Whenever I talk about juicing I usually have to specify I mean green juicing or vegetable juicing so people don’t think I am referring to steroid use. It’s a funny reality that steroids are more prominent in people’s minds over something so healthful like drinking plant juice, but true. I started juicing about a year and a half ago and went all in right from the start. I purchased one of the most expensive, and best, juicers available and started juicing daily full force. Since I had spent so much to start, I was determined to make it work for me at all costs but I did realize that I’d probably get a good resale value if it didn’t work out. I started the whole process by doing a lot of research and watching the popular documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead which was really enlightening to the whole world and benefits of juicing.I had considered getting started for probably a year before finally making the plunge and since I did, I never looked back. I have been juicing almost every single day, even multiple times a day when I needed an extra health boost. If you are interested in starting to juice at home or even drinking some fresh juices, here are 15 tips to help you get started.
15. Juice versus Smoothies
Another thing that comes up very often when I talk to non-juicers is that they can get the same nutrients and benefits from either eating the same produce or drinking smoothies instead. First off, smoothies consist of blending up and consuming the whole fruit or vegetable, pulp and all. Because all of the fruit or vegetable is kept the volume of your smoothie would be greater, also since the fiber is intact, it fills you up more than a juice and also the nutrients are absorbed at a slower rate. Juicing, on the other hand, extracts the water and nutrients and discards the indigestible fiber; because of this, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food to absorb the nutrients, it also makes the nutrients more available in larger quantities to your body than had you eaten the whole fruit or veggie. Since vegetable juices are so rich in nutrients, they are able to help detoxify the body and heal it at the cellular level.
14. Juicer Types
The best type of juicer is one that you will use regularly and won’t just sit collecting dust on your counter or in a cupboard. That being said, there is a superior type of juicer, but it does cost more money. The better type of juicer is a slow, cold-press or masticating juicer, all of these are synonymous. Centrifugal juicers on the other hand inevitably heat up and therefore destroy some of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients. A good cold-press juicer will not only retain more of the good stuff but it will also extract more juice from the produce, saving money in the long-run. Slow juicers also tend to last longer. If you are curious I ended up with a Hurom HH Elite slow, masticating juicer; I love it.
13. What Not to Juice
When it comes to making home juices or buying them from a juice counter, there is an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from that you will never be lacking in choices. There are, however, a few things that just aren’t juiceable. Alphabetically ordered, here they are: avocados which are so nutritious and a great source of healthful fats but they just don’t have any liquid to juice. Bananas are another nutritious food but also don’t have any juice in them to speak of, but blending them and or avocados is wonderful though. Figs are another fruit that can’t be juiced and to be honest, would you really want to juice a fruit that’s had a male wasp stuck in it. Look it up if you’d like to know more. While eggplant can technically be juiced, you wouldn’t want to because raw eggplant contains solanine which may be poisonous in large quantities, so just in case, you had best to just avoid it. Raw eggplants also don’t have the most delicious flavour. Leeks can also be juiced, technically, but their stringy nature makes them hard to juice and sometimes this makes them more trouble than they are worth, especially because you could juice some garlic or onion for a similar effect. Rhubarb is also best to avoid putting in your juicer and not just because it is difficult like leeks but also it has oxalic acid which could interfere with your body’s absorption of certain minerals. Winter squash is another that is probably not worth the aggravation to juice. Then there are mangoes, papayas and peaches that need to be ripe enough so they aren’t too firm but not so ripe that they are too soft either, otherwise they don’t juice well. Finally, potato, would you really ever want to juice a potato anyway? I sure wouldn’t.
12. Finding Your Blend/Go Slow
If you are hesitant to start juicing and just aren’t much of a vegetable person or, you worry that the flavors just are not going to be for you, my suggestion would be to take your time; go slow and start with simple basics. Let’s say you just purchased a juicer; take your time starting by juicing an orange for instance and as you get used to the whole process and the new tastes you can add in a vegetable that you are comfortable with. Maybe that is kale or maybe some cucumber or even parsley. Stronger flavors like garlic and ginger, two things that I juice daily, can be the last step in your juicing journey as they are quite potent and take some getting used to for some individuals; they do, however, have exceptional health benefits. The end game is to find one or several combinations that you enjoy drinking regularly; getting healthier should be enjoyable and not a punishment. Since the lack of fiber means plant sugars will absorb faster and spike your blood sugar levels, it is recommended that your juices contain more low-sugar plants like greens and fewer fruits, beets and carrots.
