Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Real Joy of Juicing

It has become practically an article of nutritional faith that everyone needs to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. But juicing is the easiest way to be sure you get all the plant foods a healthy body needs.

What's special about juice? It's convenient. It tastes better because more of our senses are involved when we drink juice than when eat chunks of fruit and veggies. It has some special advantages for appetite control and for minimizing fat storage, and the right juices (I'm partial to vegetable juices) can cancel out some of the ill effects of poor food choices.

An obvious advantage of drinking juice is convenience. It takes time to buy fresh veggies and fruit. They have to be taken home, washed, and refrigerated or used right away to avoid spoilage. If you are going to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, it's only natural to want 5 to 9 different fruits and vegetables every day, and that only adds to the burden of choosing them at the market and preparing them at home. And if you are eating out once or twice a day, chances are you aren't going to get the 9 servings of veggies your body really needs without paying a lot more for your meals. Juice is an easy way to get your fruits and veggies without spending hours and hours preparing them, and without having them go bad in the frig.

But that's not the only advantage to freshly squeezed juice. Juices usually taste better than the fruits and vegetables from which they are made. That's because juices are liquids, and liquids come in contact with the entire tongue. We taste the sweetness of a juice at the tip of our tongues at the same time we taste the aromatics in juice at the back of our tongues.

Getting the whole tongue involved in tasting juice brings out flavors that just can't be perceived in the whole veggie. Even vegetables like broccoli and cabbage (if you don't have a special sensitivity to the sulfur compounds in them) turn out to have sweet overtones you can taste when the juice lingers on the tip of your tongue. Fruit juices pack a lot of their flavor in compounds that have to smelled, rather than tasted, and liquids release their aromatics to the nose a lot better than fruit flesh you chomp on down. And juice even helps you lose weight. Here's how.

Juice, Hunger, and Weight Loss

Juices consist of billions of tiny particles suspended in water. Those particles have to be digested before the stomach sends the juice down to small intestine. This makes both the juice and any other food linger longer in your stomach, helping you feel full longer, so you eat less.

The chunks of fruit and vegetable you eat also linger in your stomach and help you stay full. The advantage of juice over "whole" fruits and vegetables is that there are many more tiny bits of fiber that the stomach can sense. The stomach may send bigger chunks of fruits and vegetables only partially digested down to the gut, but it will do a more thorough job of digesting tiny particles. You get more of the plant chemicals, vitamins,minerals, and enzymes in the fruit or vegetable, and you feel more satisfied.

And drinking juice rather than eating chunks of fruits and vegetables also helps you with weight control at the "gut level" of digestion. The small intestine is lined with stretch receptors. When a large amount of food of any kind finds its way into the small intestine, which is just below the stomach, the stretch receptors send a message to the brain that sends a message to the pancreas to release more insulin.

This prepares the body to store sugar. But insulin also stores fatty acids. If you eat foods that bloat, your whole body is primed for fat storage. If you eat plant foods in their liquid form, your body will still find a way to store excess calories, but you at least will have a chance to burn them before insulin locks them in your belly and buttocks fat.

Juicing also helps cancel out other poor food choices. If you down a cheeseburger and fries and a glass of juice, for example, the antioxidants released by the juice neutralize at least some of the pro-oxidants generated by the dump of fatty acids and sugar into your bloodstream after you chow down on fast food. It's better to eat only healthy food, of course, but juice helps.

Variety stimulates appetite. The more different kinds of juice you drink, the more you will enjoy them. I have a personal bias for freshly squeezed juice over bottled juices, but any kind of juice can enhance a good diet--as long as it's made with no sugar added and without juice additives.

Image credit: Scott Bauer (USDA), via Wikimedia Commons.

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