Sunday, September 6, 2009

Healthy Juicing!

Why would you want to turn all of this loveliness
into this other loveliness?
Because it's good for you, obviously! The benefits of juicing fresh fruits and especially vegetables are numerous: first of all, you get your fresh fruits and veg requirement in a pretty quick and easy step. Second of all, it's nutrition central: at least anecdotal evidence floats around out there that it can strongly help prevent or even, in some cases, cure cancer or other chronic illnesses. Third of all, it's pretty tasty, although it does take a little getting used to when you're drinking veg.

I've talked about juicing before and mentioned things like how it makes my hair and nails grow like mad when I drink juice regularly (proving (?) its goodness for the body). See here for that. What I'm about here is talking about some of what I know about the various ingredients that I juice on a regular basis.

Carrots:
Carrots are the anchor around with the rest of my juice is made. I always include carrots in my juices unless they are specifically designed to be a specialty fruit-only juice or an ingredient for cooking. Carrots are loaded with beta carotene and a host of other vitamins and minerals, and for the tiny number of calories they possess, they are extremely nutrient-dense. If you've never drank a glass of straight-up, freshly made carrot juice, then you really should just to see what it does to your body. If you do it on a more-or-less empty stomach, it's kind of like pouring Liquid Schwartz in your engine.

Apples:
Besides being somewhat good in the vitamins and minerals department, apples are very high in natural sugars that really elevate the energy levels. These are almost as great a pick-me-up as many of the more popular, caffeinated avenues to that end. Honestly, their nutritional profile in juice form is rather unremarkable, but their main benefit is in making almost any other juice far more palatable because they're very sweet in an inoffensive, well-mixing way. A few apples will make far rougher juices much easier and pleasant to drink. They are, however, high in sugar, so if that's an issue, do go easy with them. Sadly, the biggest nutritional boon of apples is their fiber content, most of which is lost in the juicing process.

Celery:
This soup-flavoring veg makes a lot of juice for how much of it you have to use, but its flavor is strong. It's good by itself with apples or in small quantities in other juices, and a couple of juiced stalks do well in a vegetable soup with a little simmering. The nutritional value of celery lies primarily in electrolytes it contains, though it does contain small quantities of amino acids that are helpful as well. Traditionally, celery is used to decrease inflammation and detoxify the body because it contains coumarins.

Beets:

I'm kind of excited about beets lately. I don't really like them, to be straight with you, but they are nice in juice (though if overdone will cause red diarrhea the next day!). A half a beet or a small-to-medium whole one is fine for two servings of juice. It's long been suggested by folk wisdom (or at least I heard it) that beets will make you strong, and there might be something to that. Besides being high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, beets provide a significant amount of nitric oxide in the diet, which is a compound used by serious exercisers to promote better blood flow to tissues, including muscle tissue, under the presumption that it will increase muscle growth overall. While that's not substantiated, the use of nitric-oxide enhancing supplements isn't decreased by the belief or science in any way. More reliably, the nitric oxide in beets is known to lower blood pressure because nitric oxide is a natural vasodilator (it dilates your blood vessels). Over a rather short time period (a few hours after consuming some beet juice), there is a marked drop in blood pressure that lasts for about a day. Daily consumption won't replace blood pressure medicine, but it can help keep the numbers a little lower in the very mildly hypertensive. Nitric oxide in the diet is also known to act beneficially on the male sexual response, and so beet juice may have these kinds of effects, though very slight, as well. Finally, in a recent study, it was shown that regular consumption of beet juice by athletes increased their endurance by as much as 16% in controlled tests. When they're fresh, I include the beet stems and leaves in my juice too!

Ginger Rhizome
:
I include a little ginger in most of my juices because it is good for digestion, warming and simulating to the digestive organs, and helps settle the stomach. It's used in traditional medicines in almost every culture that can get their hands on it, almost always for digestive reasons, and it has been shown to have better effects, without side effects, than many commercial motion-sickness medicines, including prescription-strength ones (disclaimer: I'm not advising you to stop taking anything recommended by your doctor for any reason). It's apparently a bad idea to have in your diet if you have gallstones, but without those, it seems to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. It's also a mild blood thinner and seems to help prevent and cure various forms of diarrhea. It also seems to have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels in some cases. In any case, it's hot and tasty, so it adds a certain zest to the juice but can easily be overwhelming.

Lemon:
The last "usual" ingredient that I use is lemon. This appears in most of my juices because of it's nice Vitamin C content and very pleasant flavor (once combined with the sweeter apples and carrots). You can juice the whole fruit without peeling it (supposing it is washed very well and/or organic), getting some of the benefits of the zest and pith as well. Lemon juice is supposed to help clear the body of mucus as well and is a popular ingredient in detox preparations.

If you haven't juiced, then you might try it. I have found very few people, other than those who are total slaves to their tastebuds (as the flavor takes some getting used to except in the cases of fruits only) or very lazy (because the prep and cleanup are a bit of a chore), that don't see the overwhelming benefit to their health provided by adding some fresh juices this way.

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1 comment:

5 Star Foodie said...

A veggie juice sounds delicious, a great idea! I need to try that for sure!