By Ben Kim – www.drbenkim.com
I’m often asked to name one thing that can be done right away to get healthier. With respect to food choices, the best suggestion I have is to begin drinking freshly pressed vegetable juices. Drinking just one freshly pressed juice each day is a reliable way of infusing your body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can protect your cells against premature aging and disease.
Making time to drink vegetable juices isn’t a problem for most people. It’s the time that’s needed to wash fresh vegetables, feed them through a good juicer, and clean the juicer afterward that prevents most people from making fresh juices a regular part of their lives.
But if you understand how beneficial freshly pressed juices are to your health, it becomes easier to make the time to juice several times a week.
The Right Ingredients
The key to creating healthy vegetable juices is to make green vegetables the bulk of every batch. Green vegetables won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin like fruits and sweet vegetables like carrots and red beets will.
This isn’t to say that you can’t juice fruits, carrots, and red beets. Fruits and sweet root vegetables can be healthy additions to your drinks, and they’ll definitely add sweetness and flavour. You just want to make sure that they never make up more than one-third of each glass that you drink.
And if your blood sugar level tends to be high, you’ll want to use a blood sugar monitor to determine how much is acceptable for you. I’ve worked with many diabetics over the years who haven’t been able to handle even an ounce of fruit, carrot, or red beet juice in their drinks without negative health consequences, so please consider this point before you select your ingredients for juicing.
Romaine lettuce is one of the best green vegetables that you can juice. You can also juice other types of leafy lettuce like red or green leaf lettuce.
For variety, try adding large handfuls of kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, Bok Choy, and other dark green vegetables that you might steam before eating.
For another layer of flavour, you can add a tiny slice of lemon (including the rind for its flavonoids) to your vegetable juices.
Some people enjoy adding a clove of raw garlic for even more bite.
Be creative and add any vegetables you crave. You really can’t go wrong as long as you make sure not to use too many carrots, red beets, or fruits.
Clearly, organic vegetables are better than non-organic vegetables. But my experiences have led me to believe that the health benefits of drinking juices made with well washed, non-organic vegetables far outweigh not juicing at all. If you’re only able to juice non-organic vegetables due to financial or other life circumstances, it’s still well worth doing.
Preparing to Juice
We like to fill up the kitchen sink with cold water and dunk all of our vegetables for a good five minutes. Before we pull all the vegetables out to sit in a colander to dry off a bit, we shake them around in the cold water to make sure that we’ve removed any dirt or even bugs that may be hiding in the vegetables, particularly in heads of celery and lettuce.
If we know that we need to make a few gallons of vegetable juice over several days, we store washed carrots and ribs of celery in containers full of water in the refrigerator.
We store leaves of lettuce spread out and stacked vertically in a container with layers of paper towel in between each layer of lettuce to help absorb excess moisture. Fresh lettuce can last a whole week or more when stored in this fashion.
If you’re really pressed for time and want to make enough juice to last three to four days, you can make a big batch and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator – not as good as drinking right after pressing, but still likely better than drinking store-bought fruit juices or even vegetable cocktails like V8.
The Art of Juicing
Juicing is, for the most part, quite easy to do. You make sure that your vegetables are small or crunch-able enough to fit through the feeding mechanism of your juicer, and you push them in one at a time.
It’s best to juice soft vegetables like leafy greens first, as they’re a bit harder to push through the extraction mechanism than firmer vegetables like carrots and celery. Firmer vegetables like carrots and celery can actually help push through any bits of softer vegetables that are deep within the feeding tube of your juicer but not yet completely through the extraction mechanism.
With leafy greens, we like to roll them up into small balls before feeding them through the juicer. This helps prevent a single leaf from getting stuck between the feeding tube of the juicer and the plunger that you use to push the vegetables down.
Fruits, like firmer vegetables, can be added near the end, as you’re unlikely to have a problem pushing them down and through the extraction mechanism with the plunger.