What You'll Learn in This Article
- Benefits of Juicing
- How to Choose a Juicer
- Beginner Juicing Tips
Good health is the most valuable asset anyone can possess. Our goal is to be in excellent health, but there are so many hurdles slowing us from reaching that goal. We all know it's important to eat fruits and vegetables, so why aren't we? According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans consumes the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables . One of the reasons may be cost. ABC News published an article suggesting people can't afford to eat fruits and vegetables . In this article, we're going to arm you with the fundamentals of juicing and give you the ammo you need to clear the hurdles you'll face on your journey to impeccable health.
What is Juicing?
To start, let’s explore what juicing is and how it works. In the simplest terms, juicing is the method for extracting liquids from fruits and vegetables. Some people refer to juicing as “drinking your food” or “drinking your fruits and veggies.”
When you juice fruits and vegetables, you press all the juices from the produce and separate it from the pulp or fiber. You’re left with the liquid which contains the majority of the nutrients from that particular fruit or vegetable. Fresh juice is completely raw and doesn’t contain any added sugars or flavorings that might be found in conventional, store-bought juices.
Why Should I Be Juicing?
One of the main reasons to juice is because it allows you to consume a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in a short amount of time. According to the food pyramid, adults need 4-5 servings of vegetables and 3-4 servings of fruit per day . However, many people struggle to get in the required amount and often find eating plain vegetables or salads unappetizing.
It would be not only time-consuming but also unpleasant to have to eat several pounds of vegetables every day. However, when juiced, you can quickly and easily drink a glass of juice made from, for example, multiple cups of spinach, several cucumbers, and a few stalks of celery. A small glass of juice can contain a much higher quantity of produce than what is possible to be eaten in a single sitting. Consequently, you will be able to get a big dose of micronutrients and phytochemicals which are necessary for the body’s immune system.
Another benefit of juicing is that it helps with the absorption of nutrients. Because many people have digestive problems, they may not be absorbing the majority of the nutrition from what they eat, even if they are eating as many servings of fruits and vegetables as recommended. Juicing removes the insoluble fiber from the produce so the body doesn’t have to expend as much energy in digestion. Instead, the nutrients can be immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and then carried to the cells of the body.
Juicing provides vitamins, minerals, and enzymes directly from the food source, making it a higher quality method of gaining nutrients than supplements or powders. Instead, juice is raw and full of life. It has not been processed, heated, or otherwise treated, meaning you get the freshest ingredients for optimal nutrition.
As mentioned, juicing is helpful because the body doesn’t have to digest a large quantity of food in order to extract nutrients. Digestion also uses a lot of energy and is very time consuming, taking six to eight hours for food to enter the small intestine from the stomach. One study found that the total time from eating to eliminating took about 53 hours . Juicing greatly reduces the amount of time and energy needed to digest the juice. It is estimated that juice is absorbed within 20-25 minutes of drinking it.
As a result, the digestive system can rest and subsequently free up energy for other bodily functions and processes, including healing. One of the reasons the body naturally suppresses the appetite when you are ill is to conserve energy and redirect the resources needed for digestion toward recovery. This same effect can be used when juicing to allow the body to relax and rejuvenate.
Juicing has also been attributed to helping the body detoxify, particularly the liver which is a major organ for eliminating toxins. In addition, juicing can be an effective means of losing weight because your body will be saturated with healthy nutrients without a lot of calories. When you juice, you can also get very creative with the ingredients and introduce some fruits and vegetables that you’ve never tried before. Juicing is a great way to consume a wide variety of produce instead of the common foods most people eat on a regular basis.
Drinking fresh juice is also the perfect way to hydrate the body. Cucumber juice, for example, is full of electrolytes and the cucumber itself is 95% water. It is low in calories but contains phytonutrients and has anti-inflammatory qualities. Other juices like celery are very alkalizing and help balance the pH of the body while providing essential vitamins and minerals.
Juicing for yourself also means you can be more creative with flavor combinations than what is possible when purchasing pre-made juices. The amount of juice combinations is practically limitless and also allows you to customize each juice to your own tastes and preferences. Making juice at home also means you know exactly what goes into it and can ensure cleanliness and quality.
What About Fiber and Sugar?
Two of the biggest concerns when it comes to juicing are the questions of getting too much sugar and not enough fiber. While it’s true that juicing does remove the majority of the insoluble fiber, there is still soluble fiber remaining. Also, unless the juice is strained, there will still be fiber in it after it is juiced.
