Juicing can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health, if you do it right. But… a lot of folks I talk with aren’t doing it right, and are actually sabotaging their good health intentions.
Done right, you might be surprised at the energy boost you experience. And it’s not just a java jolt. Juicing supports your overall vitality, and the health of your digestion, metabolism, skin, liver, and joints. It will help you feel healthy and re-vitalized throughout the afternoon, making it easier to resist those mid-day slump temptations.
So make sure to read my guidelines. I’ve updated my current “favorite juice” with a new recipe, so keep reading.
As everyone knows, we should all be eating more vegetables for optimal health, especially the non-starchy ones. The average American eats only 1.5 servings of vegetables a day, though we should be getting a minimum of 5 and an ideal of 10. Juicing is an easy and nutrient-dense way to do get those numbers up into the optimal range.
Below are some of the benefits of juicing, some thoughts about juicers, answers to the most common questions people have about juicing, and some suggestions to get started.
- Phytonutrients If you follow nutritional news, you might be aware of the excitement about phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds from plants that have health benefits, for example: antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and immune boosters. Researchers believe they can be key to preventing, resisting, and sometimes repairing many diseases and degenerative processes.
- Nutrient Density Because it is liquid, and the fiber is removed, the nutrients in fresh juice are more easily and efficiently digested, absorbed and assimilated than those in whole vegetables. In this way, juicing is almost comparable to using herbal extracts. This makes fresh veggie juice a powerful, highly concentrated aid for cleansing, repair and restoration on the cellular level.
- Alkalinity/pH The pH scale runs from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). Seven is neutral. A healthy pH, tested with first morning urine, is between and 6.6 and 7.4. Even slight changes are significant, as the scale is logarithmic, meaning that a reading of 5 is 10 times more acidic than a reading of 6, and 100 times more acidic than a reading of 7.
In general, the more acidic your body is, the more it is likely to break down. This means you are more susceptible not only to whatever microbes you are exposed to (viral, bacterial or fungal) but also to degenerative diseases from arthritis to cancer. Being more alkaline is consistent with a body that is able to build and repair tissue, muscles, organs, etc.
When we are too acidic, the body tries to buffer the acid by leaching alkalinizing minerals that are stored in our body. For instance, if you are too acidic, you may lose calcium from your bones and teeth. What’s one of the best ways to alkalinize your body? Lots of green veggies.
- Hydration Just as we know we should be having more veggies, most of us need to work on hydration, too.
Women should be at least 50% water, and men at least 60%, but when I test hydration for clients in my office, many are below 40%, way below the ideal level. Think of how plump and “juicy” a baby is, and how “dried up” is a phrase associated with being old. Being under-hydrated by as little as a few per cent can have a significant negative impact on your metabolism and your ability to detoxify from the normal stressors of daily life.
- Whole Food Nutrition Scientists work hard to identify and isolate beneficial nutrients in our food; corporations and the media follow by selling those nutrients to us as the latest cure-all. Yet I can assure you that we will never identify and isolate the innumerable components nature miraculously supplies. In fact, often when scientists think they’ve identified a “winner nutrient”, they soon discover that isolating it actually robs it of its value. Nature already provides the perfect synergy, with not just the few nutrients we can identify, but all of them, the way they are intended to be utilized. While nutritional supplements, when used correctly, offer great benefit, nothing replaces real food, with all the nutrition of its natural synergy. (For more on this issue, read my Holistic Outlook column here)
- Enzymes Enzymes are the catalysts of all our biochemical reactions. They are fundamental to digestion, absorption and assimilation. Unfortunately, enzymes are destroyed by heat, even at low temperatures, Also, we tend to produce fewer enzymes as we age. Juicing with fresh raw veggies gives us a powerful enzymatic boost.
Choosing a Juicer
Update: I have upgraded to a single augur low speed juicer and I love it. Yes, it’s a bigger investment, but given the cost of organic produce, I’m confident it has already paid for itself. So much less pulp, and it’s very, very dry. See below for the link.
