Juicing has been big news in recent years. It’s often used as part of a detox or cleansing regime, and is mentioned in the same breath as diets like the cabbage soup diet, the South Beach Diet and the Paleo Diet. Advocates of juicing claim that it helps the body to detox and gives you a shot of everything you need in one concentrated form. But juicing also has its critics, who say that by only drinking juice, you are missing out on valuable nutrients such as fibre and protein. So what are the actual risks and benefits?
The pros of juicing
Juicing is a great way to include a variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet.
You can use fruits in juices that are a bit too over ripe or that are starting to spoil. They wouldn’t be too pleasant to eat in this state but they are completely safe to use in juices.
The cons of juicing
Juices are still full of natural sugars and calories, in a concentrated from. Vegetable juices are low calorie, but fruits tend to be higher in calories, which is worth remembering if you’re watching your weight.
It’s best to drink juices immediately, or within 24 hours of making them. If you can’t drink them immediately, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Obviously, fresh juices aren’t pasteurised so they can prove a health hazard if they are kept for too long, as bacteria and mould can form. Wash all produce you are making the juices with, and keep your juicer and other equipment as clean as possible.
If you drink juices in place of food, you will be losing out on essential nutrients such as protein and fibre, which means that you will not only lose muscle mass due to lack of protein, you’re likely to feel hungry and be tempted to binge, as fibre keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Critics of juicing say that the body is perfectly well equipped to get rid of toxins, and there is no need to ‘cleanse’ with juices.
The wonder of wheatgrass
Whatever you might think about juicing, there are some ingredients whose health benefits have been backed up by research. These are harder to ignore.
Wheatgrass is the grass of the wheat plants, and it’s harvested quite early in order to get it when it’s nutrients are at their peak. Wheatgrass is also sold as a powder, which is quite convenient for people wanting to introduce it into their diet.
Wheatgrass contains around 70% chlorophyll, which is what makes it a superfood, with energy boosting and alkalising qualities among others. Chlorophyll is the substance which makes the plant green, and is the part of the plant that harnesses the energy of the sun.
Wheatgrass is a great source of vitamin C, E, K, and B, plus calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Add to this the long list of amino acids and enzymes it contains, and you can begin to understand why it is considered a superfood.
The health benefits of wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass juice may not look, or taste too appealing on its own. It’s an acquired taste, but its health benefits are undeniable. It’s a versatile shot of energy which is great at any time of the day.
It alkalises the body
If the body is too acidic, inflammation and illnesses occur. Wheatgrass is very alkaline and normalises the body’s PH balance.
It prevents Alzheimer’s’ disease
Wheatgrass removes toxins from the system, including heavy metals which some studies have linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive problems.
It’s full of iron
The high iron content in wheatgrass juice means that it can help the body to produce new red blood cells, and oxygen and nutrients get to where they are needed in the body. This reduces the risk of getting conditions such as anaemia.
Wheatgrass is a potent anti-inflammatory
These properties, plus the alkalinity of the juice makes it an excellent choice for people who have inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
It’s high in antioxidants
This helps to combat the free radicals that float around the body, damaging tissues and causing diseases and premature ageing.
It helps to relieve athlete’s foot
Wheatgrass juice is a natural antibacterial, so it helps to kill the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, but it also helps to relieve the maddening itchiness that comes with it. Soak your feet in a bowl of water with 2oz of the juice mixed in.
It can get rid of bad breath and body odour
Wheatgrass juice is great for detoxing, and it detoxes the lymphatic system and the intestinal system, getting rid of any bad bacteria which cause unpleasant whiffs.
It helps you build lean muscle
Wheatgrass juice contains many amino acids, and they are what protein is made of. Wheatgrass juice contains a surprising amount of protein, so it might just help you increase your lean muscle mass and capitalise on your gym gains.
It can help to prevent cancer
The chlorophyll and beta-carotene in wheatgrass juice are helpful when it comes to fighting and preventing incidences of cancer. Wheatgrass contains many antioxidants, many of which are thought to be powerful anti-cancer agents. Research has shown that an intake of wheatgrass juice correlates with a 40% reduction in incidences of cancer.
It can prevent yeast infections
The antibacterial properties of wheatgrass make it hard for bacteria and yeast to grow. People who consume the juice have been found to suffer from less yeast infections.
It’s an amazing detoxifier
When it’s consumed regularly, the juice can cleanse the lymphatic system, the intestines and the colon which results in a happier, healthier and more energetic you!
It can regulate blood sugar
Wheatgrass has been shown to benefit those with diabetes, as it helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
It can reduce blood pressure
Compounds contained in the chlorophyll in wheatgrass have been found in studies to reduce blood pressure in those with hypertension.
It boosts immunity
The antioxidant and nutrient content of the juice means that it really boosts the immune system if it is consumed regularly.
It’s good for oral health
Gargling with wheatgrass juice can prevent tooth decay, relieve toothache, and treat bleeding gums, due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
It can help you manage your weight
Wheatgrass juice is very nutritious, and provides your body with a lot of the essential vitamins and minerals that it needs, it gets rid of cravings, so it can prevent you from overeating.
It can help to heal skin wounds
Pour 2 oz of wheatgrass juice into a small bowl of water. Dab the mixture on wounds and sores to relieve itching and soreness, and promote healing.
Some tips on drinking wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass itself is not digestible so that’s why you need to drink the juice to be able to get the benefits of its nutrients. It is a grass but it does not taste like grass.
The best way to juice wheatgrass is to use a masticating juicer, which will churn the grass up and extract the sweetness from the juice which makes it so much more palatable.
