Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Should you be juicing?

I've been making my own fresh veggie and fruit juices for about a year now. It has been a very interesting journey.  If you remember my paleo and raw/vegan studies, you might know that that was my first time experimenting with home juicing.  The Raw Diet Detox that I did for school is what got me started with the whole diet study idea in the first place. It mentioned something called a green lemonade that was integral to the whole program. So, after first borrowing a juicer from a friend, I hesitantly added the kale, entire head of romaine, lemon, ginger and apple to be pulverized into juice. It was green. I was scared.  I took a tiny sip fully expecting to yarf, but I was pleasantly surprised. For something SO green, it didn't taste green at all.  If you would have been standing in my kitchen that day, you probably would have seen the light bulb go off above my head!  I was so excited about this and jazzed that something so healthy and GREEN could taste so delicious!  And so it began...

Fast forward to now, and I've posted countless photos of my juicing experiments on my facebook page, and here, and even created some Valentine recipes especially for Omega Juicers!  Some were flops, most were tasty. But, I've learned so much about juicing since (I've even been interviewed about juicing by Shape and Essence magazines!) and I want to break it all down here for you to help clear up a few things, as well as just give some overall tips for getting started, and fine-tuning the process so you don't feel so overwhelmed. 

Probably the biggest question I get on my page, is "Why Juice?" There are so many reasons to juice, and it is a personal decision for the individual, but here are just a few that I think are most important:

Benefits of Juicing
  • Juicing removes all of the fiber from the produce, which allows for the nutrients to go immediately to work, providing quick delivery to the blood stream. This is why most people feel very energetic right away after that morning juice! (But what about the benefits of fiber?  Keep reading...)
  • The digestive system gets a huge break, now that the fiber is removed.  This is an important aspect, especially for people with digestive issues or concerns.  Eating the amount of vegetables that you just juiced would have taken HOURS of work by the body to digest it all, so this is a key factor in the benefits of juicing. Less work on the digestive system, means more energy can be spent healing your body, and unfortunately in today's world, we are all in need of major healing, whether we feel like it or not.
  • This also means that you consume so much MORE beneficial nutrients, since you don't have to actually chew the food. Most people don't eat enough vegetables in a day, and juicing is great for people who just can't seem to fit them in otherwise, or for those who HATE every single vegetable, this could be a lifesaver.  One juice can have more veggies and fruit in it than what most people eat in a week, sadly.
  • Another thing that I find beneficial with juicing, is that even if you love eating veggies, you almost always have a few that you don't really like. By juicing, you can get the unique nutrients from those foods, without really having to taste them!  Take beets, for example. I absolutely detested beets. Gag reflex. every.single.time.  But, I know how unbelievably healthy they are for you, so I added just a tiny bit into a juice. I couldn't even taste it!  So, the next time, I added a bit more, and a bit more, and now, wouldn't you believe it?  I like beets.  I roast them!  I slice them in my salads!  It's crazy, I know.  But, if juicing can help you enjoy eating more veggies, than that has to be the best benefit of all!   
The next biggest question I get is, "What's better?  Juicing or Smoothies?"

Juicing versus smoothies
I get asked a lot about the difference between smoothies and juicing. I also have many people tell me not to juice because I'm missing all the benefits of the fiber in the produce.  Here's the thing, just because you juice, it doesn't mean you don't get fiber throughout the day from your other foods.  I can have a few juices a day and still reach my daily fiber requirements, no problem!  The fiber in the smoothies actually slows them down in your digestive system and requires more work from your body.  While fiber is majorly beneficial for proper bodily function, choosing to juice a few meals can be extremely healing for your gut. Now, obviously if you do a juice FAST, you would go many days without any fiber. I do not feel qualified enough to talk about fasts, but these are very specific for healing, and should be walked through with a physician or qualified care provider. I am personally sold on their healing abilities, but again, these are special circumstances.

Both juices and smoothies are easily digested compared to eating foods normally, and smoothies certainly have a lot of beneficial fiber, so if you need to choose one, go with what you're more interested in, or whatever fits into your lifestyle and budget. If you have digestion issues, perhaps juicing is where to start. If you don't feel that is an area of concern for you, smoothies make great travel meals and can really pack a nutritional punch!  I love to add hemp and chia to my smoothies, as well as nuts, coconut oil, bee pollen, maca, spirulina, wheat grass can really go crazy with your nutrient add-ins.  So, smoothies...juices...chew...I don't care!  Just get those veggies in that BELLEH!!

Types of Juicers
From the research that I have done, it is best to get a slow, masticating juicer. There are single and double auger juicers that slowly extract the juice away from the fiber of the food. This enables all of the enzymes to remain intact, and also gets much more juice out of your produce, which saves you money in the long run. The centrifugal juicers tend to heat up the produce and spin very quickly...this is where some of the nutrients get lost. These juicers also tend to be extremely loud. A huge downfall, in my eyes, er, ears. :)

Some juicing advocates say that you should just get the cheapest juicer and start because that's better than not starting at all due to high juicer costs. But, I have to disagree.  The money you will save from these slower juicers, and the health benefits you'll get from the live enzymes, will far outweigh the few bucks you might save from a cheaper one.  Most juicers have good return policies and warrantys, so be sure to check those out, and if you don't feel the juicer was a good buy, you can always return it.  

