So, I've been busy. I had DNA samples shipped to me from Sweden that need gene analysis done (like yesterday), I had a huge manuscript deadline, abstracts to review for a meeting in April, exams to grade, picked up a few more classes at Recycle Studio, took on a new training client and oh, we sold our condo (just to make things interesting...). I'm in full on "Holy Sh*t" mode. Which is why I'm so grateful for my CSA delivery from Boston Organics. Every Wednesday, I get a huge shipment of vegetables and fruits delivered straight to my door (because walking across the street to Whole Foods was just getting to be a bit too much...HA). Which, ironically, leads me to an overabundance issue (first world problem...I know). I easily finish the vegetables from week to week by squeezing them into every nook and cranny of our dinners. Soups brimming with carrots, onions and kale, roasted roots (in everything), amazing salads, and my most recent go-to: Life Alive inspired bowls with all the veggie wonderfulness that I have left (beets, parsnips, celeriac, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes...). My problem has actually been the fruit. I find that I have oranges, pears and bananas coming out of my ears and they all turn bad before we can get through them because we generally eat fruit one piece at at time.
Which brings me to my new obsession: SMOOTHIES.
I've gone completely cuckoo for cocoa puffs over this one, blending the ever living crap out every piece of fruit I can get my hands on! Orange-ginger smoothies. Pear-almond smoothies. Chai-vanilla-banana smoothies. Delish, chock full of the good stuff and easy. Literally, put two or three pieces of fruit into the blender...hit the button. Tada! Breakfast!
Then...after all blending, I got to thinking about juicing. Unless you've been living in a paper bag, you can't miss the plethora of juice products that are now available. It started a long time ago with Odwalla (or maybe Tropicana, if you go way back...), and has now become a boutique industry of pretty-bottled, funky-named, health-claim laden, often-very-expensive squashed fruit. Everyone and their sister wants a juicer...because JUICE IS SO GOOD (so all the facebook posts and instagram captions say).
So, I went on a juice quest. Why all the hype and is it worth the press? (...pun intended)
Let's start with the research: We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. Really good. In multiple (huge) epidemiological studies, it has been shown that the more produce you eat, the less your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases. But what about the benefits of the juice of these so-called "Super Foods"?
Well, there have been a ton of studies in the lab (in a petri dish or in animals) on the mega anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-infective activities of the extracts and distillations of fruits and veggies. Ok, great...but do these amazing capacities still hold true when you actually drink the stuff? It seems so!
There are not a lot of studies in humans yet on the physical benefits of juicing, but the ones that are out there show almost pharmacologic affects of several varieties of juice. From increased endurance capacity (I love this one...Apple Cashew Juice?!), to mitigating the inflammatory response from a high fat meal (yes...despite the latest crazes, high fat meals lead to massive internal inflammation), to increased blood flow, and improved sleep (there's melatonin in many fruits).
So, why is the juice so powerful? Well, juice people say that by removing the pulp (fiber) from the fruit, the bioavailability of the nutrients is increased, sending the good stuff straight into your bloodstream. At first glance, this seems logical. But, there are some physiologic factors to consider. As we see with many food items, what happens in a petri dish is often different than what happens in your cells. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to extract the good stuff, our bodies have another plan...and just don't do what we think. For example, in a study done in the early 1990's a group showed that Orange Juice and Orange Fruit provide the same bioavailability of Vitamin C. Here's why: Vitamin C is absorbed by active transport through little portals in your small intestine. When you drink juice, these portals are saturated very quickly and, because of the liquid form, the rest just continues down your digestive tract. BUT...when you eat an orange, there is added fiber, slowing everything down. So, even though the active transporters are saturated, the slow pace of the rest of the orange allows for additional passive diffusion. Thus, you end up with the same Vitamin C at the end of the meal. Like vitamin C, other nutrients that may not take to juicing quite so well are the carotenoids (Vitamin A), which, although released from food when processed (like pressing or cooking), are fat soluble...so, you need a little bit of fat in your gut to absorb it. If you drink a shot of juice on an empty stomach, you won't really absorb the carotenoids. (If you want a really science-y explanation, look here). Lastly, your gut microbiota feeds on the fiber in your foods, and will absorb some of these awesome nutrients though your colon (possibly preventing colon cancer), but mostly with the added pulp (so, this is a benefit of my smoothies...woot!).
This isn't true for all nutrients, however. The new popular kids on the block are the super powerful polyphenols (resveratrol, anthocyanins, catechins and quercetin) and they are VERY receptive to juicing. These little guys get caught in the food matrix of raw fruit and veggies and need to be released from the plant cells in order to be absorbed. In fact, if you don't press them out, you barely absorb any from the actual fruit itself. The B vitamins (folate, B6, riboflavin) also appear to get stuck in the food matrix (often in the starch component) so juicing may help to release them as well. Juicing berries, dark leafy greens, and bananas will boost the bioaccessibility of these nutrients. I think the most compelling argument for juicing, however, is the sheer amount of fruit and veggies you can press into one bottle which really amps up the total amount of nutrients you pack in for the day!
So, because the science on the super nuggets of health is still really new, I went in search of some of Boston's expert juicers for their thoughts. They both agree that juicing is the way to go! Melina DiPaola of e.t.c. juices, says:
We use TONS of greens- our green juice has probably the biggest list of greens I've seen in a juice: kale, watercress, parsley, lemon, ginger, apple, romaine, cucumber, fennel, celery, spinach - in our juices. Especially in our green juice, we really prioritize keeping the glycemic index low- so there's only a touch of apple. But it's delicious! Drinking these types of juices can instantly transform how you feel, your energy levels, even how you look (skin!). When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, and is very simple. Pressed juice floods the body with concentrated forms of nutrients that we're not used to getting.
And, Melina is right about that. Unless you're a vegan, you most likely are not getting kale, watercress, parsley, lemon, ginger, apple, romaine, cucumber, fennel, celery, and spinach in every day. Maybe even not in a couple of days!
Another local juicer, Rebecca Ferrel of The Ripe Stuff supplies Recycle Studio with our ReFuel juices. Rebecca came to juicing not only for health but through medical necessity.
The idea of starting The Ripe Stuff here in Boston started after I had a pretty serious surgery in 2008. It was difficult for me to eat a lot of things (especially food items with a lot of fiber, i.e. raw vegetables). So, my sister recommended I start supplementing my diet with these raw juices.For the average person, I see juicing as an opportunity to get your 5-10 servings of fruits & veggies a day when you normally wouldn't. Too many people sail through their day on highly processed foods and are missing very important nutrients from natural foods. I recommend juicing to my clients as a way to sneak nutrition. Many of us are not getting the recommended servings of fruit/veg a day and juicing is a great way to introduce a variety of vegetables into your diet (and replace some other snack that might not be very good for you!) These may be foods that you don't typically eat, but when you juice (say broccoli) with something else you can't even tell it's in there!
So, while the mechanistic science is evolving, I'm with the juice girls! This one is really a no-brainer. Tons of nutrients, low calories, low sugar (although there's still a little fructose controversy in there), and it empties out the fridge to squeeze in the next CSA shipment! As far as juicing versus smoothie-ing, I say variety is the spice of life! Mix it up. Use your blender, buy a juicer, buy some e.t.c juice or Refuel Juice. Try broccoli with your pears, throw some cashews in with your apples. Just by substituting other things (a.k.a. crap) with fruits and veggies, you will be pushing the healthy edge of your Strong Process! Drink up!