The effects of wheatgrass in terms of ridding the body of toxins might be noticeable right away, so don’t be surprised if you experience nausea or headaches when you first start consuming it. This means that the juice is flushing toxins from your body. Start with a 1oz shot per day then build up to 2 oz, 2-3 times per day.
A wheat intolerance does not necessarily mean that you will be intolerant to wheatgrass but it’s a good idea to start off taking in small amounts until you are certain that it isn’t causing any unwanted side effects.
Wheatgrass juice recipes
Why wheatgrass? Well, it’s easy to grow all year round indoors, so you can have your own low-maintenance supply going if you want to grow your own and not have to hunt around health food shops.
You will notice that in juices, wheatgrass tastes like spinach, with a little sweetness to it as well. There’s plenty of antioxidants and protein, plus a boatload of other nutrients, which can help to remove toxins from the body, and give you an energy boost you will definitely be able to feel. Because of the high protein content, it’s an excellent ingredient choice for juices for vegetarians or vegans.
Wheatgrass powders are available, but using the fresh grass is best. You can buy it, or grow your own, but whatever you choose, always rinse it under cool water to make sure it’s as clean and fresh as possible before use.
You will notice that some recipes refer to inches of wheatgrass rather than cups. If the recipe requires 1 inch of wheatgrass, it means that you need 1 inch from a bundle, not from an individual blade of wheatgrass.
Chlorophyll Greens Combo Juice
2 inches of wheatgrass
Handful of spinach
2 stalks of celery
Handful of flat leaf parsley
How to make it
Wash all the ingredients thoroughly before juicing. Thin the mixture with some water and season it with lemon juice if desired to taste. Juice the celery last to help push out the juice from the greens.
2 inches of wheatgrass
How to make it
Juice all of the ingredients and thin the mixture with coconut water. If desired, blend the juice with a banana for a hit of extra potassium and sweetness
2 inches of wheatgrass
How to make it
Apple adds some sweetness to this juice and masks the taste of the wheatgrass. Chop the apples into small pieces, then put them into the juicer with the wheatgrass. Add water if the juice ends up too thick in consistency.
6 ounces of homemade lemonade
2 ounces of wheatgrass juice
How to make it
Mix the liquids together and drink right away for a refreshing start to your day.
1 ounce shot of fresh organic wheatgrass juice
6 ounces of fresh carrot juice
How to make it
Mix together the juices and drink it immediately.
3 stalks of celery
2 medium cucumbers
5 fresh spinach leaves
½ cup of fresh parsley
2 ounces of fresh wheatgrass
Water as needed
How to make it
Cut the celery and the cucumber up into small pieces to fit your juicer. Juice them and dilute with water if needed to alter the taste or texture.
Sweet Grass Special
2 large red apples
1 large orange
1 teaspoon of certified organic honey
Pinch of finely ground cinnamon
1 ounce shot of fresh wheatgrass juice
How to make it
Juice the apples and orange in a juicer. Combine the apple and orange juice with the wheatgrass juice in a jug and stir to combine well. Warm the honey until it liquefies and mix it into the juices. Pour the juice into glasses and sprinkle some cinnamon on top.
Juicing has its advocates and its critics. Its most often included in ‘cleanses’ or ‘detox diets’, which can be quite severe and restrictive.
Advocates of juicing say that it is one of the best ways of adding the goodness of a variety of fruit and vegetables to your diet in a concentrated form. This is a good thing if you would find it difficult to eat so many portions of fruit and vegetables. It also means you will waste less food, as overripe fruits can be used in juices, and they would probably otherwise get thrown away as they are not so nice to eat in that state.
Critics of juicing say that it is time consuming and expensive, and that by only consuming juices, you are missing out on essential nutrients like protein and fibre, as these are found in the pulp of the fruit or vegetables, which is often discarded. A lack of protein can lead to the loss of muscle mass, and a lack of fibre will leave you hungry and most likely constipated.
Obviously, juices are good for you, but as an enhancement to a healthy diet, not to be consumed instead of a good diet. No amount of fad dieting is going to lead to good health, as if you consume juices, you are merely losing weight by restricting calories. As soon as you go back to eating normally, you will put weight back on, and possibly more on top of that.
Remember too, that fruit is quite high in calories and sugar, and you will most likely use a lot of fruit to make a juice, so bear this in mind if you are watching your weight.
Look in any recipe book or online, and you will see any number of possible juice combinations. Some will be more palatable than others, and all of them will bring you some health benefits.
Wheatgrass is often used as an ingredient in healthy juices, though it has a reputation for being less than palatable. It doesn’t look too appetising either (think green sludge), and while, it’s true that it might be an acquired taste, its reputation as a superfood is backed up by science.
Every day there’s a new superfood in the news, but wheatgrass is one of the few that is a nutritionally complete food. It contains ample vitamins and minerals, protein, and amino acids. This makes it an ideal addition to a vegetarian diet, as it can be hard to get all the essential amino acids without animal products.
Research studies have found that it is a natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and these properties, coupled with the high antioxidant content, bring a lot of wonderful health benefits. Research has shown that consuming wheatgrass juice can boost immunity, reduce blood pressure, stabilise blood sugar, ward off cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and boost eye health. It can also reduce inflammation in the body which is the cause of many illnesses and serious diseases.
Wheatgrass may be well-known and well-regarded by the health-conscious juicing community but it doesn’t look or taste amazing, so it’s easier to drink if you combine it with other fruits and vegetables like carrots and apples, which are a little sweeter. The sweetness will counteract the bitterness of the wheatgrass.
A word of caution; start off with small doses if you have a wheat intolerance, and consuming too much in one go can cause digestive discomfort, so remember the motto, ‘all good things in moderation’.