Have you ever been peacefully snoozing when a loud sound startles you from your sleep? One Sunday morning a few years ago the shredding sound of a chainsaw shot me out of bed. I rubbed my eyes and went out to the kitchen to see what was going on. There was my wife cramming a giant cucumber into a motorized stainless steel cylinder like she was loading a torpedo into the shoot. She did the same with some carrots, apples, kale and a lemon. Out of the spigot came the different colors in order, mixing together in the glass pitcher to produce green juice that was surprisingly delicious and refreshing. Afterwards, I felt energized, clean, and wanting more.
Fresh juice is a great way to unleash the power of plants. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes are five of the most common causes of death in our society. Yet, study after study has shown that consuming a plant-based diet can prevent and in some cases even reverse these illnesses.
This comes as no surprise. Organically grown plants are densely packed with health-promoting nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. They also lack the harmful components of processed foods: refined sugars, artificial flavors and colors, MSG (monosodium glutamate), high fructose corn syrup or synthetic trans fats just to name a few. In short, organic plants have all of the good stuff and little to none of the bad stuff!
My personal favorites are the phytochemicals. These are the naturally occurring compounds in plants with varying health promoting qualities: preventing cancer, optimizing the immune system, or healing blood vessels just to name a few. So far there are over 120 drugs derived from plant compounds, including aspirin, morphine and digoxin. But that is a fairly small number considering there are more than 5,000 phytochemicals that we’ve identified (so far), most of which we know very little about. Beta-carotene, caffeine, and resveratrol are just a few examples of the phytochemicals that we have started to study.
Sadly, only 1 in 10 Americans actually meet the goal of five cups of fruits and vegetables per day. As you can see in the pie graph, our diet is dominated by processed foods including fats, flour products, and sweeteners. We are also substantially outpacing our fruit and vegetable consumption with animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs. The pathway to better health is fairly straight forward, and it involves reversing these trends and increasing our fruit and vegetable consumption.
Juicing is a great place to start. You can pack all of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals from a couple pounds of produce into a few glasses of juice. By playing with different combinations, you can create juice that tastes great and features a diverse variety of plants. For example, kale, garlic and turmeric offer tremendous health benefits but are individually difficult to consume. Not so fast, my friend! Just mix in a few apples, carrots and some lemon to make yourself a refreshing and tasty beverage.
There are some limitations to drinking juice. For one, the fiber is separated from the juice. Therefore, you miss out on the health benefits of fiber including lower blood sugar and cholesterol, prevention of diverticulosis, and prebiotics for a healthy gut garden. Second, if you add a lot of fruit to your juice you can end up with a beverage very high in sugar. Third, there can be loss of nutritional value during the process of creating the juice due to oxidation.
My recommendation is to use fresh juice as a way to add even more plant nutrition to your diet. Don’t cut out the salads or fresh vegetable dishes and don’t use juice as a meal replacement! Instead, keep getting those plants the old-fashioned way but crank it up even more by adding fresh juice or a smoothie a few times per week. To maximize the nutritional value, I recommend drinking the juice immediately after it is produced. In the very beginning, you may want to incorporate more fruit to assure sweetness. Over time you can increase the vegetable to fruit ratio to maximize the nutritional value of your beverage as your taste buds adapt.
If you decide to take the plunge and get juiced, below is your first recipe to help you get started:
- 6-8 large leaves of kale with stem
- 1/2 large cucumber
- 1/2 bunch parsley (or cilantro)
- 1/4 to â…“ pineapple meat, no skin
- 1 medium apple (either yellow or green)
Dr. Bulsiewicz is a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, SC. He believes that the gut is the root of all health and wellness and therefore food is medicine and that we can unlock our innermost potential with healthy gut bacteria. His clinical practice includes the full spectrum of gastroenterology including colon cancer screening, colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, GERD, Barrett’s, hemorrhoids, and liver disease. Follow Dr. B on Facebook (Lowcountry Gastroenterology), Instagram (@happygutmd), and Twitter (@happygutmd).
The entire content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional. Copyright 2016.