Got my juicer, now what?
Once you have your juicer, the first thing I would recommend is to start with a simple green lemonade recipe.  My very favorite, which is a slightly tweaked version of that original found in the diet detox book is:
1 head of romaine, washed, leaves separarated
3-4 leaves of dinosaur kale, rinsed well
1 lemon, some rind left on, quartered
2 apples (I prefer 1 gala and 1 fuji), quartered or more, depending on your juicer opening
Handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley (I started with a few sprigs and worked up to about a cup!)
1 chunk of ginger (if you're new to juicing, start small!  You can always add more. Ginger can be very spicy if you add too much and you don't want to ruin your first batch of juice.)

**Always use ORGANIC produce. Always.

From here, just get creative. Pretty much any produce you want to use up can be juiced.  Foods like banana, avocado don't juice, so skip those. You want to also focus mostly on VEGGIES.  Fruit juices are very yummy, but can mess with your blood sugars, so don't overdo those.  I like to add an apple here and there, but focus on about 80% veggie to fruit ratio.

Tips and Tricks
When juicing without a recipe, keep in mind that there are certain foods that will change the flavor, some quite dramatically.

  • To sweeten a juice that seems too sour or "green", add an apple.  Carrots can sweeten it up, too.
  • To add a bit of saltiness, I find that celery does the trick.  Especially for tomato juices.
  • To add more liquid, without adding flavor, romaine can be a great choice!  A whole head of romaine will add lots of volume but won't add much in the way of flavor.
  • Citrus can really cut the sweetness of a fruit juice, so if you "wing it" and it's too sweet, add a lemon or lime, and it will really make those flavors POP.
  • Ginger is spicy, so if you want more kick to a juice, add a little more ginger.
  • Berries make a great juice for flavor, but don't have a lot of volume, so be prepared to use a lot!
  • Alternate your greens.  Don't juice the same greens every day, because they have oxalates that can bother some people. Switch up your kale/spinach/collard greens/swiss chard...variety is good anyway! 
  • Add herbs to your juices!  I love adding fresh mint, parsley and cilantro to mine. Not only do they add a little fancy flavor, but they are CHOCK FULL of amazing nutrients that you just don't want to miss out on.
  • Don't throw out your pulp! Many people have said they don't juice because of the "waste", but if you do it right, there won't be any! Here are a few suggestions for using up that leftover pulp: Here, here and here.
  • Keep juicing ingredients on hand!  Every week before I go grocery shopping, I double check my stash. Kale? Lemons? Romaine? Ginger? Apples? Parsley   Get em on the list and you won't ever have an excuse not to make it!  

What about store-bought juices?
Since juicing has become much more mainstream over the years, so have the conveniently packaged juice options.  At first, this may seem like a great alternative to buying a juicer and making a mess of your kitchen, but truthfully these juices, even the so-called organic, "healthy" juices aren't worth it.  Once a vegetable has been cut, it immediately begins to lose its nutrients.  Same goes for the juices. Once you have juiced your produce, that juice is best consumed with 10-15 minutes. Now, that may not be practical for everyone, and some juicers do produce a juice that will hold most of its nutrients for up to 72 hours, but the juices in the stores have either been pasteurized, thus killing all the beneficial nutrients, or they have sat on the shelves for WEEKS, and this doesn't even take into account when they were juiced in the first place, and travel time to get to your store. So, your "fresh" store-bought juice could literally be months old before you consume it, rendering it completely nutrient free.  While a much better choice than soda...not as good as a juice pressed fresh at home.  Sad, I know.  But, here are some tips to save you time at home:


  • Get a masticating juicer that allows for fresh juice up to 72 hours, that's a great start!
  • Prep all veggies the night before, by either washing them, or even cutting/tearing them into pieces to make the process quicker in the morning.
  • Make a huge batch of juice the night before, or that morning, and store it in mason jars with tight lids until you're ready to drink.  Again, this won't have quite as much nutrients as the freshly pressed juice, but if it saves you time and gets you to drink it, then it's better than that month old store stuff!  ;)
  • Finally, I have not tried this myself, but I've heard you can freeze fresh juice right away, and this will preserve the nutrients until you're ready to thaw out the next juice!

Above all else, starting your day with a big cup of beautifully green juice can really get you off on the right nutritional foot for the day! There's nothing like feeling fresh and energetic from that very first meal of the day! And it will make you want to keep that feeling up, by consuming mostly raw veggies and fruits throughout the day, along with your chosen meals.  So, don't just sit there...juice up!  <3



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