It started with a documentary. A middle-aged guy whose health was failing decided to do something drastic to save his own life. His solution? Juicing.
For so many people I know, this was the beginning of a healthy transformation. They have taken control of their health, improved their diets, lost weight, and even healed themselves after years of chronic disease, with the help of juicing. While there is no such thing as a magic pill when it comes to health and nutrition, the decision to use juicing to improve diet and nutrition can be a catalyst for great transformations. when done correctly, juicing is a safe and healthy way to get your daily dose of fresh veggies and fruits.
So what are the health benefits to juicing? How do you get started? And most importantly, how do you do it right?
Not all juices are created equal.
There are a few things you need to know about juice before you begin juicing. A quick check on the label of many store-bought juices will alert you to the fact that they are laden with added sugars. This is not to be confused with the naturally occurring fructose found in fruits. Many of these juices utilize high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. And while there is some dissenting opinion on the role of HFCS in diabetes, what is clear is that a diet high in added sugar is not good for you. Diets high in sugar and fat have been linked to an array of health problems including tooth decay, certain kinds of cancer, and neurological degeneration.
For this reason, juicing advocates focus on using whole foods, preferably organic, to make juice.
Try to avoid using a lot of fruits unless you are going to use a blending method rather than a juicer.
Juicing removes most of the fiber from fruits. The fiber slows down the release of sugar into your system which helps to stabilize your blood sugar and promotes gut health. A healthier method of fruit juicing is to use a blender to make a smoothie so that you keep most of the fiber, though you will have to peel many fruits before you blend them. You can add water or ice to change the consistency. Another trick is to simply add the pulp from your juicer back to the juice before drinking.
Juice your veggies and eat your fruits.
Most fruits, tropical fruits, in particular, are naturally high in fructose. When the dietary fiber is removed through the juicing process, that fructose is released into your system at a rapid rate. This causes insulin spikes, sugar cravings, and weight gain. Instead, focus on using vegetables as the base of your juices, adding fruits that have low fructose content as a natural sweetener. Green apples, lemons, limes, and other fruits that are low on the glycemic index can be added to vegetable juices for a hint of sweetness.
This shouldn’t deter you from eating a wide array of fruits. Fruits are a great source of many nutrients that most people don’t get enough of, including dietary fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C. They are low in sodium, calories, and have no cholesterol. Many fruits, like berries, are high in antioxidants, which prevent or slow damage to your cells that naturally occur with age. This is the reason why antioxidants are often seen as anti-aging molecules. And, fruits are just delicious.
The rule of thumb when juicing is to keep your fruit content down to about 10 or 20 percent. You get many more benefits from eating fruit whole than from juicing them.
How much is too much?
When it comes to eating habits, the word we want to focus on is HABITS. The way you have been eating is not a random occurrence, but the culmination of a lifetime of experiences. What we are trying to accomplish by juicing is to change an old habit by replacing it with a better one. Most medical professionals will tell you that drastic changes in eating habits and restrictive diets don’t work in the long run.
While there are lots of wonderful stories about people who lost weight and improved their health by getting nearly all of their nutrition by juicing, these are the exceptions and not the rule. You should never begin a restrictive or drastic diet or exercise program without first consulting with your doctor. The truth is that most people simply cannot live on green juice alone. And few of us would want to. However, it is possible to use juicing as a meal replacement.
The key is to gradually incorporate juicing into your lifestyle. Over time, as your taste buds change and your body begins to feel the effects of juicing, you will find it easier and easier to incorporate a wider variety of fruits and veggies into your life and your juicer.
To juice or to blend?
There is a little bit of a disagreement on whether it is better to juice or blend your veggies. The crux of this argument has to do with what is lost while juicing, namely, fiber. Some people may discount the use of blenders when talking about juicing. However, if you aren’t prepared to commit to buying a juicer just yet, using your blender is a great way to get started.
You can adjust the consistency of your “juice” by adding water, tea, or ice.
Juicing gives you a concentrated liquid full of the vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds called phytonutrients. Since it strips away much of the solid matter, you end up with less juice by volume when compared to the number of vegetables and fruits involved.
