Juicing for Life

 

Mean Green Smoothie

Mean Green. By Michelle Reaves.Chellereaves / Wikimedia Commons

Are you considering jumping on the juicing bandwagon? There’s no denying the juicing movement that’s sweeping the nation. Food and health blogs post creative concoctions, touting the health benefits of juice and its tastiness. It’s easy to get swept along in a sea of vibrant oranges, deep green kale, and bright yellow lemons.

Due to the recent rise in popularity, grocery stores are flooded with “natural” and “fresh” juices in the grab-and-go aisles. With so many easy choices, why bother with juicing at home? These neatly packaged bottles are a much faster option, and much easier than having to buy the produce, spend the time juicing, and then cleaning up afterwards.

Homemade juices are worth the effort. First of all, you have control over what goes into your juice. If you don’t like kale, but do like blueberries, you can easily make a spinach blueberry juice instead of having to stick with predesigned flavor combinations. Also, when you are making the juice yourself, you know exactly what goes into it. You can’t say the same for store bought ones. Naked juices have long marketed its line of juices as “all natural”—and recently the claims have been found to be false advertising (to the tune of $9 million).

Here are a few more reasons why fresh juice made at home is better than pre-packaged varieties found in a store.

Pasteurization. Almost all commercially produced juices are pasteurized to prolong the shelf life. Pasteurization involves heating the juice to 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and then cooling it down quickly. The heating process kills all the microbes that can cause spoilage or food borne illnesses, but it also destroys any heat-sensitive vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants.

Since juices are supposed to be packed full of nutrients, manufacturers often add the vitamins back in after the pasteurization process. However, the vitamins and minerals added after processing may not be as readily absorbed by the body as naturally occurring ones. Making fresh juice when you want to drink it ensures that your drink retains all its nutrients.

Added sugars. Pasteurization also mutes the flavor of fresh juice, so many companies add in sugar to improve the taste. Making your juice reduces the need to add sugar; or, if you do find the need to sweeten your recipe, you can add in sweeter fruits, or a sweetener of your choice. Manufacturers are likely to rely on corn syrups or artificial sweeteners, neither of which is healthy. Drinking fresh juice rather than bottled juice ensures that you don’t end up consuming empty calories.

Fiber. Some bottled juices are processed in ways where almost all of the insoluble fiber is stripped away, and some of the soluble fiber is removed as well. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar in the body, reducing insulin spikes—which over time could lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Fiber also has a host of other health benefits like lowering cholesterol levels to keeping you regular. Most home juicers allow you to keep at least some of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to juicing, try to buy organic since you’ll be using most of them whole, especially if you use a juicer. Be sure to wash the fruit and vegetables prior to using them—a quick and inexpensive produce cleaner is to dilute a little bit of vinegar with water and spray on the produce before rinsing. If you use cherries, plums, peaches or other fruits with large seeds, pit them prior to tossing them in the juicer.

Here are a few simple and nutritious juice recipes to get you started on your juicing habit.

Mean Green. The original “Mean Green” juice featured in the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead kicked off the current juicing craze. Packed with leafy green vegetables, the Mean Green is a great way to sneak in some extra heart-healthy fiber into your daily diet. It’s also highly versatile, as you can swap ingredients for others as needed.

Serves one. Juice the following ingredients together and serve immediately over ice.

6 kale leaves (try baby kale for a less fibrous final product)

1 cucumber

4 celery stalks

2 green apples

1/2 lemon

1 piece of ginger

Orange You Glad to See Me. This juice is packed with vitamin C from oranges and

Mango Kiwi Juice. Image courtesy of Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr.com

Mango Kiwi Juice. Image courtesy of Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr.com

lemon to boost your immune system and beta-carotene from the carrots to help keep your eyes healthy. Ginger helps with digestion, and gives the juice a spicy kick!

Serves one. You can opt to use a manual citrus squeezer for the oranges and lemon, before switching over to a electric juicer for the carrots and ginger.

8 carrots

2 oranges

1 Meyer lemon (try to find Meyer lemon instead of regular lemon as it imparts a smoother, sweeter flavor)

1 small piece ginger

Juicing is a great way to increase your vegetable and fruit intake—rather than slowly chewing through eight carrots, you can juice them with some lemons and oranges for a delicious afternoon drink. Making them at home may take a little longer than just grabbing a bottle from the store, but the health benefits are worth the effort.

 

 

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance health and wellness writer from Los Angeles. She is a big fan of juicing and always tries to have a pitcher of some fresh concoction in the fridge!