Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Joy of Juicing

I was a little hesitant to jump on the juicing bandwagon. It felt like I would be cheating on our Vitamix and our family was already Team Smoothie - why do both?

I was quickly convinced after reading articles written by several of my favorite crunchy, wellness thought leaders (Dr. Mercola, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Josh Axe, FoodBabe). They all talk about how juicing is the one of the best thing you can do to  maximize your health, prevent disease and improve current problems. I love reading stories of how diet has cured disease and my favorite testimony is Kris Carr of "Crazy, Sexy, Diet." Ten years ago she was diagnosed (Stage IV) with a very rare and incurable cancer and given months to live. Her integrative medicine team (she is also a patient at the renowned Dana Farber Cancer Institute) treats her whole body, not just her symptoms and she is thriving - this includes lots of juice! Click here to read her "Celebrating a Decade Thriving with Cancer" article from The Huffington Post. The popular documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" shares case after case of people's lives being turned around by juicing. Without ever trying a true "green juice" (Odwalla Green Machine doesn't count) I bought a juicer and am completely in love. I'm addicted to my daily green juice - we're at the beach right now and I brought the juicer. Once you start, you'll understand…

So what's the big deal? Why is juicing so great?

In a nutshell, its like eating all your daily servings of fruits and veggies in one 12 ounce glass. It's really hard to get the amount of vegetables required by most experts, which is 6-8 servings per day. I eat a plant based diet and I rarely eat that much! One recent study revealed that most Americans eat no more than one to three salads a week. Yikes - its no surprise our country leads the world in heart disease, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes… Juicing is a fast, easy, delicious and guaranteed way to make sure your nutritional bases are covered. It literally takes over two pounds of produce to equal one tall glass - do you eat that much daily or even weekly?! Don't get me wrong - smoothies are still amazing but you get more nutritional bang for your buck with juicing.

Plus you can get a huge variety of different vegetables that you might not typically eat. My body now reaps the benefits of beets, ginger, lots of kale (I ate kale before but not in great quantities), and swiss chard - all foods that I rarely ate before I started juicing. When vegetables are cooked some nutrients are lost and live enzymes are killed. Eating raw, "living" plants give the body enzymes, minerals, and vitamins that repair damaged cells, prevent disease, and keep you looking and feeling younger. Additionally, juicing can help:
  • Promote weight loss
  • Boost your immune system
  • Increase your energy
  • Support your brain health - this is amazing, people who drank juices more than three times per week, compared to less than once a week, were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (The Kame Project)
Juicing works by removing the fiber from fruits and vegetables leaving you with a pile of pulp (which we compost) and a nice glass of the good stuff (SERIOUSLY good stuff!). Since your digestive system doesn't have to work hard to separate the fiber it is able to focus solely on the nutrients, which are directly absorbed into your bloodstream. This gives you an instant boost of energy - its like a natural Red Bull or espresso shot.  However, if you juice foods that are high in sugar content like fruits and carrots this will cause a high spike in your blood sugar levels. Since fiber is critical for a healthy diet, Dr. Mercola recommends eating your fruit and juicing your vegetables. If your juice contains too many fruits it will be very high in calories and fructose, so you want the bulk of your ingredients to be vegetables like organic greens, cucumbers, and celery.

