In many cases, come January when thoughts turn to new resolutions, many folks consider a juice cleanse.
Or, they do juices as a meal replacement.
So, what's the best approach?
Either can work, say experts, provided you pay attention to labels (for pre-bought juices) and ingredients (for your own juices). Sometimes, juices can have too much fruit or too many refined sugars. Making sure you're getting enough protein is also key.
Susan Blum, MD, MPH, Founder and Director of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook (as well as the co-founder of Organic Pharmer in Rye Brook) likes juice cleanses as they offer a good way for the liver to detox. "The liver needs protein so you want to make sure you aren't fooled by the wrong kind of cleanse," she says.
The best kind of fruits and veggies to use? All green veggies are good and should make up the bulk of the juice, advises Jacqui Justice, MS, CNS, a nutritionist in private practice in Eastchester as they are the most alkaline and therefore the lowest in sugar.
"As with anything else, the darker and more vibrant in color the veggie is, the more nutrients it has," she explained.
"For taste purposes, most people like spinach, kale and Swiss chard for the leafy greens; celery and cucumber for the crunchy greens, and basil, parsley, cilantro or mint for the herbal part."
Blum likes adding beets (good for red blood cells), carrots (good for gut), and celery (for digestive issues) but honestly, she said, the more veggies you can pack in, the merrier.
"The deeper darker colors have more phytonutrients and antioxidants that protect us against oxidative stress and repair tissue damage," she said.
Fruits, added Justice, need more consideration. "The biggest mistake people make with juicing is to put too much fruit and fruits that are high in sugar in them," she said.
"A banana, for example, has no place in a juice.
"This only serves to acidify the body which is the opposite of what you want to do."
Best fruits are those low in sugar like lemons, limes, green apples, avocados and one exception --- a small amount of pineapple, she explained.
"Fruit is basically added to take the edge off the veggie taste and make for a more pleasant taste."
Justice said juicing has become a buzz word that can mean different things. And while she knows it's popular, she doesn't recommend "crazy juice diets. "You need protein to detox so I prefer the smoothie method with a Vitamix or Nutribullet."
Both she and Blum advise doing a cleanse no more than three days and admit they definitely have their place in terms of rebooting your system. Doing a cleanse on your own is fine for a few days but If you feel ill, slow the cleanse down or seek help. It's also always good to do under a nutritionist's supervision.
Ideally, make your juice (or smoothie) at home so you are in control of its ingredients. Many store-bought juices are loaded with unnecessary sugars. A 16-ounce bottle, for example, shouldn't have more than five or six grams of sugar.
Also make sure you're buying products that are organic and non-GMO. Said Justice: "You don’t want to drink a whole bunch of pesticides."
RECIPE: The Green Goddess (courtesy of Jacqui Justice)
- 2 handfuls fresh organic baby spinach/kale
- 1/3 peeled and chopped cucumber
- 1 handful fresh cilantro/mint
- juice and zest of 1 lime/lemon
- 1 stalk organic celery
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 cup pure water or organic green tea (chilled)
- 1/2 to 1 cup ice (optional)
- Either juice or blend all ingredients until they are liquefied (a juicer that does not extract but retains the pulp/fiber is your best method).
- Makes approximately two to three 8 oz. servings. Store remaining juice in glass mason jar; top with lime juice and refrigerate for up to two days.
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