Searching out all those so called benefits of juicing
When your home made juices taste great and provide an instant burst of energy along vital nutrients, you might be tempted to make them the central component of your daily diet plan.
However, fresh juices in excessive amounts can overload your system with some nutrients, while failing to provide other essentials such as protein.
Here we look at the positives and negatives of juicing, so you can see how to incorporate it effectively into your healthy lifestyle.
The health benefits of juicing
Juicing fruit and vegetables breaks down the cell walls of the plant so the nutrients are more easily absorbed into your system.
When the juice is extracted from the pulp of the fruit vegetable, your body can instantly absorb all the nutrients into your system, without the hard work of digestion.
So your freshly made juice provides you with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, without any fats, preservatives, added sugars or salts.
When you combine a variety of fruits and vegetables, you enhance their total nutritional value even further.
The extra vitamins and minerals will even help you absorb the nutrients from your meals more efficiently!
What’s missing from juice – Is Juicing Healthy?
Juice is an excellent addition to a balanced diet, but it is a poor replacement for one. If you try to achieve all your nutrient needs simply by drinking different juices throughout the day, you will miss out on several essential nutrients and overload on others.
Juice is low on fibre and protein, which are also essential elements of a healthy diet. Your gut is a long tube of muscles, and these muscles use fibre to exercise regularly.
Without fibre in your diet, your gut becomes sluggish and ineffective so you cannot absorb nutrients so efficiently.
Protein is necessary to rebuild muscle tissue. The lack of fibre and protein does not make juice unhealthy for you, so long as you are taking in these nutrients from food sources.
Fruit juice is extremely high in kilojoules (calories), so you can experience spikes in blood sugar, leaving you irritable and fatigued. And if you are merging a wide range of fruits and vegetables you might overload on certain nutrients.
Vitamin A, for example, is an insoluble vitamin so it is stored in the body and can become toxic in large amounts.
Which fruits and vegetables can you use?
Think beyond the traditional combinations: blend a bunch of spinach in with your pineapple juice, or add some beetroot to your usual orange and mango.
Consider apple and strawberry – or pear, spinach and carrot.
If you use a higher proportion of vegetables to fruit, you will lower the kilojoule (or calorie) count of each glass of juice as most of the kilojoules in juice come from the fructose in fruit.
Fruits and vegetables can be divided into five colour groups
Each containing their own unique and essential health components. Mixing a wide range of colours guarantees a wide range of nutrients, so experiment by blending a range of different colours.
Green fruits and vegetables contain chlorophyll, calcium, folate, Vitamin C and beta-carotene.
This combination will help regulate your blood pressure, cholesterol and digestion, while boosting your immunity, supporting healthy vision and reducing cancer risk.
Try green apples, grapes, cucumber, celery, kiwi fruit, leafy greens and spinach.
Orange/ yellow fruits and vegetables have high levels of beta carotene, Vitamins A and C as well as potassium and antioxidants.
This combination keeps joints healthy while boosting collagen production and calcium absorption for strong bones.
Vitamin A also maintains good night vision.
Look for mangoes, lemon, grapefruit, yellow pears, apricots, nectarines, yellow apples, carrots, papayas or oranges.
Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients to attack free radicals, lower blood pressure and counteract arthritis.
Try adding red apples, tomatoes, blood oranges, raspberries, rhubarb, watermelon and strawberries.
Blue/ purple fruits and vegetables improve mineral absorption, which in turn improves the nervous system and strengthens your bones.
The nutrients also act as anti-carcinogens, fight inflammation and lower cholesterol.
Look for blackberries, blueberries, pomegranates, plums, purple cabbage, purple grapes and eggplant.
White fruits and vegetables boost your immunity, reduce the risk of cancer and balance your hormone levels.
Add bananas, white peaches, white nectarines, and if you’re game for some extra flavour, throw in some garlic or onion.
What is the difference between juice and smoothies?
While juice has been separated from the pulp of a fruit/vegetable, a smoothie is a thick smooth blend of pulp and juice.
A smoothie is more filling than juice, as it contains more bulk and fibre, so it can double as a light meal or a snack, rather than a drink.
Juice is quicker and easier to absorb, as you don’t need to digest the pulp to attain the nutrients.
If you want the best of both worlds and gain a real juicing benefit stir a spoonful of pulp into your juice, to add some fibre and substance to your refreshing drink.
The importance of fresh fruit and vegetables
Most importantly, you need a regular fresh supply of fruit and vegetables.
Make sure you have adequate storage space in your fridge, so the produce stays fresh up until you are ready to use it.
Maintaining a regular supply of fresh fruit and vegetables is a balancing act – you want to have enough to last you until your next visit to the grocer, but if you buy too much it will spoil before you have a chance to consume it.
Adjusting to juice power
Fresh home-made juice can have a powerful kick, especially if you don’t usually incorporate a great deal of fruit and vegetables into your daily diet. Start slow with simple recipes and gradually increase the range and strength of your juices.
