In the award-winning documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, affable Australian filmmaker Joe Cross zigzagged through America shedding pounds and shedding light on the health benefits of consuming vegetables and fruits in a glass. By the end of his 60-day juice journey, Cross had America juiced up on juicing as an easy way to get more fruits and vegetables into our diets.
Eating vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, celery and beets is particularly healthful, but often people don’t find them palatable. As Cross found, blend in a bit of apple, pineapple or a banana, and they are instantly more appealing to many who normally avoid anything green.
“We should all eat more plant-based foods, especially vegetables, and juicing is one way to do that,” says Mary Louder, DO, a Colorado-based family medicine osteopathic physician and CEO of Sere Bellesa skin care company. Louder sees patients, who have lost weight and gone off medications, who now say they eat vegetables they would have never tried were it not for a juicer.
Even for people with healthy diets, the other advantage is convenience. Compressed schedules are a big detractor to eating well, but getting concentrated nutrients in a glass is easy. “We have to work twice as hard as our grandparents to keep healthy food in our diet,” says Elizabeth Trattner, AP, DOM, in Miami Beach, who studied with Dr. Andrew Weil. Trattner says daily juicing is a good part of a healthy diet, provided that lean and plant-based proteins are also included to preserve muscle.
Louder emphasizes that juicing is not a cure-all. “It’s a great adjunct to your overall nutrition needs, but overall health is about a balance between mind, body and stress,” she says.
Even Cross admits stress can trigger his health demons. Cross suffers from an autoimmune disease called chronic urticaria, which brings on debilitating hives and rashes. He says that today, now that he is at a healthy weight and off his medications, juicing manages his health, but it has not cured him. Cross’s daily diet includes juices, whole fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and some dairy; with a juice fast every three months that he calls his Reboot plan.
Trattner recommends that if you plan to partake in a short juice fast that you make it a “staycation,” by taking a few days off from work, refraining from strenuous workouts and getting away from your stressful schedule. “Better yet, go somewhere, like a spa, where someone else is preparing the food, where you can sleep, meditate and limit physical activity to walking and light yoga,” Trattner says.
For juice fasts, with anything more than three to seven days let your doctor know. The efficacy of certain medications, such as blood thinners, may be reduced.
KIMBERLY LORD STEWART is a Colorado-based health, food and travel journalist, and author of Eating Between the Lines (St. Martins Press, 2007).
Mean Green Juice
Recipe courtesy of Joe Cross, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Reboot founder, pictured above.
4 stalks of celery
1 ginger root (thumb size – peel off skin)
• lemon (cut off rind)
2 green apples
6 kale leaves
Starting with the ginger, push all
ingredients through your juicer. Makes
Powerful juicers can pulverize and extract goodness from just about any fruit and vegetable, but here are a few to include on a regular basis for health benefits.
Cruciform Vegetables Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols (I3Cs) that detoxify carcinogenic substances. Boiling destroys these compounds, which is why raw foods juicing is recommended.
Ginger This powerful root is an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.
Carotenoids Apricots, beets, carrots, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are rich in lycopene and vitamin A, known for cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory benefits and for their ability to cleanse the liver and kidneys.
Greens Kale, collards and chard greens contain powerful polyphenols that manage blood sugar and fight inflammation. Celery has a unique property that can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Berries Dark red, black and blueberries are known for their ability to preserve cognitive and vision health, prevent premature aging of the skin and stimulate optimum-cellular function.
Source: Michael Murray, MD, Complete Book of Juicing: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality (Clarkson Potter, 1997); David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD, Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life (Penguin, 2008)
Which Juicer to Buy?
Buying a juicer is an investment in good health, so picking the right one is important. Popular brands include Vitamix and Breville.
The Vitamix Pro Series 500 is a powerful pre-programmed blender that makes smoothies, juices, hot soups and frozen desserts. $649, vitamix.com
Kimberly Snyder, CN, a nutritionist to celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Fergie, LeAnn Rimes, and author of the book, The Beauty Detox Solution says, “Vitamix is the number one health and beauty product I recommend to all my clients.“ Snyder likes that the powerful motor allows for large amounts of nutrient-dense foods to be blended quickly.
Breville Juice and Blend, like the one used by Cross in the movie, is an interchangeable juicer and blender that allows for juicing, cold soups and smoothie recipes. $449.99, brevilleusa.com
“I found myself in a giant store in New York and picked out the Breville because it’s an Australian brand. Happily, it was a fantastic choice,” says Cross. “That juicer travelled across America with me, tackled everything I put into it and was easy to clean.”