A question I’m often asked is, “Do you like juicing and do you think it’s beneficial?”. The short answer is, yes I do. In fact, I love the benefits that juicing can provide for people.
I feel most people can benefit from juicing but one thing I don’t think is right for everyone is juice fasting. Some can benefit from it over the short term, but many, in my opinion, are better off to incorporate juicing into a more structured dietary plan if they are looking at some form of ‘cleansing’ or ‘detox’.
The value I find that comes from juicing is the boost in nutrition it provides. Anything in liquid form will be easier to digest and absorb, and the juice of fresh squeezed fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes. Just look at how many veggies you need to make a few ounces of juice! Not only for the average person, juicing can provide so much benefit to those with digestive challenges or with chronic illness because of this high concentration of easy-to-absorb nutrition.
What about smoothies? Well, I have nothing against smoothies at all. Rather than extracting the juice from the vegetables and fruit, smoothies blend/emulsify them into a mush, often mixed with a fluid of some sort to make them ‘liquid’. You can blend other things into smoothies as well such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, powdered supplements, etc. Because all of the ingredients are blended down, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest them and the absorption of nutrients is enhanced. But, you will not have as high a concentration of nutrient content from your fruits and veggies compared to a juice, and it still won’t be absorbed as well as the pure liquid from a fresh squeezed juice. Why? Because you have left all of the fibre from the plant material in the beverage. And fibre is not a bad thing! We all need a healthy amount of fibre. But the fibre content will prevent some of the nutrients from being absorbed and basically takes up space (compare how many vegetables you put into a smoothy vs. how many you need to make an equivalent volume of juice – more vegetables means more nutrients). I do think smoothies are great for all of the things you can add to them, but they certainly won’t be as rich in nutrients/enzymes as a fresh squeezed juice, and these nutrients will be absorbed less effectively (but still much more effectively than if you were to chew a carrot a couple of times and swallow it down). So I certainly give a ‘thumbs up’ to smoothies, but I give ‘two thumbs up’ to juices!
What about “slow juicers”? I do prefer slow juicers to the run of the mill high speed juicers. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, the high speed juicers (high speed because the juicing is usually achieved by a very fine screen or ‘grater’ which spins at a high speed) tend to inject a lot of air (and therefor oxygen) into the juice. This is just inherent in the physics of the apparatus. And oxygen oxidizes. Many nutrients are susceptible to oxidation which destroys their nutrient value. So by allowing for more oxidation to take place, you are taking away some of the nutrient content of your juices. In addition, some of the beneficial enzymes in the juice are also degraded in the process due to the high speed ‘agitation’. But don’t go throwing away your juicer because of this! You are still going to have a high fraction of nutrients within your juice! Slow juicers usually utilize an auger which rotates at a slow speed, basically crushing the juice out of the fruits and veggies and much less air is pushed into the juice. The less oxygen injected into the juice, the less oxidation of nutrients and the higher the concentration of these nutrients and enzymes in your beverage!
One other question I’m often asked is how long can I store a fresh squeezed juice for? Well, the longer it sits, the longer the nutrients will be exposed to air/oxygen and to light. Both will degrade the nutrients and enzymes in your juice. Ideally you will drink your fresh squeezed juice within an hour. In my opinion, you will still get some nutritional benefit from your juice if you consume it within 6-8 hours, provided you store it in an air tight container, in the fridge (both a cool and dark environment). But the longer the juice sits, the less nutrient and enzyme value it will have.
So which juicer should you buy? Buy one that’s within your budget for one thing. Slow juicers tend to be more expensive, but again, although they don’t produce as high a quality juice, the higher speed juicers will still be beneficial for your health. Also, buy one that you are going to use regularly. If cleaning your juicer will deter you from using it, check online reviews and find the ones that are praised as being easy to clean (if they are a snap to clean, reviewers are very likely to comment on this). Too many juicers end up in a cupboard or in a crawl space because people hate cleaning them. There are many that are easy to clean! I found one great resource was actually on Youtube where I found John from discountjuicers.com (just pop this into the Youtube search field and you'll find all you need - or you can click this link directly https://www.youtube.com/user/rawfoods/videos ). He provides comparisons of different models - all the pros and cons you could think of. Once you find the model you want, shop around for the best price! These videos helped me to decide what juicer to get!
Finally, I thought I would mention a few things to add to your juicing that you may not have considered. Asparagus is often overlooked but it juices very well and has a high concentration of histones which are good for overall health and thought of as a cancer preventative. Cilantro (if you are alright with the taste) is very good at helping the body to detoxify (studies show that it is useful to help bind onto heavy metals and clear these toxins from the body). Parsley is also a good culinary herb to help give an energy boost and helps to detoxify. Fresh mint is excellent for digestion and the immune system. And beet greens are good (so don’t throw away the greens attached to your red beet roots – clean them up and throw them through the juicer too!).
I hope this info was helpful! I tend to be asked these questions quite frequently and figured it was a good opportunity to add it as a blog topic for educating any juicing ‘newbies’.
Yours in health,
Dr. Appelmann, BSc, ND