Some people may think of juicing as a fad, but the benefits of juicing are numerous. It’s a favorite part of the Z family household and we want to show some of our favorite benefits. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is critical to a healthy body but for most Americans, it remains out of reach.
In this article, you will learn about:
The Consequences of Not Eating Enough Produce
According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, recent research shows that:
- The average amount of fruit that people eat is below recommended levels for proper nutrition across all ages of children and adults.
- Vegetable consumption is also below recommended levels for all Americans but worst among boys age 9-13 and girls age 11-18.
The recommended daily levels for an average 2000-calorie per day diet are 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. To achieve this, the USDA recommends that you fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables. Although we often have a much higher percentage than that and we’ll show you in our book, The Essential Diet, why this is so important.
You also need to make sure you are getting a good variety of colors and textures when you select fruits and vegetables for optimal nutritional support. We like to say, “Eat the rainbow!” Fruits and vegetables are rich in bioactive compounds that are vital for true health.
Most of us understand that fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet, but do you know the consequences of not getting enough produce in your daily meals?
Here are some of the problems that you can experience:
- Nutritional deficiencies. Vegetables and fruit provide some of the densest forms of nutrition available. For example, most Americans are deficient in magnesium, which can lead to serious health consequences, however, many green vegetables are a good source.
- Weight gain. A study suggests that acid-based foods are linked to weight gain. If so, the key to weight loss is an increase in eating fruits and vegetables, since they provide enough alkaline to shift an overly acidic gut. We recommend eating these foods in balance with a healthy diet rather than taking on a limited alkaline diet.
- Poor cardiovascular health. Numerous studies have shown that diets low in fruits and vegetable correlate with higher risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. One study from 2003, in fact, suggested that men were at a risk of “excess mortality” if their intake of fruits, berries, and vegetables was too low.
- Increased risk of birth defects. Pregnant women require a diet full of the vitamins and nutrients found in produce to support their unborn children. The highest birth defect risk due to poor nutrition includes neural tube defects like spina bifida. Additionally, certain types of congenital heart disease may be caused by poor diet and nutrition.
Benefits of Juicing With Fruits and Vegetables
- Naturally low in fat, calories, and sugar.
- They are good sources of potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Low in fat, sodium, and calories.
- They do not contain cholesterol.
- They do contain essential nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate.
There is a great deal of research available on the benefits of eating the proper amount of fruits and vegetable every day.
- Improved mental health. A recent study showed that a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables reduced the symptoms of depression. It also improved mood and life satisfaction compared to participants who ate processed produce instead.
- May reduce the risk of cancer. While the evidence is not clear if eating more produce, in general, prevents cancer, research does seem to suggest that certain fruits and vegetables may help. These include apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, kale, greens, and other produce containing carotenoids. These are brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as carrots.
- Prevents birth defects. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), folate derived from foods “reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.” New research, in fact, shows that the development of Down syndrome may also be linked to a folate deficiency.
- Reduces the risk of high blood pressure. Potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Another recent study linked the nitrates found in beetroot juice to lower blood pressure as well.
- May fight cellular oxidative stress. While more human research needs to be done, lab animal research suggests that certain fruits and vegetables may be powerful antioxidants that can help fight oxidative stress and the negative effects of aging.
- May help prevent diabetes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a large-scale study (nearly 100,000 people) showed that “greater consumption of whole fruits – especially blueberries, grapes, and apples – was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”
- Promotes visual health. Phytonutrients, which are found in spinach, kale, and collards, may protect against cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin A, which is found in fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids, is necessary for good eye health.
- Improved overall health. Adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet while reducing your consumption of meat, dairy, processed foods, and grains can lead to a more balanced pH in your body. Research suggests this addition can benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, mitigate some chronic diseases, improve cardiovascular health, improve memory and cognition, and may even benefit patients who are treated with certain types of chemotherapy.
- Can aid in weight loss. Whether or not a more alkaline diet can help you lose weight is still hotly debated. However, reducing food choices like starchy grains, red meat, and dairy while adding more produce can help you lose weight.
This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of fruits and vegetables. However, adding more produce to your diet that is rich in a vast variety of vitamins and other essential nutrients while being relatively safe can help protect all the parts of your body. If you fill your plate mostly with a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits, you will meet many of your daily nutritional needs while feeling full and satisfied.
How Much Produce Should I Eat?
More research is being done daily on the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables you should eat but the trend seems to be that more is better – as long as you make sure to mix and match your produce by eating a variety of colors.
Prior studies showed that in the healthiest countries, people eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day. However, a recent survey of current research analyzed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake. It revealed that eating up to 800 grams of fruit and vegetables per day – roughly 10 portions – was associated with:
- 24% reduced risk of heart disease
- 33% reduced risk of stroke
- 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- 13% reduced risk of total cancer
- 31% reduction in premature death
If you are not getting 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, you may not be getting the maximum nutritional advantage from your meals. How can you increase your intake of produce without filling up too rapidly?
The Benefits of Juicing
Ten servings is a lot of filling fruit and vegetables, however, the solution is simple: you can take up some of those servings with juicing. The benefits of juicing include:
- It’s an easy way to increase your daily intake of produce. You should still eat whole fruits and vegetables to get the benefit of the fiber but this can help.
- If you don’t care for certain fruits or vegetables, it may be easier to drink the nutrients you need by making raw produce more palatable.
- In fact, certain fruits and vegetables are more beneficial when eaten raw. For example, research shows that carrots can lose polyphenols, an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer when cooked. On the other hand, cooking carrots increase their level of carotenoids. And some fruits or vegetables, like tomatoes, release certain nutrients only when cooked. This is why a mix of cooked and uncooked vegetables is a good plan for a healthy diet.
