My roots in wellness and good health started from a search. The search was to find the best natural foods that my body would respond to in order to absorb all the nutrients it needed for optimum health. But there was a problem there. How would I consume these foods on a daily basis- foods that were crucial to good health without struggling to ingest these critical nutrients into my system? I’m primarily referring to raw vegetables and fruits. We need at least 6 – 7 servings of raw vegetables and fruits, vegetables being first because they contain all the vital nutrients, and anti- oxidants necessary to nourish and replenish our cells. The best and quickest way to make sure we have enough of these nutrients is to juice raw vegetables on a daily basis.
WHY WE SHOULD JUICE
Why Juice? Any food we take in – whether it’s a steak or raw vegetable, needs to be in liquid form before the body can absorb its nutrients. This is where digestion comes in; food we consume goes through a period of physical and chemical changes by which the food is broken down in preparation for absorption from the intestinal tract and then into the bloodstream. Depending on the food(s) eaten, this process generally takes 1 to 4 hours. Juicing skips a step in the digestive process by going to the stomach and then after 15 minutes, right into the bloodstream. Maximum nutrients are absorbed this way.
The following are some misconceptions on juicing fresh produce that I want to comment on that usually come up as reasons not to juice. None of these fallacies have any merit but many people who oppose juicing will usually throw these more common misconceptions about juicing at you. Don’t let them discourage you from the benefits of juicing. (It’s been my personal observation with these folks that the most vocal of juicing critics who say juicing is not beneficial do not even incorporate vegetables into their diets).
Misconception 1: It’s better to eat the vegetable rather than juice it.
Of course we should be eating raw vegetables as part of healthy diet but who can stomach a couple of pounds of raw vegetables every day? In a perfect world, we would ideally be able to eat raw vegetables every day and in the right amounts for optimum health. Unfortunately, we have less than perfect digestive systems. For those deciding to seek better health, many have digestive tracts that have been so beaten up by processed foods and bad eating habits over the years and simply cannot absorb all the nutrients needed by eating foods high in bulk for maximum absorption. And for those who have tried to eat more raw vegetables, there is simply too much bulk and roughage to plow through to try and absorb all those nutrients. This is why we need to juice.
Misconception 2: If you juice, you’re missing out on the fiber in vegetables and fruits.
Juicing does separate the fiber from the juice but this is what makes juicing so powerful. Because the fiber and bulk are being extracted from the juice, all that is left is nutrient dense liquid that stays in your stomach for 15 minutes and then goes straight to your bloodstream nourishing every cell in your body. We need to remember that fiber does not provide any nutrients and is not absorbed by the body – instead, it moves through our intestinal tract absorbing water like a sponge and then is eliminated through our bodies through defecation. Fiber is fiber; you can easily get that same fiber you are extracting from raw vegetables and fruits from juicing by eating whole grains, barley, natural organic oatmeal and other high fiber foods.
Misconception 3: If you juice too many carrots or fruits that is too much sugar you are ingesting.
This has to be one of the most ridiculous claims I have heard by juicing critics since I first started the practice of juicing fresh produce. Do you really think the natural sugars (fructose) that are in health promoting, nutrient dense vegetables and fruits like carrots; beets, apples, and grapes are same as the refined sugars found in the processed food products that are sold in vending machines? The only exception to this that I will point out is that if you know you are blood sugar sensitive, see a nutrition oriented doctor and discuss your plan to juice fresh produce so your doctor can monitor your blood sugar levels but do not let the natural sugars in these vegetables and fruits turn you away from juicing.
Misconception 4: It takes too long to cut all those vegetables and fruits to juice.
I doubt I can really change the mind of those who choose to believe this without an in-person first hand demonstration but in all fairness, juicing is like any other task that is undertaken to reap worthwhile benefits- it involves preparation and planning. I have personally found it takes no more than 10 minutes to prepare my vegetables, juice them, and then clean and store my juicer until the next time I juice. It all comes down to time management. If we think about the benefits of juicing and then think about all the time we use to watch TV, surf the internet, socialize on Facebook… we can easily change our priorities in using use time management to incorporate 10-15 minutes a day to juice our way to better health.
THE BIG SEVEN
When I was in college, some of my favorite classes were Political Science studies. I was fascinated with the political process, especially the electorate. I remember one of my Political Science professors in school telling us that winning the 270 electorate votes was dependent on certain states which he called “The Big Seven”, key states that were necessary for the presidential candidate to win in order to win the presidency.
When we juice for optimum health, I have what I call my own “Big Seven” – vegetables that are all necessary for optimum health. These vegetables, when juiced together, become a powerhouse for the body delivering antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in their purest form. I recommend that these vegetables be juiced together twice a day for maximum benefit.
