DEAR DR. BLONZ: We are entering the season where farmers' markets become loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, and I wanted your take on juicing. Is it more healthful to eat fruits or vegetables, or to juice them? How about fiber, because you pretty much throw that away? -- T.T., Hayward, Calif.
DEAR T.T.: Farmers' markets are a great way to see what's in season, support local agriculture and get some walking in as well. In answer to your question, let me say that it is very healthful to consume lots of fruits and vegetables, period! Whichever way you choose will work in the big scheme of things.
Some advantages to eating fresh produce (without juicing) are that you get individual tastes, textures and an appreciation of how flavors differ between varieties, growers and throughout the growing season.
Another big plus is that it tends to take more time to eat the produce than to drink its juice -- an aspect that should not be discounted. It takes a while for the brain to get the signal that the body has had enough to eat, and when we rapidly eat until stuffed, we've usually had too much. Wolfing down a meal is not advised, whether the meal is a paragon of healthfulness or fast-food dreck. The slow enjoyment of a fresh fruit or vegetable keeps control in the loop.
Juicing, particularly if fibers are not present, can provide a load of sugars in easy-to-consume form. As with any eating, portion control needs to be exercised, but the flavors can be seductive. The great advantage of juicing is that it can provide a convenient way to include new varieties of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
As for juicers, there are three basic types: extractors, masticators and blenders. Extractors are the most popular type. They grind the food with a high-speed spinning dish that traps the pulp, and often have an ejector that deposits the pulp in a convenient bin. The masticator type of juicer "chews" up the food at a slower speed, then makes juice by mechanically pressing the ground-up mash against a screen.
Finally, there are specialized blender/juicers that grind the entire fruit or vegetable, pulp and all. This is the one type of machine that doesn't remove the pulp; as a result, juices from these machines retain the food's fiber. The tradeoff, however, is that the output can end up more slushy than juicy.
Price vary greatly among juice extractors, with the differing price tags -- from about $45 to well over $300 -- often reflecting the power and noise-dampening of the motor, the pulp capacity and the ease of cleaning. The masticators and blender/juicers tend to be in the $200 range.
There is really no "best" method; it's all a matter of taste and affordability. Be sure to sample some juice from the type of machine you are considering before you buy: Find a juice bar in your area, or arrange for a demonstration at the store where you are considering making your purchase. It is also essential that you know how a prospective model needs to be cleaned. If cleaning is a bother, the machine may sit crusty and unused.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.