Juicing has become one of the favorite new daily rituals in our household. As it is, I have never been very good about getting my vegetables. Terrible, in fact. I think this goes back to my youth when I don’t really remember consuming a great deal of those veggies. And no, potatoes don’t count as vegetables. Nice try. Corn? Wrong again.
As I progressed through my teenage years and then my college days, I simply found a way to subsist on a diet devoid of many vegetables. Therefore, I never got into the groove with them. Now, I am trying to reverse that. After all, nutrition is one of the sacred Five Pillars of Health, and I will do anything to strengthen it.
This all started with my shift towards a more “primal” lifestyle. I took a cue from Mark Sisson at MarksDailyapple.com and now serve myself a nice “Big Ass Salad” on most days for lunch. There’s more vegetables in one of those salads than I probably consumed in a week during my younger years. But, I won’t stop there. I’ve made a point to include at least one veggie each night at dinner as well.
The folks over at Foodmatters.tv put out Hungry for Change (discount link!), which I highly recommend viewing, and it went out of its way touting juicing as a way to improve health. After watching the movie, I was convinced (along with my wife) that there was room for juicing in my life.
So, what is the big deal with this juicing thing anyhow?
Benefits of Juicing for Life
Funny you should ask. The main benefit to juicing is that fruits and vegetables, especially veggies, are absolutely loaded with nutritional gold. The main reason for juicing, as opposed to simply eating them, is one of efficiency. It would simply take an enormous amount of time and effort to eat the amount of produce that goes into one well planned glass of fresh juice.
So, what of this “nutritional gold”? Warning, it gets a little heavy with the scientific sounding words, but it is for your own good. Here’s the gold I mentioned
- Juice is loaded with antioxidants – In short, juice helps cleanse out the garbage and toxic waste that has accumulated in our cells and organs.
- Juice is rich with biophotons – Sounds like something from my favorite Star Wars movie. In reality, however, it is the light energy captured in plants. By shotgunning your fruits and vegetables, you are upping the amount of this “light energy” that your cells can utilize. Where fresh juice trumps anything from the store is that pasteurization, the process that allows commercial juice to have shelf life, kills off the biophotons.
- Fresh juice contains more phytochemicals – Phytochemicals are kind of the Wild Western frontier of nutritional science. While the study of vitamins and minerals has become very mainstream over the years, the study of phytochemicals is just beginning. What scientists do know is that fruits and vegetables are loaded with thousands of these unique chemicals. Early research has shown that some of them might be instrumental in preventing, possibly curing, diseases such as cancer. Anything that allows us to introduce more of these mysterious gems into our body is a good thing, I would think.
- Fresh vegetable juice is very alkaline – In its perfect state, the human body is in a slightly alkaline state. However, dietary habits can throw this state of bliss off its center. Even for someone, like myself, who wants to eat a healthy Primal diet, can find themselves eating things that throw this balance off. Meat, nuts, and some fruits are foods that are highly acidic. Throw in a guilty habit of Starbucks (gulp…) and you can have a VERY acidic environment in your body. This can promote disease and illness. Vegetables, on the other hand, are very alkaline. Put down some fresh juice that is mostly vegetables and you will help bring the pH level of your body back in line.
Potential Drawbacks of Juicing
Despite the many benefits of juicing, it is not a slam dunk for many. As with anything in the nutrition and health realm, there are going to be detractors. Some of the points may or may not be valid. But, as I have said before, it is up to YOU to be your own advocate. Despite the fact I am now an avid juicer, I still provide these in full disclosure:
- The Potential for Foodborne Illness – Juice from raw fruits and vegetables has the potential to be more susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens. The main reason is most store bought juice goes through the pasteurization process which kills off these critters. However, as I mentioned earlier, this process tends to fry some of the good things we get from fresh fruits and veggies. My thoughts? I have been juicing for months now and haven’t had so much as an upset stomach much less e coli poisoning or something equally sinister. Just as with eating your fruits and veggies whole, wash them!! That said, it IS important to consume fresh juice immediately. There are some ways around that, which we’ll get to.
- The Loss of Dietary Fiber– When you transform fresh fruits and vegetable into juice, the loss of fiber is real. Most of it ends up in the side hopper of your juicer and goes straight to your compost pile (you do compost, right? RIGHT?). There are a couple reasons to worry about this.
- Some researchers believe that without fiber, all of the vitamins, minerals, and other good things in fruits and vegetables lose their potency. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a conclusive study on this yet, but it is something to keep in mind.
- Some researchers believe that, without fiber, the fructose, in fruit, has an outsize effect on blood sugar levels. However, if you are using smart juicing recipes, most of your juices should be made from vegetables anyhow. A small amount of fruit is added for flavor only and shouldn’t be the dominant part of your juices.
