Mildly drab topic, juicing. It feels like it’s been on the Healthfood agenda since the 60’s - and it most certainly has. In fact since some guy in persia squeezed a lemon a couple of thousand years ago, juice has been part of human culture. And let’s face it, when archeologists refer to the “earliest evidence of” a cultural phenomenon, that is quite apart from the first time humans have endeavoured to do a certain thing. Just like with agriculture where we thought, until only a few years ago, that because the earliest evidence of agriculture was about 12000 years old, that was as long as we’d been taking plants out of the ground to eat in any semi-organised fashion... but there are clues that have suggested lately that buckwheat was being cultivated, and then roasted and ground (thereby demonstrating fairly sophisticated understanding of digestion and nutrition) by societies that existed some 75000 years ago. So we might think we’re wildly inventive these days, but guys, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. The fact that our human race has even survived this long is testament to the fact that we’re pretty good at getting the most out of our environment; and paradoxically, the point we’re at right now, where we feel pretty smug about our technological and societal advances - well let’s just say that what comes along with it seems to be some stuff that’s not so great for the survival of the species
Anyhoo, so we’re not reinventing the wheel here, we’re just applying what current convention says is a decent thing to do for our health, immunity, nervous system...for our poops😲😲😲. And science says yes, too. Countless articles in scientific literature attest to the benefit of stripping away the fibrous part of plants in order to gain access to the treasure trove of nutrients hidden underneath. While we love the idea of consuming 9 portions of fruit and vegetables on the daily, yes nine (according to the American Cancer Society), we are abundantly aware of the fact that we also have to get to work at some stage. Have to take the kids to school. Feed them too (with celery juice…?!). Then find the time to purchase, wash and prepare these 9 portions in order to give us this perceived preventative benefit against long term chronic diseases such as cancer.
Yes, cancer. As soon as we drop that word in, it’s so divisive. Even sitting here writing this article I’m reflecting on the fact that I probably had 5 or maybe 6 portions yesterday. I’ve started obsessing already, getting the fear. But that’s not the headspace we need to be in to feed and nurture our body and maintain our equilibrium. In fact quite the opposite. Which is what makes me nervous writing this article, because I know it plays into our absolute terror about leaving a gap in our daily health regime, a chink in our armour, that could let cancer or some other terrifying monster slip out from under the bed. But we have to live in the real world - embrace and enjoy our real lives, with whatever constraints that puts on us in terms of maintaining our health and that of our families. Life will inevitably be packed with compromise, and we don’t have to suffer that. We just have to know the tricks to give our bodies those concentrated doses of nutrients in a way we can love (or learn to love😜). And that’s fine. Because we need to stay close to the thought that, no matter how far we err from the path of perfect health - our bodies want to be in homeostasis, in balance, and we have the most hi tech, complex pathways to help our bodies chuck out the crap and make the most of the good stuff when we get a shot of it. So now, on to the practicalities.
What to juice, what to juice, tum tee tum - off to the fridge and see what we have in stock...okay lots of apples and carrots and oranges and bananas...now these are great fruits, don’t get me wrong, but. They’re all fairly sugary fruit, and well, the last two won’t go in the juicer anyway. I am not in the habit of belittling anyone’s banana, but if we’re going to take an already sugary food and then strip it of its fibre - what we’re doing is essentially handing our body a plate of sugar in the form of some tasty water. Yes there’s nutrients in there too, in the form of vitamin C and potassium and some others, but in terms of cost/benefit, and we’re focusing on the short term health shots here...it’s a bit of a no no. Perhaps let’s say the apples and carrots are the flavour enhancers, along with pears, and a couple of others. But ideally let’s stick to the veggies, and augment “to taste” with a half apple/pear/carrot etc. Otherwise munch them whole. The big thing with fibre and fruit, not to get too much into it here as we’ve travelled this road in previous posts, but basically fibre buffers the release of sugar from the gut, and also plays a crucial role in how our cells look at and use the sugar when it gets to that point too, at least partially due to its effect on supporting the microbiome in its job of regulating inflammation.
Which is why smoothies are SO great [because you keep the all important fibre in]. More than juice maybe. Ugh. Confusion. Let’s stay in our lane and come back to that one another time eh?? Perhaps suffice to say - if your gut is sluggish, accent towards the smoothies. If there are gaps in your diet, and maybe your immune system is letting you down a bit, then focusing on a daily dose of nutrients in juice form might be just what the doctor ordered (no, no, we’re not looking to replace medical advice here - check the disclaimer).
So now we know a bit about what to juice - how to juice it? Well we know time is of the essence here, and we’re not all on rockstar’s budget. So the simplest way to get some liquidised nutrients out of a vegetable is to pick up any old juicer, high speed, slow speed, masticating or cold pressed. If you can afford the high end stuff, all the better (check out our Greenstar for a bells and whistles juicing monster), but if that’s out of your reach - no biggie. There are ways and means. The biggest part of your budget should be spent on the produce itself in my book, and then we can pick the right produce to make sure you get the max effect from every ounce. Just like George Orwell said in Animal Farm - “Some animals are more equal than others” - the same applies to the benefits from vegetables. Once we’re working in a roughly green spectrum (think broccoli, pak choi, celery, cucumber, rocket, lettuce etc), we’re not doing too bad, but some of these veggies do give more bang for their buck. In our post on Foods for Cancer Prevention we fell quite deeply in love with broccoli in particular. And our love affair with this bounteous brassica continues apace - more and more studies keep emerging to tell us all about its frankly ridiculous health perks. For instance there’s the one where subjects were given one 30ml shot of broccoli sprout juice, and within an hour or two the level of benzene being excreted in their urine had shot up over 50%!! Benzene, for those of you who need more info, is one of the most toxic components we get from sucking on diesel fumes all day long. A particular pastime all of us urbanites share, albeit accidental….and highly undesirable.
