Nutritionist Catherine Saxelby sips the delights of some liquid fruit and gives her verdict.
Running low on energy? Need a hit of vitamins? The hip solution is to re-energise with a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice. Orange and carrot is a favourite of mine, but you can sip peach and pineapple, apple, capsicum and celery, watermelon, or mint and orange.
Juicing has long been advocated by natural health practitioners, under such names as Raw Health. According to Caroline Wheater in her book Juicing For Health (Thorsons, 1993), naturopaths have been treating patients with fresh juices and raw foods since the 19th century to improve their health - health benefits of grape juice. Juices are said to be an integral part of detox regimes, used to cleanse the digestive system, draw out toxins and make the body more alkaline.
Now juices are coming into their own as an easy yet refreshing way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. Current guidelines are to eat seven serves a day - at least two serves of fruit plus five serves of vegetables a day - but many of us find it hard to get that in a day. With juice, it's no problem.
Juices give you a host of vital nutrients ranging from vitamin C, beta-carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body), folate, vitamins B1 and B2, niacin, vitamin K to potassium, magnesium and other minerals.
Most importantly, with today's focus on anti-oxidants, juices ensure you top up these natural plant compounds which are now known to defend us against heart disease, some cancers and help you stay younger-looking.
Carrot juice, for example, is packed with beta-carotene - an anti-oxidant that can fight off cancer - plus related compounds such as alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. Red-blue coloured fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, cranberries or grapes are rich in anthocyanins, strong anti-oxidants with a mild anti-bacterial effect.
In many ways, juices are the equivalent of a vitamin tablet in a glass. There's even a supplement made by concentrating juices into a tablet that claims to be more "natural" and have more anti-oxidants than any normal pill. Its distributors say you can take this pill in place of eating veges for dinner, a claim dismissed by nutritionists.
The only downside to juices is that they lack fibre which is strained off by the juicer. So juices aren't equivalent to whole fruit. Fibre is important because it tends to act as a "brake" to over-consumption.
Take apples - it would probably take you 20 minutes to chomp your way through three whole apples and you'd feel full afterwards. In contrast, a glass of squeezed apple juice requires three apples and can be gulped down in minutes. No skin, no flesh to chew, but the same kilojoules.
To create one 200ml glass of juice, it takes three carrots, two oranges or one pineapple. While there's a lot of nutrition packed into that glass, it could prove a hazard for those battling weight problems.
On the other hand, this is a positive for fussy-eating children who need the kilojoules and may not touch any fruit or vegetables, or an older person with a small appetite or someone recovering from chemotherapy and who can't eat much.
Juices and what they offer
Benefits in a glass
Carrot: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene (related anti-oxidants that neutralise free radicals and improve immune function)
Watermelon and ruby grapefruit: lycopene (an anti-oxidant that cuts the risk of prostate cancer)
Celery: Potassium (mineral), flavonoids and saponins (anti-oxidants and anti-cancer compounds)
Pineapple, mango: vitamin C (anti-oxidant; inhibits nitrosamine formation; reduces mango cancers of the digestive tract; regenerates vitamin E)
Spinach, Silver Beet: lutein, zeaxathin, (two anti-oxidants that protect the macula of silver beet the eye from degeneration, a common loss of vision in adults)
Parsley: vitamin C, polyphenols (anti-oxidants)
Strawberries, blackberries: anthocyanins (mild anti-bacterial effect)
Apple: flavonoids (protects the bad LDL-cholesterol from oxidation)
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