Forget three meals a day - all you need is cold-pressed wheatgrass and a pint of liquidised curly kale. As the medical profession grows concerned, Tim Jonze explains his conversion to a new obsession
Music journalists like to live life on the edge, so it is hardly surprising that I got into juicing. It was the high-risk factor - that feeling that you're dicing with death - that drew me in. "Drinking fruit juice can increase your risk of type-2 diabetes," screamed a study by the British Medical Association; "8oz of Tropicana orange juice contains twice as much sugar as a Krispy Kreme donut!" yelled another by Credit Suisse. Forget Iggy Pop rolling around in broken glass or Dave Gahan's speedball overdose. Those guys won't know the meaning of the word danger until they've stood in front of an Oscar Vitalmax 900 with a Granny Smith in one hand and a bag of curly kale in the other.
Juicing has become one of 2013's hottest trends, with juicer sales rocketing - Lakeland recently reported a 4,000% sales rise. Grazia is filled with celebrities clutching terrifying sludge-green concoctions. Home juicing is no longer the preserve of yoga-panted flax-seed munchers called Dusk; and outside the home, some venture capitalists are banking on juice bars becoming the new coffee shop.
Of course all these people aren't really going juice crazy because they're fearless thrill seekers. If anything, the trend seems to have caught on as a reaction to the recent panic around juicing. Because whereas fruit juice (especially the prepackaged supermarket variety) is often worryingly high in fructose sugars, vegetable juices - spinach, broccoli, beetroot - are not. And believe it or not, they taste amazing.
These are some of the lessons I've learnt after six months of intensive juicing, a journey that began with my wife saying: "I don't care if you buy this overpriced gadget or not - just stop telling me about it." I had spent several nights researching which juicer to buy, a process that involved watching endless YouTube videos of New Zealanders feeding wheatgrass into various machines to compare and contrast the "wetness" of the resultant pulp.
It turns out that the big debate in the juicing world is whether to go for a blade (cheap'n'fast) or a masticating cold press (slow, expensive, allegedly healthier).
"By crushing the fruit slowly, rather than slicing it rapidly, you avoid applying the heat which kills enzymes and reduces the nutrients in your juice," I later explained to friends.
"Tim," they would reply. "It's Friday night."
Actually, you can juice just fine with most machines - but if you've got money and time spare, then a cold press will get you a more refined, nutrient-rich juice. Some people might suggest, on hearing that my juicing contraption cost me £230, that I was a mug for a new fad. But they don't realise that my Vitalmax doubles up as a raw-food processor - and when I find out what a raw-food processor actually is, I'm sure I'll be having the last laugh.
Perhaps because of the extortionate price, I now use my juicer virtually every day and am convinced it's the best invention since the iPod. By throwing in the odd apple as a sweetener you can ingest half a bag of spinach for breakfast as if it's no big deal. It's not a substitute for eating the stuff - you lose the added benefits of their complex fibres - but it's an excellent way to get a burst of nutrients.
Whenever I caught amateur-hour juicers supping on an orange-based drink, I'd repeat to them the mantra of Dr Walker that came printed inside my juicer's manual: "Eat your fruit and juice your veg." It was only recently I realised I had no idea who Dr Walker was or how he was qualified to tell me what to put in my body. Luckily a bit of research revealed him to be fairly bona fide - born in 1886, he developed the idea of cold-press juicing (the classic Norwalk hydraulic press juicer was based on his design) and he was a firm advocate of vegetable juicing - the fact he lived to 99 suggests you can trust him.
Today's greatest juicing evangelist is Jason Vale - aka "The Juice Master" - the author and self appointed "lifestyle coach" who has gained both fame and notoriety for his juice based diets. He claims swapping junk food for juice helped him overcome severe asthma, psoriasis, eczema and hay fever, as well as helping him lose weight. By juicing, you also skip what Vale refers to as the "energy-zapping digestive process". According to him, digesting food takes up more energy than virtually any other activity: "If you already have a clogged, overweight, tired, ill system then your body can do with all the help it can get on the digestion front.".
He advocates not just juicing but what's known as a "juice cleanse" - living for several days on nothing but water and juice to flush out your system, as endorsed by Beyoncé, Ashton Kutcher and Sarah Jessica Parker. Not all nutritionists are into this idea, their stance being that our body cleanses itself naturally so there's no need to spend a fortnight surviving on nothing but a few cucumbers. Gwyneth Paltrow - a veritable green-juice guru, even if her recipes could go a bit easier on the lemon - lasted 10 days on a juice cleanse before she started hallucinating, and has slammed them in the press.
Much as I enjoy a good hallucination, I've not attempted a cleanse. Dietician Michelle Hanchard, of Purely Nutrition, is not a fan of juice cleansing: "Like most restricted diets which cut out a lot of food groups, they can have adverse implications to overall health," she says. "There is no good scientific evidence that shows a detox juice diet is helpful to losing weight."Our bodies are designed to do the detoxification for us - that's why we have livers and kidneys - and by being on this sort of diet, you're missing out on nutrients from other foods: protein, starchy carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. When juice is all you're having, it becomes dangerous.
So besides gaining massive respect for Gwyneth Paltrow, what are the downsides of juicing? Well, there's the fact it takes up a lot of my time (chopping, juicing, cleaning), and the results aren't as economic as you'd expect - I've worked out that each glass of juice costs £1.50, but other than that? None!
The only health scare I've noticed was a couple of lumps appearing on my stomach, but after a brief panic I realised these were actually new muscles that had developed as a result of having to regularly force some large pieces of carrot down the chute.
Juicing can be an extremely healthy pursuit - providing you don't collapse from the sheer high-octane thrill of it all.
Photo: 'By throwing in the odd apple as a sweetener you can ingest half a bag of spinach for breakfast as if it's no big deal': juicing fanatic Tim Jonze. Photograph: Getty