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juicingThe following is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain.

Last week, we talked about smoothies. Did you have some fun mixing up your own blends? Smoothies are a filling drink packed with fiber and nutrients. Today, we’re looking at another great health-boosting option: juicing! Unlike smoothies, juices skip the fluff and the bulky fiber, streamlining nutrients straight to your body. I’m going to take a look at what juicing is, why it may be good or bad for you, how to do it, and how to (hopefully) keep it in your budget.

The Basics: What is Juicing? To juice, you use a juicer and extract all the water and nutrients from a fruit or vegetable, removing all the indigestible fiber. Note…juicers remove the indigestible fiber. Even though you’re removing the indigestible (insoluble) fiber, your juice is still keeping the soluble fiber. This is good, because soluble fiber is the kind of fiber that helps clean your blood vessels and remove excess cholesterol.

What are the advantages of juicing?

-Some people have sensitive digestive systems due to disease, inflammation, or damage. By removing the insoluble fiber, the nutrients are very easy to absorb and still gentle on the digestive tract.

-By reducing the bulk (fiber) from fruits and veggies, you will be concentrating the nutrients. It would take pitchers of smoothies to equal the nutrients in one cup of fresh juice.

-Fresh juice delivers a deluge of nutrients and antioxidants directly to your cells where it can be quickly put to use healing and nourishing your body.

-Juicing can help retrain your taste buds from the overly sweet sensation of sugar to more natural flavors and sweetness.

-Would you normally sit down and eat a big plate of swiss chard, raw ginger, apples, cucumbers, dandelion leaves, and celery in one sitting? Not me. Juicing lets you drink a variety of fruits and veggies that you may not normally consider eating.

What are the disadvantages of juicing?

-Watch the sugars. If you are juicing more fruits and root vegetables than veggies, it can spike your blood sugar which can leave you tired, irritable, or anxious. People with diabetes or insulin resistance issues need to be very, very careful what they are juicing.

-Cost. Depending on how often you plan to juice, you are going to need pounds and pounds of fresh produce. The good news is that not all produce is crazy expensive. For example, you can buy a huge bag of prewashed organic Kale for less than $5. Organic apples are about $1.50 per pound. Jumbo 25-lb bags of organic carrots for juicing are $15. Check with your produce department about bulk discounts.

-Storage. Freshly made juices should be consumed fairly quickly. Since the juice is completely raw, any bacteria that was on/in your fruit is also in your juice. No biggie, but if allowed to grow and multiply over the course of days or if left at room temp, the bacteria can make you sick. Quickly store fresh juice in the fridge and consume within 1-2 days.

Why Juice? Have you heard of Joe Cross? When he started his juicing adventure, Joe Cross was 100 lbs overweight, on multiple prescription medications, and was suffering with a painful autoimmune disease. He decided to make a pretty radical change with the hope of regaining some health. Joe went on a 60-day juicing cleanse (no solid food, just juice) and documented the whole experience. You can watch his story in “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” (watch it for free on Hulu and YouTube). After 60 days, Joe had lost a ton of weight (figuratively speaking), was off his medications, and his disease was in remission. That’s an example of what juicing can do. In Joe’s case, it gave his body the supplies and time it needed to fix itself…exactly what the immune system is designed to do. It’s an awesome story!

Joe’s case is on the extreme end of the spectrum and is probably not right for you. On the normal end of the spectrum, juicing is great for one main thing: getting more fruits and vegetables in your diet than you would normally eat. These fruits and veggies carry phytonutrients (plant chemicals). Phytonutrients like flavonoids and anthocyanins are especially gifted at protecting your cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what we want to avoid. It can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome…to name a few. Oxidative stress also affects the rate of aging. If you’re not getting enough phytonutrients on your own, juicing may be the answer. Is juicing healthier than eating a fruit or veggie. No, but it will help you consume more of them.

How to Juice?

Like with all foods, there are two main ways to get your juice: you either buy it or make it yourself.

Option #1, Buy It: I took a quick look at three companies online who sell fresh juice cleanses. For $69-75 per day (shipping included), you get six (16-oz) bottles of pre-made, organic, raw juice. You’re supposed to drink these juices in order, over the course of one day. This is equivalent to about 20 pounds of produce per day. Now. I’m not going to recommend that you spend $75 for one day of juices, however this may be a good option for some people. If you do not own a juicer, do not have access to organic produce, have the money to invest, and have no time to prepare juices…this may be the solution you’re looking for. That said, you can buy a juicer for the cost of one day of a cleanse. As with all foods, making it yourself will always be cheaper than buying it pre-made, and you’re paying for convenience.

Option #2, Make It:

  1. You need a juicer. If you don’t have one and are interested in shopping around for one, check out the quick juicer summary below. If you have one, you’re good to go!

  2. Get your produce. You can juice almost anything! Fruits and veggies with some firmness usually work best. Bananas and avocados will not juice. Save those for smoothies or eating. Organic is always a great choice, but if you can’t do everything organic, stick with the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list to prioritize your spending.

  3. Wash your produce. You don’t have to peel anything.

  4. Juice it! Some juicers require a little pre-cutting, some will accept a whole fruit or vegetable. All juicers will work around seeds and small stems. Even pineapple skin can go through a juicer. Exceptions: Citrus peels. Although a juicer can handle it, the concentrated oils in the peel may be too overwhelming. Stone fruits. The tough pits in peaches and cherries may damage your machine.

  5. Drink!

Green Juice Recipes

Here are a few basic green juice recipes you can try out. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, substitute something similar. Always tweak to your taste preferences. I find that adding a bit of pineapple or cucumber will help soften the flavor a bit if it’s too bitter. Do you have any juice recipes to share? Flavor tips? Comment below!

