When done correctly-i.e., when used as an adjunct to your normal vegetable and fruit intake, not as a replacement-juicing can be an excellent way to get more and varied produce into your diet. It provides a concentrated dose of nutrients, and it gives you a fun way to enjoy some vegetables that you might otherwise avoid.
The downside is that juicing fruits and vegetables removes much of their fiber content, as well as some nutrients (unless you're using only a blender). So it's always a good idea to put a little of the removed fiber back into your juice. And, of course, many juices are laden with calories.
The key is to choose your ingredients carefully, match them well, and use a blender whenever possible to preserve as much fiber and nutrition as you can. Here are a few tips:
- Go Easy on the Fruit. Yes, fruit is the tastiest part of juicing. It's also the most caloric. And it contributes to blood sugar spikes. So try to use fruit only as a flavoring for your juices, and allow the vegetables to take center stage. But remember that carb-laden veggies such as beets and carrots should also be used judiciously.
- Go for the Green. Leafy greens boast high concentrations of useful vitamins and minerals with very little sugar. Combining them with a little fruit and a splash of citrus makes them not only palatable, but delightful.
- Wet Your Whistle. Veggies with a high water content and mild flavor-such as cucumber, celery, and fennel-will contribute to a more harmonious texture and flavor.
- Try Something New. Vegetables that you never liked before can be much more appealing as part of a juice cocktail. Try cabbage, kale, or red leaf lettuce, and toss in a little parsley (helps purify the blood) or cilantro (helps detoxify heavy metals).
- Drink It Now. Juiced produce rapidly degrades, losing its nutritional peak and becoming prone to spoilage. So plan to enjoy your juice immediately upon making it. If you want to hold it for a few hours, fill a container with a tight lid all the way to the top and keep it well refrigerated.
- Add a Little Zing. Brighten juices with some perky additions: a bit of chopped fresh ginger, a squeeze of Meyer lemon, a dash of cayenne pepper, or even a handful of cranberries. Not only do these add-ons provide a burst of flavor, they all offer their own nutritional contributions as well.
So your next trip to the farmers' market or health food store, stock up on a basketful of the freshest and sweetest the season has to offer-and give it a whirl!
Blender Breakfast Whirl
Start your day off right with this quick and easy concoction. You can peel the apple if you like, but you'll retain more of the nutrients if you don't.
1 sweet-crisp organic apple, such as Pink Lady, cored and chopped
1 handful sorrel leaves, ribs removed and leaves shredded
1/2 cup chopped organic cucumber
1 Tbs. Meyer (or regular) lemon juice
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
Dash cayenne pepper
Combine ingredients with ice and 1/3 cup water in blender. Purée until smooth, adding water if mixture is too thick.
PER SERVING: 123 cal; 2g pro; 1g total fat (<1g sat fat); 30g carb; 0mg chol; 6mg sod; 7g fiber; 20g sugars
A high-calorie indulgent treat, this delicious concoction requires a citrus juicer, a juicing machine, and a blender.
4 large blood oranges, halved
1/2 medium ruby beets, halved
1/2 medium golden beets, halved
1/4 cup blackberries
1/4 cup raspberries
1 Tbs. Meyer (or regular) lemon juice
1/2 Tbs. organic honey
Juice oranges. Juice beets. Combine with remaining ingredients in blender, and purée until smooth.
PER SERVING: 375 cal; 7g pro; 1g total fat (<1g sat fat); 87g carb; 0mg chol; 478mg sod; 5g fiber; 53g sugars
Neil Zevnik is a private chef based in Los Angeles who's devoted to the proposition that "healthy" doesn't have to mean "ho-hum." He also writes for the Huffington Post and has his own website, neilzevnik.com.
Get the Right Tools
If you want to do some serious juicing, you're going to need the proper equipment-a citrus juicer for oranges, lemons, and such; a blender for softer solids and liquids; and a juicing machine for firmer and/or leafy produce.
Luckily, most people already own one, if not two, of these items. Because they serve a variety of culinary purposes, citrus juicers and blenders are a staple in many kitchens. But juicing machines? Not so much.
Your choice of a juicing machine should be based on how often you intend to use it, as well as your budget. There are three kinds of juicing machines: centrifugal, masticating, and triturating. Centrifugal are the least expensive-and the least effective. They produce some heat and remove the most fiber from produce. Masticating machines are the mid-price option, and they're believed to preserve a little more of the fiber. Triturating juicers are the most expensive-and the most effective. They press the produce to extract the maximum amount of juice.