My juicer decision

Juice

For those of you who haven’t been following me, I’m opposed to juicers but decided to buy a good machine to give it a try. Here are the pros and cons I’ve found.

Pros:
Get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in a single glass
A creative way to get your greens in if you aren’t a greens eater
Allows you to make great 100% fruit popsicles at home

Cons:
Expensive
Time consuming
A lot of cleaning up
Requires a lot of produce for a small amount of juice
A lot of skin goes to waste

With my goal of making life simple, I cannot recommend juicing as a primary health tool. It’s a lot of work to maintain a daily juicing ritual.

Although I bought a machine that optimized the amount of skin and pulp in the juice, there was still so much waste in the end. I became increasingly aware that the highest nutrient part of my produce, the skin, was being expelled. It’s been recommended to use the waste in baked goods or soups.

Since I was not eating all the fiber, I found myself hungrier. When you eat an actual piece of fruit or vegetable, the fiber stays with you and helps you feel full. Also, fruit juice contains a lot of natural sugar. Eating fiber with your juice helps the body better maintain blood sugar levels.

Another side effect I wasn’t expecting was a stomach ache. If you routinely use antacids, be aware that a lot of juices contain a high amount of acid. I had to start eating something with my juice to keep this from happening.

In the end I like the juicer for specific uses. I will make great fruit juice popsicles this summer, and green drinks will be on my list. As for the daily juicing routine, there is no substitute for crunching into fresh produce to maintain a simple healthy life.

 

Lessons from a beginner juicer

Juicing

So, I’m finishing my first week of juicing with my new juicer and I’ve learned a lot! It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of clean up so if you’re deciding if you want to buy a juicer, you may want to listen.

First, always remember to put a cup under the spout of your juicer! That’s right!!! I was so intent on how to put together and run my new juicer that I forgot the cup! The valuable fruits of my labor (no pun intended) flowed all over the counter and floor!

Watch out for stringy produce. My juicer stopped on occasion due to stringy fibers from the produce clogging up or getting stuck in the expelling tube. The worst were greens, celery, oranges, lemon, grapefruit and rhubarb. When this happens, you may have to stop the process, take the machine apart and clean it out. My recommendation is to save those items as the last to go through the machine.

Seeds are a problem too. You must remove all seeds except for those in berries like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Unfortunately, even those seeds get stuck in the strainer and have to be carefully cleaned out.

You need to drink your juice right away. Nutrients deteriorate over time so to get the most nutrition you must drink it immediately. Waiting also results in a hit or miss on the quality. Not only do some juices separate and require thorough shaking, in one instance the pulp/fiber collected together in clumps and was lumpy to drink.

Many fruits and veggies contain a high amount of acid. If you need to store your juice you want to store it in glass. This reduces the chances of the juice absorbing plastics or metals.

Also, use recipes for awhile first. I wasted a bit of juice trying to be creative. I drank it, but it didn’t taste that great. Basic juices are straight forward, but when you start wanting those super green drinks or combinations of fruit and vegetable together, there is a delicate balance with taste. Even texture is a careful balance between too thick or thin. After trying a number of recipes, you’ll find what works or doesn’t work for you and then you can get creative.

Lastly, juicing takes time, especially as a beginner. Don’t try to do this in the morning while you are getting ready for work. Until you have the process down, do it when you have time. You must clean the machine right away or it will be impossible to clean later. It’s also a bacteria magnet. After juicing, run a big glass of water through it to shorten the cleaning process.

I’ll experiment more with this juicer so I can give you recipes and better tips on how to become a juicing success, if that’s what you want to be. It will also take time to decide how much of a physical benefit I’m receiving. If you are going through all this trouble, you must absolutely LOVE juice, or receive incredible health benefits as a results. That’s the way I look at it!

More to come!

 

My dry vegetable garden

Organic Squash

It’s getting hot out there! Is your vegetable garden dry? Don’t wait until your plants are wilting before you water. You won’t get a very good crop. Here are some tips for keeping your veggies from drying out.

Vegetables need a lot of water to bear a harvest, especially root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. To test your soil, stick your finger down at least 3 inches. If it’s dry at that level, you need to water, unless there is rain in that day’s forecast. The only exception is seeds or seedlings. Those need to be constantly moist.