If you are concerned about getting enough fiber, make sure to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods in addition to drinking fresh juices. All the pulp that results from juicing can also be used in creative ways to add that fiber back into your diet. Some people use the leftover pulp in baking or to make flavorful soup stock. Others add a bit back into their juice or freeze it and put it in a smoothie.
In regards to sugar, juicing primarily fruits will result in a very sweet end result. However, the sugars in fruit are different from processed sugars found in sugary treats like cookies and donuts. In addition, the sugar itself is not the culprit when it comes to insulin resistance and diabetes. One study found that it is fat in the bloodstream that prevents sugars in the blood from entering the cells . So if you have been eating a high-fat diet, start by drinking juices made primarily from vegetables. As your body assimilates the fats already in your body, then you can start adding in more fruit juices.
One thing to be concerned about regarding sugar though is the acidity of the fruit and possible negative side effects for oral hygiene. If you are drinking a lot of sweet fruit juices, make sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterward to keep it alkaline.
What About Smoothies?
Juicing is very different from smoothies because juicing removes fiber. However, for those concerned with fiber, a smoothie may be an option. Smoothies do allow you to typically eat a bigger quantity of fruits and vegetables because it is blended into a more liquid form. It’s much easier to drink a few cups of spinach blended with some sweet fruit instead of sitting down and eating a huge a salad.
However one of the primary benefits of juicing is the fast delivery mechanism of nutrition to the body which does not happen with smoothies. Juicing also hydrates the body better and faster than simply drinking a smoothie. Also, some people may not like the consistency of smoothies because they are thicker and can be chunkier than a smooth, liquid juice.
How Will I Feel When I Start Juicing?
Because drinking juice gives an instant influx of large quantities of nutrition into your body, you may feel really good and energized right away. On the other hand, adding juice to your diet also allows the digestive system to rest and the energy conserved may be redirected toward healing and detoxification. In that case, you may experience some cleansing reactions such as a headache or lethargy.
The body will be busy driving toxins out of the body, especially through the liver and kidneys. Depending on your health condition, you may have more toxins to eliminate than others. This process can take time so don’t blame the juice for any side effects. In fact, it is the juice which is helping the body to heal and the healing process is not always pleasant.
Still, if you experience any pain or extreme discomfort, listen to your body and cut back on how much you are drinking. One way to slow detoxification symptoms is to drink more juices made from vegetables instead of fruits. Another way is to alternate the days you drink juice to provide a more gentle cleansing and healing process.
Types of Juicers
Now that you’re ready to start juicing, you probably need to purchase a juicer. There are two main types of juicers to choose from: centrifugal and masticating. The type of juicer refers to the motion used to grind the produce and extract the juices.
Centrifugal juicers use high speed to break down the food and force the pulp and juice to separate where it is then strained and collected. This type of juicer is more popular among casual juicers, can easily be found in stores, and is quite affordable. Because of the high-speed spinning motion, juicing is a bit faster so it’s good for people short on time.However, fast motion may cause some of the nutrients and enzymes to break down. It will also cause the juice to oxidize and the taste may not be as concentrated. Some also find the centrifugal juicer to be noisy and, due to the many parts, it can be time-consuming to clean.
Centrifugal juicers are also better for fruits and don’t do as well with leafy greens. Although these juicers are more affordable, they often don’t have a very long warranty, and the motor can burn out. The blade also traps air which leads to oxidation and also produces a lot of foam in the juice.
Masticating juicers take a different approach, slowly grinding the produce with an auger to powerfully extract all the juices. They are much more efficient and can yield 20% more juice than a centrifugal juicer. The resulting juice does not oxidize as fast, will have less foam, and may contain more nutrients.
All the benefits come with a higher price tag, although the masticating juicer is usually guaranteed for 10-15 years, making it a good value for the money. Although much quieter, they can take a lot longer to produce juice. The produce preparation can also take time because the fruits and vegetables need to be cut smaller than those juiced with a centrifugal juicer.
If you are new to juicing and just want to try it out, start with a centrifugal juicer. You won’t have to spend a lot of money and will get to do a trial run to see if it’s something you are going to keep up with. Although the juice may not be of the highest quality, it will allow you to juice quickly so you are more likely to actually use the juicer. If you are on a budget, this is also the best option because it will allow you to immediately start consuming more fresh produce without spending a lot of money.
