I am so excited that we will be traveling to New York City tomorrow to spend Christmas with my parents and brothers. I look forward to much blessed family time, catch-ups with friends, gorgeous New York City scapes, and hopefully some Connecticut snow days, as I achingly miss those in California. Not looking good so far, as it’s supposed to warm up, but you never know and one can hope…
Because we all have a tendency to overdo food during the holidays, I thought this would be a good time to share my most important juicing tips as well as my favorite green juice recipe. Vegetable juices help flood the body with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, cleanse it of all the excesses of the season and greatly boost energy levels. This particular one tastes pretty darn good, as well.
When I juice, I try to experiment with many different combinations of vegetables and fruits. Some have better flavor than others, but regardless of whether they taste good or not, fresh vegetable juices always have a positive impact on health.
At those times when I create a particularly nasty-tasting concoction, I will just tell my husband “take one for the team today”. Kind, beautiful soul that he is, he usually drinks it without complaining. OK, sometimes a little complaining. But, amazingly, not much. One of the many reasons why I love him.
Of course he doesn’t know that even though I make him drink the nasty stuff, if that juice is just too nasty for words, I will sometimes dump my share in the sink – shhh, please don’t tell him (honey, if you’re reading this, I’ve only done this on very, very rare occasions!).
What can I say, I have very little tolerance for things that don’t taste good. If I don’t like something, there’s no way I’m going to eat or drink it. Period. Life is short.
But “throw-away” juice is actually very rare. Usually, when a certain mixture is not very palatable, there are some things that can be done to make it taste better: adding ginger and lemon until the flavor improves usually works. Sometimes it takes a little, sometimes it takes a lot, but most of the time, that combination does the trick.
One thing I really, really don’t like in my juice (but sometimes make myself drink, because I know/hope it’s good for me) is wheatgrass or barleygrass. That stuff is nasty !! It reminds me of when I was a kid, and I fell in the grass from running too hard while playing cops and robbers, and I was too out of breath to get up right away, and so I kind of laid there smelling the blades of grass for a couple of minutes while I caught my breath.
Grass smells so good. But grass doesn’t taste so good. And when I drink wheatgrass, I feel like that kid, except I’m not just smelling the grass anymore, I’m actually eating it. It’s bitter, and grassy, and strong. Yuk.
But because I have read so many good things about grasses, sometimes I will have a shot of it at the farmers’ market. My husband swears by it, and gets his fix every time we visit the market. Says it makes him feel great.
Me? Not so much. Can’t say I notice one bit of difference. To each their own, I guess.
I have a confession to make: I don’t juice every day. There are times when I simply can’t make it happen. But I try to do it as often as I can, and I know that we all benefit. Well, my husband and I benefit. Of course, my picky son won’t touch the stuff (had to be my son, right? Sheesh. Parenting is a lesson in patience and tolerance, I swear).
Anyhoozles (that’s something my son used to say when he was young and it kind of stuck – it’s anyhoo, with a twist)… for a discussion on the different types of juicers, and which one might be right for you, please refer back to page 6 of my Guide to Creating a Natural Kitchen, you know the one you downloaded when you signed up for recipe updates and news? (if you are new to this blog, you can download it, too, it’s completely free – all you need to do is subscribe on the right hand corner of this website, and I’ll send it right to you).
All this aside, there are certain principles that I do follow when juicing. And they are…
- Clean the fruits and vegetables thoroughly: it might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s tempting to slack off on that step when we are short on time. It’s simply not a good idea. Those raw fruits and vegetables have been pulled from the soil, then did some traveling and laying around in possibly unclean conditions. They really need to be washed properly to remove the bacteria and possible parasites that might be lurking there.
- Drink the juice outside of meals: that means that if you juice first thing in the morning, you want to do it about 30 minutes before breakfast. Why? Because I said so. Kidding! Seriously, because juice, like fruit, contains everything it needs to be digested and absorbed quickly by the body. When it sits on top or below other consumed foods, which might need more processing, the body really struggles to digest it all, which can create digestive issues, as well as a loss of nutrients. So… to get the most out of your juices, drink them on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before a meal, and/or 2-3 hours after.
- Don’t add too many fruits and/or sweet vegetables in the juice: vegetable juices should not be dessert! They are not supposed to send blood sugar levels skyrocketing. Most fruits and sweet vegetables like carrots and beets, for example, are very, very sweet. Without the benefits of the fiber contained within them (that is removed when you juice), they turn into sugar water. A little sweetness added to improve otherwise unpalatable savory juices is fine, but please be mindful. Some purists even believe that we shouldn’t mix any sweet fruits in juice, but I opt for balance. If a few fruits to sweeten the juice means that you will juice more often, then it’s worth it to add a little sweetness. Just don’t overdo it.
- Don’t wait to drink the juice: as soon as it comes into contact with air, the enzymes and vitamins contained in the juice start to break down, which quickly reduces its nutritional value. If one goes through the trouble of making a gorgeous vegetable juice, it is best to do it justice by drinking it right away. But what if you make too much? Can juices be stored for the next day? Yes, even though it’s not optimal. Just make sure you keep it in an airtight glass container and, of course, refrigerate it.
- Rinse the juicer immediately after use: waiting to clean the juicer is a mistake we only make once. Once that pulp has dried, it is soooo hard to clean. Do yourself a favor, and at least rinse it right after use, or, if you really don’t have time, let the parts soak in a large bowl filled with warm soapy water until you can attend to it. This step alone will save you a lot of cleaning time.
- Vary the vegetables used: one of the mistakes that we often make in all our food choices, is that when we like something, we tend to have it over and over again. I have that tendency as well, but it’s simply not a good idea. We want to rotate our foods to get the maximum variety of nutrients, and also to mitigate possible allergic reactions. The more often we eat a certain food, the more likely it is that we will develop an intolerance to it. So remember to use different vegetable combinations and rotate them.
- Juices or smoothies, which is better? some people say juices, others say smoothies, many say both. I agree with those that say “both”. Alternating between juices and smoothies is simply a good idea. First of all, it gives you much needed variety. And also, each method serves different purposes. When we juice, we are able to consume a lot of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in one go, something we would be hard pressed to achieve by consuming vegetables in their whole form, with the fiber intact. That’s just too much roughage for one human to process. Therefore, juices allow us to cut down on the amount of fiber while still flooding the body with beneficial nutrients. However, fiber is vitally important for health, and it is preserved in smoothies. So, alternating between juices and smoothies is very beneficial.
- Remember boosters: fresh herbs, ginger, turmeric root, lemon, etc. are not just important for taste, but carry enormous nutritional value, as well. Herbs are powerful detoxifiers, ginger is a strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial, turmeric root is a powerful anti-inflammatory and lemon helps alkalize the body (I know it tastes acidic, but once it is processed by the body, it actually has an alkaline effect on it, weird, eh?). So think about incorporating them often in your juices.
Phew, that was a little long. I hope it was helpful, and that you will enjoy the recipe that follows.
Do you have favorite ways to juice? What are some winning combinations that you have found? Please share your comments in the box below.
I will not be posting next week so that I can enjoy some uninterrupted downtime with my family, but I will be back the following week with a brand new post!
Enjoy a peaceful holiday, remember to reflect and renew, forget about resolutions, and see you in 2014!
Love and health!
My Favorite Green Juice
2 cucumbers (about 1 lb)
2 heads of Romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 lb)
2 celery stalks
2 Granny Smith apples (or Fuji for a sweeter taste)
handful of fresh mint
1 thumb size piece of ginger
juice of 2 large lemons
Juice all the ingredients, except for the lemons. Add the lemon juice. Stir well.