That’s great news if you want all of the benefits of five daily servings of vegetables without having to fill your belly with five servings’ worth of plants.
Thos of us who simply don’t like the taste of most vegetables will benefit greatly from juicing rather than blending. Unfortunately, to get the full benefits you will need to purchase a juicer.
Juicers aren’t as cost prohibitive as they once were, and you can get a fairly decent model anywhere that sells kitchenware. If you need a low fiber diet, then juicing is definitely the way to go.
Blending retains all of the fiber of juicing and thusly produces more “juice”. If you need more fiber in your diet, this may be the best option for you.
You will also stay fuller for longer because you are consuming whole food. For those who are looking to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables, increase the amount of fiber in their diet, and possibly drop a few pounds, blending may be the better option.
How to get started.
Safe juicing means using a common sense approach and avoiding a few mistakes that not only negate any potential benefits but can be dangerous to your health.
If you are a “go big or go home” kind of person, then you’ll need to resist the urge to try and juice your way through the day.
Add a single cup of juice to your daily routine. I know a woman who began her juicing journey by taking up a juicing challenge. Every day for thirty days she drank one cup of celery, ginger, and green apple juice. She saw a number of positive effects on her health, mood, and skin and decided to explore more juicing options.
You don’t have to join a wacky online challenge or follow a specific recipe to get started, though both of these are legitimate ways to get your feet wet. The key is to commit to one change until it becomes part of your eating habit.
Remember that juice has calories. If you are juicing as part of a weight loss program, remember that juice has calories as well. If you add juice to your diet, be sure to subtract those calories from your total intake. For example, swapping your danish and coffee for a cup of juice is a great idea.
However, if you keep the danish on the menu you may not see any weight loss associated with the swap. You’d be better off trading the danish and coffee for a green juice and a handful of nuts.
Drink your juice right away.
It may be tempting to make a large batch of juice and store it for later, but most of the nutrients available in most juices begin to break down after a few hours. To get the most out of your juice, drink it straight away.
Also, improperly storing large batches of fresh, unpasteurized juice can lead to food poisoning as bacteria begins to grow. IN order to avoid illness and get the most out of your juice, drink it within a few hours of making it and be sure to keep your juicer clean.
Talk to your doctor about ingredients to limit or avoid.
Adding juicing to your healthy lifestyle can have potentially harmful effects if you aren’t careful. If you are on blood thinners like warfarin, spinach and kale juices can create a potentially life-threatening interaction due to the high level of vitamin K. Drinking grapefruit juice while taking statins a=can also increase your risk of liver damage and kidney failure.
Safe juicing means making food choices that make sense for you. Before you begin putting together fruit and vegetable concoctions, check in with your doctor.
You can replace a meal with juice, but you must do it right.
You can replace your breakfast, lunch, or snack with a cup of juice or smoothie. Be sure to add some protein to your recipe by adding whey protein powder, chia or flax seeds, nuts or soy. To stay full longer, it’s recommended that you choose to blend over juicing to make your beverage.
There is one added concern when juicing and that is cost.
One of the reasons why people fall into bad eating habits is the availability of low quality food at an affordable price. Healthy food simply costs more and can be a frustrating purchase if you, like so many of us, end up throwing away unused produce that has gone off in the back of the refrigerator. Juicing is one way of saving that produce by condensing it into manageable cups of liquid that doesn’t require much time or knowledge to prepare.
Juicing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be if you let it. If you use water, rich ingredients like cucumber and zucchini you will get more juice per ingredient than if you are juicing leafy greens.
Also, invest in vegetables and fruits that keep well such as carrots or celery. Remember that you don’t have to have a long ingredients list for your juices. Two or three ingredients is plenty. And finally, it isn’t necessary for you to buy organic produce. If you have to make a choice, avoid the Dirty Dozen, 12 foods that have the most pesticide residue and buy organic instead.
Juicing is a great way to improve your health and help you lose a few pounds.
Its a great way for busy moms, people recovering from chronic illnesses, and picky eaters to get the nutrients they need. When done properly it is a great addition to any healthy lifestyle. And with a little know-how and experimentation, you can benefit from it too.