Andrew Siegel, M.D. Blog # 62
By juicing, I am not referring to the use of anabolic steroids, but the liquefaction of fruits, vegetables and whatever other components one would like to blend up into a healthy concoction. Consuming fresh, raw vegetables and fruit converted into juice is a means of helping to maintain vitality and wellness.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of juicers—those that separate the juice from the solid components (fiber), and those that blend the liquid juice components and the solid fiber component. A carrot juicer, an example of the former, will separate the sweet carrot juice from the rough fiber that is discarded, yielding a sweet, delicious, carbohydrate-rich but fiber-poor drink. An example of the latter is the Vitamix, which beats up into a liquid pulp all of the component ingredients, e.g., a smoothie with soy milk, bananas, apples, blueberries, spinach, celery, carrots and almonds. This concoction is also sweet and delicious, but in addition to vitamins, minerals, trace elements, anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients, retains the all-important fiber that provides us with numerous advantages and benefits.
Fiberrefers to the part of plant foods that our bodies are not capable of digesting. It passes through our bodies relatively unscathed, providing no calories, and is one of our key protective measures against obesity. Fiber does all sorts of wonderful things for our bodies including: increases our satiety and fullness because of the bulk and volume of the insoluble matter; promotes intestinal motility and thus bowel regularity; slows carbohydrate absorption and the conversion of complex carbohydrates to simple sugars, thus modulating digestion and controlling blood glucose levels; and decreases the absorption of cholesterol.
Whenever nature provides us with a nutrient that is potentially harmful to our health, it usually limits access to that nutrient. With sugar—potentially dangerous in high doses—nature has also included the antidote, fiber. Juicers that separate the sweet juice from the pulpy fiber have allowed us to cheat nature by eliminating the safety mechanism. For example, 12 ounces of carrot juice have approximately 120 calories of sugar; this is not necessarily bad unless you are carrying extra pounds that you are trying to eliminate. Carrot juice is a delicious taste treat and better than drinking a can of soda, but is not very filling because of the absence of fiber and is a bolus of rapidly absorbed sugar that stimulates an insulin spike, which promotes storage as fat. To get the same caloric load from carrots, you would have to eat about 4 average-sized carrots—something that not many people would necessarily do. It would take a good deal of time and chewing effort and I would venture to say that those who desire a carrot as a snack would stop at one, maybe two at the most. Nature’s unit is one carrot; with the juice, there is no such unit. As opposed to the juice, the carrot is filling, the sugar absorption is slower and the insulin spike much less pronounced. The key point is that is that if you are going to juice, use juicers that retain the fiber. You can still enjoy delicious, fulfilling—and incredibly healthy—drinks.
- If you dislike the taste of vegetables, juicing with fruit added for sweetness will help you get an adequate daily intake of vegetables. Very few of us consume the recommended 6-8 daily servings of vegetables, so juicing makes it easier to achieve this goal.
- Juicing allows us to add a wider variety of vegetables to our diet than we would typically consume, as opposed to the habit that many of us have of eating virtually the same vegetables every day.
- It is entirely possible to train our taste buds away from the fat-sugar-salt snack habit that so many of us have. Eventually you can get to the point that you actually develop cravings for your juicing concoctions.
- Raw juicing is of theoretical advantage since heating can sometimes damage or alter micronutrients.
- Juicing facilitates absorption of nutrients since it mechanically “pre-digests” foods; the liquid slurry is much more easily absorbed than the intact components.
- Retaining the pulp (fiber) is preferable and desirable.
- Juicing makes for a great snack or meal supplement and a fabulous replenishing drink after a good workout.
- Choose organic when possible. You can use any combination of vegetables and fruits. Using a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables will assure a broad range of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Being creative can yield some great concoctions. You can supplement with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.
- Juices are very perishable so it is best to consume them right away.
- Citrus fruits can neutralize the bitter taste of dark, leafy green vegetables.
- With devices like the Vitamix, in addition to juicing, you can also whip up smoothies, hummus, soups, nut butters, etc.
Andrew Siegel, M.D.
Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food
Now available on Amazon Kindle