- A third concern is that by juicing your fruits and vegetables, you are cheating your body of much needed dietary fiber. This is a real concern if you are reducing (smartly, ahem) grains in your diet. Especially so, if you are bascially replacing your fruits and vegetables completely with juices. However, if you are like myself, and still are making a point to eat plenty of whole vegetables in your diet, this is less of a concern.
- Expense – Juicing isn’t cheap, but it all depends on your point of view. Yes, you need the upfront investment in a juicer, which can run you $100-$300 or more depending on what model you choose. Yes, you will be buying more fruits and vegetables than before, as it is impossible to actually eat and CHEW the levels of produce that you juice. It can be even more pricey if you spring (like we do) for organic produce. It does all add up. However, like I said it is all based on your point of view. Which leads me to the next potential drawback….
- Time – Properly cleaning and preparing the produce. Setting up the juicer. Doing the actual juicing. THE CLEANUP. The time does add up. Especially if you make it an almost daily ritual, like we do. But, like the expense mentioned above, we choose to look at these things as an investment. It is just another one of those things, like (gasp!) exercise, that take time. However, again just like exercise, there is an outsize payoff for it down the road. Yes, you will feel better now. However, the big jackpot is the contribution a positive habit change will make in your future.
Tools of the Trade
So, even after laying out the drawbacks, you are mildly (overwhelmingly??) interested in this whole juicing thing. What does it take to get started?
A Juicer – Well, duh… However, this one isn’t quite as simple as it may sound. There are three different kinds of juicers, and each one has its own set of fans and naysayers.
- Masticating Juicer – As the name might lead you believe, masticating juicers literally chew through the fruits and vegetables you pass through them. Because of this “chewing” operation, it is thought that this type of juicer retains the most nutritional value from juices. It is also far more efficient, drawing out more juice, which is evidenced by a drier pulp. The main drawback on these type of juicers? Cost. They are more expensive than centrifugal juicers. Most run in the $250-$350 range. Operating them are also slower than centrifugal juicers. Fruits and vegetables need to be diced up into smaller pieces.
- Centrifugal Juicer – Full disclosure, I own a centrifugal juicer. Specifically, the Breville JE900 Juice Extractor, which was a recent upgrade. Centrifugal juicers basically chop up the fruits and vegetables into tiny pieces with very sharp blades and use centrifugal force to extract the juice from those blades. This type of juicer is more affordable than the masticating juicers, with entry level models such as the Breville BJE200XL (which I previously used) costing under $100. They are also more efficient, as well. Due to the speed the the blades and centrifugal force used, they are extremely quick. The drawback of this speed, however, is that centrifugal juicers don’t get nearly the amount of juice out of fruits and veggies that a masticating juicer does.
- Triturating Juicers – This type of juicer is similar to masticating juicers, but it has two gears instead of one. They are, by far, the most efficient of the juicers as far as the amount of juice extracted. The flip side of this efficiency is that they are also the most expensive juicers. With that price, however, comes many benefits. Because of the lower speed at which they operate, it is beleived that this type of juicer will introduce less oxidation into the process. That means your juice has a longer shelf life. The double gear design also is thought to break down the fruits and vegetables better, releasing more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Mason Jars – A must item if you plan on transporting your juice. If you wish to consume the juice immediately, pretty much any drinking vessel will do. However, if you plan on packing it for a morning snack at work, like I often do, you should invest in some mason jars. Fresh juice will break down from oxidation quickly and can end up quite disgusting in a few hours or less. Some Ball Canning Jars help keep the air out your juice.
Salad Spinner – A salad spinner is essential with all of the greens you’ll be washing for your juice. If you are like me, you like to get things done the night before for your next morning. Therefore, I try to wash all the produce I am going to juice, ahead of time. Problem is, if you wash most greens and leave them in the refirgerator overnight, they will be gross and soggy by the next morning. Running them through a Salad Spinner after washing will help keep them crisp until they meet their fate the next morning.
Recipes – The internet is ripe (pardon the pun) with juicing recipes. Some good, some not so good. Some deplorable. In our house, we start with a good collection of recipes like the ones from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Juices and Succulent Smoothies. Then we start improvising, based on what is in the house at the time. Sometimes they are hits, sometimes, not so much. But, even when they are not good, they are still fruits and veggies you are putting in your body! It’s a moral victory!
So, there you have it. It ends up being one of the longer posts on Daybreak Run, but it’s THAT important. Most of us don’t get enough of our daily fruits and vegetables, so juicing is a great way to ratchet up that part of our nutritional profile. Don’t get me wrong, it will take a bit of time to get used to. It takes a bit of time out of your schedule. If you buy the right equipment and produce, it will take a bit out of your wallet. But, like anything else to do with improving your health and wellness, it is an INVESTMENT. Unlike those penny stocks you might have dabbled in a few years back, this investment is certain to pay off.