Friday, August 04, 2006

Drink your health

FRESH JUICE SAVES lives. So says Cherie Calbom, whose poor dietary habits had taken a serious toll on her health. "I had such terrible chronic fatigue, I had to quit work," she recalls. "I used to crawl down the hall, I was so weak." Scouring her local healthfood store for solutions, Calbom learned about the rejuvenating power of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. She began a daily regimen of fresh juices, and temporarily dedicated herself to a vegetarian diet. "The results were astounding," she says. Within three months, she felt like a new person — one who possessed boundless energy, renewed strength, and vibrant good health. She was inspired to return to graduate school for a degree in nutrition, and to author The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health. Do-it-yourself juicing gives you a powerful nutrition boost without the bite. We asked Calbom and other experts how to make the most of this healthy habit.

Why juice? If you're looking to get the maximum concentrations of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables, juice provides them in a form that's easy for your body to absorb, says Steve Meyerowitz, author of Power Juices Super Drinks. Juicing usually removes fiber, which means minimal digestive effort is required and nutrients can reach cells quickly. When you have more time to digest, get the fiber you need from whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables; you also can add bran or wheat germ to your juice if your fiber count is falling behind.

HOW much is enough? The new USDA guidelines recommend 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day for an average 2,000-calorie diet. Since different fruits and vegetables produce varying amounts of juice, keep track of serving sizes by measuring the raw foods. A single serving for dense produce like beets or carrots is about ½ cup; for greens, it's closer to 1 cup. You can easily get multiple servings of fruits and veggies in a glass of juice that would be tiring to eat in whole form, says Meyerowitz.

Fruit or vegetable? "Fruit is loaded with nutrients, but has a fair amount of natural sugars," says Dee Sandquist, R.D., nutrition and diabetes manager at the Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver. She advises drinking no more than 8 ounces of pure fruit juice a day, since the concentrated sugars add calories and, for people with diabetes, may cause blood sugar to spike. Instead, combine a few leaves of spinach, some carrots and celery, and maybe a beet or two to get diverse benefits in a single drink. "Mixing more vegetables gives you a flourish of creativity and wider variety of nutrients, and may be more palatable," says Sandquist.

Does it last? Light, heat, and air break down nutrients, so drink fresh juice sooner rather than later, and keep it refrigerated (up to 24 hours) in an airtight, opaque container. For convenience, Meyerowitz makes two servings of vegetable juice at a time, drinks one immediately, and slows nutrient loss by chilling the second serving to 38 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes before moving it to the refrigerator.

Can't I just buy it? To prevent spoilage, all store-bought juice is pasteurized, a process that destroys some of its naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Manufacturers supplement their beverages to replace the loss, but most dietitians prefer nutrients in their natural form. "That's how they work best," says Noralyn Wilson, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. If you can't juice it yourself, visit a juice bar. Or if you do go commercial, look for products containing 100 percent juice without added sugar or water, such as Evolution, Odwalla, and Naked.