juicing basics

Juicing Basics
Red Pepper, Carrot, Ginger, Green Apple & Cucumber
If you've never juiced before, the idea of it can be a bit intimidating. Before I started juicing, I had lots of questions like: Why juice? I drink V8 and Orange Juice, so I'm good, right?  With a little time and a lot of research for my husband and I, I've come a long way from when I started experimenting with juicing. If you're thinking about starting, there are a few basics you should know. Maybe I can help you avoid some common mistakes and answer all of your unspoken questions! :)

Why juice at all?

So first of all, you might be wondering why people juice anyway. "Why don't you just eat the food, you hippie?" is a valid question, but when fruits and vegetables are juiced, they essentially become homeopathic. Since all the pulp is removed, there is nothing for the body to digest; pure and powerful nutrients are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, giving the digestive system a break. You would probably not sit down and eat an entire bunch of raw kale, an apple, a raw beet, 4 carrots and a hunk of raw ginger, but juicing allows you to take in an exceptional amount of nutrition from a wide variety of raw vegetables. There is no way to cook vegetables that does not break down at least some of the nutritional value, so juicing is a simple way to harness their enzymes and get a boat-load of nutrition in an easy way. According to the latest research by Professor F.A. Popp and Dr. H. Niggli:
"Raw juices are also replete with biophotons – those light rays of energy plants get from the sun. When we pasteurize juice (all commercial juices are pasteurized even the ones in store refrigerators) those beautiful rays of energy are destroyed. Biophotons are an important factor in converting food to energy."
beet juice
Beet, Cucumber & Spinach
What can I juice?
When you first get a juicer, it's inevitable that you will play around with ingredients. What you have on hand, what might taste good or what you have leftover from other recipes will all end up in your juicer, but they might not all be safe or easy on the palate. Keep in mind that fresh juice will not taste like salted or sweetened fruit and vegetable juices you buy in a store. In my opinion, some juices are definitely acquired tastes.

That being said, you can juice just about anything (always follow the directions and guidelines that come with your juicer model). It's normally recommended that your juice consist of a considerable amount of vegetables and very little fruit juice. You can start with some of the sweeter vegetables and fruit and work on weaning onto a more balanced ratio.

Two reasons to juice more vegetables than fruit:
1.) You will avoid unnecessary or dangerous spikes in blood sugar
2.) Raw fruits are usually much easier to eat raw throughout the day

For me, carrots are a great staple vegetable and green apples are my go-to fruit. They do have some sugar, so I never drink 100% carrot or apple juice, but they are both cheap, store well, juice well, and make a sweet compliment to any juice. From there, I add any variety of greens, beets, cucumbers, lemon, lime, peppers, squash, cucumber, mint, ginger root, asparagus and celery (both asparagus and celery can make the whole thing weird, so use sparingly). There are plenty of other vegetables and fruit to try, but these are just my favorites that taste good and juice well for me.

What do I need to juice?

Save a few of these containers!
     • A juicer (my first juicer was a Juiceman Jr. for $15 on Craigslist! It worked well for a year or so, until we decided to upgrade to a Champion)
     • Sharp knife/cutting board for chopping produce
     •  A wide variety of vegetables and a bit of fruit!

I keep a large fruit bowl in my fridge to organize and store all my juicing ingredients. That way, I don't accidentally use them for something else or forget about them. I also move leftover fruits and veggies into that bin. The plastic containers that you might buy spinach in, are great for fridge and juicing organization.

I'm also a big fan of seasonal farmer's markets and enjoy buying local produce whenever I can. I do buy about 95% organic produce, but in a pinch, I refer to the Dirty Dozen List and make sure to wash it well.

Can I juice on a budget?
Absolutely! Most of us end up wasting (or composting) imperfect produce at some point, but why not juice it? Things like spinach that is beginning to wilt, not-so-crisp carrots or bruised apples are no longer appealing to eat raw, but there's nothing wrong with juicing them (unless it's really just rotten!) You can still absorb all that nutrition through juicing.

For a while, as an experiment, I made 8oz. of juice a day. I calculated it to be about $1.75 a drink, or $12.25 a week. With the way I feel from my juice first thing in the morning, it's well worth it for me! If you have the space, consider growing some simple vegetables to supplement your juice as well. Juicing is a great way to manage bumper crops.

Can I use the juice pulp?
Juice pulp is amazing for composting. If you don't compost, consider juicing some vegetables and saving the pulp to add to things like zucchini bread, lasagna, soups or spaghetti sauces. It's a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. Here are some recipe ideas.

Or, if you want your juice to be a little more filling sometimes, you can always add some of the pulp back in. Just keep in mind, adding pulp back in does not offer quite as much benefit for your digestive system, so I wouldn't recommend this all the time.

Can I store juice?
Perhaps one of the only real downsides of juicing is that you should not bother trying to store it. Some juicers, like the Champion and other masticating-style juicers, claim that juice can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 24 hours. But to be safe, for the most benefit and retention of nutrients that are effected by oxidation, it's recommended that you drink your juice immediately.

How much time does it take to juice?
Once you get a little routine, it's a quick process, in my opinion. All of my vegetables are ready to go in the fridge, so from start to finish, juicing only takes me 15 minutes in the morning. I drink my juice while I'm cleaning up and I have it all down to a science. 

Juicing can really be a great way to supplement your diet or jump-start your health if you're in a rut or having trouble incorporating vegetables into your daily routine. Consider the many benefits and maybe give it a try!