This is where the lovely green juice enters the picture. Side note: green juice really needs a new name because it has an instant stigma for tasting bad, just like peas and brussel sprouts. Believe me, it is absolutely delicious!! I crave my daily green juice (many times two or three times a day) because it makes me feel so good - my body is loving all the nutrients! I always use a cucumber and celery as a base, then add some sort of green (I rotate between spinach, kale, romaine and swiss chard), three carrots, a lemon, an inch of fresh ginger and one small piece of fruit (preferably a low glycemic index fruit and only half if its big). Mixing up the fruit is the fun part that really tweaks the flavor - pineapple, pear, apples (Granny Smith is a great choice!), orange, strawberries, grapes - YUM!!! The fruit flavor overpowers the vegetables and the lemon and ginger give it an awesome kick. Kris Carr's CrazySexyJuice website has this great diagram of how to construct your perfect green juice:
So why not just buy juice from the grocery store? Read this article exposing Coca Cola's 'Simply Orange' for what it really is - anything but simple or remotely healthy. To quote the article:
Many people choose Simply Orange juice because they believe it is a less processed, more natural choice than other brands. However, a new investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek shows that it is a "hyper-engineered and dauntingly industrial product." Coca-Cola owns Simply Orange, which is made using a process they call Black Book that includes data about consumer preferences and the 600 flavors that make up and orange
The craziest part of the article is that juice companies actually hire flavor and fragrance companies (the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein!!!) to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. It's not really fresh, but it tastes like consumers think fresh juice tastes like - INSANE!!! Food Babe breaks down grocery store "juice" beautifully in this article. Labels that say 100% juice don't mean a darn thing - they can claim that and still add preservatives, additives and flavors. "Concentrate" is basically another word for syrup - a way for manufacturers to extend shelf life and save money during fruit processing. "Not from concentrate" can still include industry flavor packs because they are not required to be on the label. The most frustrating part of store bought juice is the pasteurization process which kills any bacteria, viruses, molds or other microorganisms by heating the juice. This process also kills all of the raw enzymes, natural vitamins and minerals - all of the reasons for drinking juice to begin with! Since the juice is now void of any nutrients, they artificially add vitamins which are usually artificially made and not even from fruit. What the heck?! Food Babe gives this great visual on how to buy juice - fresh squeezed is hands down the best!!
Buying your juicer: 
I decided quickly that I wanted to buy a juicer, but it took a good bit of research to determine which kind I wanted to buy. There are two main types of juicers: centrifugal and masticating. Centrifugal juicers (like the Jack La Lanne Juicer or the Juiceman) are tempting because of their low price, and since I was brand new to juicing I didn't want to spend a money. However when I learned that their high speed produces too much heat which can kill off nutrients and are unable to efficiently juice greens, I knew that it was worth spending the extra money for a masticating type. Masticating juicers, which use a slow squeezing motion (so you can also use it to make nut butters, pasta or baby food!), are also more quiet, tend to be easier to clean and are less messy. I narrowed down my search to an Omega and SCORED majorly on Craigslist when I found a gently used J8004 ($239 on Amazon) for only $100, which I negotiated down to $80. Seriously check out Craigslist before you pay retail!

Best money I've ever spent!

Juicing full disclosure:
Juicing has some critics and I want to be sure you know why some people aren't fans. I ADORE my juice and the benefits way outweigh any negative considerations!
  • Juice is not a "whole food" since the fiber is removed and not using the pulp can seem wasteful.
  • It takes time - you really have to work for your juice. Cleaning, prepping, juicing and washing typically takes about ten minutes from start to finish.
  • Since you have to use 1-2 pounds of produce for a 12 ounce juice it can get expensive.
Getting started - tips and juicing rules:
  • Organic all the way!!
  • Always core apples because the seeds contain cyanide, which is poisonous
  • Wash all produce before juicing and remove any blemishes.
  • Always peel oranges, tangerines, bananas, avocados, kiwifruits, mangoes, papayas, pineapple and grapefruit. The peels of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and nectarines contain bitter oils that may cause digestive problems. (Lemon and lime peels can be juiced if organic). However only peel the outer most part and leave the white stuff which is full of nutrients - who knew?!
  • Don't remove the stems and leaves of most produce, including beet stem and leaves, strawberry caps and small grape stems (do remove larger grape stems which will dull your blade if you chose a centrifugal juicer). They contain a high concentration of nutrients and won't hurt you or the juicer. The exception to this is carrot and rhubarb greens because they are bitter and contain toxic substances.
  • This is pretty obvious but discard the pits, stones and hard seeds from peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and mangoes. Softer seeds like oranges, lemons, watermelons, cantaloupe and grapes can be easily juiced.
    Ingredients for my green juice - you get the nutrients of all this produce in one glass!
Prepped and ready to juice!         
  • Never use wooden utensils when juicing to avoid transferring potentially dangerous bacteria into your juices.
  • Start off juicing softer fruits and veggies and end up with the harder ones (like apples), which will help push thru all the juice.
  • Never use grapefruit juice or pomegranate juice if you're taking prescription drugs - they contain a compound that can alter the way those drugs are metabolized by the body, either reducing or increasing their effects.
  • You'll be tempted, but never chug juice. This sounds weird but you want to "chew" it, which actually means swishing it around in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. This ensures you will release saliva which contains important digestive enzymes that make sure all the nutrients are being properly delivered to your cells. I'm still working on this tip and have found that drinking with a straw helps (check out these glass straws by Glass Dharma that I'm crazy about).
  • Drink your juice on an empty stomach so the nutrients will go directly into your blood stream. If you eat it during or after a meal 1) You'll probably get heartburn and 2) the benefits of juicing are basically gone because you've filled your guts with fiber and the nutrients won't be quickly absorbed. FoodBabe recommends waiting 2 hours after eating a meal to drink a juice and waiting 20 minutes to eat after drinking juice. I drink mine first thing in the morning and start my day off right!
  • It's best to drink your juice right away (within 15 minutes) if you have a centrifugal juicer. Juice from a slower masticating juicer can be stored for 24-36 hours. 
  • Juice from melons, cabbages and cruciferous vegetables should never be stored or refrigerated. If you make juice containing these juices and veggies, consume it immediately and toss any remaining juice.
  • To store your juice in the fridge keep it in an airtight, opaque and insulated container. Light, heat, and air will zap nutrients!
  • Immediately clean your juicer - trust me, dried juice is no easy chore! I soak mine while I enjoy my juice and then start cleaning.
  • ENJOY!!!
Additional links:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Guide to buying organic

