Myth-busting: Is Juicing a Good Way to Serve a Child Fruit and Vegetables?
By Mary Jude Icasiano, Food Scientist
According to the WHO, there are now 8 food groups, with fruits and vegetables among the food group items that are highly recommended for intake on a daily basis. This makes a lot of sense; fruits and vegetables are very good sources of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Phytochemicals, defined as bioactive nutrient plant chemicals in fruits and vegetables, grains, and other plant foods provide desirable health benefits beyond basic nutrition to reduce the risk of major non-chronic diseases (Liu, 2013) and compromised immunity related diseases. In addition, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of plant pigments we call carotenoids such as beta-carotenes, lycopene and pro-vitamin A, considered potent anti-oxidants. Fruits and vegetables likewise are good sources of Vitamins C and E, magnesium, zinc and folic acids plus dietary fiber. Folic acid for example, may reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a substance that may be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat, salt, and sugar and provide bulk with fewer calories. Daily intake of generous servings of this food group points to tremendous health benefits and enhances one’s health and well-being.
In general, the more varied and the more colorful the intake of fruits and vegetables the more beneficial for health.
This would be great news, if not for the fact that a lot of kids have aversions towards fruits and vegetables. Data and the daily experience of parents around the world show that they have very limited choices when it comes to this food group. Parents often encounter challenges introducing a variety of these foods to their children, with a lot of bribing, pleading, and other less-than-positive encounters taking place on a daily basis. With micronutrient deficiency as one extreme and difficulties at the dinner table as the other, most parents find that introducing fruits and vegetables to their kids’ diets via smoothies is a welcome middle ground.
When juiced, the fruits and vegetables are presented as snacks and help with the gradual introduction of various flavors and tastes to the diet. When done properly, juicing also eliminates the insoluble fibers in fruits and vegetables that a child with an immature GI tract may not be able tolerate, while retaining the essential nutrients that are bioactive and easy to absorb. Juicing also allows the combination of fruits and vegetables in one preparation to maximize the child’s intake. Parents should remember this, however: there is no need to add sugar when juicing as the natural sugars found in fruits will suffice in most cases.
Most fruits best deliver nutrients when they have achieved a degree of ripeness and subjected to the least amount of heat. It’s the same for majority of vegetables; methods such as blanching, boiling or steaming should do the job. Generally, heating fruits and vegetables damages heat-sensitive vitamins and other nutrients such as the B-vitamins ( thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid) and Vitamin C. Heating likewise destroys enzymes that aid in breaking down compounds in fruits and vegetables that have cancer-busting effects.
With these in mind, the FNRI Food Exchange List recommends that kids get at least ½ cup of vegetables and 2 medium-sized fruits per day. If parents are able to give these in one serving of a smoothie without any fuss or fighting, consider it a job well done!
• Liu, R.H. Dietary bioactive compounds and their health implications. Journal of Food Science. 2013
About The Writer
Mary Jude Barba-Icasiano
Mary Jude Barba-Icasiano is a graduate of Food Science and Technology from the Philippine Women’s University, with a Master’s degree in Food Science from the same. Her expertise in food science and nutrition spans more than 30 years with the academe, as well as working with food ingredients, food processing, and in the infant and young child nutrition industries.
Mrs. Icasiano is a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Philippines Association of Nutrition; she is an active member of the Philippines Association of Food Technologists and the Institute of Food Technologists of America where she is seeking accreditation as a Certified Food Scientist.
Mrs. Icasiano is married to Juan Carmelo and they have two grown-up children.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.