How and why making vegetable juices (& recipe!)

Last week, I shared with you a green smoothie recipe. Today I would like to write about vegetable juicing. Vegetable juices and smoothies are not the same thing. In vegetable juices, we extract the juice of the vegetable itself by separating it from the fiber, while in smoothies we blend the whole vegetable with a liquid.

As I have mentioned in the previous article and in others before, fiber is super important for our health with numerous studies showing protective effects against many diseases [1] and thus, we should definitely ensure we are consuming enough in our diet. However, when we want to get the nutrients of a large amount of vegetables at once, it is easier to juice, because when we eat the whole vegetable, the fiber in it makes us feel full and thus, we cannot consume large amounts. Juicing allows us to get the juice of multiple vegetables at once, and therefore, many of its vitamins and other nutrients (some will be still bound to the fiber that is removed, but we still get a lot in the juice). But, because vegetable juices do not contain fiber, and contain a low amount of protein and fat, they shouldn’t be considered a meal but rather a natural supplement. This means that we shouldn’t aim to replace a meal for a vegetable juice, but have it in addition to our normal meals (unless of course you are undergoing a juice fasting program, which is a completely different situation). Now, I am not saying here that I prefer vegetable juices over smoothies –actually I love both and I think that if we could have time to make both daily, that would be the ideal (but I know that due to time constraints that is just not possible for many people of course). So just see what you feel for in a given day and choose one of them :). If you are struggling with a cold/flu or other health condition, I do think however that juicing can be an excellent aid –  and I recommend you discuss this with your health care practitioner.

Benefits of vegetable juices

– they help us to better absorb the nutrients from the vegetables as these are already “pre-digested”

– we are able to get the nutrients of several types of vegetables at the same time

– we can include vegetables that we would not eat otherwise. For example, some people don’t like so much to eat raw broccoli, so juicing is definitely a good way to get its nutrients without feeling so much the taste as it will be mixed with other vegetables (in a smoothie also, by the way!).  You can also add for example a bit of stinging nettle and some fresh wheatgrass. If you saw wheatgrass juice in the health stores, you probably know that it is quite expensive and also, it is not as fresh as the one you would do at home and drink right after making. Wheatgrass juice has become quite popular in the last years due to its impressive nutrient profile. Among many other nutrients, it is rich in chlorophyll, many minerals (magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc), B-vitamins, antioxidants (such as vitamin C, E, flavonoids), amino acids, etc [2]. In fact if you think cows only need grass as food to survive, you can imagine how rich this food is. With juicing, it is also possible for us to profit from the multiple nutrients in wheatgrass that would be otherwise difficult for us to get (grass is too fibrous to eat, unless you dry it and make a powder out of it – which if possible, I prefer the fresh juice). I will dedicate soon a whole article to the health benefits of wheatgrass juice, but if you want to start doing it right now: buy whole wheat grains, soak them for 8-12 hours to start the sprouting process, place them in a pot with earth (if possible a rectangular pot or a tray), place this pot near a window (or outside but not directly in the sun) and water them every day. After some days you will have nice wheatgrass (10-15cm) that you can use to juice.

Tips for juicing

Use organic vegetables

Because when you juice you consume a large amount of vegetables, I believe it is even more important to get here organic vegetables.

Include some “juicy” vegetables

With this, I mean the vegetables that naturally have more water. These are ideal for including in the vegetable juice. Some examples are: cucumber, fennel and celery.

Add some green leaves to your vegetable juice

You could add some spinach, wheatgrass, lettuce or kale to your vegetable juice, for example. These are full of folic acid, magnesium, chlorophyll and many other nutrients, some of which I covered before in the smoothie article. You could also add some dandelion greens, but if you have never juiced before, I wouldn’t start with this, as it has a very bitter taste (although it is super healthy!).

Add some cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, kale or red cabbage are all nice vegetables to add to your vegetable juice. As mentioned before, these contain many important compounds, including one called sulforaphane which has shown potent anticancer properties [3], among other benefits.

Add some spices

If you like fresh turmeric and ginger, these are excellent spices to add to your vegetable juice. Turmeric, and more specifically its compound curcumin, has been the target of numerous scientific studies in the last years, which have been demonstrating its multiple health benefits [4]. Ginger also has many health properties, including anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant [5]. If you are starting to juice or simply don’t like too spicy juices, add only a little bit of ginger not to make it super spicy (if you have a cold/flu I recommend adding a little bit more ginger though).

Do not juice fruits

Fruits are super healthy, and although some people are afraid to eat them because of their fructose content, the truth is that no study until now has shown detrimental effects of fruit consumption, quite on the opposite [6]. Now, this holds true for fruits that are eaten whole. Fruit juice is not the same. In fruit juices, the fiber is removed which makes the absorption of fructose much faster and in this case, it can indeed induce peaks of blood sugar and insulin, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes [7]. This is the reason why I do not recommend juicing fruits. The only fruit I juice is lemon with the peel due to its high vitamin C content and quite low fructose content (and also because I wouldn’t eat the peel otherwise and it is also very healthy). I do understand that in the beginning, if you are not used to vegetable juices, but more to fruit juices, you will find vegetable juices difficult to drink without some kind of fruit. Therefore, you could add to your juice rather carrots or beetroots. Yes, these veggies also have some sugar, especially beetroots. But to make the juice pleasant to drink, I still do believe they are a good choice.

