Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
Juicing, or the craft of blending vegetables and fruits together into a liquid meal, relies on nutritional benefits from antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrient sources. For many who have surgical procedures, chemotherapy or radiation treatments that impair their natural ability to chew or swallow, juicing can be a sole source of nourishment. The National Cancer Institute suggests that while the jury is still out on the ability of nutrition to prevent or reverse cancer, the benefits of blending nutrient-dense foods for building immunity cannot be dismissed.
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Juicing is a way to get antioxidants -- substances that protect the body from cellular damage created by free radicals. According to the National Cancer Institute, free radicals can cause cancer or progress an existing disease. A diet rich in the antioxidants provided by fruit and vegetables include beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamins A, C and E. Used in a daily combination, they can possibly slow or prevent cancer development, improve strength and stamina and prevent infection.
A variety of fruits and vegetables contain enzymes. They are protein molecules that exist in plants and humans. Proponents of a raw diet suggest that uncooked foods retain their enzymes, which are beneficial to good health. Juicing would retain these enzymes. However, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center posits that while the acids in the stomach break down these powerful enzymes, a person still receives a healthy selection of food that promotes digestion and can eliminate toxins in the body.
Phytonutrients, also referred to as phytochemicals, are natural chemicals in plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service says phytochemicals may be obtained through fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and tea leaves. There are nine classes of phytonutrients: carotenoids, flavinoids/isoflavones, inositol phosphates, lignans, isothiocynates/indoles, phenols/cyclic compounds, saponins, sulfides/thiols and terpenes. In addition to their antioxidant properties, they provide a boost to the immune system, aid cell-to-cell communication, alter estrogen metabolism, fight cancer and repair DNA damage resulting from free radicals.