Researchers from Universite Montpellier in France recently discovered that grapes and apples may prevent plaque from coating arterial walls when consumed with fatty, high-cholesterol foods. The researchers also found that apple and grape juices have a more powerful anti-plaque effect than the fruits themselves.
The study followed several groups of hamsters — one fed a normal diet, while the others enjoyed high-fat diets plus either fruit, water, or juice. The amount of fruit consumed by the little rodents was the human equivalent of three apples or bunches of grapes a day; the amount of juice was the equivalent of about four glasses. The hamsters in the purple grape juice group fared the best, with the lowest level of atherosclerosis, followed by those eating purple grapes. The apple-juice and apple-eating hamsters scored third and fourth, respectively. All the fruit and juice-eating hamsters had lower cholesterol, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in their aortas than the hamsters who consumed no fruit or juice.
The researchers assume that the cardiac benefits of fruit probably derive from phenolic compounds–powerful antioxidants found in grapes and apples. Although grapes and apples contain the same amount of phenols in fruit form, grape juice has two-and-a-half times the amount that apple juice does. Earlier studies have found significant differences in phenol content from one fruit juice to another, with blueberry juice the leader of the pack, and apple, grape, pomegranate juices containing far more than the ever-popular orange, pineapple, and grapefruit juices.
According to the Universite Montpellier research team, the findings suggest that the amount of phenols contained in a food have a direct effect on its antioxidant properties. The results, they write, “provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juices may have a significant clinical and public health relevance.”
But that’s only part of the story. What they missed is that a primary reason juices outperform fresh fruits in delivering antioxidants has to do with the way juice concentrates the nutrients. You get more bioactive punch for the mouthful from juice because you don’t have to eat all of that fiber. Also, the body can utilize the nutrients more readily since it doesn’t have to separate nutrients from the fiber, minimizing the amount of energy consumed in digestion and freeing up that energy for healing. Thirdly, not all phenols are the same. Some, such as EGCG in green tea, resveratrol in grapes, and curcumin in the spice turmeric stand out. And then, of course, in addition to phenols, fruit juices contain other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, as well as minerals, living enzymes, and an assortment of phytochemicals.
But hold for a moment. Before you decide to implement the good news by washing down your beefsteak and fries with a glass of Welch’s, here’s something to consider. There’s a world of difference between commercial bottled juice and freshly made juice. Within minutes of juicing, many of the nutrients and enzymes start to break down, rendering the benefits far less potent. By the time bottled juice gets to your mouth, particularly if it’s been processed, it’s a mere shadow of its original self. Also, while fruit juices provide many benefits, they contain a lot of sugar, so I’d recommend emphasizing vegetable juices instead. In fact, I’ve frequently said that a good juicer is probably the single best investment you can make in your health.
If you don’t already own a juicer and find this news inspiring enough to send you in search of one (as I hope), look for a machine that’s great at extraction, but also easy to use and clean. Some powerful juicers are so difficult to clean that they’ll surely end up in your yard sale bin. I used to own a Norwalk — which did a fantastic job of extracting — but it was such a pain to clean that I got rid of it.
I don’t usually give specific product recommendations, but since the juicer is such a key element in your health routine, I’ll break my own rule here. Note that you can spend stratospheric amounts on a juicer such as a Norwalk, or pick a perfectly acceptable L’equip for about $130.
- In terms of extraction, I like the twin magnetic gear system used in juicers like the Green Star. But the Green Star has a big footprint on the counter and takes a bit of effort to clean — although it’s nowhere near as difficult as the Norwalk. I pull it out for fasts, when I’m going to be juicing heavily for several days in a row, and then just clean it at the end of each day. If you’re doing a lot of juicing during any given day, the Green Star is the way to go.
- If you’re new to juicing, you may want to try the L’equip Mini Model 110.5 pulp ejector juicer. It may not have the best extraction method, but it does a reasonable job. Its main advantage is that relative to most high-end juicers, it’s quick to use and clean. In other words, with the Mini Model, it’s not that big a production to just make a glass of fresh squeezed juice whenever you want — which is pretty much what most people want out of a juicer.
No matter which model of juicer you choose, please note that I don’t recommend that you make your juice and then do as the hamsters did — down junk food to round out your meals. Even though juice may moderate some of the deleterious effects of high-fat, high-glycemic diets, it provides far more benefit when used as part of a healthy diet routine. In fact, I’ve been a big advocate of juice fasting for years — because it allows your body a chance to detoxify and rebuild. In other words, it’s a nice counterbalance to pepperoni pizza, beer, and Ding Dongs.