Sure, you’ve probably picked up a delicious post-workout juice before, courtesy of your local juicer or fancy gym snack shop. But if you’re looking to get some extra nutrients into your diet by juicing on the reg—without the steep price tag—you can easily start juicing at home on your own. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Chugging juice might be super-popular way to get a healthy between-meal snack in, but it’s also considered a type of fasting and an ancient spiritual practice, according to holistic health nutritionist Valentina Olivadese.
“During juicing, the mind and body have a chance to disconnect from the daily work of digestion,” Olivadese says. “The juice extracted from fruits and vegetables is a powerhouse of vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that strengthens the immune system, helps heal physical and emotional wounds, and fights inflammation.”
But why drink your fruits and veggies instead of just munching on an apple? There is no evidence to suggest that juicing is better than consuming a whole fruit, but proponents believe that juicing helps your body absorb nutrients better by limiting the amount of fiber your body has to process. (Whole fruits are loaded with fiber and juicing strips the fruits and veggies of it.)
What’s more, making your own juice allows you to have more control over the quality of what you will be drinking—from the actual ingredients themselves (including organic versus not) to the freshness of each fruit or veggie. Or, if you’re not into eating your greens, juicing is a good way to get them into your diet with a little help from sweet, not-so-green flavor enhancers.
Pro-tip: “Exposure to air causes oxidation and it’s always best to drink the juice ideally within a few minutes or at the latest by the end of the day,” explains Olivadese. “Store-bought juices are often purchased several days after production and are therefore of lower quality.” This goes for the pre-bottled stuff and even juices made on the spot (with pre-mixed ingredients or not-so-fresh fruits).
What type of foods can you juice?
Juices can be made from all kinds of fruits and vegetables, so feel free to try out the produce you like the most when you start making juice. Some of the most popular fruits for juicing include citrus fruits, apples, pears, mangoes, grapes and melons, according to Olivadese.
Many vegetables also make for a nutrient-dense juice, like celery, cucumbers, leafy greens (especially spinach!), beets, and carrots. Herbs make a great addition to juice when used in small quantities—basil, mint, and ginger are some favorites among seasoned juicers, says Olivadese.
Before You Juice
No matter what type of produce you select for your juice, make sure everything is washed before you put it through the juicer.
And you’ll need a lot of produce—you can expect to need a pound to a pound and a half of produce to make a 20-ounce serving of juice (you’ll be left with the pulp). Feel wasteful throwing away all that extra pulp? Vegetarian Times offers plenty of ways to use it up healthfully, such as blending it into a smoothie for fiber, adding it to a soup, making pulp popsicles, using it for a broth, making tea with it, or adding it to foods for thickening.
A Word of Warning
If you’re juicing to add healthful foods to your diet, you can get a full day’s worth of fruit and veggies in one juice. However, if you plan to commit to a juice fast for detox purposes, there are a few things you should expect, says Olivadese. Juicing for fasting purposes could cause some common side effects, including hunger, headaches, fatigue, dizziness or irritability. Check with your healthcare provider before embarking on this sort of dietary adjustment.
Related: Shop juicers and blenders.
“Side effects of juicing are usually worse in the first 24 to 48 hours,” she explains. “Listen to your body. Energy levels vary during a cleanse, ranging from feeling very energized to very tired.”
Consuming only juice is intended as a short practice and shouldn’t be done for extended periods of time. If you plan to complete a juice fast, Olivadese suggests taking time to ease your body into it by eating light meals (think: whole fruit, steamed vegetables, or a salad) the day before you begin. Once you begin your fast, it shouldn’t last more than 72 hours unless you have consulted with a doctor first. You should ease your body back into a typical diet by beginning with light meals.
What about weight loss? “Don’t juice for weight loss or as a long-term diet,” Olivadese adds. “Juicing is not a diet and its purpose is not to lose weight.” Juices lack in several essential nutrients for the body—primarily protein and fats.
Ready to Juice?
Having a few tried and true combinations on hand sure can lessen feelings of overwhelm when you first try your hand at juicing. Olivadese recommends that all new juicers find a basic fruit juice and green juice they love to make on a regular basis (see Olivadese’s favorites below). Plus, you need a reliable juicer—check out the Omega juicer.