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A drink to good health

Published September 21. 2013 09:00AM

I think one of the most confounding aspects of a proper diet is trying to figure out what to drink.

They say we shouldn't drink soda because it's too sugary.

And we shouldn't drink diet soda because the artificial sweeteners are said to be harmful. The chemicals in artificial sweeteners supposedly turn into formaldehyde in our bodies. And critics claim sweeteners make us crave carbs and sugar.

We can try drinking fruit juices, which are full of vitamins. But juices are full of sugar, too.

Another option is water. Water is fine and essential for our health. But it's flavorless.

I still haven't figured out a way to enjoy beverages without apparently doing harm.

But I remembered something I'd first learned many years ago.

In my previous career, before journalism, I spent 20 years in corporate communications for Blue Cross-Blue Shield. I was given an opportunity to spend time one-on-one with some famous, health-oriented people. I met exercise fanatic Richard Simmons and the late fitness guru Jack LaLanne.

Simmons' message centered on moderating consumption of fat and butter. He also was big on Jazzercise, vigorous dancing to music.

LaLanne was an advocate for drinking vitamins for good health.

He felt we should pulverize fruits and vegetables inside a highfalutin' blender, and then drink the stuff.

At the time, I never looked into juicing, even though LaLanne was marketing something called a Power Juicer.

And there was no question that LaLanne knew some secrets for strength and healthy living.

He was a man of small stature and big muscles. He reminded me of Mighty Mouse, a cartoon character I'd enjoyed as a child. I enjoyed spending time with him and dining out, simply because it was interesting to see what he ordered from the menu. (Always fresh fruit.)

It took a few decades, but LaLanne's concept of fresh fruits and juicing finally struck me.

Last October I decided to buy a juicer. I settled on the NutriBullet, which hypes itself as a vitamin extractor.

It's so powerful that it turns fresh fruits and veggies into a smoothie-type drink within seconds.

I've been enjoying one smoothie every day, using colorful ingredients to make a vitamin-enriched cocktail. It's been an interesting 11 months.

I've discovered that bananas, oranges, pears, kiwi, pineapple, coconut, spinach and all kinds of good things combine to make a delicious snack or meal replacement.

I also experimented and found which ingredients I prefer to avoid when juicing, such as asparagus and broccoli (they're overpowering and they ruin the flavor). Also, you can juice an apple but never juice apple seeds. Crushed apple seeds reportedly leach arsenic. So make sure you core the apple before you juice it.

The one important thing I've learned is that juicing supplies fresh vitamins, fiber and energy.

Plus, it seems to boost the immune system. As far as I can tell, it helped me to avoid a cold and flu for almost a year.

So I'm a believer.

For the sake of honesty, though, I want to point out that it did nothing to alleviate allergy symptoms and sinus woes. A sinus headache still packs a wallop no matter how many pureed strawberries you've devoured.

Still, juicing is a good idea. It might not be the answer to what to drink at every meal, but it's potent elixir.

It gives you a sense of wellness and makes you feel strong and ambitious.

I'm not ready to pull a tugboat through the English Channel, or whatever it was that Jack LaLanne did to make him famous.

But if juicing can boost the immune system enough to fight off a cold or flu, then it's worth it.

Winter and flu season are just around the corner. You can skip the alcohol, but don't be afraid to get juiced on a daily basis. Your body will thank you for it.

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