Get the basics on how to juice, and the benefits of vitamin-rich ingredients like carrots, kale and pears.
You are what you eat, and consuming fresh, raw juices is one way to flood your body with nutrients and cure your ills. Plenish: Juices to Boost, Cleanse and Heal (Mitchell Beazley, 2015) by Karen M.L. Rosen is a collection of juice recipes and cleanse programs for detox, well-being and vitality. The following excerpt from Chapter 2 will help you discover the best superfoods to create healthy, satisfying juices.
Plant-based foods rock. I love to eat them, I love to juice them, and they are all special and wonderful. You will notice a few recurring ingredients (or superstars) that pop up in many of our recipes. This is not to say that all vegetables and fruits are not amazing healthy options, but this crew delivers a nutrient-packed punch to any juice and I recommend always having these guys handy.
Leafy greens provide more nutrients than any other natural food.
Kale — Although kale has been around since the Dark Ages, it's only recently had its moment in the spotlight because of its superfood status. Calorie for calorie, it has more iron than red meat and more calcium than milk. This makes it important for cell growth, transporting oxygen around the body, and strong bones. It's also chock-full of antioxidants and vitamin K, helping to protect against a wide variety of cancers. A great detox food, providing fiber and sulfur to support your liver.
Spinach — Popeye was ahead of his time. Little did he know that in addition to making his muscles strong, spinach may have helped protect him against cancer, macular degeneration, and inflammation thanks to the high levels of chlorophyll and carotenoids. Your would be hard pressed to find a plant-based food richer in vitamin K for healthy bones than spinach, and, like kale, it's rich in iron, as well as vitamin C (which helps with the iron absorption) to improve the function of red blood cells in transporting oxygen around the body.
Cucumber — Cukes are, in fact, from the same botanical family as melons. Because of their high water content (over 95 percent), they provide a great base for any juice. They are also very low in sugar and contribute a valuable array of vitamins and minerals. The potassium in cucumbers makes them effective in post-workout recovery support for hydration and electrolyte balance, and just half a cucumber will deliver nearly ten percent of your daily requirement of vitamin K. It also help promote clear skin. Cucumber juice has a refreshing, slightly sweet taste, and mixes well with any green vegetable or fruit. As a regular juicer, I recommend always having fresh cucumbers on hand. Run cucumbers through the juicer last. Their high water content will “wash” through the bits of leafy greens you’ve already juiced. If you’re not buying organic, make sure you peel them before you juice them.
Beet — Beet works hard for its superfood title. The rich purple color comes from its unique source of phytonutrient known as betacyanin, which offers antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Beets also provide a rich source of potassium, manganese, iron, vitamins A, B6, and C, and particularly folic acid. It has been linked with increased levels of stamina, improved blood flow, and lowering of blood pressure. After an article in The New York Times reported that cyclists who drank 2 cups of beet juice before a race were significantly faster and more powerful than when they rode “unjuiced,” due to increased oxygen flow to muscles, there has been a focus on the use of beet juice in improving sports performance. It was those who drank beet juice regularly (rather than those consuming pre-race only) that saw the best results, so be(et) consistent. Drink beet juice like a glass of fine wine. Never chug, particularly if you are new to it, as it’s a potent detoxifier and can make you ill if you consume it too quickly. It also stains, so take off your crisp, white shirt.
Carrots — Orange and crunchy, carrots are full of beta-carotene (a phytochemical that the body turns into vitamin A), whose antioxidant properties can help with functions such as vision, reproduction, healthy cell membranes, and growth, along with a host of other powerful antioxidants. Carrots have a very high water content (up to 85 percent) and are naturally sweet, so can help sweeten a juice without the need to add sugar. Carrot and a splash of lime provide a great counterbalance if you’ve gone overboard with beet in your recipe and need to mellow the flavor.
Sweet potatoes — The white potato’s healthy counterpart is a nutrient-dense favorite of ours. Fear not carbo-phobes, with ample essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and the B complex, it can help protect against free radical damage in the body, while potassium (more than in bananas), magnesium, and copper promote healthy blood pressure and taut skin and muscles. Sweet potatoes make a great base for a filling juice. When juicing sweet potato, a white, starchy sediment gathers at the bottom; just pour off the juice and discard the sediment.
Hands down, fruit juices taste delicious, but consume them sparingly in proportion to vegetable-based juices to keep sugar consumption under control. Here are a few of our favorites that perform low to medium on the GI chart, to make sure your juice doesn’t leave you with a spike in blood sugar, while offering some amazing health-promoting benefits and recipe versatility.
Apples — Raw apple juice is a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which promotes immunity and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Apple skin is rich in quercetin, a natural antioxidant that protects the colon. One of my favorite go-to natural sweeteners, apples mix well with both greens and roots.
Pears — An excellent source of vitamins B2, C, and E, copper, potassium, and the water-soluble fiber pectin, pears promote healthy cholesterol levels and tone the intestines for healthy digestion and elimination. Pears work really well to balance out strong green flavors like kale and broccoli if you are new to greens and need a bit more sweet camouflage.
Pineapple — Pineapples buck the norm in their GI rating. Most fruit juices rank higher on the GI chart compared to their whole food counterparts, but pineapple juice averages around 43 versus the whole food at 66. As a great source of the enzyme bromelain, pineapple juice aids digestion and promotes healthy bones and joints. They are also chock-full of vitamins and minerals like vitamins A–C as well as manganese, copper, and folate. Fresh-pressed juice tastes like a tropical treat, and is a great addition to a vegetable-based juice if you are craving a sweet snack, although I usually eat half of mine before it makes it into the juicer!
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Plenish: Juices to Boost, Cleanse and Heal, by Kara M.L. Rosen and published by Mitchell Beazley, 2015.
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