However, if you already have a centrifugal juicer and know that juicing is going to be a regular part of your life, it may be a good idea to invest in a masticating juicer. Alternately, if you have some serious health problems that you are hoping to alleviate through juicing, you will want juice that has the highest amount of nutrients which only a masticating juicer can offer.
On the other hand, if you are unable to afford an actual juicing machine, you can still enjoy juicing as long as you have a blender. Any fresh fruit or vegetable can be blended in an ordinary blender. You will then need to strain the pulp out with a mesh bag, cheesecloth, or metal strainer. This can be time-consuming and the juice quality will not be on par with that from a juicer, but you will still be able to reap a lot of the benefits of juicing.
Cleaning Your Juicer
In addition to price and the quality of the juice, it’s also important to consider how easy a juicer is to clean. Because you will ideally be using it multiple times a week, it must be easy to clean so juicing doesn’t become too time consuming or discouraging. Some juicers have multiple parts which must be washed separately or strainers and augers which need to be scrubbed with a small brush.
Look for a juicer that is relatively easy to clean and make sure it comes with any special brushes or accessories to make cleaning even simpler. It’s important to clean the juicer thoroughly after each use to remove fruit and vegetable residue which can cause mold. At a bare minimum, rinse the juicer and soak it in a sink full of warm, soapy water so any residual juice can easily be scrubbed off later when you have more time to clean it thoroughly. Just don’t soak any metal pieces that could rust and make sure to dry it well before storing.
How to Get Started with Juicing
Before you make any drastic changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or chronic health issue. While consuming a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables is undoubtedly good for your health, if you aren’t used to eating this way, your body could have some strong reactions.
Juicing can also cause the body to start to detoxify and some detoxification symptoms can be uncomfortable or unpleasant. Talk with your doctor to see if there could be problematic interactions between juices and any medication you’re taking. For example, foods high in vitamin K may interfere with wayfarin, a popular blood thinning medication.
Once you are ready to start juicing, start by assessing the areas of your life where you already drink juices or other beverages. Perhaps you enjoy a glass of orange juice in the morning. You can replace store bought juice with some freshly squeezed instead. If you like having tea or coffee in the morning, incorporate a green juice instead.
Next, you’ll need to find some easy juicing recipes to start using. Think of fruits and vegetables that you already really like and keep things simple to begin with. This isn’t the time to try an exotic new ingredient that you’ve never eaten before. Also avoid juicing anything with a strong flavor, including peppers or jalapenos.
Look online for recipes or go to your local library for books on juicing. It’s a good idea to follow recipes because they have all the right proportions already figured out. Once you get more experience, you’ll be able to mix and match different ingredients to suit your tastes. You can also get really creative and start adding in fresh herbs or making savory juices.
After you’ve discovered a few recipes that you really enjoy, make sure to write them down so you can easily refer back to them when you need ideas about which juices to make. If they call for simple ingredients, keep those on hand at all times and add them to your weekly grocery list so you can easily make your favorite juices anytime.
Using your list of recipes, it’s now time to go shopping for fresh ingredients. Just like when you buy foods to prepare meals, it’s always ideal to buy the highest quality, organic produce. But if organic foods aren’t an option due to availability or budgetary constraints, just do your best. Refer to the dirty dozen, a list of the most contaminated foods that should be bought organic, whenever possible and avoid those where it isn’t as important to buy organic, such as melons, pineapples, and mangoes.
Even if you buy organic produce, always make sure to wash it before juicing because you’ll be putting the entire fruit into your juicer, skin and all. Apples and lemons don’t need the seeds removed either because the juicer can extract those along with the rest of the pulp. A simple rinse in cool water is the minimum you should do, but you can also use vinegar or food grade hydrogen peroxide diluted with water. If you notice any fruits are coated in wax or you’re worried about other nasty things, try out a natural veggie wash to soak them in before juicing.
It’s also a good idea to buy produce that has a high percentage of water to get as much juice as possible for the price. Fruits and vegetables with the highest yield include cucumber, celery, tomatoes, spinach, grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries, oranges, and apples. Avoid fruits and vegetables that don’t really produce a lot of juice such as bananas, pears, potatoes, avocado, and squash.
In addition to having a high water content, apples are very affordable and work well to sweeten almost any juice. If you’re new to drinking green juices with stronger flavors like spinach or kale, add in a little bit of apple to make things more palatable. When you first start juicing, try recipes that are on the sweeter side to make it easier to get in a lot of vegetables and nutrients.
