Many health conscious individuals have realized how important fruits and vegetables are in keeping their body clear of toxins and well nourished with vitamins and minerals. Some experts have sent warning, though, on the consumption of juices over solid food. Other groups believe that juicing is a great detoxifier and energizer.
So what’s the real score behind drinking juices – is it good or bad for you?
Before we discuss whether juicing is “good” or “bad”, let’s first get you acquainted with the term. Juicing is a method of extracting juice from fruits and vegetables. It is one of the fastest and most convenient ways of providing your body with nutrition. Since juices are in liquid (or semi-liquid if you include the pulp), it’s easier for the body to digest and absorb essential nutrients in less time.
Now, you cannot compare buying artificial juice drinks found in supermarkets to juicing, no matter how the carton says its “100% natural”. This is because commercially distributed juices either contain some sort of preservative (like calorie-packed sugar) or have been subjected to shelf life-prolonging processes like pasteurization (which brings temperatures up to 120 degrees and kills essential enzymes).
Drinking freshly extracted juice from veggies and fruits, on the other hand, can provide you with loads of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that promote better health. Juicing allows you to consume more good stuff with just a few gulps – let’s face it, not everyone is fond of eating fruits, let alone vegetables.
How can you make fresh juice?
You can make fresh juice by just simply squeezing the juice out of a fruit or veggie (as with an orange or tomato) or make use of juicers that can separate or break down their natural fibers.
There are basically two types of juicing machines that you can choose from: centrifugal juicers or masticating juicers. The centrifugal juicer is the most common type you can find in stores. It works by grinding the fruit or veggie and spinning it at high speeds to force the juice away from the pulp. The juice is automatically poured into a bowl.
A masticating juicer works like your own teeth – it grinds or kneads your fruit or veggie into a pulp and squishes out the juice. Since masticating juicers work at low speed does not spin fruit or veggies, it is found to be more efficient in juicing than centrifugal juicers.
Many people think that blenders can carry out the same processes as that of juicers, but blenders actually produce a different outcome. Blenders do not separate the juice from the pulp or fiber – they just break them all down into much smaller pieces.
Blenders are great with making smoothies (i.e. blending juices with ice, sometimes with milk or yoghurt) but you can’t segregate the flesh or seeds with blenders, unlike juicers. Juicers discard most of these fibrous parts as waste while blenders crush and include them in the end-product.
What’s the implication of having less fiber in your juice? This means that your body won’t have to use up so much energy to the process or digest your drink. It also means that you can easily absorb all the essential nutrients with much less effort. This is important for people who are sick or with problems with their digestive track.
There are also some disadvantages to using a blender over a juicer: first, fibers that are still present in the drink still have some nutrients “locked-in”. This prevents these nutrients from being absorbed into the body.
The rotating blades of a blender can also “fold in” oxygen into the blended liquid (hence, the foamy texture). I’m sure you’ve seen what happens to sliced apple if left uneaten for several minutes – it turns brown. This is oxidation in action and folding in oxygen in your blended drink fast forwards the oxidation process that causes disintegration of important nutrients and antioxidants.
Nutrition quality aside, having large amounts of fiber in your drink may also affect its taste. Try blending an apple and compare it with pure apple juice – notice the difference in palatability?
The benefits of juicing
Juicing gives you all of the benefits of eating raw vegetables and fruits and much more. Here are some of its most highly acclaimed health benefits:
Stronger immune system – the much needed vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants from fruits and vegetables work together with fight free radicals and strengthen your immune system. Having a strong immune system keeps you away from infections and diseases like colds and flu.
Aids in cell regeneration and growth – nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help your body build new cells and replace old ones so that your bodily systems work better and more efficiently.
Aids in digestion – fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber, but sometimes we lessen intake of it when we peel whole fruits and vegetables and leave the seeds or pits as trash. If you throw in the entire fruit or veggie in a blender or masticating juicer (i.e. a type of juicer that breaks down fiber of fruit or veggie pulp and extracts the juice from there), you get all the good fiber you need to regulate digestion and relieve problems like constipation and hemorrhoids.
Increases metabolic rate – unlike processed juices, freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juice contains beneficial enzymes that increases metabolism and contributes to weight control. Enzymes also help your body digest food.
Fights diseases – many vegetables and fruits contain phytochemicals which are organic substances that fight diseases like cancer, stroke, arterial damage and heart diseases. Since most of us can’t consume much veggies and fruits to enjoy the full benefits of phytochemicals, fresh juices can provide a significant amount of it in every serving.
Detoxifies your system – after many years of being exposed to environmental toxins, you could use a great detox program to flush out these harmful poisonous substances out of your system. Fruit and vegetable juices have antioxidant effects that not only eliminate toxins but also help you lose unwanted weight. We’ll discuss more about a juice detox sample program later on.
So is juicing always good for you?
Well, not always.
The main problem with juicing, according nutrition experts, is that it can pack a lot of calories and sugar in just a single serving (especially if you’re juicing fruits). Just like any high-calorie diet, it can cause weight gain in people who don’t counter it with exercise.
