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Monday, January 7, 2013

The Allure of Juicing

By David Grotto, RD, LDN

smoothies

It’s a health trend that often peeks its head up about this time of year – making your own healthy juice blends to aid in weight loss or whatever ails you. In fact, I’ve had a number of requests for advice on purchasing a new juicer, lately. Many of my friends, neighbors and family members have heeded the call (either from me or the latest infomercial) to get more fruits and vegetables into their lives, which of course, I couldn’t be more thrilled about.

But though their spirit is willing to up the ante on produce intake, apparently when it comes to the actual preparation of fruits and veggies, their flesh is weak. They all complained that they found it hard to either make produce enticing or they simply didn’t have the time to clean veggies properly. Juicing – at least according to the infomercials – seemed like a simpler solution. Just throw everything from beets to spinach to parsnips in the hopper and out comes a perfectly delicious glass of juice. Right? Well, not so fast…

Though I do think juicing is a great way to bridge that short gap (that I’m always yakking about) between the number of fruit and vegetable servings that experts recommend versus what we actually consume, juicing is not as simple as it sounds. Before busting out the credit card to buy the new Super Juice-O-Matic 9000, take heed to these juicy facts and don’t be a victim of pulp fiction.

1. Cleaning is inevitable. Juicers are pretty amazing but they don’t wash and trim your produce for you. In the time it takes to clean veggies, juice them, and clean up afterwards, you could have steamed, microwaved them or ate them raw. If you are going for the time saving advantage, you may be disappointed. Some juicers have many parts to clean which aren’t always dishwasher safe. Look for ease of assembly and dishwasher safe attributes.

2. Juicer or Blender? I’ve owned them all! And what I can tell you is that there are basically three types of juicers though true juice aficionados would argue with me on this point. For the sake of this post, I’m not including dedicated wheat grass juicers since it has the least versatility, given its namesake. In essence, what differentiates juicers is that they will either chew, squeeze or blend produce to make “juice”. Some juice gurus would also argue that a blender isn’t really a “true” juicer since it doesn’t separate pulp from the juice. I argue that what often gets dumped, as a by-product of making juice from juicers, is as valuable as the juice itself. Blenders stay…

a. Centrifugal/Masticating: Omega 1000, L’equipe, Champion
Masticating juicers break apart plant material by grinding it through typically a single auger. Centrifugal juicers grate the juice at high speeds through a spinning disc and may feature a pulp ejector.

Advantages?

Masticating juicers operate at a lower RPM so they create less heat than a centrifugal juicer does and produces a drier pulp. Many models can also make nut butters and baby food.

Centrifugal are more common at your local department store. They are also usually less expensive than masticating varieties and can juice most fruits and veggies quickly.

Disadvantages?

Masticating juicers are a bit pricey and can range in upwards of $400-$500 .

Centrifugal don’t juice greens well and tend to leave a more wet pulp. Because of the heat they generate, the juice should be consumed the same day for maximum nutrition benefit.

b. Twin Screw: Green Star, Green Power

Two meshed screws literally pull plants between them and squeeze the juice out of their cells at a very low RPM.

Advantages?

This type does a great job on grasses and greens and produces the greatest yield out of all of the varying types of juicers. Twin screw also creates the least amount of heat, which means the juice can be stored up to three days! You can also make baby food, nut butters and even rice mochi!

Disadvantages?

These type also cost big bucks and have several parts that need to be cleaned.

c. Blender: Vitamix; BlendTec, Ninja and HealthMaster

What I’m talking about here isn’t your run-of-the-mill blender that you use to make smoothies or bar drinks. These blenders have major power under their hoods – often 1000-1560 watts of power. You need that power to not only blend hard veggies like carrots but to also create enough heat to make soup, if that is your desire.

Advantages?

Less parts spells easiest clean up and you get everything that you put in – including fiber and lost nutrients left in the pulp.
Disadvantages?

You get everything you put in – which means you usually have to add water to thin the concoction down to have a more juice-like consistency. If you don’t, the juice will be more like a pulpy puree or slurry. There are great recipes out there for juices, ice cream and sorbets and even soup. Cost can reach upwards of $650 for the top of the line Vitamix. You can pick up a less powerful and less versatile Ninja for about $100. Lastly, because the spinning blades cause heat, the juice can degraded quickly due to oxidation so its best to drink it the same day its made.

Decisions, decisions. Well, after reading this, you might decide it’s much easier to just eat your fruits and veggies. Any way you get more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a good thing – JUST DO IT! So now I raise a glass (or bowl) of produce in your honor and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: David Grotto, RD, LDN at 9:40 am

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