Carrots– This is one of the most popular foods to juice and it’s a very good one. Carrots are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Carrots contain beta carotene which builds and protects the immune system and contain a goldmine of minerals such as phosphorous, iron, and magnesium. Carrot juice is one of the most popular juices prepared in health food stores and is popular among adults and children alike. I recommend buying organic carrots since they are free of pesticides and have a much sweeter taste.
Kale– This is one of the most powerful foods on earth and should be a staple in anyone’s juicing recipe. Kale is not only packed with vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and anti-oxidants but has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties. As with all vegetables, juicing is the best way to derive its maximum nutrients but another reason to juice kale is that eaten raw, kale is quite bitter. Juicing definitely eliminates this problem as you can add sweeter vegetables and fruits to make kale juice much more palpable. There are many different varieties of kale and all are excellent for juicing. My personal preference is Lacinato Kale, a very dark rich green kale that has traditionally been used in Italian cuisine. As with all vegetables, I recommend that you buy organic kale. I buy organic kale at my local natural foods store.
Beets– Beets have a detoxifying effect on the body cleansing your blood supply and aiding in the building of red blood cells. Beets have many antioxidant properties as well as vitamins and minerals such as A, B1, B2, B3 C, folic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium flavonoids, and carotenoids. Beet juice is one of the best ways to maximize the nutrients in beets. Beet juice has been shown to reduce high blood pressure as well as reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular complications. Juicing beets also aids your liver, kidneys, bladder and colon. Beets come in the traditional dark variety and also the lighter color called golden beets. Both are excellent.
Parsley – Parsley is one of the most powerful foods for cleansing and detoxifying the body. Parsley contains abundant amounts of chlorophyll which cleanses and purifies the blood supply. Parsley is bactericidal (kills bacteria) and has so much iron, that it is used for anemia because of the effects it has on the red blood cells. Parsley is nature’s deodorant- it eliminates bad breath, body odor, poor digestion, and serves as a safe and natural diuretic. I recommend juicing two bunches of parsley a day for maximum benefits. There are two varieties of parsley: flat and & curly. My own preference is curly parsley (which juices somewhat better in my juicer) although flat parsley is just as beneficial.
Cilantro– Cilantro is a Mediterranean herb and like parsley, one of the best foods to juice for detoxifying the body. Cilantro removes dangerous metals such as mercury from the body which are poisonous and potentially fatal to our systems. Parsley and cilantro juiced together provide the most powerful natural industrial cleanser on earth for the body.
Cucumber – Cucumbers are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cucumbers are an exceptional source of vitamins A, C, K, sulfur, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Cucumbers are one of nature’s beauty foods: three compounds found in cucumbers -ascorbic acid, caffeic acid and silicon work wonders for the skin improving softness and elasticity. I juice two cucumbers in the morning and two in the evening.
Broccoli– The top gun of the cruciferous family, broccoli is one of the best foods to maximize health. Loaded with antioxidants, broccoli has chlorophyll and vitamin C, and those critical phytochemicals that have been shown to help fight against cancer. Broccoli helps regulate insulin levels which keeps blood sugar stable. I cut off the broccoli at the stems and juice the top green heads.
A SAMPLE JUICING REGIMEN
The exciting thing about juicing is that you can really be creative; there is no limit to the different combinations of vegetables and fruits you can use to juice your way to better health. Here’s a sample of my own juicing regimen that I use twice a day:
• 8 Carrots
• 3-5 leaves of Kale (cut off at the stems)
• 1 bunch Parsley
• 1 bunch Cilantro
• 1 medium size Beet
• 1 head of Broccoli (cut off at the stems)
• 2 medium size Cucumbers
As with other aspects of nutrition, its best to use a synergistic approach to juicing : the individual foods are not as important as using them all together and that applies to juicing as well. Although juicing just one of these vegetables will certainly improve your health, they are much more powerful when juiced together.
WHAT ABOUT FRUITS?
Juicing fruits are just as beneficial and you will reap healthy rewards by juicing fresh apple, grape or pear juice. Although juicing fruits is certainly beneficial, I prefer to consume fruits whole rather than juice and this is only because I enjoy eating fruit. Grapes, apples, pears, cherries, and oranges are nature’s desserts and I love consuming them whole as a dessert after meals. If you choose to juice fruits, by all means- go for it. You will certainly be doing yourself a big favor health wise if you juice fresh apples as compared to buying store bought apple juice which is usually loaded with preservatives and concentrates. As I just mentioned previously, I do prefer to consume fruits whole. However, I will juice apples or grapes when I am in the mood for some fresh, sweet apple or grape juice. Juicing fresh fruits is also a super way to get your children to eat fruit. My kids love fresh apple and grape juice. For breakfast, try juicing some sweet fresh oranges. Your children will love this healthy alternative to their breakfast in place of store bought juice!
