19 January 2016

juicing for health

This juicing trend has been around for years, and I didn't have any opinion of it one way or the other until I saw my brother-in-law last month for the holidays.

He has a desk job and had slowly gained weight, as so many people do. First, he lost about twenty pounds five years ago after we shared The China Study with our families. He started doing yoga for his back. Then, he started juicing.

(In case you're wondering:
The China Study is a longitudinal study comparing health and disease in people from China/Taiwan and the U.S., and the results show that first-world sickness (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) is avoidable if one's diet is comprised of 5% or less of animal product. (We read Eat To Live a few years later, and the message was the same.) 
We didn't go vegan because I love eggs and yogurt/my partner loves cheese, but we became 95% vegetarian. (We're veggie at home and go with the flow if we're eating with a group. We happily ate lamb chops and chicken when our friends cooked dinner for us at their homes, for example.) Since we're choosing to eat for health vs. for philosophical reasons, we still eat seafood sometimes, too. But we've cut back and find it pretty easy to give up most meat and keep our animal product intake below the 5% recommended by the book.)
But back to my brother-in-law. He didn't do a juice fast or cleanse. He is a reasonable, moderation kind of guy, so he juices veggies and fruits first thing in the morning, then eats his breakfast, lunch, and dinner as usual. The difference is that he also keeps a jug of juice with him and sips it throughout the day while he's working. Without really focusing on weight loss, he said he never got very hungry and lost another twenty pounds. He calls it Super Juice, and I can see why.

What really floored me and caused me to jump on the juicing bandwagon was that my brother-in-law now looks vibrant. His face is literally glowing with good health. After starting and running a business and then having two babies over the past four years, my diet had gone to crap. I may not be eating hunks of steak, but I also wasn't eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

I ate cupcakes through my first pregnancy and mostly bread through my second (whatever was quickest and easiest!), so I could feel my body craving healthy produce. More than anything, I marveled at my brother-in-law's radiant skin. He said juicing was easy. Just throw in whatever you have. He said the secret to it tasting good for him was to add strawberries. That's it? Sounded doable.

So, we found a remanufactured juicer (we got the Breville because it's what my brother-in-law uses) and started experimenting. 

Update: We have now upgraded to thJuice Fountain Cold partly because it supposedly produces less heat and thus retains more nutrients and mostly because the storage jug holds TWO liters rather than one. Which means you can juice a ton at once and use it for the next day. It has an airtight seal, so you can just put the jug directly in your fridge door. Easy peasy.

I think the key to successful juicing is to be open and flexible. We try to get to the local farmers' market weekly, but we often miss it, so most of our groceries are from Costco and Trader Joe's. We get whatever's in stock, so some of it is organic, and some isn't. We figure we'll just rotate whatever isn't organic to minimize exposure to the same pesticides, and it'll still be better than not consuming the fruits/vegetables. (Plus, you're supposed to rotate what you juice to get a nice variety of nutrients anyway.)

So far, our favorites are organic carrots (cheap and yummy), celery (adds a bit of salty flavor without being too strong), cucumber (tons of juice, yields a fresh flavor like cucumber water), romaine lettuce (juices more easily than many other greens because of its shape), Granny Smith apples, strawberries (we joke that whatever my brother-in-law says must be true), and beets (the golden ones are especially yummy). We've found adding lemon adds a nice fresh zing, and ginger is also delicious with carrots and apples.
Leafy greens don't do as well in a juicer, and we feel they're better used in smoothies, so we stick with our usual green smoothie (two handfuls of spinach, 2 bananas, 1 1/2 c of milk (we use unsweetened almond), and a heaping tbsp of peanut butter). It's green, but it tastes like a banana peanut butter milkshake.
We saw a couple of juicing tips online that we found useful, too:

1. If you're putting something really juicy (like strawberries or tomatoes) in the juicer, cover the spout with your hand to prevent splattering (it takes too long to get the plunger in place if you leave the motor running like I do).

2. Make sure to soak the filter basket in soapy water so the tiny fruit and vegetable particulate doesn't get stuck in the mesh, and scrubbing it with the included nylon brush will be easy (especially when we don't juice carrots, which seem to create more pulp). We haven't experienced it, but it is apparently nigh impossible to clean out dried, caked-on fruit and veggie bits from the tiny mesh holes. Consider yourself warned.

3. Drink your juice slowly. If you swish it around a little, you'll mix it with your saliva and get your digestive system going. As Gandhi said, we should chew our drinks and drink our (well-chewed) food.

We have been juicing every day since we got back from the holidays, and it feels good to consume something healthy every day. Since we're juicing for health and not to lose weight, we're adding juice to our regular three meals rather than replacing meals, and it's been great because we're eating healthier without having to try.

People recommend juicing first thing in the morning because we absorb the nutrients of the super juice better on an empty stomach. However! My family is generally too rushed in the morning to juice, so we make our juice in the afternoon and sit down to drink a glass together as a family before we start preparing dinner.

(For our picky toddler, we juice the fruits first and give her just a tiny bit of the fruit and veggie juice mixed in. So, it may only be a few sips in a tiny cup for her, but that's way better than she had been eating, so it's a good start.)

Also, to not waste all of the precious pulp that comes out, our favorite two ways to use the pulp is to either make soup (stir fry with oil and spices, add water, cook over low heat; puree or not, depending on your preference; great with beans and corn and seasoned with a dollop of salsa as a Mexican soup OR with coconut milk and Thai curry sauce as Thai coconut soup) or muffins. (We've also heard they make great veggie burgers/patties, so that'll be on our list of things to try next.)

After experimenting a bit with different recipes, here is the final muffin recipe that was our family favorite (our very picky 3-year-old happily devoured three in one sitting!):

I'm no food blogger, but don't these look yummy?
super juice (pulp) muffins 
(adapted from Plan To Eat)

yield: 24 muffins
prep: 10 minutes
bake time: 20 minutes
total time: 30 minutes

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c oats
  • 1 c walnuts, finely chopped 
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 c juice pulp
  • 1/2 c applesauce 
  • 1/2 c yogurt
  • 1/4 c maple syrup 
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c raisins
  1. Heat oven to 350
  2. Combine all ingredients in a mixer (I usually mix the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients)
  3. Spoon into greased muffin tins about 2/3 full
  4. Bake 16-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean
  5. Slather on butter and enjoy (kidding. sort of.)  
It's a forgiving recipe, so feel free to substitute, add/omit according to your preferences, and enjoy!
If you are inspired to juice (or already do so), I'd love to hear how it's going for you. And if you have more super juice pulp recipes, please share! I'd love to try more. (As always, feel free to email me directly if you prefer.) Happy juicing, friends. :-)

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