These are more than just accessories for Carmen Miranda; these foods help recharge for health. By Kari Walker

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

iStock_000020760159carrotjuiceTurning to food for optimal health is not a new concept. In fact, it was Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” This phrase from 400 B.C. is still relevant in 2013.

Today, the real food movement is everywhere. People are waking up and realizing that what they are eating is doing one of two things: making them healthier or making them sicker. Mama always said, “Eat your vegetables,” and despite what you thought then, she knew what she was talking about. Vegetables and fruits are a prime source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants our bodies need to sustain and restore themselves. We are machines and must fuel ourselves properly; we wouldn’t drive around with our gas tank on empty and not expect to be stranded on the side of the road sooner or later. The choices we make every day determine if we will follow a path of optimal health or a road of lifelong struggles with chronic diseases and other conditions many of us can certainly avoid. Our region is certainly known more for its gumbo and rice dressing than superfoods like kale (what’s that?), and in turn, heart disease is one of the top causes of death in Louisiana, according to the Department of Health and Hospitals.

Juicing, in case you haven’t noticed, is back with a vengeance. Celebrities have been known to get on their soapbox about the benefits of juicing, but what can it do for the girl next door? Is it health or hype, and what is the science behind it?

The benefits of juicing fruits and vegetables is that they can provide a concentrated dose of nutrient-dense ingredients chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Juicing is also low in ingredients thereby helping improve diets by eliminating added sugar, salt and processed Frankenfoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control, diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. The practice of juicing shouldn’t replace your two to three cups of vegetables a day, but instead enhances the intake and creates a different way to experience these foods.

A main disadvantage of juicing comes from those who choose to approach from a diet perspective versus a lifestyle approach. Juice alone becomes a high-carb, low protein, low-fiber diet as often pulp is not added back to the juice for fiber boost. These properties create the perfect storm for increasing blood sugar, which can cause headaches, mood swings, dizziness and fatigue. The body needs protein and fat for muscle and cell function. A juicing diet leads to weight loss; however, it’s mainly a loss of muscle tissue and not fat due to the low protein contents of this diet.

It can be expensive to juice at home and a pain to clean the costly machines and maintain a fridge stocked full of produce (it should be organic) required for juicing. If you are still wanting to add a juice to your daily recommended fruit and vegetable servings, local businesses make it easy and convenient to fill that desire. Body Plus, located in Parc Lafayette, specializes in made-to-order organic juices and smoothies. Combinations like its Immunity Juice feature ingredients kale, apple, lime and orange while the Super Cleanse has carrots, apples, beets, ginger and lemon. Individually, these ingredients may sound tough to stomach, but adding a juice supplement to boost daily fruit and vegetable intake makes these ingredients easier to consume even for the pickiest of palates.

Patti Howell, owner of Transcending Ways, can be found at the Hub City Farmers Market on Saturdays in the Oil Center where she delivers pre-ordered fresh juices to clients wanting the benefits of clean living throughout the week. These pre-bottled juices make it easier to have a juice on hand and easy for packing for the person on the go. Orders can be placed at the Hub City Farmers Market, or directly with Patti online.

Juicing may be a fad that will fade again, but the proof is in the mix — fruits and vegetables are essential to our daily dietary needs. Juicing makes it easier to get these nutrients into the body, but always keep in mind that these juices should not replace a meal of lean protein, good fats and carbohydrates.

Commonly juiced fruits and vegetables and what they offer as health benefits:

Kale: Rich in Vitamins A, C and K. Possible aid in reducing blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease.

Beets: Contains Vitamin C, Folates and Potassium. Folates are necessary for DNA synthesis in cell function.

Apples: Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant helping boost immune function.

Carrots: Vitamin A, Beta-caroten. Beta-caroten is a natural antioxidant that protects against harmful free radicals.

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