With smoothie and juice/elixir cafes increasing in a number of neighborhoods all across America, it seems that people are finally becoming more interested in and aware of their health. Being as healthy as you can possibly be doesn’t take some secret formula and it’s not rocket science; your body has one thing to run on, one thing to fuel it day after day that supplies the energy it needs to complete all of the tasks and functions necessary – it’s the food that you ingest. Today, the typical American diet is bombarded with over-refined, genetically modified and chemical, pesticide, herbicide and fungicide-laden food. Because of these facts, I believe that many people are reviving the art of juicing (which has been around for centuries), and it is happening at the perfect time.
I truly consider juicing an art; yes, it is nice to treat yourself to a fresh juice or a smoothie here and there, but in the grand scheme of things, that one juice will not have a profound impact on your health. Juicing for health is a lifestyle change – a commitment that I believe (for those willing to try it long term) will turn into one of the most rewarding and fun (yes, I am being serious!) endeavors. Now, before I get into the specifics about my experience, let’s take a look at the science behind juicing and some of the main points that you need to be aware of before you embark on your own juicing journey.
What exactly is Juicing?
Juice extracted from a juice machine is up to 90% water and nutrients that have been separated from indigestible fiber that is naturally contained in vegetables and fruits. Putting fruits and vegetables in a juicer will produce two things: a.) fresh juice and b.) pulp – which can be used in many other recipes. There are two main types of juicers – centrifugal and masticating. Centrifugal juicers are a type of juicer that uses a spinning basket/blade that will shred the vegetables and fruit and extract the juice by centrifugal force through an ultra-fine stainless steel strainer. Centrifugal juicers can cause a slight oxidation of nutrients because it allows for air to get into the juice, but it still makes a great and nutritious juice, is generally more affordable than a masticating juicer and also great for those just starting out. Depending on the type of centrifugal juicer you select, the pulp can be extracted over and over again or pushed into a separate bin area so that it can be used for other recipes.
Masticating juicers crush and squeeze the vegetables and fruit through gears and an ultra-fine stainless steel strainer and the pulp is continually extracted. This type of juicer is known for rendering a higher amount of nutrients and preserves more enzymes because it generates less friction and warmth.
The Lowdown on Fruits and Vegetables
Harvard’s School of Public Health’s website gets into the nitty-gritty when it comes to the daily servings of fruits and vegetables. It explains that while the latest guidelines call for Americans to consume between five and 13 servings a day, the average person gets just about three servings. A solid base of research over the past 30 years shows that individuals who consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables are about half as likely to develop cancer when compared to those who consume the minimum. The latest research also suggests that in terms of disease, our heart has the biggest payoff from eating large amounts of fruits and veggies. With the top three causes of death being heart disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease, there really is no excuse to not introduce high quantities of fruits and vegetables into your diet. If the thought of having to eat the amounts suggested makeS you cringe, juice it instead!
To really understand the benefits of juicing, we must understand more about micronutrients. Micronutrients are essentially our minerals and vitamins and they are found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. In the average American diet, we get about 60% of our calories from refined foods, 30% from animal products, 5% from whole grains and 5% from fruits and vegetables² (not a very micronutrient rich diet!). Whole fruit and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals; in the solid form of fruits and veggies, some of these vitamins and minerals are confined within the indigestible fiber and cannot be used by the body. When juiced, these nutrients become fully available for use by the cells in the body within minutes, saving the body energy normally needed for digestion and allowing the body to rest while is it detoxifying and getting much needed nutrients.
Other benefits of juicing include: a natural weight loss effect; a cleansing action (raw juice has somewhat of a laxative effect) which causes your metabolism to act more efficiently; bringing additional antioxidants into the body – fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants which may counteract free radicals that can cause cellular damage and cancer; and getting more chlorophyll – naturally only found in plants, chlorophyll enhances the body to produce hemoglobin, which helps deliver more oxygen to the cells.
