The Juiciness of Life

Though I am just a beginner in my own health, wellness, and spiritual path, I hope that what I can share with the world– not just those living with a chronic disease– can be meaningful.  My heroine Kris Carr brings me light and wisdom every single day, and though she made her own documentary when she was first diagnosed, thankfully she is 10 + years from that and her journey now I think is probably very different from when she first heard the words “You have cancer.”  I love reading about her health and wellness path and her practical advice and recommendations (and I literally don’t know what I would do without her), but I also enjoy giving my own voice a place to breathe.  I wonder if I can be the voice for those who are at step one, just like I am.  Those who are just waking up to the idea that making a shift in their life for the “better” is possible (i.e. becoming happier and healthier).

It’s been incredibly awesome to get feedback on my blog from people who aren’t necessarily living with cancer.  This speaks to me, loud and clear.  I hear you saying that what I write about is universal.  That loving who we are just as we are, finding happiness within, taking care of ourselves and finding (non-superficial) gratitude in the every day are things that speak to everybody, not just those living with cancer. Maybe we’re not so different after all, you and me.

There are lessons to be learned, for all of us, not just in the heartbreak of illness, but in prevention as well.

Which can mean preventing disease, but can perhaps also mean preventing unhappiness as well.  And in recognizing (and appreciating) that at any time, any day, we have the power to change something in our very own lives.  We see “random acts” of unkindness by both mother nature and human beings, we see and feel life and death and sometimes, the world feels like it’s just spinning out of control.  I can read the paper or listen to the news and wonder if we’ll ever figure out global warming or stop gun violence.  But as much as I pray for peace and humanity in the world, what I choose to focus on is what I can control, things like my own thoughts (though they very often seem out of control, ridden with guilt, fear, and anxiety).  What I put into my body.  What I think about myself.  Who I surround myself with.  It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that it finally hit me that this is the real deal.  I can never “do-over” today.

One change that I’ve made for the better in my life is juicing.  (Didn’t mean to make it sound so dramatic– I went from gun control to kale– but when you feel something shift inside of yourself for the better, how can you keep it to yourself?)  Do I do this perfectly?  No.  Do I do it every single day, without fail?  Nope.  (As I write this post I am eating a bowl of homemade granola with chia seeds and almond milk). Does this mean that I am vegan or will have juice for breakfast, lunch, or dinners?  No and no. At least not today. I’m not trying to be anybody that I’m not.  I’m just showing you the beginning of my own personal journey and hope that– cancer or not– something about it resonates with you.

Somebody recently asked me how I chose my juicer, and it prompted me to think about writing this piece. Just a month or so ago I was where you may be right now:  Wanting to juice at home, but feeling completely overwhelmed with where to start when thinking about purchasing a juicer.  My story goes something like this: Girl hears about juicing, but can’t imagine ever drinking so many vegetables for breakfast.  Girl becomes intrigued because she reads about all of the amazing health benefits of juicing, and is interested in making a shift in her own life for the better.  Girl continues to read about it, then reads some more… but it still seems so completely overwhelming.  She wonders: To juice or to blend?  Which is better?  Can she really drink spinach at 8am?  What product will be the best for her own particular health needs? Girl does research.  Girl slowly begins to understand the differences.  Girl decides that juicing will be best for her on a consistent basis (will still blend sometimes).  Girl purchases Kris Carr’s e-guide to smoothies and juices and reads her Juicer Smackdown (keep reading for the links to those pages), plus looks into Joe Cross’s Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead story and advice (a recommendation from somebody on Kris Carr’s Facebook page; check it out here: (http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/).  Girl reads online reviews of juicers and talks to others who have them and friends of friends who have them.

And here we are.

Now clearly I am still way way a beginner, so there is a lot that I still don’t know (and if you had told me a year ago that I would turn off the TV before bed and instead read books about juicing I would have thought that you were crazy)– but I hope that these tips can help you to find some clarity if you want to juice (or blend), but you’re not quite sure where to start:

1) Figure out the difference between juicing and blending, and then decide which is best for you. 

I was so confused when I first started out.  I put a couple of things into a blender and thought that I was making a green juice!  In reality, I was really making a smoothie. The difference is that a juicer removes the pulp, which is where most of the fiber is found.  While fiber is really good for you, if you’re getting it in other areas of your diet, it may actually be beneficial to separate the (insoluble) fiber from the juice, and just let all of those glorious antioxidants cruise right into your blood stream, which they can more easily do without the insoluble fiber.  The soluble fiber that juice does still contain has amazing health benefit of its own, like reducing the risk of certain kinds of cancers, lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and enhancing weight control (I’m clearly not a doctor, but this is what I’ve read). So yes, juicing rocks, but if you feel as though you get lots and lots of good brightly colored fruits and veggies onto your plate every day and you already feel high-energy, then blending is a great option.  Smoothies can make you feel full longer and you can throw things in that you can’t in a juicer, like bananas and avocados.

Juicing, however, serves a different purpose.  It’s a more direct way to get those nutrients in without having to digest the full plants through our digestive tracts.  You really can’t eat as much raw produce (or drink as much in a smoothie) as you can incorporate into a juice.  So for somebody like me who wants at least 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day (closer to 10 is the goal), rather than trying to chew that amount (holy cow!), I choose to drink it instead.  (Just to give you an example, when I make a juice just for myself I usually put it about 2 large handfuls of spinach, 2-3 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 2 whole cucumbers, 1 apple, half a lemon, and sometimes I’ll even throw in some berries or an orange if I feel like I’m coming down with a cold.  That’s a lot of fruits and veggies right there!  And this doesn’t even include the other foods that I’m eating during the day like salads for lunch or dinners with tomatoes, zucchini, and broccoli!).

