Juicing for health

(Part 1 – Is Juicing really good for me?)

Everything is about juicing for health these days. All kind of juices. Especially the green ones. I mean, if Salma, Gwyneth, Jennifer, and Blake do it, we should all be downing the green stuff, right?

The question is: should we be juicing?

If you’re anything like me, you need a good reason before jumping on a bandwagon, whatever it may be. There have been many a fad diet endorsed by celebrities at the time, and they’ve all but disappeared into oblivion.

Juicing, however, might just actually be good for you…

Let’s check it out.

[Note – As I was writing this post, I kept finding various other aspects of juicing for health worth mentioning… and the post just got longer… and longer… So I’ve decided to split into 2 more easy-to-digest chunks.
You can find Part 2 – How to juice for health, with more practical tips on juicing and healthy recipes here.]

Juicing and nutrients

First, let’s get one thing straight. In case you need to be convinced further of the benefits of adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, this research-based article on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables should put your mind at ease.

Perfectly packaged nutrients

Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables contain water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are all essential nutrients our bodies need. Neatly packaged in its optimized shell to protect it from damage and oxidation. Until said fruit or vegetable gets picked, that is.

Nothing beats that.

The problem is, as soon as the fresh produce is harvested, it starts loosing much of its nutrients. Cooking further decrease its nutrients content. Industrial processing practically depletes it completely of some nutrients.

So we know that we should eat more raw fruits and vegetables, as fresh as possible. The problem is, few of us do manage to get freshly picked fruits and vegetables, let alone eat enough of them raw.

When juicing using a slow masticating juicer (like this one), most of the vitamins and minerals are retained. So if you battle to fit in enough fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, juicing might just be an answer.

My basic juice recipe includes
1 beet,
1/2 stalk celery,
1/2 inch ginger,
1 cup spinach,
2 carrots
and 1 apple (for taste).

Not only does it taste quite sweet and flavorsome, but I would otherwise be pushed to fit in raw beet, carrots, ginger, and spinach into my daily meals.

How do I get the maximum nutrients?

Now, as you probably know, decades of intensive farming, chemical fertilizers and longer storage times mean our fruits and vegetables are not what they used to be. By and far, today’s produce contains far less vitamins, antioxidants and minerals than their ancestors from the 50s.

Whatever the reason for this, however, we do have access to far more of them than our own ancestors did in the 50s. So let’s make the most of them.

How?

By buying the stuff that contains naturally the most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Namely organic produce.

And yes, I know, they usually are more expensive that their conventionally-grown counterparts. But if we only rely on one juice or smoothie per day to load up on nutrients, might as well use the best produce, right?

Fruits and vegetable market

In the long run, we might just save on medical bills and/or supplements. While encouraging a more nutrient-dense way of farming.

Check out my post on the Dirty Dozen (and the Clean 15) to know which fruits and vegetables are worth splashing just a little bit more on and buying organic. And which ones you should, if not organic, religiously peel whenever possible.

What about convenience juicing?

As with any trending product out there, the retailers have quickly jumped on the juicing bandwagon to offer more convenience.

Fresh juices

Beware of pre-prepared juices. Their nutrient contents will have been severely depleted by all the processing and storing. Whether prepared at home or sold in the shops.

Juice bars are a better option, provided you drink the juice within 30 minutes for maximum benefits.

Similarly, try and refrain from prepping your fruits and vegetables, say, for the week, to speed up your juicing process. Once the fruits are washed, cut up or peeled, they start losing nutrients quickly.

Rather aim for fruits and vegetables that require no or limited prepping during weekdays, for example. And keep the more labor-intensive ones for the weekend. Check the Clean 15 list to figure out which fruits and vegetables don’t need peeling, even if conventionally grown.

How to store your juice

Unfortunately, the second your fruits and vegetables are being harvested… they start loosing vitamins and nutrients. Even more so when they are being stored, displayed, processed, chopped, peeled, masticated, blended, pulsated, you name it.

Fresh green juice

That’s why it is recommended to drink our fresh juices within 30 minutes of making them. We can keep them in the fridge for a few hours and still retain some vitamins, but it’s best to make fresh juices during the day.

