Alternatively Speaking: To juice or not to juice?

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: Is a juicer better than eating whole vegetables?

Vegetables 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Vegetables 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Q. Natalie, I have been recently diagnosed with edema (fluid retention). I am experiencing swelling mainly in my legs, ankles and feet. My doctor told me to eat foods which are diuretic. Can you suggest any?
A. Fluid retention can be handled by eating vegetables with a high water level to help your body release fluids upon urination. Using vegetables with a high water content when you make salads will help your body to eliminate fluids. Make sure you include cucumber, celery and onion. Try every day to eat vegetables that help your body fight against fluid buildup. Vegetables with a strong natural diuretic ability include asparagus, green beans, parsley, leeks, pumpkin, beets and green leafy vegetables. All of the varieties of grapes are natural diuretics and will help your body release fluids.
Watermelon also contains a high level of water. After eating watermelon, you may notice that the food has a diuretic effect on your body and you may have frequent trips to the bathroom. Lastly, I suggest eating chunks of fresh (or canned) pineapple; it will provide your body with a natural way to eliminate any built-up fluids.
You can also try basic exercises to help reduce the edema in your legs. Try elevated leg kicks, pumping your feet like you are pedaling a bicycle and standing on your toes. If you are more physically active, you can use light weights while brisk walking and this can help disperse the fluid trapped in your legs.
Q. My mother bought me a juicer and I have heard conflicting arguments as to whether or not juicing is better than eating whole vegetables. Can you shed some of your wisdom?
A. Most certainly having a juicer offers a variety of fruit and vegetable juice options. In my opinion, although there may be some advantages to juicing over eating whole vegetables, whole vegetables provide more nutritional value overall.
Juicing removes most of the fiber from the vegetable, making juice a little less nutritious. Unfortunately, most people do not get enough fiber through their diets, which may increase the risk of high blood pressure, constipation and becoming overweight. You can try adding some of the pulp back into the juice and this will provide you with at least a small amount of fiber. I admit that it can be hard sometimes to fit in all of the recommended servings of vegetables during the day and this is where juicing comes in very handy since it allows you to drink a number of vegetable servings in one. Do not leave the vegetable juice sitting out since there is a risk it may develop bacteria. Juicing is wonderful for children who don't like eating whole vegetables. In these cases I usually mix fruit and vegetables to find a combination they will enjoy. Just remember to keep in mind that a serving of juice has more calories than a serving of vegetables, so for weight control whole vegetables are a better option.
Q. There is a history of cataracts and blindness in my family and I am aware that perhaps this may be hereditary. Can you recommend any vitamins or herbs that are good for eye health?
A. Research has shown that eating foods high in beta-carotene, Vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, lutein, Omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and zinc can protect the eyes from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, according to The American Academy of Ophthalmologists. Vitamin A, along with Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, is an excellent antioxidant vitamin. In a study by the "British Journal of Ophthalmology" they linked cataract formation to low levels of antioxidants in the lens of the eye. Ensuring a good intake of Vitamin A can also reduce the risk of nuclear cataracts as well as protecting against night blindness, dry eyes and eye infections. Beef or chicken liver, cod liver oil, eggs, butter and milk all contain Vitamin A.
Beta-carotene also protects against night blindness and dry eyes. It is especially prevalent in dark green and deep yellow or orange vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, sweet bell pepper, winter squash, turnip greens, dried apricots, cantaloupe, and mango.
Vitamin C helps the body form and maintain collagen found in the cornea of the eye. It also promotes healthy blood vessels (capillaries), in the retina.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidant phytochemicals that you can find in dark green and deep yellow vegetables; including turnip greens, kale, spinach and winter squash. They can help protect the body from the damage of free radicals and oxidative stress. Epidemiological studies have shown that diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin may also prevent cataracts. Finally, Selenium and Zinc work to reduce risk of night blindness. Meat, fish, poultry and grains are all good sources of zinc. Selenium can be found in salmon, Brazil nuts and brown rice. This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments.
This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected]
Someone Once Said: "There are two great medicines: Diet and Self-Control."- Max Bircher, 1962