When I was growing up, my mother believed that eating liver was essential for good vision. Animal livers, she insisted, stored vitamins, in particular A and B complex. These essential nutrients help keep the retina in good shape, the visual purple strong, and the eyes well-lubricated. In any event, my mother took it one step further and gave it to us in the most palatable way she could think of – run through a blender (by a housekeeper with nose plugs) until it became juice. Suffice it to say that my brother and I wouldn’t touch the glass, let alone drink the stuff in it, so we discreetly discarded it out the window. Alas, today we both need glasses, but 17 floors below our old kitchen in New York City is the healthiest tree you’ve ever seen.
Liver juice aside, today on almost every corner in Manhattan there’s a bar touting the ‘juice du jour.’ For me, that’s way better than say, Burger King. To The Lawyer, it’s a shameful waste of good real estate, since the thought of kale juice has about as much appeal as, well, a kale anything else. But he does listen to the experts, other than his wife of course. So I asked Michael T. Murray, N.D., renowned natural medicine expert and bestselling author of more than 30 books, including his latest one, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality (Clarkson Potter, 2014) to weigh in.
JWM: We do know the benefits of drinking fresh juices. But many of my readers and listeners have asked me if it’s better to just eat the whole fruit or vegetable. Why juice?
Dr. Murray: Well, if you think about it, the body actually converts the foods we eat into juice so the nutrients can be easily absorbed. So juicing it before you consume it saves the body energy, resulting in increased vitality. It also delivers more soluble fiber faster and in an easier-to-digest form.
JWM: A lot of bottled juices claim to contain vitamins and minerals. Is fresh always better?
Dr. Murray: Yes! Fresh juice contains many more vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds, such as enzymes and flavonoids–than its canned or bottled counterparts, which have been cooked (pasteurized) to keep them on the shelves longer. Cooking can cause the loss of up to 97 percent of water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and C), and up to 40 percent of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
JWM: Do homemade juices have increased antioxidant and anticancer properties as well?
Dr. Murray: They do! In fact, a study comparing commercial apple juice with freshly juiced apples found that fresh, raw juice had more antiviral compounds than the store-bought versions. Another study found that fresh, raw apple juice and berry juice (especially raspberries and blackberries) has more ellagic acid, a potent anticancer and antioxidant compound that is stripped from juice when it’s been processed.
JWM: I’ve heard that some fresh juices also help get rid of toxins. How do they work?
Dr. Murray: Speaking just of fresh fruit juice…fruit contains ample glutathione, a small protein composed of 3 amino acids, which are also manufactured in our cells, which aid in the detoxification of heavy metals such as lead, as well as the elimination of pesticides and solvents.
JWM: Talk a little about raw juicing and weight loss, if you will!
Dr. Murray: To begin with, it’s a phenomenal way to reach the goal of ingesting 60 percent of total calories from raw foods. Diets containing a high percentage (up to 60 percent of calories) of uncooked foods are associated with significant weight loss and lowering of blood pressure in overweight individuals.
JWM: Any quick recipe to share?
Dr. Murray: For a delicious, nutritious fruit juice, put two whole apples, sliced in quarters, and 1/2 cup each of raspberries and blackberries through a juicer. Drink it up right away for a blast of energy and nutrients.
JWM: Dr. Murray, leaving the topic of juicing for a moment, I have been aware of your work for many years. And you have been a vocal proponent of natural medicine and healing. Yet, as a society, we seem to be surrounded by illness in epidemic proportions. Why has there been such a lack of acceptance of natural medicine thus far?
Dr. Murray: Thank you for asking that! For the last 30 years I have done my best to educate and inspire others to utilize the healing power of nature. I feel that the biggest factor for this lack of acceptance and use of natural approaches to health and healing is the current financial model of medicine. It is a complex scenario based upon companies and people profiting from a disease-oriented approach. The whole system is based upon the treatment of disease instead of the promotion of health.
JWM: I agree. And like my mother, you were way ahead of your time. What was the inspiration for the first edition of your book, The Complete Book of Juicing, back in 1992?
Dr. Murray: In 1992 there was a tremendous renaissance in the appreciation of fresh fruit and vegetable juice in promoting health. It was really the result of infomercials touting new juicer technologies. My goal in writing the first edition was to use it as a platform to educate people on the factual benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice as opposed to the unsubstantiated overstated benefits that were flying around at the time.
JWM: You recently released a revised edition, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality. How pertinent is it for today’s deteriorating lifestyle habits?
Dr. Murray: Gaining the benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is even more important today than it was 20 years ago. The reason for the update of the book is to deal with the explosion of new information on the important healing and health benefits produced by the simple incorporation of drinking fresh juice into a person’s daily habits.
JWM: Cynics aside, over the last three decades, have you seen a growing inclination/awareness/adoption toward alternative medicine? Do you feel social connectedness is a major contributor to this?
Dr. Murray: There has definitely been a tremendous increase in the awareness of many aspects of what is now considered alternative medicine. In fact, in the last 30 years we have seen the acceptance of many truths that were self-evident back then, but were widely argued against by conventional medicine.
JWM: For example?
Dr. Murray: First of all, the notion that dietary factors were the major determinants of many forms of cancer was viewed as being unfounded from a scientific perspective. Now that link is irrefutable, and the link between diet and many other health conditions is also much better understood today than it was then. The health food industry has been the incubator for many changes in our popular culture. For instance, 30 years ago who outside of the health food industry would have heard of probiotics, antioxidants, gluten, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and herbs like ginkgo biloba?
JWM: I think there are a lot of explanations for the enlightenment of the consumer toward natural health and natural products. But at the end of the day, I don’t think the awareness is the result of some huge advertising campaign. People are actually experiencing positive results from natural medicine and spreading the word to their family and friends. And that’s a good thing. That being said, any final pearls of wisdom for the benefit of Intent readers, so they, too can become Better Than Before?
Dr. Murray: There is no single magic bullet for turning your life and your health around. It requires focusing on all areas of your life. Each component has a powerful effect on the whole system. And, it goes beyond a health-promoting diet and lifestyle. It also requires being a guardian of your attitude and self-talk in order to program yourself to be more positive, adaptable, and committed to life. I do believe that there is a purpose to our lives, and taking care of our body, mind, and spirit is critical in achieving that purpose. So, we need to be very good to ourselves and those around us.