Diet – The great juic­ing de­bate

DI­ETI­CIANS and HEALTH EX­PERTS just can’t seem to agree on the va­lid­ity of JUICE CLEANSES. WE take a look at the ups and downs of a LIQ­UID DIET.

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By now few of us need con­vinc­ing of the im­por­tance of fruit and veg­gies for good health. Or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion of South Africa and the Cancer As­so­ci­a­tion con­stantly tell us we need to be get­ting at least five por­tions daily, with a serv­ing be­ing a small ap­ple or a cup of chopped veg­gies. The de­bate comes in on whether we should sim­ply eat our veg­gies and fruit – or join the move to juic­ing.

Juic­ing ad­vo­cates, like nat­u­ral health ther­a­pist Eud­isha Ba­likarani, man­ager of Na­masté Well­ness Re­treats in the KwaZulu-Natal Mid­lands, say juic­ing al­lows you to take in a far higher con­cen­tra­tion of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, an­tiox­i­dants, en­zymes and other nu­tri­ents in one go. “When you eat fruit and veg­eta­bles, the bulky fi­bre fills you up,” she says. “It’s dif­fi­cult to eat more than two fruits at a time, but easy to drink the juice of six in a sin­gle glass, and it’s read­ily di­gested.”

She, and many who juice, sug­gest pe­ri­odic juice fasts – hav­ing noth­ing but juice for sev­eral days to ‘detox’. They say this rids your body of tox­ins, gives your di­ges­tive sys­tem a rest, neu­tralises acid­ity, and not only helps you lose weight, but has many health ben­e­fits too.

Reg­is­tered di­eti­tians, how­ever, tend to dis­agree. “Your di­ges­tive sys­tem is de­signed to han­dle fi­bre and ef­fec­tively ex­tract nu­tri­ents from a va­ri­ety of foods, in­clud­ing whole fruits and veg­eta­bles,” says Dur­ban di­eti­cian Hlanzeka Mpanza, a nu­tri­tion­ist at Unilever. With juice, she adds, you miss out on the many ben­e­fits of that fi­bre: bet­ter ap­petite con­trol be­cause you feel fuller longer, lower choles­terol and blood pres­sure, im­proved in­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity (which helps con­trol blood su­gar lev­els), fewer di­ges­tive prob­lems, and re­duced risk of obe­sity and car­dio­vas­cu­lar diseases.

“Too much even of a good thing is not good,” Mpanza says. “When juiced, fruits can be a con­cen­trated source of su­gar com­pared to veg­eta­bles. Drink­ing lots of pure fruit juice can cause a spike in your blood su­gar, which may lead to ex­ces­sive weight gain – a lifestyle risk for di­a­betes.”

Some di­eti­tians also cau­tion that tak­ing in the high con­cen­tra­tions of cer­tain vi­ta­mins in pure juices may not be a good idea over time. Ex­cess wa­ter-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins (vi­ta­mins C and B) are sim­ply ex­creted when you pee, but fat sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins (A,D, E and K) ac­cu­mu­late in your fat cells, says Katherine Zer­atsky, a spe­cial­ist in nu­tri­tion and healthy eat­ing at the Mayo Clinic in the US. ‘There’s no sound sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that ex­tracted juices are health­ier than the juice you get by eat­ing the fruit or veg­etable it­self,” she says.

Mpanza adds that we eat food for rea­sons be­yond health and nu­tri­tion. “Al­though hav­ing a juice is per­fectly fine for sup­ple­ment­ing healthy di­ets, hav­ing small nu­tri­tious meals in­stead of only juices adds the en­joy­ment of tex­ture, pro­vides so­cial oc­ca­sions with loved ones, and helps us eat mind­fully.

“Juice some­times has as many, if not more, calo­ries than most meals, but be­cause we drink it quite quickly, some peo­ple may lose con­scious­ness of how much they are ac­tu­ally con­sum­ing.”

JUICE RIGHT

Juic­ing is a sim­ple way to in­cor­po­rate more veg­gies and fruits in your diet, just don’t let it re­place eat­ing them too, for im­por­tant fi­bre, says Mpanza. If you’re go­ing to juice: In­clude dif­fer­ent types and colours of fruits and veg­eta­bles, as all have dif­fer­ent nu­tri­ents. Do not strain the juice. “Have the fruit pulp in your drink as well, al­though stud­ies sug­gest this is still not as good as the fi­bre you get when eat­ing whole fruits and veg­eta­bles,” she says. Make fresh juice each time and drink it straight away – un­less it’s pas­turised, bac­te­ria can grow rapidly in your juice and trig­ger food poi­son­ing. Wash the fruit and veg­gies very well to get rid of bac­te­ria on the peel and any residues of chem­i­cals or pes­ti­cides. (Try grow­ing your own, or­gan­i­cally, so you know what’s on your in­gre­di­ents.) To keep su­gar lev­els low, aim to juice mainly veg­gies and add just only much fruit as you need for some sweet­ness and flavour.

THE NEW COOL

Juic­ing may be the lat­est trend, but it’s been around since the late 1800s, pi­o­neered by the likes of raw food ad­vo­cate Arnold Ehret in Europe and chi­ro­prac­tor and iri­dol­o­gist Dr Bernard Jensen in the US. There was a re­vival of in­ter­est in it dur­ing the hippy 60s and 70s. The cur­rent trend, fea­tur­ing pre­mium ‘cold-crafted’ juices, took off in Cal­i­for­nia in the past 10 years and shows no signs of slow­ing – what was once the pre­serve of health geeks has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful.

Ta­mara Scrib­ante, owner of The Juice Kitchen in Hill­crest, one of the first juice bars in South Africa, says the raw fruit and veg­gie mar­ket is now es­ti­mated to be worth a cool R26-66 bil­lion in the US alone. “Juice bars are as com­mon over there as cof­fee bars, and hope­fully we’re headed that way too. They’re equally pop­u­lar among young women both black and white.”

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