Juicing: Some Why's and How's
That countertop sawmill that is a juice extractor serves an important purpose: it breaks up individual plant cells by the billions, releasing the good stuff inside. Having taught cell biology for so long now, I’ve become familiar with what that good stuff is: plant RNA and DNA (no, this will not grow leaves on your nose), cytoplasm, mitochondria, ribosomes, enzymes and coenzymes, vitamins and minerals, plus the usual proteins, lipids and carbohydrates... and they are all uncooked.
I’ve been juicing for decades now, and my retrospective view is unchanged: it is worth doing.
“The juicer and the vegetables cost too much!”
The cost of the produce is no more than you’d spend on other foods that aren’t even good for you. I’ve seen people at the supermarket check out an armload of meat and not blink an eye at the $50 it cost them. You couldn’t even fit 50 bucks worth of carrots in a grocery cart.
Garden, and the price plummets further.
“Juicing takes too much time!”
To get more juice, reduce clogging, and simplify cleanup, add some peeled zucchini squash along with your carrots. My “Carrottini” (trademark!) juice tastes better than it sounds.
If there is a “head” of frothy foam on the top of your glassful of juice, you can either enjoy the taste and texture of it (I do) or avoid it by drinking through a straw.
If the left-over vegetable pulp produced your juicer seems damp or even wet, you may be pushing vegetables through too fast. Take your time and let the machine do its job. Use only a subtle pressure, with the plunger supplied by the manufacturer, to send the produce through your juicer.
Twice a year, juice a couple of pounds of grapes (the ones with the seeds) to clean the innards of the juicer. I like to use concord grapes, and let the juice sit for about five days. And THEN I drink it. Oh yeah!
If you grow more than one type of squash in your garden, unintentional hybridization is unavoidable. Those darn bees will pollinate anything. Yellow summer squash, zucchini, butternut, Hubbard, acorn squash, pumpkins, and all their normally-discarded hybrids are all juiceable. A little carrot mixed in helps the medicine go down.
If that is not enough for you, add a tablespoon or two of frozen natural juice concentrates (especially lemonade, grape or pineapple) to kill the taste of any juice you do not like. Try it with cucumber or cabbage.
Another way is to have a chaser ready. Pick you very favorite, sweet juice and have a full glass ready as your reward for first drinking the good-for-you vegetable juice.
Also fun: juice with a friend. If you cannot find a friend, I suppose a family member will have to do.
If your family runs for cover at first sight of your intent to liquefy everything in the ‘fridge, then snag your dog. Our dog’s ears perk up at the sound of a Champion revving up, for she knows that the cast off vegetable pulp is all for her. We thoroughly mix it with her dog food to greatly increase its vegetable, vitamin, and fiber content. It is also low-calorie, and filling, so it keeps her thin.
No dog? Then put the pulp in your compost pile. No compost pile? Well, why not? Okay, okay, one more option: carrot pulp is just the ticket for carrot cake. And that might just get your family back into the kitchen again.
To get more juice out of the same quantity of vegetables, try putting them through your juicer more slowly. A gentle pressure works best; let the machine do the work. Taking your time juicing can yield as much as a third more juice And, it will also reduce the heat from pressing vegetables too hard against the juicer’s blade assembly. Reduced friction means cooler juice, which most experienced juicers consider to be better for you. Cooler juice also tastes better.
To this end, I frost up a couple of large drinking glasses, and the glass pitcher I collect the juice in, by sticking them in the freezer each night. Next morning, I begin. Naturally, refrigerating (but NOT freezing!) your fresh produce also keeps everything cooler.
HINT: A good way to check your juicing technique is to feel the discarded pulp. If it is wet, you are losing juice. If it is dry and puffy, you are extracting most of the liquid very well.
ANOTHER HINT: Clean the clogs as you go. Carrots and other veggies can be very fibrous at certain times of the year. This is all the more reason to slow the juicing process down a tad. But if you are really going at it, stop juicing every five pounds or so, unplug the juicer, and (carefully) rinse off the blade assembly under running cold tap water.