- Finally, remember that you can use the juice you extract for different purposes. For example, you can juice tomatoes and then cook that to create fresh tomato sauce.
It’s important to note that juicing with a blender is not the same as juicing with a juicer. The blender leaves in the fiber from the produce you juice while a juicer strips it out.
While you may enjoy pulp in some of your juice choices, removing the pulp means that the juice is less filling leaving you room for more produce. Or you can leave a little to get the benefits of the fiber. You can also keep some of the pulp aside to reuse in things like soup stock, gravy, or smoothies, to name a few.
Finally, when you do juice, be sure to drink it right away. Unlike store-bought processed juice, your juice is not pasteurized and can succumb to bacteria contamination. If you are using a high-speed juicer, oxidation can quickly degrade the enzymes and antioxidants in the juice as well.
Should I Avoid Any Fruits Or Vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables should be added to a healthy diet. While we love the benefits of juicing, we don’t typically recommend a “juice only” diet because your body may not get enough fiber or protein. You can run the risk of losing muscle mass and you may be too hungry to resist the temptation to eat unhealthy food choices. Instead, add fresh juice to your current nutrient intake or to replace other unhealthy drink or snack options.
Additionally, talk to your health care practitioner if you are taking medications or have certain medical conditions. For example, you may need to restrict your intake of vitamin K (found in leafy greens) if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin. Another example includes peppers, which can impact blood clotting.
Finally, be a smart consumer with your produce purchases. If you react to certain foods, you may be sensitive to them, such as nightshades (peppers, tomatoes).
Ideally, you should also avoid any produce that is contaminated with pesticides or herbicides and genetically modified produce, such as non-browning apples or potatoes. Certified organic produce is the best choice available because it is not as contaminated by pesticides as those that not certified organic. Read about the difference between organic and non-organic foods and produce.
If you cannot purchase certified organic produce, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides guidance for consumers with their annual lists of the Dirty DozenTM and the Clean FifteenTM.
The Dirty Dozen is a list of foods that EWG states contain the highest levels of pesticides. If you aren’t able to grow them yourself in a wonderful, organic garden then buy wisely. You should always buy the certified organic version of the items on this list, which include:
- Sweet Peppers
The Clean Fifteen, however, are those choices that are least likely to contain significant levels of pesticide residues. These include:
- Sweet corn (note that some corn is grown from Roundup Ready genetically engineered seeds, so it’s always best to purchase organic corn)
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melons
Do I Need A Juicer?
As mentioned, blending will not remove the pulp. If you want to keep the pulp in your juice, a blender will work fine or you can strain out the pulp afterward, which can be messy and time-consuming. A juicer, on the other hand, will give you the right amount of juice in the right format, even if you’d like some pulp left in.
There are two main types of juicers:
- Cold-press juicers: These are also known as masticating or auger-style juicers. They are more expensive but can grind tougher produce, such as leafy greens. They also leave more fiber in the juice.
- Centrifugal juicers: Also called juice extractors, these are much faster and less costly. They use a sharp disc to cut up fruit and vegetables. They remove most of the fiber but are more difficult to clean and may require to be fully dismantled first.
- Hand crank juicer: You can also buy a hand crank juicer, which is good for certain items such as wheatgrass.
If you are buying a juicer, you might be overwhelmed by the variety of types of juicers on the market. Before purchasing, you should consider a variety of aspects:
- Ease of use: Some of the higher end juicers can be more complicated to use and clean.
- Size: How much room you have on your counter to fit the machine? Another sizing consideration what is the size of the opening that feeds in fruit and vegetables. The bigger it is, the more quickly you can juice.
- Speed: Centrifugal juicers tend to be faster but you must consume the juice right away as discussed. They are very convenient for when you’re making your breakfast on the go!
- Noise: Before buying, get an idea of how loud these juicers are especially if you live with or near anyone sensitive to sound.
- Cost: Juicers start in the $40 range and can go up to $200 or more. Make the best choice for you and your current needs. You can always upgrade to a better juicer as you increase the number of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
You can choose different juicers to accomplish different tasks. Here’s what we use most:
- Citrus Juicer – This also works great for when you just need some lemon juice for a natural cleaner recipe.
- Fruit and Vegetable Juicer, Cold-Pressed-Masticating, Low-Speed (small)
- Fruit and Vegetable Juicer, Centrifugal, High-Speed (large)
- Hand Crank Manual Juicer
Maximize the Benefits of Juicing by Cleaning Your Produce
Before juicing, you should always clean your produce even if it has been cleaned at your place of purchase. According to the FDA, nearly 48 million people a year are sickened by food contamination. To stay safe, they advise that you select produce that isn’t bruised or damaged. You should also avoid pre-cut produce because the processing and packaging may add risk for contamination as well.
The FDA’s guidelines for cleaning your produce are as follow:
- Wash your own hands thoroughly before and afterward.
- Rinse and clean peels and skins so you don’t transfer bacteria from the parts you will discard.
- Cut any damaged parts off of your produce.
- The FDA advises just using plain running water and adding a vegetable brush to clean firm produce. However, a recent study showed that soaking apples in water with baking soda for up to 15 minutes reduced pesticides even for non-organic apples.
- Dry your produce when done.
- Discard the outermost layers of lettuce or cabbage. I always triple-wash my greens after harvesting them from the garden.
- They advise that you store perishable produce in your refrigerator.
Juicing is an easy way to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine so that you can improve your physical and mental health.
Ready to try juicing? Enjoy Mama Z’s Cleansing Juice Recipe to cleanse your digestive system.