Interested in juicing, but not sure about how to start, or whether it’s really worth investing in a juicer? Ask around. When I replaced my 25 year old Acme, I asked around to see if anyone wanted it, and was surprised to find how many people already had a juicer – just gathering dust. If possible, borrow one for a few weeks and see how you do.
I do not recommend buying a cheap juicer. They are generally hard to clean, less convenient to use, and the motors aren’t strong enough to be efficient, which means you go through a lot more produce to get less juice.
On the other hand, top of the line juicers can cost $500 or more. If you spend less, you will waste more of your precious organic veggies, and that adds up quickly. For those on a tight budget, I recommend the Breville below as a compromise between quality and price. I like the large feed chute (no chopping necessary!) and powerful motor. It is easy to clean and reassemble. But my first choice is the Omega Vert.
Two tips for less efficient juicers, including the Breville: Use a plastic produce bag to collect the pulp, which makes clean up much easier. And dump the pulp into a bowl, then run it through once more just to get every last drop. As I said, organic produce is expensive!
Q: Isn’t it bad to lose all the fiber from the vegetables?
It’s true that most of us could benefit from incorporating more fiber into our diets, but removing the fiber in juicing is part of its power. No fiber means we are able to absorb and assimilate many times more nutrients from the vegetables than if we were eating them whole. It requires less digestion, so the nutrients recharge our system easily and quickly. Increase your fiber at meals, but juice in-between, too.
Q: What about bottled juices from the store? Aren’t they more convenient, and just as good?
No, not at all. Bottled juices are pasteurized; the heat of pasteurization kills the enzymes that make juicing so valuable. Also, bottled juices tend to be pretty sweet, high in sugars. They may be tasty but they don’t have the dramatic benefits of fresh green juice.
Q: Are you a proponent of juice fasts?
No I am not. Fasting is hard on your system and dumps a lot of toxins that you then don’t have the nutrients to deal with; there are much better ways to detoxify. Neither is fasting a good way to lose weight, as it slows and damages the metabolism. For an effective and gentle detox program, try my 21 Day Cleanse.
I do recommend juicing on an empty stomach, either first thing in the morning, or in-between meals. I use mine to replace electrolytes and fluids after an intense yoga practice, or instead of an afternoon snack.
What to Juice
You can juice just about any produce you can eat, but here are some general suggestions.
1. Choose a Base This should be something fairly mild in flavor and fairly juicy, for instance: cucumber, celery, romaine or a similar head lettuce, or zucchini.
2. Add some Dark Greens These tend to be stronger flavored, and a little bitter, for instance: dandelion leaves, watercress, parsley, cilantro, lettuces, nettles, chard, broccoli raab, etc. You can also use just the stems from these to juice, and set aside the leaves for other dishes. note: Because kale and spinach are so high in oxalates, I do NOT recommend juicing them regularly. (The best way to prepare them is to blanch them, dump the water and then cook them with lots of coconut oil or pastured butter or ghee.)
3. Add Some Zest You don’t need a lot, but these pack a phytonutrient punch and really punch up the flavor, too. Try lemon or lime, ginger, onion, garlic, chives, hot pepper, radish or whole cranberries.
4. Sweeteners I encourage you to develop a palate for the flavors above, but if you must add some sweetness to start, try adding just one of the following: a carrot or beet (the latter make your juice a gorgeous jewel-like color!), a little bit of apple, or a few grapes. It is possible to make juices that taste good, and that are good for you too. Too much fruit makes the juice mostly sugars without fiber, so try to keep it at least 90% veggies.
You truly don’t need a recipe for juicing, but here is my all-time favorite combination: 2 large cucumbers, a head of Romaine lettuce, one whole lemon, and about inch of ginger root. See if you don’t feel “lightened and brightened” after swigging some of that!
And here’s my new current energy boost: 1 large cucumber (peeled if it’s not organic – and I would rather use non-organic veggies that look wholesome, than droopy wilted organic ones – about 4 celery stalks, a whole lemon cut in halves, a chunk of ginger, and a handful dandelion greens.
Please send me your own favorite combinations; I’d love to hear from you.