11. Organic Produce
So maybe you are convinced that juicing is something you would like to try, but can you juice regular produce or should it all be organic? I happen to be someone who strongly believes in organic/chemical-free eating and produce so I very rarely buy any that isn’t either certified organic or from a reliable source. That being said, I’d rather spend a bit more on my produce because not only does it have fewer or no pesticides but I have grown accustomed to the fuller flavors and can actually taste the difference when some things have been grown differently. If you aren’t as obsessive as I am, you may like to know that juicing non-organic is probably better than not juicing at all. You are still getting many nutrients that you may not in your regular diet; although some believe that non-organic has slightly lower nutrient levels, probably because of growing practices. You can also consult the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list; it compiles the 12 produce items that have been found to have the most chemicals on them. There really is no reason you can’t use some organic and some non. I do feel that I should mention that since we know that the nutrients are quickly absorbed by our bodies when we juice, any unfavorable chemicals will be as well. This would likely slow down any detoxing you may be trying to achieve.
10. Initial Effects
If you have never consumed a freshly made juice before you may be surprised by some initial, let’s call them side effects, from it. The first few, or several times, I drank my juice, I started feeling sleepy and sometimes slightly nauseous part way through my glass. I took to the internet only to be reassured that this was more than likely a feeling that was the result of a mild body detoxing and, or, my body getting used to such concentrated nutrients being absorbed. This effect can also be a result of too much of a sugar spike followed by a crash. To mitigate this, adjust your recipe next time as previously mentioned. Mild reactions are to be expected in the beginning but increased heart rate or more severe side effects should obviously be discussed with a medical professional especially if you have any existing conditions of course. Keep in mind we are talking about effects from adding juices into your regular meal plan, not going on a juice cleanse, which can be beneficial for some but is a much trickier topic.
9. Cold Help
In addition to my daily eight to twelve ounce juice, I have occasionally made myself smaller, yet very potent, juice shots when I felt like I could be close to getting a cold. Almost every time I stuck to my healthy eating and added in an extra juice I was able to fight off illness completely. This is one of my favorite uses for juicing because, let’s face it, being sick is no fun, and as a single stay at home mother, being sick is not an option I will allow. My go-to quick cold fighting add on items are as follows; some combination of garlic, lemon, turmeric, and occasionally a little bit of apple but only to sweeten up the mixture to get it down more easily. Usually I would take a clove of garlic, half a lemon and a chunk or inch of ginger and knock it back in a few gulps. When I do this, I instantly feel it is easier to breath, when I was previously congested, my sore throat subsides and my illness goes away faster or gets avoided altogether. If this anecdote is alarming you should look up the health benefits of these ingredients, they are seriously powerful food medicine.
8. Pulp Uses
When you juice, you are left with a fair amount of pulp and it feels so wasteful to throw it all in the garbage. The first option would be to throw it in your garden as a very natural fertilizer that is sure to help your plants thrive. In the beginning I even saved mine in the freezer for a while and then made an organic vegetable broth out of it. This is easier if you keep your fruits separate so you don’t end up with too sweet of a mixture. If your juicer expels the pulp like mine does, you can pause the juicing process and save the vegetable pulp separately and then continue with the rest of your ingredients. The same can be done with fruit. You can use apple, or other, pulp in recipes like muffins. This adds extra flavor and texture to ordinary baked goods. I haven’t considered this until now, but I wonder if pets like bunnies could eat the pulp or if that would cause them digestive issues because it is so full of fiber. If you have a veterinary friend, let me know. The internet is full of other ideas and recipes if you’d like to be even more green and reuse the pulp.
7. Later Benefits
I’d like to start off this section by discussing the benefits I have noticed since I started juicing daily. I figured my health would improve but I never thought I would see such a change in several aspects. The biggest and most important improvement I have gotten from juicing is with regards to my health and none of the other health changes I have made over the years has had such a big impact. I used to get sick with a cold and very often it would progress into a respiratory infection or I would have a cough that lingered for months, no exaggeration. I even ended up with Pleurisy one time, which was by far the most painful thing I have ever experienced, even more painful than labor. Since juicing I have never gotten that sick, when before, I would have at least once or twice in a year. Next was a marked difference in my skin. It got noticeably brighter, even though I was still using harsh and drying products at the time. The most surprising juicing effect was new hair growth along my hairline. I have always had a quite far back hair line and have never been a fan of it. After about six months, I realized that I had hair coming in that was never there before. The benefits from green juicing are innumerable; you can find stories and studies that support juicing as a way to lose weight, boost your immune system, increase your energy, support brain health and even reverse or prevent many other conditions and illnesses; just look at Joe from Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.
