How can you escape the heat and stay in shape this summer? Why not try a fresh squeezed juice? Movies like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead have popularized juicing, and for good reason. People who drink fresh juices are doing more than just getting more fruits and veggies in their diet. They are detoxing, getting in shape, and measurably improving their health.
1) Juice fasting vs. adding juice to your normal daily diet
Adding fresh squeezed juices to your normal daily diet has many benefits, including helping you stay hydrated and increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and phytonutrients.
Juice fasting, on the other hand, involves drinking juice without food for anywhere from several days to several weeks. Juice fasting is a way of detoxing, removing water-soluble toxins from the body. Juice fasting is much safer and easier than water fasting and has many documented health benefits. However, I don’t recommend attempting a juice fast unless you’ve included fresh squeezed juices in your regular daily diet for at least a month.
2) Juicing and osteoporosis
Increasing the vegetables (including vegetable juice) in your diet actually helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis—and not just because some veggies (like kale) are great sources of calcium. Instead, the main benefit comes from the fact that vegetables—and veggie juices—help the body become more alkaline. The blood is always kept in a very narrow pH range, which is necessary for our survival. The body will do anything it must to keep the blood in this perfect pH range…including pulling calcium (an alkalizing nutrient) from our bones, eventually leading to osteoporosis. If you get enough alkaline foods in your daily diet, the body won’t need to pull any alkaline nutrients out of storage, so your bones can keep all their calcium intact.
3) Non-organic juice is worse for you than non-organic whole vegetables
Today’s fruits and vegetables are loaded with pesticides, herbicides, waxes, and many other unwholesome chemicals. The primary difference between drinking juice and eating whole vegetables is that juicing allows you to dramatically increase your intake of veggies. Ever try to eat a whole bunch of spinach, a cucumber, several stalks of celery, some carrots, and a bunch of kale at one time? Didn’t think so. But you could easily consume this much as juice. The high veggie consumption of juicing is usually billed as a benefit (because it’s increasing your intake of vitamins and minerals). But if you’re buying conventional (non-organic) fruits and vegetables, you’re actually getting a much higher dose of pesticides in juice than you
would have by just eating whole, cooked vegetables. The same goes for fruit juice vs. fruit. The solution? Buy organic veggies at home and go to juice bars that use organic produce in their concoctions.
4) Only fresh squeezed juices still have their enzymes intact
While bottled juices are often devoid of nutrients, fresh squeezed juices are a great source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and enzymes. By law, bottled juices are required to be pasteurized. (The government doesn’t want you to die of bacterial infections. For once I agree with the powers that be.) Unfortunately, the high heat of pasteurization destroys the enzymes inherent in fresh fruits and vegetables. A few bottled juice companies have switched from pasteurization to high pressure processing (which both keeps the juice safe and retains most of the nutrients, including enzymes). However, the vast majority of bottled juices are still pasteurized—not to mention many brands are filled with sugar, corn syrup, artificial dyes, and more. So fresh squeezed juice is still your best bet. It tastes better, too.
5) Juice fasting is NOT for everyone
While juice fasting is very safe for most people, it’s not for you if you’re pregnant or nursing. Because juice fasting is a form of detoxing, it pulls toxins out of the cells and puts them into your bloodstream before they can be eliminated. These departing toxins aren’t good for the fetus or nursing baby. Of course, pregnant and nursing moms can safely drink fresh juices in addition to their normal, solid food.
6) You don’t need a juicer to benefit from fresh squeezed juice
No juicer? No problem! Don’t run out and buy one just yet. You have plenty of other options. You DO NOT need to own a juicer to get the nutrients and taste the wow factor that comes from fresh squeezed juice. Juice bars are sprouting up around the country. To find one, you can search Yelp, or ask your friends on Facebook (or in person!). Just be sure the juice bar you choose uses local and/or organic produce.
At many juice bars, you can pick up one drink at a time, or sign up for a juice “cleanse,” a program where they deliver juice to you once or several times a day for several days or a week. This makes juice fasting extremely easy, even for people who don’t have juicers or don’t have time to prepare juices at home.
Why wait to buy a juicer? Like treadmills, juicers tend to be impulse buys that soon become dust collectors. (And that’s a shame, because a juicer can be the single most beneficial appliance in your kitchen.) However, if you get in the habit of drinking juice (at health food stores, juice bars, restaurants, etc.) before you buy a juicer, you are more likely to stick with the juice habit once you do finally buy a juicer for your home kitchen. Or you might decide that cleaning up a juicer is too much work, and you’d rather pay the extra money to have someone else make juice for you. And that’s okay, too.
If you do decide to buy a juicer, choose a high-quality brand like Omega, Champion, or Breville. If you can’t afford a well-made blender, don’t buy a knock-off. Just keep saving till you can get a sturdy blender that will be part of your kitchen for decades. Remember that, while the Vita-Mix and Nutribullet are both good machines, they are not juicers. They are blenders—a whole different animal.
7) Juicing has “cookbooks” just like any other type of cuisine
While there are many juice recipe books, one of my favorites is Kris Carr’s e-book, Crazy Sexy Juices and Succulent Smoothies. Kris is a bestselling author, cancer survivor, and nutrition expert. Her fun, lighthearted writing style will get even the most reluctant home cooks excited about the world of juicing.
Missed last month’s column? Read it now:
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