Super Green Cucumber Juice- this one is very kid-friendly

2 cucumbers

4-6 handfuls of spinach (or collards, swiss chard)

1 granny smith apple

2 sprigs of fresh mint

Zesty Celery Apple

½ cucumber

2 granny smith apples

2 stalks of celery

4-6 handfuls of dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards, chard, etc.)

½” – 1” cut of raw ginger

½ lemon or lime, peeled

2-3 dandelion leaves

1-2 leaves of mustard greens (completely optional, very spicy!)

Pineapple Apple Express

2-3” of pineapple (cut off the bottom and top of pineapple first)

2 granny smith apples

4-6 handfuls of greens

1 cucumber

½ broccoli stalk

3 sprigs of mint

small handful of cilantro or parsley

Pretty in Hot Pink (not a green juice)

½ – 1 red beet (raw, not pickled)

1 granny smith apple

½” – 1” raw ginger

1 pear

pinch of cayenne pepper (stir into finished juice)

Buying a Juicer

If you don’t already own a juicer and really want to try juicing, you can start with very little investment. As you begin researching juicers, you’ll see prices ranging from $40 – $400. There are two types of juicers available: centrifugal or masticating.

Centrifugal Juicers: Cut and spin! Centrifugal juicers use blades to grate produce into tiny pieces which are then spun around at high speeds to extract the juice. The pulp is either ejected into a separate container or kept in the centrifuge. This type of juicer is more affordable, yay! However, it’s not great at juicing greens. You can run greens through these juicers, but you won’t get the full amount of juice from them. For that, you want a…

Masticating Juicer: Crush and Mush! Masticating juicers use an auger (like a giant screw) to slowly crush and mush the juice from your produce. They work at a slow RPM, which helps preserve the most nutrients and enzymes. Masticating juicers will juice soft leafy greens and wheatgrass. They will also produce a higher yield of juice than centrifugal juicers. Cost? They are more expensive, but I think you do get what you pay for. Many of the masticating juicers will also make nut milks and frozen desserts. Some even make fresh pasta.

Don’t assume you need to spend $400 to get a good juicer. If you’re new to juicing, not sure if it’s something you really want to commit to, or just need to save money, a sturdy centrifugal juicer is a great purchase! You’ll be able to make fresh juice, quickly. If your goal is to add more produce to your diet, this will help you achieve that goal. On the other hand, if you are looking to do some serious healing and replenishing or creating your own juice cleanse, the masticating juicer will give you more bang for your buck and last a lifetime.

Juicing on a Budget

Before we talk about saving on the cost of juicing, let’s back up a minute and rethink this. What if we didn’t think of juicing (or healthy eating in general) as cost? Maybe we can think of it as an investment? Eating more fruits and veggies helps prevent oxidative stress, aging, and disease. When you compare the cost of disease to the cost of produce, I know which one I’d rather pay for! That said, there are some easy ways to cut down on the cost of juicing.

  1. Buy locally. Check with local farmers to see if they will sell to you directly or when you can find them at farmers markets. I’ve found local (organic) produce for almost half the cost of the same exact produce (from the same farm) in the store.

  2. Shop seasonally. When a fruit or veggie is out of season, it will be more expensive. In season produce is always the most affordable. For example, fall is the season for broccoli, pears, pineapple, swiss chard, and ginger. Not sure what’s in season? Check out this site.

  3. Save your scraps. Broccoli stalks are usually discarded after the florets are cut off, but they make fantastic juice! Before you toss out any produce trimmings (asparagus ends, apple cores, carrot peels), save them in a baggie. When it comes time to make a juice, you can always pop in a few unloved veggies for extra nutrient boosts.

  4. Buy in bulk. Check with your grocery store about bulk discounts. Some juicing staples like apples can be bought in bulk and stored for a week or two.

  5. Grow it. Exercise your green thumb and plant a few veggies! I’ve been trying for 2 years now, and we’ve only managed to grow our own greens…but that’s one less thing to buy! Growing your own food is like growing money. Herbs like mint can be pricey to buy fresh, but they are so easy to grow at home.

Tips for Juicing

Personally, I found juicing a lot easier to learn than making a perfect smoothie. Juicing is pretty difficult to mess up. There are a few tips I’d like to pass along though…

-Order matters. When juicing greens, add them a little at a time, spacing them out with a bit of apple or cucumber in between.

-Ginger is an acquired taste. When you first begin juicing ginger, start gradually, adding only a sliver at a time. Ginger will also make little white dots in your juice. Totally normal.

-Make a little extra. If you can make extra servings and store them properly, you’ll have any extra juice ready to go.

-Clean up right away. Cleaning a freshly used juicer is always easier than cleaning a juicer that has been sitting for a few hours…or days. Not that I ever do that. :)

Research your juicer. Juicers will vary in type (centrifugal vs. masticating), but they will also have other options to consider. I chose my juicer because it has a nifty little self-cleaning feature. After I’m done juicing, I run water through it and it’s almost totally clean. There’s a very enthusiastic guy on YouTube that reviews (and sells) every juicer known to man. His videos are very helpful in making a decision.

I hope this helped you get an idea about juicing and what it can do for you! Any questions? Any juice recipes to share?
Next week, we’re going to leave juices and smoothies behind and move on to the harder stuff…coffee! I’ve always wondered what the differences in coffee are and if it’s worth the higher price tag. Shade-grown, fair trade, organic, single origin…we’re going to look at America’s favorite bean.