A good way to water is with a wand sprayer that reaches down to the roots of the plant. Sprinklers tend to shoot water into the air where it evaporates. Even better, you can install a drip irrigation system. It waters slower and deeper which encourages deep root growth. The deeper the roots, the less likely it will dry out. Drips that run on timers are the best for consistent watering. If you don’t have the money for a drip system, you can make a reservoir for each plant with a plastic bottle up to the size of a milk jug. Poke holes in the bottom and bury it alongside the plant, filling the jug with water and let it slowly drip. This method will also encourage deep roots.

Make sure you water the garden in the morning. You want your plants to dry completely before nightfall. It decreases the chances of diseases setting in during a cool moist night.

Adding organic matter helps the soil hold more water. Organic matter includes shredded bark, decaying leaves and of course compost, which is one of my favorites. Compost also fertilizes your plants. Organic matter also allows roots to easily grow resulting in healthy, deep roots.

Another great idea is mulching your plants. Most people use bark, pine needles, nut shells, rocks or plastic mulch. This creates an additional layer of material before the dryness reaches plant roots. If your area is really dry, rather than a raised bed, you may want to consider a sunken bed. Start your garden a few inches below the surface by digging out the soil and putting it around the edges to create walls. Water will flow down into the bed, and the wind will not dry the surface as much. If you already have a raised bed, build up sides around it by adding more organic matter or mulch.

Prevent runoff of your valuable water by avoiding planting on slopes. If you have a slope, move your soil around to create a level planting bed. You can use wood, stones or rocks to help hold the soil in place. Another way to keep hold of your water is to use a rain barrel.

I hope these tips give you some good ideas to help your vegetable garden beat the heat!  Soon you will have a bumper crop to harvest!

Vitamin D….the disease fighter

Vitamin D

Most people know you need vitamin D to absorb calcium to keep your bones hard, but did you know studies are starting to find it’s also important for your immune system to help your body fight off disease?

Vitamin D has been added to milk and calcium supplements for years to help your body make the best use of the calcium you are taking in. Then it was found exposure to sunlight is the only way to absorb the vitamin D. You need to get out in the sun at least 10 minutes twice a week with no sunscreen to make this happen. You can’t be bundled up, and it can’t be cloudy. At the minimum, your face and arms need to be completely uncovered.

Having had low vitamin D due to living in a low sunlight state, I’ve been following new research coming out showing vitamin D’s connection with the immune system. It helps the body fend off things like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even dementia! Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis are now showing ties to low vitamin D levels and even depression, which we know is reduced with sunlight, is also being tied to vitamin D deficiency.  More studies need to be done to formally prove these claims, but doctors are already increasing their recommendations on how much vitamin D you should take in.

Foods that contain good levels of vitamin D are egg yolks, nuts and salmon. We already talked about vitamin D fortified milk, but you can also find it added to breakfast cereals and juices. Read your labels.

Original RDA for vitamin D was 400 IU but doctors are now recommended 600, 800 and sometimes 1000 IU per day. You should never take more than 4000 IU or it could be more toxic than helpful. Doctors can test for low vitamin D levels in your body and may prescribe as much as 50,000 IU in a single dose for a short time, but you should always keep your intake lower than 4000 IU. I take 1000 IU per day and make an effort to get outside routinely. This has been enough to keep my vitamin D level within range.

If you think you are at risk for low vitamin D, you may want to ask for the blood test the next time you go to your doctor. It’s usually not on the routine blood panel for your annual exam. Otherwise, it couldn’t hurt to take a supplement and spend more time enjoying the sun! Just in time for summer!

 

Coming around to juicing

Juice

I never fell into the juicing craze. I’ve been a supporter of making yogurt smoothies in a blender to get a quick boost of protein, calcium and energy, but never a fan of the juicer.

A lot of people  ask me what my position is on juicing. With any food, my answer is always its best in it’s natural form. The juicing process does the biggest disservice to your produce. Usually, the one part of your fruit or vegetable that has the MOST vitamins and minerals is the skin. Most juicers extract the juice out of the inside of the fruit which contains mostly water. The jewel of our produce, the skin, is carelessly discarded. The skin also contains fiber which most of us don’t get enough of. It helps your digestive tract maintain itself, reducing chances of cancer, and recent studies show that it helps in weight loss too.

The argument for juicing is growing. It first started as…”it’s the only way I’m able to get my fruits and vegetables in”. I’ve also heard…”I just don’t have time to really shop and prepare my fruits and vegetables”. After seeing the juicing process and clean up afterwards, I beg to differ! The most popular argument is “I just don’t like the taste of them, but I like juice”. To me, those are people who have never had their vegetables prepared properly. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you don’t want to jump into the wonderful world of trying new ways to prepare and eat new, potentially yummy fruits and veggies, then yes, you should juice. I’d rather you got the most needed nutrients in the food spectrum than to not eat them at all!

