To Juice or Not to Juice? To juice or not to juice is definitely “not” the question! I don’t think there is much of a debate regarding the health benefits of consuming such a rich source of nutrients & cleansing elements, or how these organic, fresh-made drinks boost your energy and improve immune function. But just in case you are not yet convinced of the advantages, here’s a quick review of the top reasons to juice.
- Juicing allows you to easily absorb nutrients. Many of us spent years consuming a sugar-laden, heavily processed diet, and as a result we lack the vital nutrients necessary to feel and function at our optimal best. Subsequently, our ability to produce enzymes, properly digest food and absorb nutrients has also become impaired. Juicing provides an easily digestible and absorbable source of concentrated nutrition allowing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants etc. to go straight into the body without needing to be broken down (they are, in a sense pre-digested.)
- Juicing is an efficient sure fire way of getting or exceeding the recommended 4-6 servings of vegetables and fruit per day.
- Variety is the Spice of Life: I don’t know about you, but when I make a salad or grill some vegies, I tend to use the same vegetables over and over again. With juicing, you can really mix it up and bring in a more varied array of vegetables (and the less sweet fruits) that you may not normally eat. That’s important because most nutritionally-oriented practitioners will tell you that if you eat the same foods over and over again, you are more likely to develop a sensitivity to those foods. Being creative and varied when juicing allows your body to receive a broader range of nutrients.
- Juicing supports immune function: Concentrated sources of nutrients such as those found in fresh-made organic juices, provide your immune system with the antioxidants & phytonutrients it needs to fight infections. Additionally, juices (specifically green juices) supply bioavailable forms of precursor nutrients our immune system needs in its function to keep abnormal cells from proliferating. Finally, since 80% of the immune system is headquartered in the gut, it is important to note that raw juice provides nourishment for healthy organisms necessary for the maintenance of an intact gut membrane, detoxification and to keep pathogenic organisms at bay .
The history of juicing: Juicing began during the 1800’s in both Germany and Switzerland. A few of the early pioneers where Dr. Kellog, Dr. Max Bircher-Benner and Dr. Max Gerson. Together they are credited with developing the “fresh juice cure” which is still practiced in many natural health clinics around the world and used to reverse a host of chronic ailments. American pioneers during the 1900s included Dr. Norman Walker, a chiropractor and Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston .
My personal juicing experience started in 1977 when a group of friends chipped in and bought us a vegetable juicer as a wedding gift. It was so long ago, I can’t even remember the brand, but I do recall that I stationed that orange-colored contraption on my kitchen counter and used it several times a week. When our son came along, that machine whizzed up more carrots, apples and celery (whenever he started yanking on his ears or seemed feverish indicating he was fighting an infection), then you can imagine! The result was incredible: throughout his and later his sister’s childhood, we rarely if ever had to resort to using pharmaceuticals especially antibiotics. With the help of the concentrated source of nutrients extracted from the organic vegetables and fruit, their young immune systems were able to receive the support needed to fight off infections- naturally.
Types of Juicers: Eventually, my old orange machine died which I replaced first with a Champion, later an Olympic, followed by 2 different versions of the Breville brand. These were all centrifugal type juicers that grate fruits and vegetables then spin them rapidly to separate the juice from the pulp. These models usually generate high heat, are not the easiest to clean but are usually the least expensive.
There are also masticating juicers which are a bit more expensive. However, they extract a greater quantity of juice from the produce because they chop (instead of grate), use more pressure and then push the produce through a strainer. These models produce more juice with less heat.
Finally, there are hydraulic juicers which are the most efficient at extracting juice because of the pressure placed on the produce. The juice is filtered through a fine cloth. Subsequently, the pulp retrieved is very dry (unlike the wet pulp you obtain from a centrifugal juicer).
My concern about the lost pulp: During the last 4 decades, I often felt a pang of guilt when I juiced because I’d either throw away, or compost all that beneficial fiber from the pulp. Then on one, (what must have been a particularly profitable day), my husband came home with a VitaMix! I thought I had won the fiber lottery! Finally, I could blend up whole fruits and vegetables receive all the vital enzymes & nutrients, and not have to toss out the fiber.
My Juicing Knowledge Evolves: My love affair with our Vitamix continues to this day, but as life would have it, my “juicing education” was meant to evolve even further. A few weeks ago, I met a “juice maven” the extremely knowledgeable Medea Galligan. Medea has been a Certified Holistic Health Coach for over 20 years, has her Master’s Degree in nutrition, and along with her husband Dan she owns and operates Medea’s Espresso and Juice Bar (located right off of Long Shoals Rd at 200 Julian Lane Suite 220 in Arden, NC.) It was during my interview with Medea and her husband that I learned a few more interesting facts about juicing.
