Will juicing make you healthier?

Dr. Ben Kim thinks so.

The chiropractor and acupuncturist who lives in Barrie, Ontaria, Canada, often is asked to name one thing people can do right away to get healthier.

His answer: Start ingesting freshly pressed vegetable juices.

"Drinking just one freshly pressed juice each day is a reliable way of infusing your body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can protect your cells against premature aging and disease," writes the author of the website drbenkim.com.

Osteopathic physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, who is board-certified in family medicine and trained in traditional and natural medicine, agrees.

"Juicing is an easy way to virtually guarantee that you will reach your daily target for vegetables," he writes on his website mercola.com.

Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian with the Mayo Clinic notes on the clinic's website that "Juicing probably is not any healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables."

Nelson concurs that juice extracted from fresh fruits or vegetables contains most of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in whole fruits or vegetables, but the healthy fiber in those fruits and veggies is lost during many juicing processes.

And, there is no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juices ingested by eating the fresh fruits and veggies, she notes. But, for people who don't enjoy eating produce, juicing may be a fun way to add it to their diets.

Some researchers suggest only making enough liquid to drink at one time because the juice may lose some nutrients and enzymes minutes after its made.

And, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, freshly squeezed juice can develop potentially harmful bacteria unless it has been treated. Most store-bought juices have gone through a pasteurization process to destroy bacteria. Because the freshly squeezed juice prepared at home is not pasteurized, it may grow potentially dangerous bacteria if not consumed right away.

Although, the manufacturers of a couple of juicers claim their juices can be stored for up to 72 hours, I prefer not to store mine.

People who are overweight, have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol should limit the fruits they juice until their conditions are normalized, according to Dr. Mercola.

"This is not to say that you can't juice fruits, carrots and red beets," writes Dr. Kim on the foodmatters.tv website. "Fruits and sweet root vegetables can be healthy additions to drinks and they'll definitely add sweetness and flavor." Just make sure they never make up more than one-third of each glass consumed, he recommends.

And, for people who have problems controlling their blood sugar levels, Dr. Kim suggests using blood sugar monitors to determine how much is acceptable for them.

"I've worked with dozens of diabetics over the years who haven't been able to handle even an ounce of fruit, carrot or red beet juice in their drinks without negative health consequences," he writes.

Some proponents say juicing gives the digestive system a rest so the cells have time to catch up with repairing themselves and detoxifying. Others look to juicing regimens as weight-loss solutions. Some say it allows us to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner. Others say antioxidants and vitamins are healthy additions for helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Some claim juicing prevents dehydration, improves the cardiovascular system and heart health; improves brain function; slows the aging process; improves joint function; helps keep the skin, hair, nails and eyes healthy; and increases energy levels.

Dr. Mercola says it's important to listen to your body when juicing. The stomach should feel good all morning long. If it is churning or making noise, you've probably juiced something you shouldn't be eating.

And because vegetable juice has very little protein and virtually no fat, it is not a complete food, notes the doctor. It should be used in addition to regular meals, not in place of them. Drink the juice with a meal or as a between meal snack unless undergoing a special fasting or detoxification program under the guidance of a doctor.

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