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For many Americans, a serving of vegetables means a stick of celery swathed in onion dip. Or iceberg lettuce topped with a few carrot shavings and a pickled beet.

That's not good enough, says Jay Kordich. But then Kordich has rather exacting standards when it comes to food. You could eat an apple day and not please him. You could eat a baked potato with broccoli for lunch, steamed asparagus for dinner and raw carrots for between-meal snacks and still not get the nutrition you need, he says.Kordich is The Juiceman, which is also the name of the juicing machine he developed and now endorses earnestly on TV commercials. The only way to really be healthy, he says, is to drink fresh juice - lots of it - every day.

Kordich has been preaching this message for 40 years. But it's only been lately, in the past year really, that America has apparently started to become a nation of juicing converts.

When Cherie Calbom, a certified nutritionist and author of the newly released "Juicing for Life," was interviewed on a noon TV show in Atlanta recently, 900 people called the next day to get more information.

And in Salt Lake City, local health food markets report that it's hard to keep juicing machines in stock.

Kathy's Ranch Market in Holladay has sold 800 juicers and 400 juice books in less than three months this winter. "The demand started last fall and now it's snowballing," echoes Jaylene Nuttall of New Frontiers Market on 700 East.

The appeal of juicing, speculates Nuttall, is that "people want to take responsibility for their own health. The doctor thing just isn't meeting their needs. There are a lot of people out there who are just not feeling well, so they're looking for alternative methods."

Armed with one of the various high-speed juicing machines on the market - ranging in price from about $70 to $1,200 - Utahns are juicing everything from alfalfa sprouts to wheat grass.

That, indeed, seems to be one explanation for the juicing trend: People who might not eat their vegetables are willing to drink them. The same cup of Swiss chard or beet greens that's hard to work up an appetite for when eaten raw actually tastes almost yummy when juiced with a carrot and an apple.

Juicing is a better way to get nutrients anyway, say juicing missionaries like Kordich and Calbom.

Cooking fruits and vegetables - and that includes bottling or canning them as juices - kills important enzymes that help make nutrients absorbable, they say. "You can't revitalize a body with dead food," says Kordich.

Not true, contend other nutritionists. "It doesn't matter if enzymes are alive or dead," argues Deloy Hendricks, a nutrition professor at Utah State University.

And that's not the only thing that bothers traditional nutritionists. "Baloney" is the all-meat adjective that Hendricks uses to describe Kordich's claim that juicing is better for you than eating raw vegetables.

According to Kordich, you'd need to eat 15 pounds of raw fruits and vegetables a day to get all the nutrients you need, "and the stomach just can't handle that much bulk." The typical adult, he says, absorbs less than 10 percent of the food value of fruits and vegetables. "But in the form of juice he can assimilate up to 92 percent."

Kordich eats fruit to get the fiber he needs, but drinks the rest of his meals. The Juiceman estimates he has drunk a half a million carrots since he turned to juicing to cure bladder cancer more than 40 years ago.

Now 70, Kordich looks at least 15 years younger, plays racquetball every day and has two preschool kids. For thousands of juicing converts, it's apparently hard to resist a sales pitch like that.


Green Surprise

1 large kale leaf

2-3 green apples, seeded

Lime twist for garnish

- Each serving contains 176 calories; .7 gm fat; 13 Bunch up kale leaf and push through hopper with apples. The surprise is that you won't taste the kale. Yield: 8 oz. - From "Juicing for Life." Note: Kale is high in calcium, chlorophyll and vitamin A.

-Each serving contains 176 calories; .7 gm fat; 13 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.


Handful of strawberries

1/4 fresh pineapple

1/4 pink grapefruit

1 apple

Small bunch red grapes

Peel grapefruit (leaving white on); wash strawberries, pineapple (with biodegradeable soap), grapes and apple (remove apple seeds). Cut in chunks and push through juicer. Yield: 16 oz.

Note: According to "The Juiceman," pineapple and grapefruit help reduce the inflamation and pain of arthritis.

- An eight ounce serving contains 142 calories; .9 gm fat; 3 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

No-sugar No-water Lemonade

1/4 lemon, with peel

4 apples

Wash lemon and apples. Cut in chunks and push through juicer. Yield: 12 oz.

-From "The Juiceman," who says this drink is an excellent diuretic).

-Contains 327 calories; 2 gm fat; 5 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

Cherie's Cleansing Cocktail

1/4-inch slice ginger root

1 beet

1/2 apple, seeded

4 carrots, greens removed

Wash and cut into chunks; push through hopper. Yield: 8 oz.

-From "Juicing for Life."

-Contains 179 calories; .7 gm fat; 121 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.