older: 2 cups

Daily servings of vegetables

2 to 3 years old: 1 cup

4 to 8 years old: 1½ cups

Girls 9 to 13 years old: 2 cups

Boys 9 to 13 years old: 2½ cups

Girls 14 to 18 years old: 2½ cups

Boys 14 to 18 years old: 3 cups

Women 19 to 50 years old: 2½ cups

Men 19 to 50 years old: 3 cups

Women 51 and older: 2 cups

Men 51 and older: 2½ cups

*These amounts of fruits and veggies are appropriate for those who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity beyond normal daily activities.

 
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