DEAR DR. BLONZ: I wanted to know what you think about the frequently hyped health-promoting qualities of juicing, and about juicing machines in general. Do you get more nutrition from using a juicer than from simply eating the same fruits or vegetables? -- F.S., San Jose, Calif.
DEAR F.S.: Fresh juices can be a healthful food, but there is no reason to believe that you can "juice" away your health problems as many infomercials might have you believe. So, as with the juicers themselves, it's important to know the difference between substance and pulp.
There is a wide range of juice "prescriptions" for various ills. To help with arthritis, for example, one author might tout a pineapple juice formula, while another swears by broccoli, kale and spinach, and yet another recommends bean sprouts, carrots and cucumbers. Each recipe will have positive attributes, but there is no basis to believe that any of them will cure any of the various types of arthritis.
A focus on curing disease tends to overshadow the larger value of juicing. We would be better off getting refreshment from fresh vegetable or fruit juices instead of soda. Juices provide wonderful flavors and they contain valuable nutrients and phytochemicals not found in soda. For example, 12 ounces of fresh carrot juice contains about 100 calories and is loaded with healthful phytochemicals. Fresh apple, pineapple or melon juices yield flavor and aromas unmatched by other beverages.
The benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables are indisputable, and it's a lot easier to drink a dozen carrots than to eat them. But because juice (without pulp) doesn't have fiber, the goal should be to have juice in addition to, not instead of, fresh fruits and vegetables. And while juicing proponents might swear juice gives you all the food's essential goodness except the fiber, it's unclear what proportion of the nutrients are left behind with the pulp.
There are three basic types of juicers. Extractors, the most popular kind, grind the food with a high-speed spinning disc that traps the pulp. They often have an ejector that deposits the pulp in a convenient bin. Masticator-type juicers chew up the food at a slower speed and make juice by mechanically pressing the ground-up produce against a screen. Finally, there are specialized blender/juicers that grind the entire fruit or vegetable. This is the one type of machine that doesn't remove the pulp; the juices from these machines retain the food's fiber. The tradeoff, however, is that the output can end up as slush rather than juice.
You'll find the greatest price variation among the juice extractors. The different price tags -- from about $50 to more than $300 -- reflect the power and noise level of the motor, as well as pulp capacity and cleaning ease. The masticator and blender/juicers tend to be in the $200 to $500 range. There's no "best" method; it's all a matter of taste and pocketbook.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.