Buying organic is a huge priority for my family and we budget accordingly to make it happen. Yes, organic food costs more money (sometimes significantly more money), but the alternative is completely unacceptable. The vast majority of crops today have been sprayed with a variety of deadly poisons - chlorinated hydrocarbons, pesticides, toxic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and other phosphorous and toxic compound seep into your fruits and vegetables. Pesticides have been linked to developmental problems in children, can disrupt the endocrine system, and are known carcinogens. Cancer is now the #1 cause of death in children (used to be accidents) and I believe that these chemicals contribute to that devastating rank. The chemicals are absorbed into the produce and can not be washed - peeling off the skin won't do the trick either. Its absolutely INSANE to me that the government subsidizes the processed foods, diary and meat industries yet makes organic methods a challenge to farmers. I would sell my car and take the bus before I buy conventional produce.

That being said, we don't buy ALL of our fruits and vegetables organic. Thick shelled produce gives protection from chemicals, so we buy conventional melons and avocados. Same with bananas, kiwi, and pineapple. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" list every year based on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by the USDA and the FDA. This handy resource lets you know what you absolutely must buy organic and what you can buy conventionally. It was just released last week and once again apples top the list. What in the world did a poor apple do to deserve to be smothered with over 13 different chemicals?! American apples were recently BANNED in Europe (full article here) because of the extensive use of the questionable chemical DPA, which prevents apple skins from developing brown spots while in cold storage. Strawberries are 2nd on the list and have very thin skins so they absorb everything sprayed on them. I LOVE strawberries and enjoy picking them every year. My favorite farm got very defensive when asked about being sprayed, and I'm so glad I found an organic option - Charlotte friends be sure to check out Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, AWESOME place! This visual of an organic vs. conventionally grown strawberry blew me away…

We are on a budget and I buy our organic produce at Trader Joe's (their prices can't be beat), Costco (bulk spinach, carrots) and at the Farmer's Market. I love supporting local farmers and always frankly ask about their growing practices. While many are not certified organic (requires a lot of red tape), they may use organic methods and not spray. I look them straight in the eye and if they hesitate or get defensive at all I move right along. In Charlotte the Mecklenburg County Market is awesome and open year round Tuesday thru Saturday (on Saturday they have live bluegrass music!). They will tell me what has been sprayed and what has not and I trust them 100%. Check them out!

Here is the list in order!

THE DIRTY DOZEN (I think there were a couple ties, it's actually a dozen +2)
  1. Apple
  2. Strawberry
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peach
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet Bell Pepper
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumber
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (imported)
  12. Potato
  13. Hot Peppers
  14. Blueberries (domestic)
  1. Avocado
  2. Sweet Corn (I disagree with this one and would buy organic to avoid GMOs)
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
  6. Onion
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mango
  9. Papaya (also disagree, would only buy organic to avoid GMOs)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potato