Food for Thought

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Is juicing the solution, asks Glenn Cardwell. 
“You are not serious about your health until you juice combinations of fruits and vegetables, according to those that pray at the Church of Blended Plants. You exchange recipes online and discuss the best juicers and blenders on the market and tell the world of nature’s wonders. But will juicing elevate your health beyond the capabilities of the original ingredients?

Juicing is a relatively new concept, with the popularity growing over the last 30 years. The great thing is that you can develop your own creative formulas and in an instant you have a tasty and nutritious drink that you can down in seconds before you go to work, or sip while you check emails.

Berry boost

Berry boost, from The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook (photo courtesy Hachette Australia)

Don’t forget the pulp: Well-known Australian Food Coach Judy Davie says her favourite juice recipe is perfect for keeping her “regular”, even if she doesn’t include the pulp. Well, she probably eats lots of other fibre foods too. Now, one criticism about juicing is that the fibrous pulp is often discarded and plant fibre is excellent for your insides. Judy reserves the pulp for using in muffins. Smart idea. Those healthy bacteria in your intestines get particularly upset if you don’t include their favourite food (they eat the fibre to produce protective compounds against bowel cancer and nutrients in your large intestine).

Enzyme hoax: Some people will tell you that juices contain enzymes, or even “live” enzymes (do they socialise and swap orchard stories?). As an enzyme is a protein, and all consumed proteins encounter protease enzymes in the small intestine, it makes no difference if they are alive or semi-conscious, because they are all going to be chopped up into small chains of amino acids. It may sound like a horrible death, but that is the cruelty of nature I’m afraid. Enzymes are proteins. We eat them. They die. Then their amino acids get made into human proteins we can use and bingo!, they start a new life.

Another favourite line is that juices “detox” the body. Nope, and that’s a definite. What detoxifies your body are the lungs, liver and kidneys and they work around the clock doing a fabulous job for eight or ten decades, with luck, providing you give them good care. Detox anything’s are a scam. Eating well is normal, leaving your body to do its own detoxification and “cleansing”.

Drinking vs chewing: Enjoy your homemade juice but don’t make that the only way you get two fruits and five veggies inside you. One clear benefit from eating fruit and veg the traditional way (i.e. chewing) is that it takes longer than drinking. Chewing food takes time, and taking time over food means that you are better able to control your appetite and less likely to overeat.

Commercial juices from the supermarket are likely to be devoid of fibre, possibly be more dilute than what comes out of your juicer, and won’t contain the love and flavour of your homemade version. Fruit juices are generally 12% sugar (12g per 100ml/3½fl.oz.), which is the same as a regular soft drink, so it becomes a very easy way to drink quite a few calories as juice. Knocking back 300ml (10fl.oz.) of juice will give you 145 cals/600kJs, about the same as eating three medium apples. The juice won’t make much of dent in your appetite; eating three apples will.

What does it all mean? Juices and juicing can be a neat way to get nutrients from fruit and vegetables, especially if you are in a hurry. Juicing can also be a refreshing drink that you are confident is “good for you”. Try and include the whole food where possible to avoid peeling. For example, the peel of an apple has 60–100% of its antioxidant flavonols. Just don’t rely on juicing to get all your fruits and vegetables, and don’t think you have moved up to a higher plane, because all those non-juicers who just chew their plant food will be equally wholesome and well.”

Glenn Cardwell
Glenn Cardwell
is an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Make sure you check out Glenn’s website.