Freezing is your best option here, if you must preserve your juice for later. Some nutrients will be lost during the thawing process though, and this thawing time might just replace the time you saved bulk-juicing in the first place.

The role of fiber

Proponents of juicing will answer that removing the fiber makes the vitamins and minerals more easily absorbed by the body. Which is true.

Detractors of juicing will argue that it removes the bulk of fiber, which an essential macro-nutrient to our bodies. And they would also be correct.

Of the benefits of fiber

Fiber is needed to help digestion, remove toxins, feed our gut flora and slow down the absorption of sugars, among other things. So not something to be sniffed at.

One thing is certain, we need fiber for optimal digestion and well-being.

So, if your intake of fruits and vegetables is very low, consider blending, rather than juicing, to retain all the fibers.

If, besides juicing, you also eat a fair amount of fresh and cooked fruits ad vegetables, you’re probably getting enough roughage in your diet. Juicing is then a good option for you.

And of its major downside

However if, like me, your digestive system is somewhat on the sensitive side, blending is a big no-no. Juicing allows me to up my intake of plant food without unwanted side-effects.

Check this post to help decide which one would work best for you, juicing or blending.

Mind that sugar

You probably have read that juicing can be bad for you, as it leaves the sugar from the juiced fruits unchecked. Those can easily add up and cause your blood sugars to spike and crash afterward. Just like any form of sugar.

This is true… if you’re mostly blending fruits or sweet vegetables (think carrots or beets).

Now, let’s stop for a moment here.

How much fruit should I be eating?

Nature knows best, and until the last few decades, as much as vegetables were available pretty much all year round, some of them for several months in a row, fruits remained extremely localized and seasonal.

A form of natural treat, if you would.

And that’s probably how we should carry on eating them, as a treat.

Fruits for juicing

So if you aim at eating no more than 2 or 3 fruit portions during the day, but cram 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1/2 cup of strawberries and 1 cup of pineapple chunks into your juicer, you will far exceed your target.

And without the fiber to slow down the absorption of the fruit sugars, your healthy morning juice might turn into a craving bomb, sending you reach for doughnuts by 10am!

So how should I have my fruits?

So do you limit the amount of fruits in your juices?

Everybody would agree that most vegetables, whether raw or juiced, lend themselves to extra flavors, whether a tangy mayonnaise with crudites, a sharp vinaigrette on a salad or other herbs and olive oil drizzle.

When juicing, one could add similar flavors to your juice (mint juice, anyone?), add some punch with ginger, for example, even a lemon zing… or add a couple of fruits to drown the bitterness of some vegetables.

This is generally the preferred option, but the fruits can quickly add up. So what can you do?

You could…

Carrot and ginger juice

… try juicing vegetables that already taste sweet, such as carrots, beets or sweet potatoes.

…try adding some of the above more “savory” flavors, salt/pepper, lemon juice, other condiments. My preferred method if I add a fair bit of cucumber to my juice. Tastes a bit like a gazpacho, yummy!

…add some ginger. More or less, depending on how much of a kick you like. It definitely adds some zing to your juice and drowns out less palatable flavors.

…add some fruits, within reason. I find that one apple is usually enough to make the greenest of juices palatable, but everybody’s taste buds are different. Just be mindful of how much fruit you cram in that juicer.

…use a blender as well. One of my friends first juices her wheatgrass, then mixes it to her blended smoothies for breakfast. In come bananas, chia seeds and other avocados for creaminess, protein powder or nuts for sustenance and whatever other goodies she throws in there for flavor.

Where to next?

We’ve covered the Why you should be juicing and the pros and cons of juicing to improve your health.

If you want to know how to create healthy juice, how to pick the right fruits and vegetables for your body etc., plus some basic recipes to get you started, check out Part 2 – How to Juice for Health.

Disclaimer: Please note that this post relates to my own personal story and information I have gathered from my own research and experience. I am not a dietician, a nutritionist or a doctor. If you suffer from any chronic conditions, are being followed by a doctor for any disease, or take medication, please see your doctor before making changes to your diet or embarking on a juicing fast.

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