Watch your sugar level
Fruit is sweeter and has more kilojoules (or calories) than vegetables, so you are better of using a higher proportion of vegetables in each serving. Vegetables grown underground have a higher sugar level than above-ground vegetables, so choose your combinations carefully to avoid a sugar rush, followed by a crash in energy.
Start with carrot juice
If you are new to juicing, start with familiar fruits and vegetables as your body will respond positively to the taste and the nutritional effects. Carrot juice is a great beginner’s juice, as this is easy to absorb and will have a familiar sweet taste.
Mix it up
Try mixing up your colours and keeping track of how many servings you have of a particular vegetable each week.
This way, you can ensure you are absorbing a well-balanced range of vitamins and minerals, without overloading on any one nutrient.
If you only drink carrot juice five times a day, you will eventually overload on Vitamin A which cannot be flushed from the body, yet becomes toxic in large quantities.
Mix up your ingredients, so you are absorbing a range of vitamins and minerals.
Take it slowly
When introducing a new fruit vegetable to your juicing concoction, start with a small amount in your familiar recipe, so you can assess how you like the taste and the after-effects of this particular ingredient.
If you are constantly throwing in new fruits and vegetables, you won’t be able to work out which one gives you indigestion or which one leaves the unpleasant taste in the back of your mouth.
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach or kale, are a good example of ingredients that are fantastic and beneficial once you adjust to their power.
Gradually increase the amount you incorporate into your regular juice until your body can absorb all the nutrients efficiently.
Using the Juice Pulp
The extra pulp you have extracted from your juice is also extremely healthy and beneficial in its own right.
Left over pulp is an extremely versatile cooking ingredient that can be incorporated into just about any dish.
Store it frozen in ice cube trays, so you always have it fresh and available when needed.
For a quick healthy breakfast, stir a few spoonfuls of pulp into fresh yoghurt; for a more substantial breakfast, mix some pulp into your pancake batter.
The pulp is also an excellent addition to home-baked treats, such as muffins, or cakes.
You could even try stirring a few spoonfuls through your next batch of home-made soup or stew to add some extra fibre and nutrients.
If you prefer gardening to cooking, pulp makes rich compost, and it is also excellent chicken feed!
The Dangers of Juicing Diets
Juice is refreshing, healthy and enjoyable to make – and you feel a burst of energy after every glass!
So why not drink it all the time? Why not replace all your heavy meals with glasses of juice?
While you might be able to get away with a few juice-only days occasionally, there are significant health risks involved with replacing foods with juices over a long period.
And it must be questioned whether the juice only diet achieves all it claims to achieve.
Cleansing or detoxing your body by subsisting on juice for a week is a popular current health strategy.
It is claimed that you can clear your skin, eliminate toxins from your body and lose weight simply by replacing all meals with a series of juices for 3 to 7 days.
Over the 3 to 7 days of your cleansing program, you presumably will reassess your unhealthy eating habits so you will return to solid food with a new appreciation for healthy choices.
So does it work?
Any juice cleansing diet works as an endurance challenge – you commit to the challenge for a certain length of time (between 3 and 7 days) and you want to succeed despite the unpleasant side-effects of hunger, dizziness and irritability.
If you are generally in good health and enthusiastic about juice benefits, then a juice cleanse will not do any damage.
However, if you have a medical condition or take prescription medication, ask your doctor’s advice before trying a juice cleanse.
The real question is: does your body really need to cleanse?
Your body already has a highly efficient cleansing system run by your liver and kidneys, and the fibre in whole fruits and vegetables is actually a better cleansing agent than the juice on its own.
And if you ingest an excessive level of water-soluble nutrients, they will need to be flushed out through your liver and kidneys, which can be a strain on your system in the long term.
Juicing for Weight Loss Diet
Another health fad is the idea that you can lose weight by replacing your normal diet with nutrient rich juices.
In the long term, your body needs a regular supply of all the essential nutrients including protein and fibre, which is found whole fruits and vegetables.
Without protein, you will not be able to sustain your natural muscle tissue – as your muscle disintegrates, you will certainly lose weight, but unfortunately you will also be physically weaker as a result.
If you are drinking a range of juices all day, you will overload on soluble vitamins like Vitamin C or Vitamin B12.
Your body cannot store these vitamins, so anything you cannot use straight away will be flushed out.
This can be hard work on your kidneys and liver, particularly over the long term.
Other vitamins, such as Vitamin A, are stored in the system and excessive amounts can become toxic.
This diet may seem successful if your weight drops dramatically, but this is generally a false “weight” loss, through excessive fluid loss.
Get ready to juice!
What equipment do you need for successful juice making?
Firstly, you need basic kitchen equipment such as a vegetable peeler, a set of sharp knives and a cutting board.
You should also have a compost bin in your kitchen to store all left-over peelings and cores.
