Juice your way to better health with fresh produce
The Cancer Support Community in Rehoboth invited me earlier this week to present a demonstration on juicing. Since I wasn’t sure how to use their particular machine, they lent it for a few days so I could prepare for the class. Fortunately, I’d recently stocked up on produce and had enough ingredients on hand to test a few recipes. But first, an explanation for those unfamiliar with the topic: juicing is the practice of extracting juice from fresh fruits and vegetables.
You may have heard talk show hosts insist on a daily dose of green juice for optimum health or visited a website that encouraged 10-day juice fasts to cleanse your system. While those things may or may not work, this discussion will focus on the casual juicer, someone interested in how to get started with this nutritious addition to a balanced diet.
We already know it’s important to include four servings of fruits and five of vegetables each day, but you may not realize there are advantages to drinking them. Juicing makes many of the nutrients in fruit and vegetables more readily available, and you can consume greater quantities with much less effort. For example, if you drink one eight-ounce glass of carrot juice, you will fuel your body with more beta-carotene, B vitamins and trace minerals than if you ate an entire pound of fresh carrots.
Why is this the case? Because many nutrients remain trapped in the plant fiber that is eliminated once it travels through the digestive system. Juicing provides these vital elements in an easily assimilated form. In addition, most commercially processed juices are pasteurized, which destroys valuable nutrients, and they may also have added preservatives.
Once you’ve decided to give juicing a try, the first thing you’ll need is a juicer. These machines vary significantly in cost and features. The most common and least expensive is the centrifugal juicer, which has a basket that spins at high speeds. When blades on the basket bottom chop the food, centrifugal force sends the juice through a spout and expels the pulp down a chute. The more expensive masticating juicer grinds the pulp to extract the juice; these can also be used to grind nut butters.
The juicer we used this week was a small Juiceman, the brand that started selling in 1992 infomercials and sparked interest in juicing. We prepared a selection of produce by thoroughly washing the skins to remove any traces of pesticides and waxes. Here’s a place where choosing organic produce reduces any potential concern about unwanted chemicals. Almost every part of a fruit or vegetable can be fed into the machine, with a few exceptions.
Leafy celery tops are bitter and best discarded. Apple seeds contain a small amount of cyanide; core the apples to remove the seeds. Small pips from lemons, limes, grapes and melons are fine; discard the large pits of peaches and plums. Remove the bitter outer layer of oranges and grapefruit; leave some white pulp to retain bioflavonoids. Peel fruits with tough skins, such as kiwi, papaya, ginger and mango.
WHAT TO PUT IN THE JUICE
Now, for the results of the taste tests. Since most of us were familiar with fruit juices (just perhaps not how very delicious fresh juice can be compared to packaged), the class focused on combinations of fruit and vegetables. We had a chance to sample a variety, starting with a mixture of sweet carrot and tart Granny Smith apple. So far, everyone was nodding.
Then, we added more ingredients to make a basic veggie juice. Some smiles, a few wrinkled noses, maybe the red pepper didn’t agree with everyone, although I liked it. The spinach juice was not a thriller the way we assembled it; most of us found it too bitter. A revised recipe (below) includes pineapple to replace citrus in the original. There were mixed reviews of both tomato-based juices we tried, especially our attempt at V8. Although the beet added beautiful color and flavor, we wanted more tomato in the mix, which is reflected in the revision here. Be prepared, however, that without the salt, it will not remotely resemble V8 from the supermarket, although this is certainly healthier.
This leads us to the most helpful advice about juicing: follow the directions for your juicer and experiment with combinations of ingredients. You may not want beets in your juice, while I definitely will keep celery out of mine. And, even if you don’t love every juice you invent, you can add healthy fiber to other dishes by using the leftover pulp in soups, muffins, breads and meatloaf. Maybe I should start shopping for a juicer.