Getting an Up-Close and Personal Look
I believe there are two major factors involved when beginning any exercise or diet program – consulting with your doctor on a regular basis and researching beforehand as much as possible to learn from the experiences of those before you. For many years, close family members and friends of mine have seen me go from being an occasional juicer to a “three times a day” juicing fan. In addition to explaining to them all of the juicing experiences that I have had, I also send them in the direction of what I consider a terrific documentary made about juicing entitled Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. This movie made a huge impact on my life for several reasons. The two main characters in the movie suffer from a horribly painful and life-altering autoimmune disease called Urticaria (some of you may know that I suffer from a different type of autoimmune disease called Systemic Lupus). What intrigued me was that these two gentlemen were on the same types of toxic and extremely strong immune-suppressants that I have been on over the past ten years since my diagnosis. Throughout the movie, I watched these men transform as they juiced, exercised and met regularly with different medical specialists.
They both went through incredible physical, mental and emotional changes – losing massive amounts of weight, having their attitude and clarity improve, becoming more energetic, changing their lifestyle and diet and ultimately having their condition go into a remission like state and being able to decrease their medicine or go off all of it completely. If someone had told me about the movie, but I hadn’t watched it for myself, I don’t know if I would have believed the results these two men encountered. The movie propelled me from being someone who juiced once or twice a week to someone who now does it every day.
Has my Lupus been “cured”? No. I didn’t begin juicing thinking it was going to cure this disease; I did it to increase my chances of feeling better and becoming as healthy as I could be. Do I feel any better? Absolutely! I still have my ups and downs but everyone can see the difference. Let me explain; the first few days of juicing, I felt pretty terrible (I did not completely stop eating at first – I juiced three times a day and ate two or three small meals a day). Feeling slightly “off” the first few days of juicing is quite normal. But it is the feeling that you get after you have pushed through this period that makes it all worth it. The major thing I noticed was the change in my energy levels. My need and desire for coffee lessened and I noticed that I wasn’t napping quite as much; I have been able to focus more and I am able to get more writing done. After several months, some of the markers on my blood work have even moved into the normal range for the first time in ten years. I am about five months into it and I can say with certainty that juicing has become a major part of my lifestyle. I actually look forward to waking up every morning and creating a new, delicious concoction that is going to give me a burst of energy and nutrients.
I had a nutritionist tell me once that juicing only interests those who are “sick, wealthy, health conscious or eccentric”. For me, I fell into the “sick” category. For ten years, I have dealt with daily fevers, pain, mini-strokes, and heart and blood issues from this disease known as Lupus. In addition to healing, I pray daily that God give me wisdom and show me every possible avenue that can help me improve my health situation. I wouldn’t advocate something unless I have tried it for myself.
I have heard many people (even horribly sick people!) respond with “Oh, I could never do that” when I mention juicing. This makes me wonder how people can respond in a negative way to something that they have never tried. Sick or healthy, it should be apparent to everyone that our diets in America are not all that they can be; there is major room for improvement. Why wait until illness is upon the body before taking the initiative to be the healthiest that you can be? For those who are interested in learning more about juicing, I suggest beginning by watching the Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead documentary (Netflix has it available), speaking with your physician about whether it is right for you, and reading more about the subject. The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker is an informative book that includes many delicious recipes. For those who prefer to read online, Dr. Mercola has a great website about juicing which can be found at: www.juicing.mercola.com
“Green Love” Juice Recipe:
6 leaves of Kale with stems
4 handfuls of spinach
1 ½ large Honeycrisp Apples
When finished juicing above ingredients, hand squeeze 1/3 of a lemon into juice. Take juice and transport into a blender. Add ½ cup water and blend with 1 banana. Serve over ice. Makes approximately three cups.
Marisa completed her undergraduate education in Chemistry and Nursing before being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. She currently sits on the board of The Lupus Foundation of America, regularly writes health related material and runs her own website for Lupus patients,