Don’t swallow any old wives’ tales either that consuming too many fruits is bad because of the sugar (Fruits contain natural sugar which has no ill effects on the body). Before I began my quest for better health, I consumed my share of junk like everyone else. I can tell you that after eating a candy bar, pop tart or a pastry, I would feel the side effects an hour later as my sugar levels crashed from the increase in insulin my body had to produce after consuming these processed sugary foods. These days, I enjoy grapes of all varieties, apples, oranges, cherries, tangerines, pears, bananas and dates with no such negative effects on my body from the natural sugars in these fruits.
USE THE SCALE OF GOOD, BETTER, BEST
In his documentary The Joy of Juicing, Dr. Gary Nole stated to use an imaginary scale when it comes to how we should derive nutrients from vegetables. Dr. Nole advises to follow the scale the scale of good, better, best when it comes to vegetables. If you cook your vegetables, you will lose vital nutrients and enzymes but eating vegetables cooked is better than not eating them at all so that is good. Eating raw vegetables is better but because you are consuming the fiber and roughage, it will be difficult to absorb all the phytochemicals and nutrients not to mention it would be quite a challenge to eat a few pounds of raw vegetables every day. Still, eating raw vegetables will deliver more nutrients than vegetables that are cooked so that’s better. But to get the most benefit from vegetables, juicing derives 100% of all the nutrients needed from these precious foods so juicing is best!
JUICING DO’S AND DON’TS
Now that you know juicing is the way to go, let’s go over some dos and don’ts to maximize your benefits from juicing:
• DO clean your vegetables thoroughly before juicing even if you buy organic the reason being there may be some dirt or debris on them and juicing them without first washing them may leave a “Grimy” taste in your mouth
• DO clean your juicer every time you finish juicing. This is really a no brainer but you will be surprised how much pulp may stay stuck to the different parts of your juicer even after you clean them which can lead to a build of bacteria. The best way to clean a juicer is to run the parts (excluding the motor of course) under warm water and then use a small wire brush or toothbrush to clean out the small areas. Normally, most good juicers will come with accessories you can use to clean your juicer.
• DO drink your juice as soon as it’s ready. Oxygen is the enemy of those vital nutrients in your juice and the moment they go from your juicer to your glass the juice begins to oxidize from the air and you lose critical nutrients.
• DON’T store your juice to drink later on in the day. Many juicing aficionados will disagree and say as long as you store your juice in an air tight container, you can still reap the nutritional benefits if you drink it hours after you juice. I disagree- I have tried it myself and very carefully stored my juice in air tight containers only to see it change color from the oxidation which causes the juice to lose nutrients. Remember what I said about time management: It doesn’t take long to juice and once you become accustomed to the taste, you will be able to drink two full glasses in under 5 minutes.
• DON’T overdo it juicing just one particular or favorite vegetable. Be creative and try different recipes but remember our rule of synergism: the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. To get a full range of those vital nutrients, you need to juice a fairly wide range of nutrients to get all the benefits these raw vegetables offer.
WHAT ABOUT USING A BLENDER TO CRUSH THE WHOLE VEGETABLE?
If you have watched TV late at night or into the wee hours of the morning, you have probably seen all these infomercials on these state of the art blenders like the Vitamix that crush the vegetables into a thin puree and the person trying to sell you these blenders will state it has one up on juicing because you are crushing the whole vegetable complete with all the nutrients and in addition, you lose none of the fiber.
I have seen demonstrations of these blenders like the Vitamix and let me say, they are marvelous inventions. However, I will disagree with the claim they are more beneficial than using a juicer to extract all the nutrients from vegetables.
I mentioned earlier that we have imperfect digestive systems and for many of us, because of a lifetime of bad eating habits, our digestive systems have become so beaten up and barraged by all the wrong foods. Because of this, even if we were to somehow consume the entire vegetable, the roughage and bulk would prevent our systems from absorbing all its nutrients. This is why I believe that juicing is still more beneficial than a using a gadget like the Vitamix because with the Vitamix, you are not skipping that step in digestion like you do with juicing- which is just pure liquid going to the stomach and then right into the bloodstream for maximum absorption. However, if you enjoy making healthy smoothies, using a product like the Vitamix can be a good supplement to your juicing program.
After just one week of juicing, you will begin to see immediate benefits. Your energy levels will increase like you have never experienced before. Juicing will break you away from all those old habits you had that you needed to get going- caffeine, chocolate, and other stimulants and sugary foods. Juicing is one of nature’s best beauty secrets- everyone will notice such improvements in your skin tone, eyes and hair luster that they will be asking you what it is you are doing different. When you tell them you have been juicing fresh produce, they will be shocked by the answer!