If you have the bucks to burn, the great thing about masticating, or “cold-pressed” juicers is their ability to grind down hard cellulose fibre, cracking open these nutrient rich cells, bypassing our inability to get the nutrients from grasses, and helping us understand why it is that cattle all look so happy with their lot. So if you want to juice wheatgrass, kale, alfalfa sprouts or any of these green things with any real purpose, one of these machines is what you need. And that old adage that “nothing that’s worthwhile doing was ever easy” - well it certainly applies here as these chaps are the belle of the ball when it comes to nutrient density.
Actually a great rule of thumb when it comes to selection of veg/fruit for their vitamins, minerals and (nerd alert) secondary metabolites (just calling them antioxidants is a misnomer) is to look always for the bitter foods, and leafy ones. Bitter foods contain compounds that encourage hormesis - basically they’re mildly toxic and your body tries to expel them, ramping up its defensive protocols and toning its digestive response to fully break down the potential invader. Leafy greens have denser cell structure, containing less "storage molecules" (starch) than their sweet and sugary buddies living underground. That doesn't mean we're knocking potato juice. It's just not on the daily agenda over here.
There’s also a quick note to make on the acid/alkaline debate - a fun one which has been raging since the middle of the last century, and with more fuzzy science applied to it than the hunt for the Lochness Monster. Sooooo many cowboys have been out there pushing alkaline tonic juices for aeons now it’s got fairly boring. You can’t bullshit your body. It regulates the pH of most tissues to within an inch of their existence. Though it’s true that excess acidic foods (that is to say those containing an abundance of acidic minerals) do put pressure on organs of excretion to a degree, and may negatively affect our metabolism, and acidosis is a risk with certain diets, there’s not much other than wooly science to back up any theories around alkalinity having a pronounced effect on diseases such as cancer. But that’s not to say there’s not a whole heap of magic contained in our crunchy fibrous friends.
And the funny thing is, that whatever the reason, you do feel good, light, bouncy even - once you get onto a regular diet of green juice. It may or may not be the alkalinity that matters, but we’re not going to knock it if it makes you feel like you can fly. But just to throw the cat among the pigeons - and to throw a (vegan) bone to all the hippies (us) that get all hyped up about our daily greens: a study was released two years ago that drew some attention, some confusion and a degree of derision from the scientific community. Essentially a bunch of rats, mice, worms and pigs were fed a stack of chlorophyll (that substance that puts the green into greens), and in response to sunlight exposure they all started to make ATP when their bloodstream was replete with the stuff. ATP is our body’s energy molecule, the end stage of the digestion/metabolism process where food becomes electrical energy and we all start to feel a buzz from our juice bottle.
So what makes up the perfect juice...oooooh a design challenge SUPER! Well we’d love to hear yours but maybe it’d go something like this -
Broccoli sprouts _ they’ll have to go through the masticating juicer, but with their dose of glucosinolates that support liver health, modulate inflammation and protect our DNA from damage you might be as well off making the effort…that’s just the tip of the nutritional iceberb with broccoli, as it’s packed with iron, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium. It’s practically exhaustively healthy 😂
Radish_ nothing beats a radish for that peppery kick, and that kick is just what our digestive system needs as it supercharges our enzyme production, and fights inflammation as it goes down the canal.
Celery_trying to steer away from the brassica family for a second, as those guys tend to hog the spotlight when it comes to juice stardom. Salty celery is just packed with potassium -and as such confers huge benefits for the efficient functioning of our nervous system. Every time our brain sends a message to contract or relax a muscle, electrolyte minerals such as potassium get used up in volumes. Plus, we then go and sweat out a bunch more, or we drink coffee and pee them out or...you get the picture right?
Ginger_if there’s one food that’s persistently on the top of our menus in The Hopsack it has to be ginger. As a digestive health tonic, a decongestant for snotty sinuses, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for protecting us from the ravages of our ageing, ailing bodies...consumption of high, bordering on unsafe volumes of ginger is something like a rite of passage into health food circles.
So we could actually sit here all day and generate lists upon lists of our favourite veg juices and why they rock our shop (literally), but you’re probably bored to the back teeth with our long winded journey into juicedom. So we’ll call it a day. Which reminds me! - when we reach the limit for juice volume we sometimes seek to augment our liquid lunch with a few hardcore tonics in powder and tincture form. It’s a great way to get supplementary nutrition without piling into the pill food. Join us next month when we’ll be picking through the finest wholefood plant extracts to augment your burgeoning juice addiction and help you carve a deeper furrow into your health rituals in 2019.