One of the most recently argument I’ve heard is that juicing creates a high concentration of nutrients because of how much produce goes into a single glass of juice. Well…..if you just removed the most nutrient dense portion of the fruit or vegetable, how is that possible? The concentration has never been scientifically proven, although I would love for unbiased tests to be done (unbiased meaning not funded by juicing companies). This is also not selling me on juicing to say I have to buy and prepare a harvest of produce to make a single glass of juice!

You’re probably saying….okay, so when are you going to tell me you’re “coming around”?

Some studies are showing that mixing different foods together create a wide variety of nutrients which when brought together are a catalyst to increase health benefits. A simple, common one you’ve probably heard about is how vitamin D mixed with calcium increases the absorption of the calcium into the body. There are more combinations like this than you can even imagine! That is why I always recommend a large variety of food in your diet. In the latest juicing craze, the mixing of various fruits and veggies together is becoming extremely popular.

I buy bottled mixed 100% juices when I’m hungry, in a rush and need to create a stop gap until lunchtime. I found one in particular that impressed me. The ingredient list was simply a list of the portion of each fruit or vegetable that went into making it, and no preservatives were added. But the most impressive thing was the process by which it was derived. This was a cold pressed juice. It was slowly forced through a large holed sieve with an auger, and without the nutrient destroying
heat you normally see with blender types of juicers. Because of the large holed sieve, it retained a lot of the skin and pulp that is so important. This hearty drink actually stayed with me and seemed to add some pep in my step. The only downfall is it’s expensive. Unfortunately, it needs to be for the freshness and all the trouble they have to got through to make it that way.

I decided it was time to investigate juicers. I read reviews, watched a lot of you-tube videos and considered cost. I found a moderately priced one that has a great warranty, uses the same pressing process and is easy to clean. I haven’t started juicing yet because I’m still looking up recipes. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I purposely started this post with all the reasons I disagree with juicing because I want you to know it’s never a great substitution for the real thing. I want you to consider the down side and use your best judgment on how juicing will or will not fit into your life. I hope you follow my journey as an unbiased nutritional expert and comment on my thoughts.

More to come.

 

 

Low Fat Rhubarb Crisp Recipe

Crisp

Rhubarb is growing like crazy right now! What are you going to do with it all? I’ve got a perfectly simple recipe for you. If you want to make this NON-Fat, all you have to do is skip the butter and nuts.

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup corn starch
1 1/4 cup sugar

Crisp:

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In casserole dish, mix cornstarch and sugar together until there are no lumps. Pour in rhubarb and mix well. Bake for 10 minutes.

While it’s baking, mix crisp ingredients, cutting butter in with a fork. I use a food processor. Pour the crisp mix on top of the rhubarb and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Although the fruit is healthy, there is quite a bit of sugar to curb the tartness of the rhubarb.You can reduce the sugar. I’ve tried not adding any brown sugar in the crisp and about 1/3 less sugar in the rhubarb mix with no issues for me. It all depends on your taste.

Enjoy!

The stress of moving

Moving

I am so sorry for not writing for so long. I admit I fell to one of the stressors I usually try to give advice on.  I just spent 2 months bidding on houses and then went through the moving process.

For those of you who are also planning to or are going through the process of moving, I’d like to share what I did or should have done to reduce my stress level.

Before you pack everything, pull out a suitcase and put everything in it that you think you will need for one week.  Pretend like you are going on vacation. Don’t forget medications and snacks. Add financial documents you may need along with address books. Put the suitcase in an empty closet with a sign that says “Do not touch”. This way it won’t get lost with everything being moved. It give you something to live out of comfortably in the chaos.

Expect the worst and hope for the best. Plan for everything bad to happen and prepare just in case it does. When something does come up, you are ready for it. If it doesn’t, you will feel a sense of relief and reduce your stress.

Keep up on your sleep and eat properly. You need it! You’ll be more productive if you feel well. I loaded the fridge with green juices and protein drinks.

Take time off work. I took a full week to move and fully unpack. There is nothing worse than working all day and coming home to a bunch of boxes that still need to be unpacked. If you don’t have the option to take a week off work, make it a long weekend.

If you are dealing with realtors, mortgage and moving companies, do your homework. There is a lot of information on line for what to look for and how to shop and compare. All of these companies also have documented tips for customers in the moving process. Ask for it.

I hope this helps! Good luck with your move!