When you juice vegetables or fruits, you’re actually creating processed food. When you eat something that is already broken down or “processed”, every bit of nutrition is released quickly into the body as soon as you ingest it. When you eat a whole fruit or veggie, on the other hand, it will take about 30 minutes or so for the entire thing to be digested. Apart from this, you also tend to take in more fruits and veggies than you normally can when you drink juice. With juicing, you can finish an entire tray of fruits without feeling you’ve had so much, as compared to just eating them whole. Just imagine consuming a smoothie composed of 5 large mangoes and 5 bananas in just a few minutes – that’s like dumping all that carbs and sugar into your system instantly!
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This is why juicing is recommended for those who need a quick energy fix – like when you’re running late for a meeting or when you’re about to perform a physically strenuous activity. But if you’re not really the type who needs the extra calories, be careful on how much juice you drink in a day. If you are suffering from diabetes, candidiasis, hypoglycemia, thrush, or yeast infection in the digestive tract, see a doctor first before you make juicing part of your daily regimen.
Apart from causing weight gain, juicing fruits may cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels since your practically taking in an already digested form of food. Fruits contain a simple sugar (monosaccharide) called “fructose”. Including a small amount of fructose in your diet is okay, in fact it helps you process glucose (i.e. another type of sugar) properly. However, if you consume too much of fructose at once, it can overwhelm your liver’s ability to process it. When too much fructose enters the liver, your organ starts turning them into fats and sends them off as “triglycerides” into the bloodstream. Having high levels of triglycerides in the blood has been found to be a risk factor for heart disease.
Another problem with juicing is that if you take out the peelings and pulp using a centrifugal juicer, you don’t get the same amount of fiber as compared to just eating them whole. Fiber, as mentioned earlier, is important in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
How much juice should I drink in a day?
Not a lot. An average person only needs a cup (about 250ml) of fresh pure juice per day. Drinking a lot more daily may cause an imbalance in the body and cause the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. So if you’re used to drinking a full liter a day of fruit juice (imagine how much sugar that contains!) – you better slow down on the intake or mix it up with more water to compensate on the quantity.
Let’s start juicing!
If juicing is new to you, you can start with the favorite fruits that you enjoy eating – melons, mangoes, strawberries, etc. Starting with great-tasting fruits will create a pleasant juicing experience.
After juicing a few times, try adding some veggies to your usual fruit juices like carrots, beet roots, cucumbers, tomatoes or celery sticks. Create concoctions that slowly increase the ratio of veggies to fruits, using the latter as your sweetener to your veggie juice. Admittedly, vegetable juices may not be as palatable as fruit juices, but there a lot of health properties to gain if you do.
Once you’re into juicing already, choose green vegetables. Rule of thumb is “the greener, the more nutritious.” For starters, choose cabbage, lettuce, or spinach.
Juicing your way back to health
There are hundreds of possible concoctions in juicing, each blend created either to manage palatability of the juice or to address a specific end goal. Juices can help you recover from disease, cleanse your system or simply cool you down on a hot humid day (cucumber or carrot juice will do the trick). Whichever your end goal in juicing is, there is something for you. If you want to juice your way back to health, here are some recommendations:
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To fight cancer: if you want juicing to be your ally against cancer, then you should choose green juices. According to countless studies conducted, regular intake of green vegetable concoctions such as broccoli, asparagus, celery, spinach, cabbages and the like have been seen to help prevent and even remove cancer cells in the body. Other non-green ingredients that have also been seen to have anti-cancer properties are carrots and beet juice.
To lower risk of developing heart problems: atherosclerosis, heart attack, and heart valve disease are just some of the heart problems that can be avoided by certain fruits and vegetables that are also great for juicing. A study published in 2006 reported that consuming a red grapefruit daily for a month can significantly lower your cholesterol levels. Blueberries, red and purple grapes have also been found to lower LDL (i.e. “bad” cholesterol), reduce the risk of blood clotting, and prevent heart blood vessel damage because of “resveratrol”, a strong antioxidant. Green juice and citrus fruit juices are also great for heart health.
To detox: your liver is responsible for filtering chemicals that you take in from food, drinks, medicines, and other environmental factors. Without a healthy liver, these chemicals can wreak havoc in your system and cause toxic build up. Drinking green juice regularly can help cleanse your liver because of its chlorophyll content – a strong detoxifier. Other non-green juices that help build your liver’s defense system include beet, cranberry, apple, pineapple, carrot, tomato and papaya juices.
You may have also heard that some proponents of juicing go through a regimen called “juice fast” for thorough detoxification. A juice fast is considered an extreme form of detoxification since no form of solid food is eaten within the duration of the fast. The regimen allows you to drink between 32- 64 ounces of juice per day, for a maximum of 3 days. Note that doctors do not recommend you go through longer periods without medical supervision as this may cause more harm than good (if continued long term, it may lead to nutrient deficiencies like protein and calcium problems). To compensate for the lack of fat and protein, you can add some essential oils like fish oil, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil or evening primrose oil and a protein powder or supplement in your juice to make it more balanced.
Some reminders before you juice…
Fresh juices, especially those made from veggies, are highly perishable. This means that after 20 minutes or so, the essential vitamins and enzymes start to disappear because of oxidation. To avoid this, make sure you consume your juice right after making it.
Also ensure that your juicer is cleaned immediately after using it. Mold can easily grow in the inner parts of the machine and can contaminate the next batch of juice that will be made.
Enjoy your juice!
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