Kay Phillips, of Edom, changed her diet nearly a year ago, and she's enjoying the benefits. She has energy, is without cravings, has improved her blood pressure and dropped a little weight. Her diet consists of plenty of raw vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein.

Mrs. Phillips, 64, wanted to feel better physically. Also, some of her family members have had a history of coronary disease, breast cancer, and hypertension. She didn't want to be susceptible to the same illnesses.

Every day she consumes plenty of green leafy vegetables. It may include various combinations of Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, kale, fennel, cabbage, beets, beet greens, ginger, carrots and celery.

But she's not cooking all of it. For Mrs. Phillips and her husband, it's easier to drink the greens — 20 ounces each day.

"We thoroughly enjoy the juicing," Mrs. Phillips said. "There's no way in the world that I would sit down and eat the volume of vegetables that I juice in one sitting."

Juicing is nothing new, but its resurgence in recent years has people of all ages eager to purchase a juicer or buy specially made juice from a health food store. Juicers range from $30 to $300, and store-bought juices can cost as much as $10 per bottle. Individuals' reasons for juicing vary including increasing their fruit and vegetable intake, cleansing and weight loss. The medical community contends there is no scientific evidence that supports the theory that drinking fruit and/or vegetable juice is healthier than eating it in its whole state.

Therefore, many health and nutrition professionals don't encourage juicing — at least not as a replacement for solid food over a long period of time.

"Juicing in moderation —and I think moderation is the keyword there — is OK," said Sara Upson, a registered dietitian who also specializes in counseling individuals with eating disorders.

"It does help to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, and you do get more vitamins and minerals coming in and a lot more of those healthy compounds, antioxidants and phytochemicals. You can also get those same things from eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. When you include them in the whole form, you also get the fiber."

Ms. Upson said juicing in moderation might be a glass or two a day.

"Going beyond that, when you're replacing your entire meals, and you're going 24 hours or longer, it starts to become extreme, and that's when you start to see negative side effects," she said.

Side effects of juice fasting may include severe diarrhea and blood sugar spikes.

People with certain conditions aren't good candidates for juicing.

"If you have diabetes, the juice is very high in sugar, and it can have a very negative effect on blood-sugar control," Ms. Upson said.

Mrs. Phillips, who lost about five pounds, didn't juice to lose weight. But many ads and infomercials will bolster claims that juicing will spur weight loss. She said the weight she lost was because she changed her view on food.

"Now, I don't worry about calories at all," she said. "When you eat nutrient-dense food — not calorie dense, but nutrient dense — it just by nature will take care of your weight. I have gradually solidly lost about four or five pounds without really restricting myself."

A noted disadvantage of juicing is that it removes the pulp, or fiber from the food, which is beneficial for gut health and digestive regularity.

"Yes, you do throw away fiber, but there's a lot still in the juice," Mrs. Phillips said.

She said she'd had digestive problems in the past, and religiously ate fiber-filled cereal. With an increase in leafy vegetable consumption, both whole and juiced, she's noticed a difference.

"I have a better operating system now with my juicing that I have ever had," Mrs. Phillips said. "In the past, I couldn't live without fiber cereal. That's what kept me going."

 

JUICE FASTING

The liver and kidneys are designed to cleanse the body of toxins, but proponents of juicing assert that the organs may need some help at times. Individuals may consume only juice or store-bought detox concoctions for several days or weeks in an effort to wash away toxins and prevent or cure an illness.

The medical community has said this is not necessary and can even be dangerous.

Ms. Upson said using juicing to cleanse the body is considered a fad diet and could lead to an eating disorder.

"You don't have to be super skinny to be using juicing in a distorted manner," she said. "You can be any size and start to have disordered relationships with food and cleansing and your body by using juicing."

Ms. Upson said that a person who eats a diet high in fast or processed food does not have to switch to a juice diet to detox the body.

"Instead of thinking of cleansing what you want to do is start working on a healthier diet," she said. "That will start to help you feel better and have more energy overall."

Juicing fans also insist that the gut needs a rest from digesting solid foods. Ms. Upson said this, too, is a fallacy.

"That really stresses your body," she said. "Your intestines work better when they're used, not rested. Gut rest can cause atrophy and cause the intestines to have problems when you start to add food back in."

For people such as Mrs. Phillips, juicing is all about long-term health, and not short-term goals. She doesn't foresee herself using juice to fast for long periods of time, but instead sees juicing as a must-have part of a healthy diet.

A former self-described chocoholic and Dr Pepper lover, she has kicked both habits and does not crave for those things, or any other processed foods.

"It slowly changes your desires for toxic or fast food," she said of juicing. "Over a period of time, it resets your internal taste preferences and your hunger drive."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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