Just like any good lifestyle change, you can’t expect to see results overnight. Juicing can improve many aspects of someone’s life but there is a learning curve and also, your body may have some deficiencies it needs to correct before it can work on your hair or skin or other aspects of your health. I would say that going into juicing with an open mind and with determination will be some of the best things you can bring to the table. Again, if you are not used to vegetables, it will take some time to find recipes you like and are low in sugar. There is a fine balance needed here, but once you get over the hump, juicing every day will become part of your routine and you will start looking forward to it. When I travel by car, I even pack my juicer; however, that just isn’t feasible when flying. I do always manage to find a juice bar or shop that makes fresh juice on the spot and they have so far always been willing to customize a recipe to mimic what I make for myself at home, and they are usually even willing to throw in a clove of garlic for me.
5. Specific Benefits from Produce
While I highly recommend juicing, and eating, the rainbow of vegetables because there is much benefit to doing so, it is also interesting and beneficial to look at what specific things can do for your health. It can also help you customize recipes that will suit your individual needs. I would recommend checking out a more complete list here but in the meantime, here are benefits of a couple things I juice regularly. Kale, I can’t have a juice without kale; it is high in the following and more, and as we already know, juicing it makes these nutrients even more available to us. Vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, more calcium than milk, iron, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium and the list goes on. Truly a superfood, kale is also good for detoxifying your body and maintaining a healthy liver. Ginger is another amazing one; it helps with nausea, is anti-inflammatory, can fight cancer, raises immunity and improves circulation and digestion. Imagine what a whole juice can do for your body when it includes many ingredients; you could create a different cocktail each day to deal with stress, sore throat or illness.
4. Know Your Juicer
Every juicer is different and it is very important to read your user manual fully before you begin using it. Not only to avoid injuries to yourself, but also so the equipment lasts as long as possible and to know what your juicer just can’t handle. My juicer recommends cutting produce into specific sizes and I am not supposed to force anything into the feeding tube. I am also able to put nuts into mine, although I have not yet tried this. Other juicers hardly ever get jammed and you have to force the produce down into the blade in order for it to juice. Some juicers also specify in what order to place the items because for instance the leafy greens may need to get pushed through. It is also important to know the proper way to assemble, take apart and clean for your machine. Don’t forget to clean it daily and as soon as you are done each use, leaving it too long leaves residue that is harder to remove later on.
3. Listen to Your Body
When making any changes in your lifestyle it is very important to stay in tune with what your body is saying to you. That headache means something, pains are caused by something and our bodies speak if we are willing to listen. One day you may try a new vegetable and it upsets your stomach, or the flavor is so overwhelming that you have trouble getting your juice down; that one for me is juiced turnip. A reaction could be more serious like with allergies too. If you are experimenting and aren’t always able to remember what changed day to day it may be helpful to keep a food or juice journal, and once again, don’t forget to discuss with your doctor if your body is telling you something is just not right. Allergies can sometimes manifest themselves in unfamiliar ways and it isn’t possible to ever be too cautious.
You have your juicer assembled and all of your ingredients on the counter and ready to go, what next, what needs to be peeled or cored? Here is a great list for recommended preparation, but again I will give a few examples to get you started. Apples, keep their skin on, as it contains great nutrients but remove the core and seeds. Beets should be peeled, mostly because they have an earthy taste that most people do not care for, do remember that they are messy and can stain fabric and surfaces permanently. Carrots don’t need to be peeled, you can juice them with the stem and leave if you like; I do prefer removing half a centimeter off the top because I prefer the flavor without that little bit. Celery; juice the whole stalk, including the leaves. I bunch up parsley, cilantro or other herbs into a ball before pushing them down with more substantial, harder pieces of vegetables. Garlic should be peeled before juicing and also, you may want to start with just a little bit at a time and increasing because it doesn’t take a lot of garlic juice to have a strong taste or effect, especially the garlic I get from my local organic farmer.
1. How to Drink and Store
Annoying as it may seem, there is actually a best way to drink and store your fresh juices. As soon as your juice has been extracted and exposed to the air, it begins to lose nutrients, so it is best to drink it immediately if not very soon after. If you must store it or want to take it with you to work, the best way to store it is sealed tight, with the least amount of air in the container possible. Fill an airtight, glass container as full as possible so there is barely any room for air. Store it immediately after preparing. Adding some citrus to your juice helps keep it because of the vitamin C. You should also store it in a dark cool place to retain maximum amounts of nutrition and ideally it should be consumed within 24 hours but absolutely no more than 72 hours later. It may seem tempting to chug down a juice as quickly as possible and get it over with, but the best way to maximize potential is to sip is slowly and even to swirl each sip around in your mouth, as if you were tasting a fine wine, to mix with natural digestive enzymes. Perhaps finding a happy medium between the two is best though.
Raw, green juicing has allowed me to enjoy my life to a much fuller extent. I plan to keep juicing for years to come and have been teaching and getting my little one used to this whole process and lifestyle. I let her try more basic recipes and hope that when she is older, she incorporates juicing into her healthy lifestyle. This is my daily medicine and my life now, no added sugar needed.