Next to giving up square fish, one of the best things I've done for myself in my journey to healthy living has been to incorporate juicing into my routine. It's so simple to do- rinse some produce, drop it into a juicer and voila! It literally takes longer to wash the juicer than it does to make and drink the juice- it's that easy. Fresh pressed juice is a far cry from Hi-C boxes from childhood or the bottle of preservative laden V-8 marketed by big business. Purchasing a juicer is a worthwhile investment that will save you tons of money while you skip the trouble of buying juice out at the store, and you'll have instant access to the tremendous health benefits and endless delicious flavor combos of yummy juice right in your home kitchen.
HOW I STARTED JUICING
After suffering from severe and chronic disfiguring eczema for a year due to sudden adult onset food allergies, my doctor at Yale suggested I try an elimination diet in order to strategically omit potential allergens and observe my body's response. This ultimately enabled me to put an end to the suffering, identify my allergens, and get healthy. I followed an elimination diet outlined in a book in order to learn healthy allergy friendly recipes. The book included terrific juice recipes, and advocated incorporating juice into one's diet daily. Having just leaped from the world of fast food and processed junk food to whole foods meals overnight, I welcomed the opportunity to drink something other than water, and I therefore jumped at the chance to buy my first juicer. Having never cooked before, and feeling a fish out of water in the kitchen, I delighted in the ease of juicing- dropping virtually any combination of whole food veggies down the mouth of the machine and watching delicious and surprising flavors emerge out the spout and into my glass in an instant. I never looked back- I've incorporated juicing into my weekly routine since 2011, regularly making juice for my partner and our two year old too, and I've owned two different juicers in the last 5 years.
POPULARITY, BENEFITS AND CRITICISM
Juicing has been around for decades, with a number of different types of juicers on the market made by various companies. A surge in popularity in recent years has led to countless brands of expensive plastic bottled juices on grocery store shelves, pricey fresh pressed juices sold at juice bars, and marketing for all kinds of 'juice cleanses'. While spreading the awareness of juicing and its benefits is terrific for everyone, there have been exaggerated health claims not backed by science, dangerous and scary incidences of extreme juicing in which people ingest too much of a particular nutrient resulting in unforeseen side effects, or overly restrictive cleanses in which not enough calories are consumed to maintain health. Unfortunately, these instances of misuse and faulty claims have led to a backlash, a tornado of critics who jump at the chance to criticize juicing in any form as not living up to its promises, or worse yet- being unhealthy. Typical criticism claims that juicing is no better than eating whole fruits and vegetables, that juicing removes beneficial fiber, and therefore blending is the better option... juicing is too high in sugar, or too wasteful due to the pulp residue. There's a kernel of truth in all of these criticisms, yet I firmly stand by juicing as one of the keys to my personal success and transformation to health and I highly recommend juicing to anyone who is willing to juice conscientiously. In a July 2016 article on the MayoClinic website, the author sums it up beautifully: 'There's no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself. On the other hand, if you don't enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet or to try fruits and vegetables you normally wouldn't eat." Exactly. Thanks to juicing, I significantly increased my consumption of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, and I instantly felt increased energy, clarity and focus throughout the day. I juiced vegetables and drank them before I had ever tried cooking them as part of a meal. Kale, mustard greens, fennel- foods I'd never purchased or cooked with before- I was suddenly stocking up on, throwing them into the machine and downing by the glassfull. I'm still amazed by the effect this increase in plant consumption had on my skin health and appearance- smoother, glowing skin unlike I'd ever had before. Juicing was my gateway drug from a square fish world to the universe of fruits and veggies, and it can be yours too. Just follow a few key tenants in the kitchen and you'll avoid the pitfalls and reap the benefits and joy of juicing.
3 RULES FOR RESPONSIBLE JUICING
1. Don't 'juice fast'
Fasting, or severely limiting calories or solid food intake while drinking only fresh pressed juice has been a dangerous fad in health circles. 'Juice cleanses' have been a growing trend in recent years, and a leading cause of criticism of juicing. In these cases, companies profit from selling bottled juice and advice or 'programs' in which a person is instructed to drink only juice for a temporary period of time while calories and key nutrients drop to dangerously insufficient levels. Be sure to incorporate juicing into your regular eating plan. You might consider drinking juice before you eat breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me-up. While considering where juice fits into your diet, its important to understand the difference between juice and smoothies- both are amazing healthy delicious wonderful things, but they are not one in the same. Smoothies (blended drinks) are a great way to consume whole fruits and vegetables with creative flavor combinations while receiving the benefit of consuming the fiber. On the other hand, juicing also allows for unique flavor combos too but without the fiber. Juice is therefore a lower calorie drink altogether, and more of a supplement to one's diet rather than the meal replacement that smoothies offer. Each have their own purpose. Without the fiber, the nutrients in juice are more readily and quickly absorbed into the body, and I can attest to an electrifying energy boost that comes on fast after downing organic juice fresh from the juicer. I feel energized, rejuvenated, vivacious and alive- it's my early am coffee, my over the counter drug of choice when I feel a cold coming on, and a grounding, back-to-basics comfort in times of stress. The process of washing, chopping and feeding produce into the juicer becomes a kind of meditation in its simplicity and monotony.