A juice maker and or blender
Shown on left the Black & Decker JE2200B 400-Watt Fruit and Vegetable Juice Extractor with Custom Juice Cup While oranges are easy to juice manually, you are better off using an electric juicer so you can combine a wide range of fruits and vegetables from leafy greens with carrots and apples.
A juicer extracts the juice efficiently from the pulp of any combination of fruit and vegetables.
The pulp is deposited into a separate cup – don’t throw it away! If you don’t have an immediate use for the pulp, spoon it into ice cube trays so you can freeze it for another time.
Also shown on the left the Ninja Professional Blender (BL660) If you want to make smoothies, use an ordinary kitchen blender. Rather than separating the juice from the pulp, the blender combines them, so your drink is thick and smoothly textured.
When blending a range of raw foods start with the food with the highest water content first and add enough purified water or juice to blend the foods smoothly.
This liquid still retains the original plant’s fibre and cellulose, making it more filling and sustaining than juice.
It’s a good idea to choose a juicer or blender that can “live” on your kitchen bench where you can see it so you are reminded to use it several times a day.
When selecting your juicing equipment, consider how easy it is to disassemble and clean.
It might be tempting to buy the “best” and most advanced machine on the market, but if it is too bulky and complicated for everyday living, it will soon be shoved into the back of your kitchen cupboard.
Always wash and peel in order to gain the major benefits of juicing
Wash the fruit and vegetables thoroughly then chop them up sufficiently, so they feed easily into the juicer.
They only need to be cut into small rough chunks – there is no need to chop them finely.
Fruit and vegetables start to lose their nutrients once they are cut, so it is best to only chop them once you are ready to make your juice.
Most of the nutrients are directly under the skin, so resist the temptation to peel your fruit and vegetables.
Even pineapple skins and melon skins can be juiced, although you might want to taste-test to ensure the resulting flavour suit you.
However there are some exceptions – citrus pith is very bitter, so adding orange or lemon peel will have a negative impact on the taste of your juice; and hairy kiwi fruit peel is a definite no-no!
Sort your ingredients
Your juice maker will probably have different settings for different types of fruit and vegetables – hard fruits such as apples will require a higher setting than soft fruits such as peaches.
Sort your ingredients into “hard” and “soft” and adjust the setting as you feed the different fruits vegetables through.
Soft fibrous ingredients such as pineapple should be juiced last, as the fibre can block the juicer.
Run the pulp through
Once you have fed all the ingredients through the juicer, check the pulp. If it is very moist, you could run it through the juicer a second time, to extract the extra juice.
Clean the juicer
It is a good practice to wash the juicer before you drink your juice. This way you are doing the dishes while anticipating a treat, rather than being distracted from savouring your juice by the thought of washing the machine. Wash the juicer thoroughly in warm soapy water. Once it has air-dried, set it up, ready for the next batch!
Creating original recipes for juicing – Juicing for health
If you’re new to juicing and would like to really benefit from juicing start with simple familiar fruits and vegetables while you adjust to the new regime and the routine involved.
The best aspect of juicing, of course, is that you can blend a wide range of fruits and vegetables – but how do you know which ones go together?
Blend your flavours
Try to balance sweet with sour, juicy with spicy. Sweet ingredients include carrots, apples, mangoes, berries, pears, melons, oranges and pineapples. Sour includes lemon and lime. Start by blending these ingredients in different proportions until you are familiar with your preferred taste.
The juicy fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, celery and apples give the highest yield of juice, although they don’t necessarily have a strong kick of flavour. You can increase the flavour by adding a small amount of herbs, ginger or peppers, or with some earthy-flavoured root vegetables.
Leafy greens come in three distinct flavours: kale and chard have an earthy taste, similar to root vegetables; dandelion, mustard and aragula are quite spicy so they should be used sparingly as extra flavour; while the neutral flavour of lettuce will complement any combination.
Lemon juice is an excellent addition to any juice combination – rather than running the lemon through the juicer, squeeze some into your glass before drinking the juice.
You want your juice to look good as well as taste good. It might smell delicious, taste divine and leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated, but all these benefits will be wasted if you can’t bring yourself to drink the murky muddy concoction in the first place.
Select your ingredients with a final colour in mind, so your green juice stays clear and pure, and your reddish-orange juice looks bright and vibrant.
Add your ingredients slowly, keeping an eye on how the colour changes.
If it all goes wrong, throw in some beetroot for a jewel-red colour transformation.
Look for texture
Your juice should have a fluid consistency, so always start and finish with some high-yield ingredients such as cucumber, to ensure there is a good watery base for the rest of your ingredients.
Add thicker flavoursome ingredients such as sweet potato, to give your juice a richer texture.
Now sit back and enjoy all the benefits of juicing !
Finally, the best part! Pour the juice into your favourite glass and savour every mouthful.
It is best to make sufficient juice to drink in one sitting, as fresh juice gradually loses its nutrients and quickly attracts harmful bacteria.
However, if you wish to store some for later, keep it refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 48 hours.
Top Image by: dlisbona
Lower Image by: f10n4