Juice: the word (in its culinary sense) encompasses everything from fruit to vegetables to, yes, even grass. In the town where I went to college in Minnesota, our grocery store had an aisle marking for “Adult Juice.” We loved this, wondering what, exactly, was in a juice denoted specifically for adults. It wasn’t naughty in any sense, it turns out. While I’m still not entirely sure what the store intended, it seems likely that it was referring to the vegetable juices in the aisle, and maybe the juice blends of fruits less interesting to children than Juicy Juice.
I like it all; many of us of all ages do! People have been juicing for a very long time. The earliest known ancient reference to juicing for health comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which mention a combination of mashed figs and pomegranates used for “profound strength and subtle form.” In more recent history, juice pioneer Norman Walker published a book in 1936 called Raw Vegetable Juices; he also invented one of the first modern juicers, which is still manufactured today, and extolled a raw food diet. These days, fresh juice has been experiencing a huge boom. A delicious way of getting nutrients while hydrating at the same time, people are getting very creative with what they extract liquid from and how they combine various ingredients. Juice has its share of fervent advocates, for health reasons, as well as its detractors—also for health reasons, interestingly enough, since many people these days are concerned about the sugar content in fruit juices. Fortunately, it turns out there’s something for everyone. If you’re watching your sugar intake, read on to find out about low-sugar (but still delicious and nutritious) juices you can make at home or buy at the Willy East and West Juice Bars, typically centering on light and fresh vegetables (but there’s nothing saying you can’t throw in some fruit too, if that’s your jam). If you’re just looking for a classic 100 percent fruit juice, we’ll discuss those timeless favorites,and many twists on them, as well.
One important note: although juice can be a good way of supplementing your diet, it can’t fully take the place, nutritionally, of eating whole foods. Thanks to their fiber, fruits and vegetables provide you with a more measured delivery of nutrients than juice does (causing less of an insulin spike) and provide some nutrients that are lost in juice due to the missing peel. So, while juice consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy diet, it isn’t recommended to be the whole story of a person’s fruit and vegetable consumption. On a related note, juice isn’t a miracle cure for what ails you: “even though specific juices have been shown to benefit certain health conditions, juices in general should not be viewed as drugs,” in the words of Michael T. Murray, N.D. in The Complete Book of Juicing. Instead, as this author advises, “juicing must be part of a comprehensive and holistic health program if long-term results are desired.” With those caveats in mind, let’s move on to how to incorporate juice into your life!
Making Juice: Home Equipment
There are three main types of juicers: centrifugal, masticating, and citrus juicers. Masticating juicers are typically the priciest. They are also known as cold press juicers, and a major advantage is that juice remains at its optimal freshness level, with nutrients intact, for approximately one day instead of one hour. Masticating juicers make it easier to juice wheatgrass and leafy greens.
Centrifugal juicers are more affordable and still great for general usage, especially when you’ll be consuming the juice right away, or are comfortable with it losing some of its nutrients over time.
When trying to decide whether to buy a centrifugal or a masticating/cold press juicer, Huffington Post recommends:
Buy a centrifugal juicer if:
•You use the juice mostly for cooking, baking or other processes where heat will eventually be applied.
•You’re not picky about getting maximum nutrients.
•You’re trying to save cash.
Buy a slow-press juicer if:
•You’re into cleansing, making nut milks and green juices, and you like fresh juice.
•You want to pack the most nutrients into your body as possible.
•You don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.
If you’re looking to juice only wheatgrass, consider a manual wheatgrass juicer. These are hand-crank juicers that are relatively inexpensive.
If you’re looking to juice only citrus, buy a citrus juicer, which could be extremely inexpensive...you know, those pointy ridged cones that you impale half an orange on. I was a fan of the classic glass ones until I bought a plastic one. One of the reviewers online, also previously a plastic juicer skeptic, noted that plastic can be sharper than glass without hurting a human hand, so you get a higher juice yield per piece of fruit. Sold.
The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality by Michael T. Murray, N.D. is chock-full of nutrition charts about almost any juice you can imagine. For example, some vitamin C powerhouses you may not have known about: red chili peppers, guavas, red sweet peppers, kale, parsley, collard leaves, turnip greens, green sweet peppers, and broccoli. Some high-potassium foods: dulse, kelp, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds, raisins, and parsley.
The book also provides charts with comprehensive nutritional information for specific fruits and vegetables. For example, here’s what’s in one cup of pitted cherries (145 g):
NUTRIENTS & UNITS
Water 117.09 g
Calories 104 kcal
Protein 1.74 g
Fat 1.39 g
Carbohydrate 24 g
Vitamin A 31 RE
Vitamin C 10.2 mg
Thiamine 0.073 mg
Riboflavin 0.087 mg
Niacin 0.58 mg
Potassium 325 mg
Calcium 21 mg
Iron 0.56 mg
Magnesium 16 mg
Phosphorus 28 mg
Sodium 1 mg
Check out the book for lots more nutritional information as well as recipes.
There are always the classics: apple juice is beloved by all ages. If you haven’t ever had just-made apple juice, it can taste amazingly fresh compared to bottled. Orange juice, one that more people have had fresh-squeezed, and one of the easiest to make at home with a simple citrus juicer, can make you feel like you’re taking a stroll through Southern California or Florida. Watermelon juice is probably my new favorite. Seasonally bottled at the Juice Bars at Willy East and Willy West, depending on availability, watermelon juice tastes just like liquid watermelon. To add a little zip when juicing at home, consider adding some lime or hot pepper.
For some more fruit types for possible home production, consider: pineapple, which has a great tropical flavor; and tomato...technically a fruit, not a vegetable, and super-nutritious!
