Juicing vegetables provides an intense nutrition hit, nourishing the skin from the inside out, says Liz Earle.
iz Earle is a great advertisement for 'juicing'. At 50, the beauty expert is bright-eyed and satin-skinned, not with the faux-youthful tautness of Botox and surgery - she has some soft wrinkles - just undeniably radiant.
Of course, this may be in part down to her bestselling line of beauty products. Avon, to whom she sold the Liz Earle skincare and cosmetics company four years ago, would presumably say so.
But Earle herself is insistent that what goes in to the body is even more important than what goes on its surface. The often quoted truism that 60pc of what we put on our skin is absorbed "is complete nonsense", she tells me, with a roll of her eyes. Juicing, on the other hand, she explains "is great for skin - things like grapes, cherries, olive oil and avocado".
Wouldn't it be better to eat these things whole, I wonder. But according to Earle, juice is a great way to get an intense hit of nutrition. Plus, it is adaptable, and by blending fruits and vegetables with powdered additives like spirulina (a high-protein algae) as well as oils "you can… make your own vitamin supplements, essentially". What about the roughage? "You can stir some of the pulp back into the juice, or add it to soups. Plus, it makes great compost."
All of which might sound a bit worthy were we not having our discussion in Morton's Club in London's Belgravia, a Georgian town house that feels more drinking den than detox destination. Earle, for all her clean-living image, chose the club for the launch of her new book called, simply, Juice, an update of her 1990s bible on the subject. But then, she is far from a hair-shirt and hamster-food fanatic. As the waiters lay out wine glasses as well as tumblers for the inevitable juice, she admits, giggling: "I was macrobiotic, vegan and teetotal for a while. It's a pretty fast way to lose a social life."
Earle was brought up in the era of Angel Delight and Kia-Ora, with a mother who cooked "simply but well". But her father, a naval admiral, was a keen vegetable gardener, so there was always ultra-fresh produce. Her original career was as a health and beauty journalist, appearing on daytime television as a beauty guru, but always emphasising that being healthy and looking well went together.
An interest in the micronutrients led to her consulting a roster of scientists for nutritional information and writing a pioneering consumer guide to antioxidants, Vital Oils, 25 years ago, at a time when fatty acids sounded more like indigestion than nutrition to most of us.
Then, in 1995, she set up her eponymous beauty product company, rumoured to be worth a seven-figure sum when sold in 2010. Letting go, she says, has given her time to return to her writing roots, as well as concentrate on her new website, Liz Earle Wellbeing (lizearlewellbeing.com).
For the past 13 years, she has lived her wellbeing dream on an organic farm in the West Country with her five children and her husband, film-maker Patrick Drummond. The children range from 23 to four (juice or no, conceiving and bearing a son at 47 says something for Earle's health).
"My little one was a surprise. I thought he might have been the menopause but no… My mother calls him my autumn leaf," she laughs.
A waiter bustles over to hand us glasses of thick, deep-green kale juice. Clearly, when Earle talks juice, she doesn't mean cartons of OJ from the supermarket and certainly not the so-called "juice drinks" which often contain no more than a splash of juice in a bottle of sugar-water. "That is not juice," she says, recalling her previous campaigns against misleading labelling.
Juicing, for Earle, is about the homemade stuff, using fresh ingredients and ideally mostly vegetables, since fruits like oranges and apples are high in fruit sugar, fructose, which causes many of the same problems as regular sucrose, or table sugar: weight gain and blood-sugar spikes (related to the onset of type 2 diabetes), not to mention tooth decay.
My juice tastes good, so full of pulp, it is practically a smoothie.
"I like juice you can chew," Earle insists. "It's very important not to gulp it."
I try to hide my glass, which I've emptied in two swigs.
Earle politely pretends not to notice, just adding: "The thing to do is take your mouthful and almost chomp it, so you predigest it with the saliva enzymes before it hits the stomach."
The point is that these are meals in a glass, especially if bulked up with linseed or selenium husks, she explains. They sound more scouring than satisfying, but Earle occasionally sticks to a juice-only diet for a couple of days (there are guidelines in the book) and swears that she feels better for it.
The recipes in the book are mostly for a regular centrifugal electric juicer - the kind on sale in most department stores - that grate the veg and fruit to a pulp and then spin it to extract the juice. But the vogue now is for cold-pressed juice, where the juice is extracted by pressing the ingredients. Proponents say it damages the nutrients less as the temperature is lower. Isn't this the way forward?
Earle is ambivalent: "It's an interesting debate. Brands like Sage, who have a very high-speed juicer, have done research to say that their blades are so sharp and so fast that they get more nutrients out of the thing that is being juiced and, therefore, it is more efficient than a slow, cold pressed juice."
Ultimately, she says, "I think the difference is quite marginal. The main thing that is going to destroy nutrients is time. So you need to make the juice and then drink it."
And there is the key. Centrifugal juicers, while not cheap, start at less than €100, so are within the reach of many. Cold extraction methods are far more costly, meaning that they are largely for manufacturers, so the juice is unlikely to be in your hand for some hours. And when it is, it may have a price tag of close to €10, hardly an everyday boost.
Earle emphasised: "The key thing is to get people juicing, especially vegetables."
Not that Earle sticks to the straight and narrow all the time. Last year, she undertook a water fast for the charity Frank, which supports water projects in the Third World. "It was much harder than I thought. Just water - no coffee, no tea, no wine!"
She smiles seraphically: "I'm a great believer in moderation."
'Juice' by Liz Earle (Kyle Books) is available now.
10 medium tomatoes
2 celery sticks
1 garlic clove (optional)
1 small handful of parsley
5mm slice of fresh horseradish, peeled (optional)
Plus any of the following seasonings:
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice the first six ingredients and stir in your choice of seasoning.
1 orange, roughly peeled
3 handfuls of kale
1 small handful of alfalfa sprouts
½ tsp barley grass powder
Juice all the fruit and vegetables, then stir in the barley grass powder. Serve immediately.
Health & Living