2) Once you’ve decided if you want to juice or blend, figure out which product is best for you.

We just have a regular Cuisinart blender, and it’s great for smoothies.  We do have to chop things up into pretty small pieces, but the clean-up is generally easy, and we can make a meal out of it if we want (like the cinnamon-roll vegan smoothie for breakfast.  See my “Recipes for Health and Happiness” page for that delish recipe).  My understanding is that the Vitamix and the Blendtec are the gold-standard of blenders, if you want to go that route and you’re into making not just smoothies but also salad dressings, soups, nut milks, etc.  I know that Pressed Juiciery (https://www.pressedjuicery.com/) also recommends the Ninja Kitchen System or Breville’s Hemisphere blender, which are a little bit less expensive as well.

I love having a blender (and SHL loves it when he makes smoothies with yogurt), but I also knew that if I was serious about getting in a huge amount of fruits and veggies every day in an easy way, that a juicer would be the way to go.  Another key component that drew me to the juicer was that I read that not having to digest all of that insoluble fiber can give the body more time to rest, and for somebody with cancer, I figured the more time that I could give my body to repair and heal, the better.

Having said that, there are a gazillion juicers out there.  It took me weeks to sort through which one I finally wanted to get.  One thing that greatly helped me was Kris Carr’s e-guide to smoothies and juices.  Because I really trust her and she’s a cancer thriver, I felt really good about reading her pearls of wisdom and then taking it from there.

Now I paid a few bucks for her wisdom (called Crazy Sexy Juice and Smoothies E-Guide), which is packed with lots of plant-knowledge and tips on “super foods,” as well as ideas on how to extend the life of your produce, stay within budget, and of course juicers and blenders are rated using her easy-to-read charts.  But since I paid for it, I don’t feel right giving all of her secrets away!  After all, we gotta support Kris in her health and wellness business, so that she can then continue to support all of us.  So if you’re interested in her 80 page head-to-toe juice and smoothie guide (and I do highly recommend it), you can purchase it here: http://kriscarr.com/products/crazy-sexy-juices-succulent-smoothies/.

However…

You’re going to love me for sharing this with you, from Kris Carr’s blog (free! Weee!).

This, my friends, is the “Juicer Smackdown.”  And it helped me a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.

http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/best-juicer-buying-guide/

She breaks down what you need to know about the different types of juicers, such as the Centrifugal, Masticating, and the Twin Gear Juicers.  She rates these juicers by yield, usability, and clean-up.  It helped me to narrow down exactly what kind of juicer I wanted.  She does a lot of the work for us by doing her own research and reading unbiased reviews on blogs, Amazon, etc.

Here are some things to think about:

Do you care about if the juicer is loud or not?  (I didn’t).

Do you want a quick clean-up, or are you OK with spending longer in the kitchen?  (I wanted a very quick clean-up so that I could easily juice before work in the morning).

How much do you want to spend?  (I would have loved the Hydraulic Press, sure, but was I willing to spend $1,000 on a juicer?!  Nope!).

How about the shelf life of the juice?  Do you want to be able to make a big batch and be able to drink it the next day?  (Mine I’m told has a short shelf-life; but there have been times that I haven’t been able to drink it all on the way to work and then have gotten busy.  When I’ve come back to it 3 or so hours later, it’s still been fine.  But I haven’t tried much longer than that.  Some day I may make extra and store it in the fridge and see how long I can make it last, but here’s a tip:  To get the most out of your juice, fill up a mason jar to the top and cover it tightly so as to seal out as much oxygen as possible).

What kind of space do you have in your kitchen for a juicer?  (I’m grateful that now that we have bought a house, we have lots of counter space for ours.  Plus it just makes me happy to walk into the kitchen and see it there waiting for me).

After reading Kris’s juicer smackdown and also info on Joe Cross’s website (Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), I decided that a centrifugal juicer was the way for me to go.  It was in my price-range, has an extra wide feed tube so most fruits and veggies can go in without any cutting (that in itself is amazing!), has different speeds depending upon hard or soft fruits and veggies, yields a good amount of juice, and is super-easy to clean-up (I was looking for “no muss, no fuss,” if you couldn’t already tell) . So having said that, what kind of juicer did I finally decide to go with??!… Drum roll, please…!

I picked the Breville Juice Fountain Multi-Speed, and so far, I just couldn’t be happier with it!  (I got mine at Williams Sonoma).

3) Do your own research. Hit up Google for your questions, ask friends, go to the bookstore, or post on Facebook and get unbiased feedback on what others have to say about their own juicers, and why they chose them specifically.  Read consumer reports or consider going into high-end stores or juice bars where they can tell you the pros and cons of the juicers that they sell or recommend.

I found this after I had already bought my juicer, but check out Food Matters (http://foodmatters.tv/) for some great resources, including their juicer buying guide as well, found here: http://foodmatters.tv/juicer-buying-guide.

Still not convinced that juicing is for you?  Check out these books that I have been devouring almost as much as my juice:

The Everything Juicing Book– All you need to create delicious juices for optimum health, by Carole Jacobs, and Chef Patrice Johnson (with Nicole Cormier).  I enjoy the easy-to-read lingo along with the way that they divide the bulk of their recipes up– everything from cancer to jet lag to fighting infections to boosting your immune system to motion sickness to staving off the cold/flu to better circulation!

Juice– Recipes for juicing, cleansing, and living well, by Carly de Castro, Hedo Gores, and Hayden Slater (Founders of Pressed Juicery).  I dig how easy they make their recipes sound, along with tips for using your pulp after juicing and how and when to cleanse using juice.

No matter what you decide, the fact that you’re even reading about juices and smoothies just oozes good health and love for yourself.  If you can start there, everything else will fall into place.

From my beginner kitchen to yours,

Sam xoxo

 

 

 

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