2. Juice 90% veggies and 10% (or less) fruits
If you stick to juicing mostly veggies rather than fruit, you'll avoid sugar overload, and you'll enjoy a rush of energy without a sugar crash an hour later. Juice can be alarmingly high in sugar if you're juicing too many fruits. You might as well grab a Snickers bar and soda rather than make fresh apple juice. Stick to veggies, and limit fruits to one sour apple or one peeled lemon or lime per day to counter any bitterness when necessary.
3. Rotate your produce
Juicing is a terrific healthy practice, but routinely juicing the same produce day after day out of habit can lead to an overabundance of certain nutrients, which can be toxic to the body. The main produce to remember to rotate is cruciferous veggies. Kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and watercress are some of the easiest to juice of the cruciferous plants, a family which is known for bitterness and cancer fighting properties. Researchers from Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute outline how cruciferous vegetables work to decrease risk for lung cancer, colorectal cancer and hormone-sensitive cancers in their article 'Cruciferous Vegetables' from 2008. The doctors authoring the article also point out that too much cruciferous in your diet can lead to hypothyroidism. Its likely that it takes a significant amount of cruciferous vegetables to truly increase one's risk- stories of juicing kale EVERY DAY for years are often linked to the development of the disease, but its best to be on the cautious side and simply rotate your produce. I personally don't make the time to juice every day consistently, but I do several times a week, and I'm careful not to include cruciferous veggies in every juice I make. As with everything, moderation and variety is key.
WHAT TYPE OF JUICER TO BUY: CENTRIFUGAL VS. MASTICATING
To get started, buy whatever juicer you can afford. If you have a small budget like I did at the start of my journey, you'll likely want to purchase a centrifugal juicer which is the cheaper of the two types on the market. This type of machine uses a high speed blade to tear and grind the produce to a pulp and then separates the juice in the spinning process. My first juicer was a Breville, a company which makes a number of centrifugal models, all of which have the same basic function. A decent model will run about $100 and up. If you have the budget to get a higher end product, and if you're serious about juicing long term, consider purchasing a masticating juicer. The masticating machines press and squeeze the juice out of the plants rather than tearing with a blade, and this makes for a MUCH quieter process, and way less oxidization of the product. As soon as fresh juice hits the air it begins to oxidize and lose nutrients, but juice made by a masticating juicer will have less loss of nutrients and will last slightly longer. Masticating juicers also produce more juice from leafy greens than centrifugal machines, although both will do the job. Last year I purchased a masticating juicer to replace my centrifugal machine, which had enjoyed a good life of about 5 years of weekly use. I went with a Hurom model for my masticating machine and I absolutely LOVE it, although Omega is another top brand on the market to consider.
BASIC GREEN JUICE RECIPE
You don't really need a recipe for green juice- any combination of produce will do, but if you're new to juicing, it's nice to have a suggestion or guide for how much of what pairs well together. The recipe below mimics your standard green juice for sale at any juice bar, or packaged in a fridge at the store. It's so satisfying making it yourself- my two year old loves to help drop ingredients into the juicer and she eats a piece of kale, bite of cucumber, or apple as she works and I love watching her get into the whole experience. The best juicing experience is when we're fortunate enough to harvest some of the veggies ourselves from the garden in the summertime. Bright and tart, the taste alone will wake you up as well as the strongest coffee in the earliest am, and the nutrients will give you soaring energy.
1 green apple (remove seeds)
1 lemon (peeled)
1/2 cucumber (do not peel)
5 celery stalks
5 kale leaves (no need to destem)
optional: add 1 tomato and a handful of fresh parsley, or add a 1/4 inch chunk of peeled ginger to make your juice spicey
*substitute spinach or Romaine lettuce for the kale when rotating produce or seeking to avoid cruciferous plants
optional: add 1 tomato and or handful of fresh parsley
Be sure to discard the apple seeds before juicing- the seeds are toxic to consume.
Cut peel off the lemon before juicing, but keep the white rind for it's nutrition
Drink the fresh juice right away or store in an airtight container. Juice will separate when stored, but will combine easily by simply shaking before drinking.
Fresh pressed juice made at home is unpasteurized and is not safe to store for long periods. Its good stuff- just go on and drink it already!