It might sound strange, but more and more people are drinking their daily quota of vegetables and fruits -- and say their health is better for it.
Known as juicing, the concept is simple: Extract the juices of nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, and drink it. The practice is fast becoming a $5 billion industry in the U.S., according to Barron's, and is only expected to grow.
Fans of juicing say they think the body absorbs nutrients better from raw juices and gets a boost of energy. Especially popular right now are green juices made with dark leafy greens such as kale, chard and spinach. Though fruits are used to sweeten these juices, they are done so sparingly to avoid adding calories.
Home juice extractors aren't cheap.
An average one can cost $70; higher-end models cost as much as $400 or more. But the price hasn't dampened sales.
From November 2011 to November 2012, sales of home juice extractors increased 71 percent, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.
Registered dietitian Rebecca Da Silva of Beaumont's Weight Control Center in Royal Oak, Mich., said she has seen increased interest in juicing, with more patients asking her about the practice in the last year.
She said juicing is an effective way to consume more fruits and vegetables.
"Juicing fruits has been around forever, but more people are now juicing vegetables with their fruit," Da Silva said.
But, she cautioned, you can overdo it, especially with fruits. Fruits, with their natural sugar, can add a lot of calories.
"You should be mindful of the fruits you are putting in the juices," Da Silva said.
And you need to know if the juicer you use extracts only the juice.
"If you're using a juicer that takes some of the pulp out, you are losing out on some of the nutritional value," she says. "Some of the fiber is in the skin and some in the flesh, and most of the pulp gives you fiber."
Consuming fiber, Da Silva said, helps control hunger because it helps you feel fuller longer. And that can help you lose weight.
You can also buy organic, raw and cold-pressed bottled juices in grocery stores.
The downside to fresh, raw juices: They are not pasteurized. They have no preservatives and should be consumed soon after they're made for nutritional value and food safety issues.
Kale green juice
1 bunch of kale
1 bunch of spinach
3-4 ribs of celery and leaves
1 green apple, pear, or spear of fresh pineapple
1 whole peeled lemon (save the peel for its zest )
1 piece (about 2 inches) of ginger
Half a hothouse cucumber (unpeeled)
Clean and wash vegetables and fruit. Process in a juice extractor.
Makes 3 to 4 servings. Nutritional information not available.
Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
What is a juice extractor?
Juice extractors are kitchen appliances that extract the juice from whole fruits and vegetables. The pulp and skin are left behind, which, health experts say, is something people should keep in mind when juicing. That pulp and skin can contain key nutrients as well as fiber.
For home use, there are two kinds of juice extractors that work differently: centrifugal and masticating juicers. Both look about the same.
Centrifugal: This is the most common type of juicer sold at kitchen stores and big box retailers. It's the most affordable. Once you feed in the vegetables or fruit, it shreds and spins very fast so that the pulp and bits of fruit and vegetables are caught by a strainer or filter and the juice spins out. Centrifugal juicers can be loud. And, because they are fast, they heat up, which can affect the nutritional value of the juice.
Masticating: These juicers have an auger that crushes or grinds the fruit and vegetables. The crushed fruit and vegetables are pressed against a filter or strainer. Masticating juicers run slower so they don't heat up and destroy the nutrients in the juice. These are known to create pulp that's drier than that left by centrifugal models.
In "America's Test Kitchen: The TV Companion Cookbook 2013" ($34.95), editors rated four centrifugal and two masticating juicers. The Breville Juice Fountain Plus centrifugal machine came out on top as the highly recommended juicer. It sells for about $150.
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