Getting Juiced

For example, one of the rules that you hear us spout out all of the time is “milk is food for cows, not for humans.” This rule is based on the fact that there is an ingredient in cow’s milk (casein) that the human body cannot break down – we do not have the ability to make the enzyme needed to do that job. It is also based on a keen observation of what happens in the rest of nature… you never see an animal drinking the milk of a different animal.

Another rule is “moderation and variation.” This speaks to the idea that in our diet, we are much better served by having smaller amounts of a large variety of fruits and vegetables than eating large amounts of just a few, even if those few are power packed with certain nutrients. It also refers to the idea that a little chocolate isn’t going to kill you.

One of my favorite rules that I know is so basic and universal that every single one of us would benefit if we followed it is… “eat foods the way that nature provides them.” The implications of this one spread far and wide.

That means that processed foods are a no-no. So, for the most part, I’m talking about anything that comes in any sort of package – be it a bottle, can, bag or whatever.

**note: right about now would be a good time to apply the “moderation and variation rule.” I would be lying if I told you that I never eat foods out of packages. I do try, however, to make that a less prevalent occurrence than it used to be!

There is one particular food that comes in a package that I want to concentrate on in this column… juice. (did you get my little joke there? I said “concentrate”)

We have been advertised and marketed into thinking that the concentrated juice from certain fruits and vegetables is actually good for us… and it just is not true. If we were to apply my favorite rule then we would come to the conclusion that natures provides us with oranges and apples and grapes. We don’t see orange juice growing on a tree or grape juice growing on a vine.

The reason I bring this subject up now is because it seems that every morning I wake up I hear about the newest “miracle” juice that will change my life… Noni, Mangosteen, Goji, Acai, Pomegranate… tomorrow there will be another one, I’m sure. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t drink any of these juices… but let’s explore all of the pluses and minuses and we’ll do so trying to stay focused on what the real goal is intended to be anyway.

Fruits and vegetables are sources of many nutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients – that are antioxidants. Simply put, “Oxidation” is the process by which aging happens and is often times the precursor to chronic disease. And so anti-oxidants go around your body and “mop up” excess oxidants and offer defense against this rusting-like progression.

The idea of “concentrating” these phytonutrients seems like a noble idea… more is better, of course. The problem is that in that “concentrating” process we are concentrating another thing (sugar in a potentially nasty form) and losing some of those desired phytonutrients.

The sugar that is in fruit is called fructose. An eight ounce glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice has around 8 teaspoons of this sugar. And many juices actually have sugar added to it for various reasons. As discussed earlier here, fructose gets used by the body in a different way then simple table sugar; it gets taken out of the blood by the liver and gets stored as fat quite readily.

It would take 6 or so oranges to get 8 ounces of juice. How likely is it that you would sit down and eat 6 oranges and how long would it take you if you did? But, you can get the sugar from 6 oranges in about 30 seconds. This is part of the reason why people actually like fruit juice, because of the taste of all that sugar! And the effect of that much fructose hitting the bloodstream so quickly is the unfortunate tendency towards getting fatter.

Furthermore, what comes out of the back of the juicing machine is maybe more important than the part that you are getting with the juice. Many fruits concentrate their phytonutrients in the skin. The reason for this is that they create phytonutrients in the first place to protect their seeds from the damaging sun… and the skin is the barrier to the outside world. Also, it is the fibers in the fruit (that gets separated from the “juice”) that slows the absorption of the fructose in the gut.

So… when you eat the whole fruit you get the skin and fibers and sugars all in a package that nature intended… and your body uses it all much differently than if you squeeze it and only drink what comes from that.

Unfortunately the habit of drinking fruit juice starts very young in this country. I believe this occurs because of that most insidious of culprits – misinformation. As parents we are somehow taught that giving our children fruit juice is a good thing to do… this couldn’t be further from the truth. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that children under 12 years old drink the most of the 2 billion gallons of fruit juice that we Americans drink every year. In fact, 90% of our kids drink fruit juice by the time they are 1 year old.

This may have been a reasonable idea in the distant past when fresh fruit was not as readily available as today and getting children enough vitamin C was a concern. That concern no longer exists, and yet the habit not only persists, but actually thrives today. And as I said earlier, many fruit juice products contain some fruit juice along with other additives, including more sugar. These are known as “fruit drinks” or “fruit beverages” or “fruit cocktails”!

Now, back to the “super juices’ that we hear about in the news, or more likely from some neighbor or distant relative that is hooked up with one of those multi-level companies. All of these juices, one way or another, are from fruits that come from some exotic land, the consumption of which is proclaimed to be the reason why the people that live in those exotic lands are so darn beautiful and live to a ripe, old age practically disease free. And so, we are lead to believe that if we drink the juice from those same fruits that we’ll get the same benefit.

Here’s the problem with that logic… first of all, those people are much more likely eating the actual fruit, not drinking the juice from that fruit. Secondly… those people live in a beautiful, exotic land! Let me sit around and eat fruit all day on the beach under palm trees with other beautiful exotic people around me and I promise that my tendency towards heart attack or cancer will dramatically decrease. Can we get the same thing from a bottle here in Baltimore??

So… here’s the bottom line. First of all… there are certain people who are more likely to suffer the worst complications of the negatives of commercial fruit juices. Juice should probably be avoided by people who are overweight, diabetic, or have high blood pressure or cholesterol. If you must drink fruit juice, make sure it is pure fruit juice and make sure that it has as much pulp as possible… sediment on the bottom of the bottle would indicate that some skin is included. Also, you might consider diluting it with water or sparkling water.

And if you want juice, the best thing would be to do your own juicing. That way you can have more control over the process. You can make sure that the fruit (or vegetables) used is organic, fresh and ripe. You can also use the kind of juicer that does a better job of extracting the components with a lower speed and less heat… the one we suggest is called Omega Juicer.

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