Or try one of these recipe from the bright and colorful book The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona:
2 peaches or nectarines
2 handfuls blueberries, blackberries and/or blackcurrants
1/2 fennel bulb
1 small bunch fresh mint
For veggies to use as a base liquid, some of the juiciest are cucumber, celery, and root vegetables like carrots. Carrot juice is often surprisingly sweet. I love it as a smoothie base. Cucumber juice is very light and refreshing, and if you’re looking for a sweeter drink, pairs very well with apple. Beets add a potent flavor and color; at the Co-op Juice Bars, we offer beet as an additional ingredient to combine with a base; it doesn’t take much of this powerhouse to get that glorious reddish-pink hue.
For people looking for lower-sugar alternatives to fruit juice, vegetable juices are a great option. Willy West Juice Bar Coordinator Lily Hammel recommends, “If you’re watching your sugar intake, try mixing a sweeter juice like apple or orange with something like cucumber or celery. The flavor is still sweet but it’s less sugar and tastes great.” Celery and cucumber juice contain only about 10-15 percent of the amount of sugar that’s found in the same quantity of apple juice. Personally, I’m a fan of cucumber as a light and refreshing base juice, and an increasing number of customers at the Willy East Juice Bar seem to be in agreement.
For home juicing, here’s a veggie juice recipe from Juice: Recipes for Juicing, Cleansing & Living Well by Carly de Castro, Hedi Gores, and Hayden Slater:
Makes 1 to 2 (8-ounce) Servings
2 or 3 kale leaves, to taste
Large handful of spinach
1 head romaine
2 celery stalks
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1/2 lemon, peeled
1/2 lime, peeled
Shots of wheatgrass juice are one of the most popular made-to-order items the Co-op Juice Bars sell. Did you know we offer a punch card that earns you a free shot after you buy ten? Ask for one next time you’re at the Juice Bar!
Would you rather juice your own wheatgrass shot, but don’t want to buy or grow a whole flat of it at a time? You can buy a single-portion quantity of wheatgrass from the Juice Bar for the same price as a shot, or (when our backstock allows) you can even buy a whole flat. Just ask a Juice Bar clerk. By the way...cats sometimes like eating wheatgrass, too! Look out, though: it may stimulate regurgitation for your cat (not necessarily a bad thing for their health, but watch your carpets closely). For more information about the benefits of wheatgrass for cats, check out pets.thenest.com/benefits-wheatgrass-cats-9839.html.
In addition to wheatgrass shots (for humans), parsley can be juiced in a similar manner using a wheatgrass juicer (also available as shots from the Juice Bars).
Many people like to add supplements to their juices. Some supplements are well-suited to being incorporated in juices; others affect texture in a way that makes them a better fit for smoothies. The Big Book of Juices: More than 400 Natural Blends for Health and Vitality Every Day by Natalie Savona recommends the following juice additions: vitamin and mineral drops/powders; herbal drops (assuming the particular herbs are considered effective when mixing with juice instead of water); spirulina, barleygrass, and wheatgrass powder. For smoothie-only additives, the author recommends wheat germ, flaxseeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cold-pressed seed oils, tahini, blackstrap molasses, lecithin, and brewer’s yeast.
Juices at the Co-op’s Juice Bars
If you want to pick up a fresh juice at Willy East or West, the regular menu offers a delightful variety, but you can also really have fun with the Make Your Own options! Willy East Juice Bar Coordinator Samantha Kocian told me that her personal favorite combination is carrot, parsley, spinach and ginger. (She also likes using carrot juice as a smoothie base.) Lily Hammel’s favorite is one from the menu: Caribbean Queen, full of citrus, consisting of orange, lemon, and ginger juice. If you’re going to make your own juice, whether from our Juice Bars or on your own at home, Samantha says, “Knowing the flavor profiles of what you’re juicing is important so you can create that perfect juice formula just for you.” She recommends picking a combination of a high-yield ingredient, something sweet, something earthy, and something spicy.
Smoothies & Frozen Juice
Okay, so smoothies aren’t juices, but they deserve a mention here as another way to get liquid nutrients. If sugar is a concern for you, smoothies may be a better option than juice, since whole fruit (as you get in a smoothie) contains fiber and is therefore processed more slowly by the body, potentially leading to less of a blood sugar spike than you’d get from drinking the juice of fruit of high-sugar veggies. And you can further reduce the sugar in a smoothie by using a milk (especially an unsweetened non-dairy milk) instead of a juice as the liquid base.
For another excellent summer treat, Samantha notes, “Something totally awesome about juicing is you can freeze yourjuice concoction into popsicles! A perfect frozen treat for our hot humid Wisconsin summers.” I’ve also made bottles of juice into ice cubes: one 16 oz bottle from our cooler just about perfectly fills one standard ice cube tray. Try plunking a few into a glass of lemonade.
Industry & Future
There are as many types of juices as there are ideas in your head. If anything in particular struck me when looking into juice-related books, it’s that you can find literally hundreds of recipes between two covers—and there are so many books in that category. For a springboard, check out one of the books referenced in this article. If you’ve got a home juicer, start experimenting! Learn about your ingredients, identify your goals (fabulous flavor? more vitamins for you or your kids? using up an excess of produce from your garden?) and see what you can dream up.
According to Beverage Industry, fresh juices and drinks were the fastest-growing organic grocery subcategory in 2015, with a growth of 33.5 percent. I, for one, am excited to see how this field continues to evolve and adapt to science, culture and our taste buds. I hope you’ll be part of the group of juice-drinkers who helps shape the juice future!