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Juice your system with a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables

Wed., Jan. 15, 2014

Cleanse your system with a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables

The beginning of the year can be a time of renewal, a time to realign ourselves with our own intentions of health and wholeness.

Throughout the year, especially during the holidays, it’s easy to get sidetracked. We forget the promises we made to ourselves.

But, with a new year comes an opportunity to make choices that nurture our health and leave us feeling energetic and alive.

For me, this means intending to eat more cleanly, especially after all of the holiday indulging.

The easiest path to clean eating is to consume more plant-based food. Fruits and vegetables are inherently detoxing and healing. They allow the body to do what it naturally does, more efficiently, without being overtaxed by processed foods, sugars, meat and dairy, which – in overabundance – can burden this normal process.

But this year warranted more drastic measures.

So I pulled out my old juicer – honestly, a bit of an eyesore – and created a new home for it on the kitchen counter, where it could no longer be ignored.

Those who juice view it as a way to cleanse and detox the body.

“I just like the idea that I’m putting concentrated doses of vitamins and nutrients into my system,” said Method Juice Cafe co-owner, Nick Murto. “I try to drink a fresh juice every day, and I swear I feel better when I do.”

Murto didn’t start out as a “health addict.” In fact, he said, “I was eating all sorts of processed, artificial and less-than-healthy foods just a few short years ago. But something amazing happened when I tried a plant-based diet that incorporated a daily juice: I had more energy, I lost weight, and I just generally felt fantastic. After that, there was no going back.”

The most popular arguments for incorporating fresh juice into our diets are pretty convincing:

• Juicing helps our body absorb more of the nutrients from vegetables, more than we would if we ate them, because we tend to kill nutrients off when we cook them. (Possibly true.)

• Juicing allows us to gain the nutrients from a massive amount of vegetables in one small concentrated glass. (Probably true.)

• Juicing allows us to consume a wider variety of vegetables that we may not normally enjoy eating whole. (Most definitely true.)

Squeezing the liquid from fruits and veggies is an age-old practice, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the first motorized juice extractor was developed. It was called the Norwalk Juicer, created by nutritionist Dr. Norman Walker, a natural health practitioner who purportedly lived to the age of 110.

The next big resurgence came in the 1950s with the Champion Juicer. Champion was the first to pioneer the idea of forcing the pulp through a screen during the grating process. This shrunk the juicer down to kitchen counter size and made it readily available to the home consumer.

In the 1970s, fitness guru Jack LaLanne launched his Jack LaLanne Power Juicer on his TV show, initiating another juicing mania.

And in the 1990s, sprouting from the idea that “carrots cure you of wrinkles,” juicing experienced yet another rebirth. This notion, coupled with the market clout of baby boomers, created huge demand for fresh juice. Suddenly, it was available at upscale supermarkets in metropolitan cities everywhere.

Living in Los Angeles at the time, I too jumped on the juicing bandwagon. Apparently, I had a lots of wrinkles in my 20s that needing curing.

Since then, juicing has seen a steady incline. More and more juice bars have opened up and – with the ease and availability of home juicers at various price points – more and more people are home juicing.

The 2010 documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” inspired yet another resurgence. Joe Cross – 100 pounds overweight, hooked on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease – vowed to change his health by consuming only fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days. The film documented his incredible transformation.

In bigger cities, juice bars have become mainstream. And mainstream corporations are clearly taking note. In 2010, Odwalla was gobbled up by Coca Cola. Even Starbucks has jumped on the juicing train, buying Evolution Fresh, a $30 million company that produces a line of cold-pressed vegetable and fruit juices.

For consumers and entrepreneurs, a realization has taken hold: juice does not have to be part of a challenging, expensive, monthlong cleanse. It can be lunch.

For several weeks after the New Year, Pilgrim’s Market, an organic market in Coeur d’Alene, has experienced higher than average sales on juices.

“People who are cleansing often come in for our juices, but many of our customers purchase a juice as a quick lunch substitute,” said marketing director Michal Bennett. “Fresh juice is one of our top-selling items sold in the deli, second only to our soups. Our most popular juice is the Ironman Juice, a fresh blend of spinach, kale, lemon, ginger and seasonal apple.”

And it seems juicing is gaining in popularity with all age groups.

“The demographic for our juice and smoothie bar covers all ages, even kids love to drink here,” Bennett said.

Huckleberry’s Natural Food Market sees juicing as a lasting trend. Since its inception in 1996, the store has cultivated a steady base of customers who return regularly for its fresh juice. Executive chef Nicholas Marinovich attributes this to an increased awareness among consumers.

“Nowadays, consumers really care about what they are putting in their bodies. They want to feel good. They are making healthier choices. They also want to know where their food comes from, and if it’s organic, and if it’s non-GMO,” Marinovich said. “We have worked hard to shrink the radius of where we source our produce for the juice bar, purchasing locally grown organic produce as much as possible.”

Cold-pressing is the latest trend in juicing.

“Cold-pressed juices are made when the produce is slowly pressed in a hydraulic press. The juice comes out without contacting much oxygen or heat. The juice tastes creamier, and the primary benefit is that it lasts longer, roughly three days,” said Murto from Method, where sales of cold-pressed juices have jumped since the beginning of the year.

If you’re new to juicing, order a blend that contains a little fruit, for instance, a combination of carrot, orange and apple. Then work your way into drinking juices with more vegetables. Dark leafy greens and roots tend to be the most nutrient-rich.

If you’re juicing at home, be aware some vegetables have more juice in them than others. For example, you get more juice out of collard greens than with kale but about the same nutrients.

Try incorporating fresh herbs and spices, like fresh ginger and turmeric. My new favorite juice, the Turmeric Tonic, is made with fresh turmeric root. It’s been my morning drink for the past couple of weeks now.

The research on the health benefits of turmeric is astounding. It reportedly can destroy cancer cells, regulate insulin, relieve arthritis, remove plaque build-up in the brain, detox the liver, help the body break down fat more efficiently, reduce cholesterol and clarify the skin.

All I know is when I drink this, I feel good.

Turmeric root can be found locally at Asian markets and Huckleberry’s Natural Market. Method Juice Café offers a fresh juice made with turmeric juice as well.

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Turmeric Tonic

4 medium organic carrots, scrubbed

1 small golden beet, 2 to 3 inches in diameter, scrubbed and cut in half

1 apple, cored

1 orange, peeled

1 tablespoon sliced fresh turmeric root, peels OK, more to taste

Juice all ingredients in a juicer. Remember start conservatively with the turmeric, taste and add more if you like.

Yield: 1 (10-ounce) glass of juice

Spicy Mexican Green

2 to 3 collard green leaves

1/4 cup cilantro

1 green apple, peels OK

3 medium organic carrots, scrubbed

1/2 medium cucumber

1 inch ginger

1 small slice jalapeño, or more to taste

Juice the ingredients in the order listed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 (10-ounce) glass of juice

Beet Ginger

5 organic carrots, scrubbed

1 organic red beet, scrubbed and cut in half

1 inch ginger, unpeeled

Juice the ingredients in the order listed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 (10-ounce) glass of juice

Liquid Sunshine

4 to 5 organic carrots, scrubbed

2 oranges, peeled

Juice the ingredients in the order listed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 (10-ounce) glass of juice

The Seasonal Kitchen is a monthly feature. Local chef Sylvia Fountaine writes about seasonal foods she’s making in her kitchen, sharing recipes and a passion for local foods. Fountaine is a caterer and former co-owner of Mizuna restaurant. She writes about home cooking on her blog, Feasting at Home,

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