It turns out, they have taken juicing to a new level, for instead of using a high speed shredding technique at thousands of revolutions per minute (rpm), they created a 2-part system of extraction using slower rpms. Their “slow- process- cold pressed” method creates far less aeration (hence less oxidation) and the lower temperature results in the maintenance and integrity of more nutrients in their delicious juices.
Many customers who sample the 6 different types of juices and learn from Medea about the health benefits of juicing, decide to embark on a unique 3 day juice cleanse (during which time, they consume 6 fresh-made juices per day). Along with individualized consultation and expert guidance from Medea (on what to do and eat prior to, during and after the cleanse), her clients report exceptional results including weight loss, improved energy and mental clarity.
High Powered Blender such as a VitaMix vs an Extraction Juicer: So yes, the VitaMix is still a good option for blending a few pieces of whole fruit or vegies, getting that all important fiber and making smoothies. However, as Medea clearly explained to me, a high powered blender such as a Vitamix and a high quality extraction type juicer have two very different purposes. A Vitamix can only handle a cup or two of fresh produce and its motor generates heat which can destroy a percentage of the nutrients. A cold pressed, slow process juicer typically requires a much higher quantity (up to 2 or 3 pounds of vegetables) to produce just one 8-12oz serving of juice. Consequently, the juicer provides a super- concentrated source of enzymes, vitamins and minerals considered by many juice experts to be a therapeutic form of healing.
Another factor to consider when deciding which form of juicing is right for you is that certain individuals with IBS, Crohn’s or other digestive issues may not be able to handle excessive amounts of fiber (at least initially) and will benefit instead from a more concentrated, bioavailable form of nutrients such as those obtained via an extraction process.
Storing Juice: Unless you are purchasing fresh made juice from a source that utilizes a special process which guarantees the juice will maintain its vital nutrients up to 3 days in the refrigerator, you’ll want to purchase or consume the juice you make at home within the first 20 minutes of making them because after that they begin to lose their vital enzymes and the nutrient content diminishes. If you plan on storing, use an airtight container, store in the fridge and consume within 24 hours.
How Often Should I Juice? According to Judi and Carl Murphy, owners of the popular “Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar” located within the West End Deli and Market on Haywood St. in West Asheville, “The most important thing you can do for your body towards prevention and health maintenance is to give it a little rest in the form of a cleanse on a regular basis.” We see our customers benefit from these periodic cleanses, but we also encourage juicing every day or several times a day to replenish nutrients needed for optimum energy, immune function and mood stabilization. The Farmacy offers a variety of fresh made “on the spot” juices as well as several cleansing packages throughout the year.
Organic is key: Maybe the most important aspect of juicing to consider whether you are purchasing juice from The Farmacy Juice and Tonic Bar, Medea’s Espresso and Juice Bar or making your own, is that you make sure your juice is comprised of 100% organic produce! If it is not, then all those pesticides sprayed on the crop will also be concentrated in your juice. As Dan Galligan stated “be just as aware of what they don’t tell you about the pre-made juice you are buying than what they do tell you”. Always look for 100% organic.
A Basic Juice Recipe: “Juice experts” agree that the healthiest version of juice should consist mostly of green vegetables with minimal fruit (due to its high fructose content.) For the seasoned juicers out there, this may be too basic, but if you are just starting your juicing journey, try mixing 1-2 stalks of celery with ½ green apple, some spinach (you’ll hardly taste it), ½ cucumber and one organic carrot. Over time, you can add some of the stronger tasting greens (kale, Swiss chard, parsley etc.)
Summary: In these times when 54% of our children and 60% of adults are suffering from one or more chronic illness such as: asthma, allergies, cancer, obesity, diabetes, ADHD, heart disease etc. the advice on how to prevent these disorders and or recover from them is often daunting and depending on who you speak to- often contradictory! I believe a way to cut through the confusion is to just keep it simple: begin juicing organic vegies! In addition to a healthy lifestyle that includes a positive attitude, exercise and eating a whole food diet, juicing can be an incredible addition that will help prevent and in some cases reverse chronic ailments which unfortunately western medicine has been inept at handling.
I’d love to hear your personal health transformation stories after adding juicing to your life.
Maureen “Mo” McDonnell has been a holistic, nutritionally-oriented RN for 37 years. She is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (SOKHOP.com). Currently she is presenting classes to help WNC Women (and men) feel their optimal best. Contact her for times and locations at MauraHealth@aol.com. Maureen is also an Executive Area Manager with Arbonne International.
References and Resources:
Documentary: Super Juice Me by Jason Vale (don’t miss this one!)
Juicing for Life, Cherie Calbom
Juicing for Health, Caroline Wheater
The Joy of Juicing, Gary Null, PhD
Vegetable Juicing for Everyone, Dr. Andrew Saul