The best time to drink juice is prior to eating. You’ll want to be cautious of food combining so you don’t create any digestive discomfort. Drinking juice on an empty stomach will also cause it to be quickly absorbed and digested before you eat anything heavier. It’s a good idea to wait 15-20 minutes after drinking your juice before you eat. If you’re concerned about digestion, follow the juice with some fruit or a small salad.
After a few days or weeks of juicing, you will start to become more comfortable with the process and it will get easier and more intuitive. If you find you need extra motivation, consider joining a juicing challenge or invite some friends to juice with you to keep you accountable. Make sure to leave your juicer out on the counter where it will be easy to use and can remind you to juice more frequently.
Room temperature juices might not be very palatable so you can always put your produce in the refrigerator before juicing. Then the juice will be cool and refreshing when you drink it, making it easier to consume a higher quantity. If you find the juice starts to get discolored, add in a little bit of lemon to preserve the natural fruit color.
The most important thing with juicing is to be prepared and plan in advance. It can take time to set up the juicer, wash and chop produce, and then clean up afterward. Set aside some time each day for juicing and it will quickly become a part of your natural routine.
Juicing on a Budget
One of the common misconceptions about juicing is that it is too expensive. Purchasing cold-pressed juices at the grocery store or at a juice bar can certainly be very pricey. Not to mention that high-end juicers can cost more than a thousand dollars. Although some aspects of juicing can be expensive, there are many ways to make it work for your budget.
If the price of a juicer is off-putting, consider splitting the purchase with a fellow health-conscious friend. It’s also not necessary to buy a brand new juicer either. Look online for a gently used model or one that has been refurbished from the manufacturer. If you’re worried about finding the right juicer, depending on the return policy you may be able to purchase one to try out and then return it if it doesn’t work for you, giving you time to find the right one without spending too much money.
To save money on fresh ingredients, shop locally, check out your farmer’s market, befriend the grocer at your supermarket, and always check the discounted produce. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and ask about produce that isn’t up to par and may be sold at a fraction of the cost. Talk to your grocer about purchasing in bulk to save money or join a local CSA to get seasonal produce. Hearty vegetables like lettuce and kale can be grown at home in a raised bed, in a planter on your balcony, or even indoors.
Plan your juicing menu around any leftover ingredients or foods you already have at home. If you’re going to be cooking a meal that calls for carrots, for example, you may have a lot leftover. So just buy a few ingredients to go along with that and make juices based around items you have already purchased.
After purchasing produce, make sure to take good care of it so it won’t go bad. Wash it, dry it thoroughly, and store it in the refrigerator. Invest in some green bags or containers that help produce stay fresh longer so you don’t have to throw any away.
Oxidation and Proper Juice Storage
As mentioned previously, fresh juice can oxidize after it is made, especially when a centrifugal juicer is used. When the juice is exposed to light and air, some of the enzymes get destroyed which causes the oxidization. Many people recommend drinking juice within 30 minutes (and no more than 24 hours) of making it in order to get the maximum benefit and full nutrients.
One way to help prevent oxidation is to put a little bit of lemon into the juice. Many juices are enhanced by adding a little lemon and it can also help with nutrition absorption. When transporting juices, make sure to keep them in a small cooler or insulated bag with some ice packs. Whenever possible, put juices into glass containers or mason jars instead of plastic or metal containers. If you have to use plastic, make sure it’s BPA free.
If you absolutely cannot drink your juice right away, or if you don’t mind a little oxidation in the name of convenience, then make sure to store the juice properly. Put it into an air-tight container, preferably glass, and fill it all the way to the top so that it’s almost going to spill out. Then gently place the lid on top, allowing the least amount of air as possible to enter the jar. Then stick it in the refrigerator to keep it cool. Consider labeling the juice with the date it was made so you can drink the oldest juices first and avoid any that have spoiled.
Another, albeit more expensive option, to reduce the amount of oxygen that gets into the juice is to purchase a food vacuum pump. This machine can suck the air out of your container and actually vacuum pack it.
Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to juicing, but the benefits far outweigh the initial learning curve. Many people quickly turn into big proponents of juicing once they discover how easy it is and how amazing they feel. Not only does fresh juice taste wonderful and refreshing, but it rejuvenates the body on a cellular level, making you look and feel fantastic.
When it comes to improving our health, juicing is one of the small changes we can add to our daily routine to make big improvements. Increasing the amount of nutrients from living foods is an easy way to gain life-changing health improvements. It’s never too late to start juicing and the investment in time and money will result in a higher quality of life than you ever expected was possible.