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Just how nutritious is popular juicing trend?

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

We emphasize the importance of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Of course you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables ... every day. Fruits and vegetables provide much-needed vitamins and antioxidants, plus they are fat-free and low in calories. I am always promoting the new MyPlate guide for healthy eating which depicts fruits and vegetables covering half of your plate. No question we should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. But is it equally beneficial to drink our fruits and vegetables?

With the abundant supply of juicing machines on the market, many consumers are turning to juicing as a way of getting all their nutrient needs in a cup. Juicing allows you to combine a variety of fruits and vegetables together, blend it up and enjoy. Advocates for juicing claim people are consuming vegetables such as kale, beets, and spinach that they wouldn’t normally eat with a fork because of taste. When these vegetables are combined with fruit and blended; they become a tasty cocktail of nutrition. Should you get out your checkbook and order one of the latest and greatest juicing machines?

A juicing machine extracts the juice from the whole fruits or vegetables. The processing results in fewer vitamins and minerals because the nutrient-rich skin is left behind. Juicing also removes the pulp, which contains much-needed fiber. When fiber is removed from fruit, your body absorbs the fructose sugar from the fruit juice more easily which can upset blood sugar levels. Vegetable juices don’t have this negative effect on blood sugar, therefore often it is recommended to use more vegetables when juicing rather than all fruits.

In addition to wrecking havoc on blood sugar, juicing can also be a calorie disaster, especially if trying to lose weight. A medium piece of fruit has about 60 calories. A cup of vegetables has about 25 calories and 3 cups of leafy greens have about 25 calories. Each 60-calorie serving of fruit equals about 4 ounces of juice. A typical serving of juice is about 12 to 16 ounces. Those calories add up, especially when consumed on a daily basis.

To juice or not to juice? On the positive side, if there are vegetables that you wouldn’t normally eat in their original form, but will consume them in a drink, then go for it. This can be a way to take in necessary nutrients that you wouldn’t normally consume. However, if you enjoy vegetables, then I say eat them instead of drinking them, for more nutrition, fiber, and fullness.

The following is a smoothie recipe that incorporates both vegetables and fruits. Feel free to experiment with different fruits and vegetables to change the taste and nutritional value.

Hulking Green Smoothie

From Jennifer Sygo, registered dietitian

½ package frozen spinach

2 cups mixed green veggies (romaine or red lettuce give milder flavors; kale gives a stronger veggie taste)

½ avocado

1 banana

1 apple

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Water to taste

Instructions: Blend all ingredients until smooth in a blender or food processor. Makes 2 large servings.

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