How does juicing fit into a paleo diet and lifestyle?
I recently posted “There is no such thing as superfood” – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt_Nlbczk1M
After watching this, and after some discussion, a friend of mine asked me “Do you disagree that supplementation can help compensate for the difficulty in acquiring all nutrients and anti-oxidants in modern diets? I.E. when not eating full primal?”
I recommended juicing as the only form of “supplement” that I think is worth taking and this friend eats a mostly paleo/primal diet, and as such our subsequent discussion can be broadly defined as looking at ‘is there a place for juicing and supplements in a paleo diet’ – but of course, the discussion is of interest to anyone who cares about living a healthy lifestyle.
Is our food ‘nutrient depleted’ these days?
My friends original question was about this often-discussed perceived need for supplements to boost our diet, as the theory (promoted by companies and individuals selling supplements) goes that food today is less nutrient-dense, depleted by intensive farming, damaged by chemicals, pollution and cooled storage.
There is some truth to the theory, but then there is also a lot of truth to the fact that most fruits and vegetables are larger than they used to be, considerably larger than they used to be, so in every likelihood, eating an apple or a banana today, likely delivers three times as many nutrients as it did 30,000 years ago. Admittedly, not if you measured “nutrients per gram” or “nutrients per mouthful” as I doubt caveman could measure grams and kilos, pounds and ounces. But if you measured “nutrients per serving” of 1 piece of fruit or 1 vegetable, then I suspect we get plenty of nutrients from each quality item we consume.
The thing is, just eating the nutrients is only part of the story.
- You can eat all the nutrient dense food you like, but if your digestive system is not working optimally (I.E. your gut is blocked up, leaky, clogged or weak) then you may be pooping half those nutrients out anyway, due to poor absorption in the gut.
- If you consume nicotine, alcohol, refined sugar, caffeine and other poisons along with all that nutrient dense good food and vitamin supplements, then half those nutrients will be damaged before you absorb them, and many will pass right through you.
- Nutrient consumption and utilisation varies from nutrient to nutrient. If you consume fat soluble nutrients (such as vitamins A, D, E and K) then your body can store excess of these consumed in your fat deposits, up to a point, though in some cases (such as vitamin A) you can actually overdose on such nutrients and they become harmful/toxic. However if you consume more water-soluble vitamins than you need (such as B-Complex and Vitamin C) then you cannot store much of these for later use, so you simple pee out the excess not long after eating or drinking it. You know the orange-coloured pee, 2 hours after taking a strong vitamin pill…that’s you peeing the vitamins out – money down the toilet, literally.
So modern living is ‘nutrient depleted’ and ‘nutrient depleting’ in many ways, but then I think the human body is cleverly designed to cope with fluctuating nutrient availability. Our ancient ancestors, ‘caveman’, would have had periods of severely limited diet, times when all he had was meat, then just eggs, then just fruit, then just shellfish – but rarely all of these food groups would have been available week in week out all at the same time. I think his diet would have been much more limited than ours, and as such, human bodies are designed to adapt to extracting nutrients from what is available, and then we can internally manufacture what we need (Vit D from sunlight, certain amino acids, etc.)
So in my opinion, anyone who today engages in eating a healthy balanced diet – such as MotherNaturesDiet of course – and who buys as much organic produce as possible (less chemical damage) and who spends time outside in fresh air and sunshine, should not have to worry about nutrient deficiency.
Stressful lives cost our health dearly
That said, we have a lot of additional stress in our modern lives – financial stress, career stress, air pollution and so on. Because I recognize the harmful and nutrient-demanding effects of stress on our bodies, I personally think that the best supplement anyone can take is a freshly made juice. And I’m talking about vegetable juice, freshly extracted from organic vegetables and sweetened with a little fruit. This is NOT to be confused with commercially available smoothies, even those pure and innocent types promoted as health drinks.
In my opinion, almost all powdered, processed supplements, pills, powders and liquids with long shelf lives, are just expensive urine.
(Now I have friends out there who are bodybuilders and strength athletes – I know you guys will be disagreeing with me now. Don’t start! I know you bodybuilders need your protein shakes. I understand that if you are an athlete eating in excess of 5000 calories per day then it is almost impossible to get this all from eating food, it just is. These athletes use protein shakes to get the extra calories in, I understand that. Guys, just stick to the best quality brands you can buy, lay off the cheap brands loaded with artificial chemical crap and tons of sugar – buy organic natural protein powders and blend them into your fruit smoothies and vegetable juices.)
