Beyond the orange

David Mayeaux will tell you, he’s no health nut.

But after two heart attacks and a diagnosis of diabetes and kidney disease, he decided to give up his two-pack-a-day smoking habit and listen to his daughter, who told him he needed to start juicing.

“I’m real hard-headed,” Mayeaux said.

His daughter, Jennie Chimento, is a pharmaceutical sales rep and mother of two from New Orleans, and is an avid juicer. “She’s a health fanatic,” Mayeaux said.

Mayeaux said, at her encouragement, he began juicing nearly four months ago and he has noticed a difference in his health.

“I feel stronger. I’m not just dragging around the house all the time. Now I have the energy to do things,” he explained.

Brigid Durel and her husband were inspired to try juicing after watching a movie at home.

The movie, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” is a 2010 documentary film that follows the 60-day journey of Australian Joe Cross across the United States as he follows a juice fast to regain his health.

“By the end of the movie, Michael and I said to each other, ‘we need to start juicing.’ After the movie, we couldn’t wait to try it out,” she said.

“My son Stephen had been given a juicer as a gift, so we didn’t have to wait long to start,” Durel said.

Using a high-powered machine to extract the juice from fruits and vegetables has become more popular among those who are trying to incorporate more vitamins into their diet.

Some proponents of the practice believe that some mixtures can cure ailments, detox the body and promote weight loss, although there has not been any proven scientific evidence to back these claims.

Courtney Neubauer, a registered dietitian and Nutrition Services supervisor at Woman’s Center for Wellness, said juicing is a good way to get nutrition benefits.

“If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables or fruit, it is a good way to get those nutrients,” she said.

“The main downside of juicing is you lose most of the fiber. Most juicers take the pulp and fiber away from the fruit or vegetable and fiber offers a lot of digestive benefits,” Neubauer said.

As for the weight loss, Neubauer said, longterm juicing fasts or using juicing, as an extreme weight loss program is not healthy.

“You may lose weight at first because you are limiting the amount of calories, but you need fiber and protein in your diet to be healthy,” she explained.

Neubauer also warns of the extra sugar and calories that come with the portions being used to make the juice.

“Some fruits and vegetables can contain more sugar in them than you might realize, which can lead to unwanted calories and ultimately, weight gain,” she said.

Using two or three apples along with green leafy vegetables to make a glass of juice still means you have the calories of three apples, she explained.

Durel and her family have enjoyed experimenting with the flavors of combining fruits and vegetables.

“The green kale juice is intimidating, but it’s really mild,” she said. She usually mixes in an apple or pear or some ginger root along with the leafy vegetables to make the juice more flavorful. “I think it all tastes great over ice,” she adds.

Although her family juices occasionally, she readily admits it takes work. “I buy it, wash it, chop it and juice it. Then you drink it and have to clean it,” Durel said.

“I’ve told my family, if they want to juice, then they have to help,” she laughed.

Home juicers on the market can range anywhere from $50 to $500. Some of the more expensive juicers will break down a lot of the fruit by grinding the core, rind and seeds. Some high-end models also allow for pulp control, allowing you to add more fiber to your juice.

Neubauer said rather than throwing away the nutritious pulp fiber in the compost pile, you can take the vegetable pulp and make a soup or broth. Other recipes use the pulp in baked goods. The pulp can also be spread on a cookie sheet and baked or dried into chips.

Mayeaux said he frequents the produce aisles in local grocery stores and fresh produce stands and it can be time-consuming hand-picking his selections. But he thinks it’s worth the trouble.

“I really like the fact that I can get the benefits of eating several vegetables and some fruit from a drink,” he said. “It takes me about two minutes to drink it and it would take me forever to sit down and chew all of this at one time,” he explained.