STILL ANOTHER HINT: SCREEN CLEANING
When you juice vegetables, and your juicer filters with a metal screen, sooner or later that metal screen will become clogged. Prompt and thorough rinsing under the tap gets rid of most of the residue on a day-to-day basis, but over time a hardened material starts to build up in the screen and reduces output and efficiency. I have tried a variety of methods to combat this, including mild solvents such as "DL" hand cleaner, "Goo Gone," lime and rust removers such as "CLR," brushing, soaking, and even poking out the crud with a needle, spot by spot. Let me save you a whole lot of experimentation: use bleach. Soak the juicing strainer in chlorine bleach overnight and you will find the bottom of the soaking dish full of little dots that have eroded and fallen out of the strainer. Admittedly, you have to be something of a juicing fanatic to care about all this, but then you are a reader of this website, so if the shoe fits . . .
For those who can afford it, there are some very fine, albeit very expensive, juicers that press the vegetables rather than spin a blade against them. While there is little question in my mind that juicer-presses are ideal, a lot of people simply cannot manage their high cost. I’d rather you juice cheap than not juice at all.
Still more juicing hints
The second reason to juice is this: your body’s absorption of fresh, raw juice is simply outstanding. A juicer is essentially a powerful motor with teeth, breaking cell walls and releasing all the nutrients into a solution that your body sucks up like a sponge.
It takes me about eight large carrots to make an 8 ounce glass of carrot juice using an inexpensive centrifugal juice extractor. (The yield from a quality masticating juicer is higher.) Since considerable pulp is discarded in the extraction process, the actual vitamin A content of a cup of carrot juice is certainly much less than 8 carrots times 5,000 IU each, or 40,000 IU. For most household juicers, I estimate it to be about half that amount. Juicers that conserve pulp will give you more. However, juicers that remove the most pulp deliver the best looking, best tasting juice. This is no lab exercise; a real person has to be willing to drink it. Therefore, for persnickety patients, do not hesitate to use an extractor.
Remember that liquification increases both the availability and absorptivity of the contents of a vegetable, while reducing the amount you’d have to chew. It is more an issue of quality than quantity. It is also easier and faster to down a glass or two of juice as compared with eating several trays full of produce. Furthermore, juicing avoids cooking, and natural health authorities universally recommend more raw foods in our diet.
Remember also that carotene's vitamin A potential has little to do with its role as an antioxidant. For example, 20 mg of synthetic beta carotene is inadequate to provide lung cancer protection, but several times that, in natural form, is protective.
Carotene in high doses has been specifically shown to strengthen the immune system by helping the body to build more helper T cells. (Alexander, M et al: "Oral Beta-carotene Can Increase the Number of OKT4 Cells in Human Blood," Immunology Letters, 9:221-224, 1985.) The amount used in this well-controlled study was 180 milligrams of beta-carotene per day. This is, theoretically at least, the equivalent of 300,000 I.U. of vitamin A per day! Were that amount consumed as preformed vitamin A (retinol), it would likely be toxic. As carotene, it is not. There is indeed a big difference between forms.
Incidentally, even AIDS patients have benefited from huge carotene dosages (Graham, N. American Journal of Epidemiology, December, 1993).
Excess carotene causes the skin to turn slightly orange, once succinctly described in USA Today as resembling an artificial suntan. The medical name for this condition is hypercarotenosis or just carotenosis. Hypercarotenemia refers to elevated blood levels of carotene, and is also called just carotenemia. Both are harmless. According to the doctor's standard reference Merck Manual, 14th edition, "excess intake of carotene does not cause hypervitaminosis A" (p. 891). Hypervitaminosis A is vitamin A toxicity from the preformed, oil type of vitamin A, not carotene. Even with preformed vitamin A, says Merck, "recovery is spontaneous with no residual damage; no fatalities have been reported" (p 891).
In short, it is
singularly difficult to kill yourself with carrots.
Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )
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