Fresh organic vegetable juice
I think that making a fresh juice every day, guzzling down a pint or two of green veggie juice, is ten times better than all the superfoods, supplements and vitamin pills that people spend so much money on.
Real food. Clean water. Fresh air. Sunlight. Adequate sleep. Organic fresh food. Regular varied exercise, including sex. These are responsible for 99% of our good health.
The rest is all in the last 1%, that’s where supplements, superfoods and vitamin pills are found.
I think the ‘diet industry’ is happy selling us billions of dollars’ worth of supplements, superfoods, pills and powders every year, and there are a lot of people who are happy to buy them – because they are not eating as clean a diet as they should be, and these ‘insurance nutrients’ serve a purpose, a mental mechanism that says ‘OK, I’m covered, never mind the 2 bottles of wine last night and the Indian meal late in the evening, I’ve taken some Himalayan berries and a B-complex, I’ll be fine and I won’t get sick.’ People should really address their behaviour ‘the night before’, but that’s not the bit they want to tackle, they want to have their fun, then take a pill as an easy way out. But nature doesn’t work that way.
What about juicing vs. blending?
So then my friend asked “Agreed. Whole foods are always better. I’ve stopped juicing and been mostly doing blending because the lack of fiber (to slow sugar digestion) freaked me out as well as it seems very non-primal. What do you think about juicing vs blending?”
This is an excellent point, (and to my friend, J, thanks very much for raising this)
This is something I think about, but I think it’s important not to get hung up on the whole “primal, caveman, Paleo” thing. Let’s face it, in the Paleolithic period, the bit that interests us, from 190,000 years ago up to 13,000 years ago, our ancient ancestors lived, slept, ate, fornicated, pee’d and pooped in the dirt. Child mortality saw to it that 40% of humans born, didn’t make it to their teens, and every day was a struggle to survive against a multitude of predators, diseases and potential dangers. We all love the notion of caveman, but the reality is that his life was cold, hard and dirty, and none of us would willingly give up our modern world comforts to emulate his lifestyle.
However, for all his hardships, he breathed clean unpolluted air, he drank clean spring or rain water, the atmosphere was not depleted, the ozone layer not damaged, the soil not contaminated or stripped of nutrients, the air was not full of radio waves, microwaves and mobile phone towers and he did not stare at TV or computer screens half the day. His boss didn’t shout at him, he didn’t have laws to worry about following, and he was not awoken by an alarm clock in the morning, nor did he go to sleep at night worrying about his bank balance and his car payments.
Industrial-strength vitamin ‘pills’
So I see juicing as like the industrial-strength version of taking a vitamin pill, to combat any possible degradation of nutrient density in modern food, and to combat the ‘dirty environment’ effects of modern pollution, and to help our bodies combat the negative effects of low-level stress in modern living. I am a big fan of juicing, I have been juicing regularly for at least 4 or 5 years now, and I go through phases where I juice daily, then busy times I can sometimes go weeks without – but on the whole, I try to add a few juices to my diet every week.
As with any niche, there is a whole world of juicing out there, with its own diet plans, celebrities and recipe books and so on.
I see a lot of people packing their juices daily with maca powder, spirulina, chia seeds, powdered supplements and tons of fruit. Loading this stuff into juices to turn them into “meal replacement smoothies” is a much, MUCH healthier way to eat than burgers, chips, pizza and cake, but it also makes the drinks very sweet, and highly calorific. Last week I calculated the caloric content of one of my breakfast smoothies, as follows:
- 2 medium bananas
- 2 cups almond milk
- 2 huge handfuls of freshly picked dandelion greens
- 2 raw eggs (large, organic, free range)
- 1 whole large avocado
This is my standard ‘power smoothie’ after an early morning workout, and I have this for breakfast 2 or 3 times a week in summer. It contains a whopping 880 calories!!! Half of this came from the whole large avocado - for someone like me who did an hour of vigorous exercise before that smoothie, the calories and good fats in that avocado, and the sugar in those 2 bananas, are just fine - but for many people who start the day with less exertion, that would really be far too many calories for breakfast.
We all love sweet-tasting smoothies
Many of us healthy living fans love the sweet taste of a fruit smoothie, and my kids love them too, and it’s a much better kids snack than standard confectionary, but it is all too easy to get hooked on the sweet tastes of these fruit-laden, sugary smoothies, and they can give a heck of a big calorie count in no time at all, quick to drink and then while they might be packing in a lot of solid nutrition, I worry that they are over-stimulating the pancreas. Also, while healthy eating tastes so sweet, the average dieter is still not learning to re-program his or her palate to a diet with far fewer sweet flavours in it.