Buy a slow juicer

If you want to start juicing, you will need a juicer machine. I recommend you get a “slow juicer”. This is really important as fast juicers will heat up easily which will in turn heat up the nutrients in the vegetables. Many of these nutrients are heat sensitive, meaning they are destroyed by heat.  In addition, in fast juicers (i.e. centrifugues) the nutrients are more in contact with the air, which can lead to oxidation. So, it is really important to get a good quality slow juicer to help conserving the nutrients of the vegetables. I have a twin gear juicer, but if you cannot get one like that, my second option would be a single gear juicer. I would avoid centrifugal systems as these are normally fast juicers and are also, in general, not suitable for juicing leaves. The slow juicer I have since several years is this one, and I am honestly very happy with it – also because it’s out of metal (stainless steel) not plastic. I know it is quite an investment, but I do hope it will last for many years, maybe a whole lifetime. But there are many other much cheaper slow juicers, so do your search to get the slow juicer you prefer. The most important is to start juicing to start getting all the benefits that all those veggies have to offer us!

Drink your vegetable juice right after making it

Many nutrients in the juice start getting destroyed quite fast when exposed to the air, so I do think it is best to drink it right after making it. If you made too much and really cannot drink everything right away, then store it in a glass jar with an airtight lid in the fridge and consume it as soon as possible.

When to juice

I personally like to juice in the morning, and drink my vegetable juice at least 30 min before breakfast or at least 30 min before lunch. However, if this is not possible for you, juice whenever you can. I think however, juices are better consumed alone before meals so that the nutrients are better absorbed by our digestive tract.

Do not throw the fibers away

As I mentioned, in the vegetable juice, the fibers will be separated from the juice of the vegetable, which is what you want to drink. However, please do not discard the fibers, I really think that is a waste. So what can you do with them? Some ideas here (if you have others, it would be great if you could share them with us below in the comments!):

–          add them to soups or sauces

–          if you have a dehydrator, you can mix them for example with buckwheat sprouts, salt and ground flax seeds to make nice raw crackers

–          if you cannot do any of these things at the moment, put them in the compost for your garden or pots in the balcony. It will contribute to a rich and nutritious earth, which will in turn contribute to give you nutritious vegetables again. But please do not throw the fibers to the normal garbage or compost :).

 

Vegetable juice recipe

Now I would like to share with you an example of a vegetable juice recipe, but of course feel free to juice whatever vegetables you prefer. This is just to give you an idea of a vegetable juice you could make.

5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings 1 Liter

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 fennels
  • 1 lemon*
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 kale leaves
  • 1 or ½ broccoli
  • a little bit of ginger

Instructions

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables in stripes (except the leaves).
  2. Juice all the vegetables. I normally like to juice the carrots in the end as I feel my machine gets easier to clean afterwards.
  3. Enjoy your nutritious juice! 🙂

Recipe Notes

*I normally include the whole lemon. However, it will give the juice an intense lemon taste. If you don't like this, either remove the peel or don't include the lemon in the juice.

Live healthy and conscious,

Ana Coito, PhD

 

References

  1.        Threapleton, D.E., et al., Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2013. 347: p. f6879.
  2.        Bar-Sela, G., et al., The Medical Use of Wheatgrass: Review of the Gap Between Basic and Clinical Applications. Mini Rev Med Chem, 2015. 15(12): p. 1002-10.
  3.        Li, Y. and T. Zhang, Targeting cancer stem cells with sulforaphane, a dietary component from broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Future Oncol, 2013. 9(8): p. 1097-103.
  4.        Hewlings, S.J. and D.S. Kalman, Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods, 2017. 6(10).
  5.        Mashhadi, N.S., et al., Influence of ginger and cinnamon intake on inflammation and muscle soreness endued by exercise in Iranian female athletes. Int J Prev Med, 2013. 4(Suppl 1): p. S11-5.
  6.        Wang, X., et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ, 2014. 349: p. g4490.
  7.        Imamura, F., et al., Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. BMJ, 2015. 351: p. h3576.

 

3 Responses to “How and why making vegetable juices (& recipe!)

  • Jennifer
    1 month ago

    Happy weekend Ana,
    I have a concern about all the raw cruciferous veggies causing goiters or thyroid problems. I am consuming SO MUCH raw kale trying to keep up with my garden. is this a valid concern?
    Also…why is a slow juicer best? Aside from the fact of stainless steel being better than plastic.
    Jennifer metz

  • Jennifer
    1 month ago

    Sorry Ana, I just went back and read what you wrote on slow juicers and why they are better. Question answered. I have a fast one and it does bad with leaves like you said. I will start looking into slow ones. Thanks for all the great info !!
    Jennifer Metz

    • Ana Coito, PhD
      4 weeks ago

      Hi Jennifer,
      No problem 🙂 about the goitrogens present in kale, spinach, etc., I honestly do not think this is a problem. I’ve never heard of anybody getting thyroid problems because of consuming a lot of kale or spinach and I also looked at whether there are scientific papers published on that (like case reports) but couldn’t find anything – at least in healthy people. So, I would not worry about consuming kale on a regular basis :). I mean, I imagine that you eat many other vegetables and fruits as well, not only kale, and so have a balanced and varied diet :). But if this is something that worries you, you could also schedule an appointment with your doctor to check the thyroid values (at least TSH, T3 and T4).
      Have a nice day!
      Ana

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