SCMP Saturday, January 6, 2001

Juice therapy


Are you feeling run down with too much to do before the holidays? Try gulping down some carrot juice mixed with mangoes. Packing on a few extra kilograms around your waist from the seasonal round of cocktail parties? How about a tall glass of wheat grass juice? Suffering indigestion? Maybe papaya juice on the rocks.
In case you haven't noticed, juice fasts and therapies are all the rage. Over the summer, while visiting California, a paediatrician friend promised me excitedly: "I'm treating you to the most delicious surprise! I wish we had it in Hong Kong!"
We pulled into a shopping centre with one of those juice bars selling every juice imaginable. You could select from the menu juices to boost energy, offer athletes a performance edge, strengthen bones and treat menopausal symptoms, and also to help college students revising for exams. I even asked for a shot of memory booster - a scoop of gingko biloba for an extra five dollars. It was a fabulous "fast food" experience, which I could happily share with my children.
Drinking juices instead of eating solids for several days can be used to detoxify, rejuvenate and heal the body. While unproven, some people believe juice therapy can heal diseases such as cancer, arthritis, liver problems, digestive disorders and some skin conditions. Some people use juice fasts as a way to kick-start their diets. Others use them to calm nerves and curb addictions of various kinds.
High in nutritional content, fruits and vegetables are ideal to help boost immunity, lower blood pressure and improve digestive functioning. Fruit juices are rich in sugars, starches, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, while fairly low in calories, fibre, fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates.
Some experts believe we lose the majority of valuable nutrients through the digestive process. Foods have to be broken down and made into a liquid state before the body can absorb the nutrients. Drinking juices from fresh fruits and vegetables makes our digestive process much more efficient.
Wheat grass, spinach, cucumber, beets, carrots and celery make excellent vegetable juices to combine with fruit juices. Lemon is good to loosen mucous, improve asthma and rejuvenate the liver and gall bladder. Apple is good for varicose veins and haemorrhoids while watermelon is used for kidney ailments.
There are three different types of juicers. One is a rotary-blade type, which uses centrifugal force to spin pulp matter into releasing the watery contents. They are relatively cheap and fast, however, they can waste juice as it can be trapped in the pulp debris. The second is a compressor type, which uses pressure to squeeze the juice out of the pulp, without exposing it to a large amount of air and oxidation. This is a better way of producing fresh juice but is slow, tedious and expensive. Finally, there is the blender - the method of choice for busy Hong Kongers on the go.
If you tend to drink a great deal of juice, you may prefer to buy organic products due to the uncertainty of pesticides and residual chemical contamination. Since fresh juice is highly perishable, it is best to drink it on the first day. It should be stored in the fridge under the coldest setting (without freezing, however). While mixing juices is highly recommended, be careful of acidic juices such as orange and lemon since they may curdle other liquids. Some wonderful combinations are celery and honeydew, carrot and orange, banana and mango and/or any berries. If you are prone to yeast infections, add two cloves of garlic to a quart of juice.
You can also mix fruit juices with tea for a wonderful change. Because of their high sugar content, especially when feeding children, you should dilute fruit juices 1:1 with water. If you must use canned or bottled juice, read the labels carefully. I'm constantly disappointed to find that many local juice products are mixed with extra sugar, artificial flavourings and additives.
Due to their high sugar levels, those with diabetes are usually advised to limit their fruit intake. Pregnant and lactating women, infants, children and the elderly are advised against going on juice fasts. Some people report a strange taste in their mouths and coated tongues after prolonged juice therapy. Physician supervision is recommended if one intends to stay on it for long, which is not recommended.
It was no accident that an apple was the cause of mankind's fall from God's good graces. After all, even Adam and Eve found it irresistible.