There are infinite benefits to regular juicing. I do not have the time or space to go into great detail in this post, but I think that juicing offers pretty much the only way to achieve rapid crash weight loss HEALTHILY. Juicing is the best way to detox and cleanse, if you are ill, then juicing offers unlimited benefits (see Gerson therapy for cancer patients, as just one example) and I wholly support using juicing as a detox once or twice each year for everyone, sick or healthy, obese or lean.
Crash weight loss
So if you are obese and trying to lose weight, then juicing several times per day is an excellent route to better health. However, it is important to remember that if you want to use juicing as a healthy way to lose weight fast, then your juices must be meal replacements - you are juicing INSTEAD of eating, not AS WELL AS eating. This is a healthy way to lose weight fast, but you will feel hungry. Remember, when we chew food, the action of chewing, and the saliva stimulation, activates hormones and enzymes in our bodies that trigger the appestat, the gland in your body that regulates appetite control.
Basically, chewing food for a while then tells your body you have eaten, and it switches off hunger. Feeling full is a mechanical response to literally filling your stomach - you can guzzle down 3 or 4 pints of water in 4 minutes and feel full instantly, but it won’t last for long. Feeling hungry is controlled by your appestat, and chewing food - and the subsequent hormone reaction - stops you from feeling hungry. So juicing is super healthy and supplies your body with the nutrients it needs, but as there is no chewing involved, and the liquid nutrition passes very swiftly through your stomach and on to your gut, juicing will not stop you from feeling hungry.
Additionally, if you are sweetening your juices with fruit, and making fruit-based sweet-tasting smoothies, then you are fuelling, rather than eliminating, the desire for sweet things, perpetuating those cravings. I believe that juicing is the only safe, healthy way to drop a lot of weight fast (anything faster than 2 pounds per week is “crash” speed weight loss, in my book) but be prepared to feel hungry, and know that a liquid diet will confuse your body, and you may be consuming hundreds of calories per smoothie, but your body might keep telling you that you are hungry.
It’s good to feel hungry sometimes. If you are obese and trying to rapidly lose weight, you should feel hungry, a little ‘pain’ will do you good, help you make the changes you need to make. Just make sure those juices are in place of meals, not in addition to meals.
If you are healthy and in shape, then juicing a few times per week is a far better ‘nutrient insurance policy’ than superfoods, supplements and vitamin pills.
For healthy people, I believe in the benefits of ONE green-veggie-based juice per day, as a supplement to a healthy diet such as MND, with no more than 2 or 3 (max) pieces of fruit to make it taste nice. Ideally, the juice should be 75% vegetable, and max 25% fruit. The fibre in vegetables tends to be insoluble fibre – the tough roughage that makes your digestive system work hard. I can see advantages to occasionally giving your digestive system a break (see the first link below for more on this) from such fibre, just to help your GI tract take a short holiday. The type of fibre in fruit tends to be soluble fibre, meaning it is water-based fibre, much softer and less demanding on your GI tract. Both types of fibre help you poop, but the fruit fibre is less demanding. Veggie fibre is rough, and makes your poop solid, fruit fibre is soft, and makes your poop soft.
So taking a break from chomping lots of veggie fibre can help, fruit fibre less so.
I always juice the ORGANIC veggies, but then blend that juice in with the fruit, to make a green smoothie. So 75% to 80% of the contents should be veg, juice that lot, then chuck the juice in the blender with 1 or 2 pieces of whole fruit OR an avocado and blend.
This green smoothie then meets all your needs:
- It’s nutrient dense
- It offers better nutrient bio-availability than taking a dozen synthetic multi-vit tablets
- It is stripped of insoluble fibre, so restful on the GI tract
- It still contains some soluble fibre, to slow the sugar absorption, but it’s broken down mechanically, so again easy on the digestive tract
- It has fairly low fruit content, which keeps sugars just enough to taste, but not too high to over-stimulate the pancreas
- The whole thing provides a fabulous buffer to the pollution and stresses of modern life
If I can find the time to make myself these juices 4 or 5 days per week, I’m a happy man. Save the money from supplements and superfoods, vitamin pills and protein shakes, slimming powders and powdered berries – instead spend that money on a good juicer and good organic vegetables, and get green juices down you as often as you can.
Purely for your continued interest - here is what I have written before on juicing and the benefits of organic vegetable juice:
…and…on rapid weight loss the HEALTHY way
…and…a word on sweet tasting commercial smoothies
If you have any questions, just let me know, thanks!