Bad skin? Always tired? We found a juice for health to help fix all your nagging wellness woes.
Juicing For Health
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Juice isn't a replacement for whole fruits and veggies, of course, but it does let you fit in ones that you might not eat otherwise—like beets or carrots—especially at breakfast, which is usually a no-vegetable zone. (Try these 15 Mediterranean diet breakfasts for veg you can eat with a fork!) And the more produce you consume, the better. People who consume five servings of vegetables a day lived nearly three years longer than people who avoided veggies, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Upping your intake can protect against cancer and help you drop pounds too (produce is low-cal and full of water, which fills you up). Plus, because the cells in fruits and veggies are broken down by juicing, their nutrients are easier for your body to absorb, says Nicole Cormier, R.D., a coauthor of The Everything Juicing Book.
Juicing Reality Check
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But there are downsides. Juicing for health is a time suck. And it can be expensive, because you have to buy a ton of fruits and vegetables and shell out for special equipment.
Juicing also leaves chewing to be desired. That's important from a weight standpoint because solid food is more satiating than liquid, says David Katz, M.D., the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and the author of Disease-Proof. Juice is a concentrated source of calories that's easy to consume in a few gulps and contains little or no filling fiber. And because it's digested faster than solid food, it causes a rapid increase in blood sugar. Translation? Drinking too much juice, especially fruit juice, can actually contribute to weight gain and has even been linked to type 2 diabetes.
But the good news, Dr. Katz says, is that juicing can be healthy as long as you're strategic about it. Think of it as you would grilling, sauteing or steaming — you wouldn't do it all the time, but it's a good tool to have in your produce prep kit. (Study up on the latest scoop about the dirty dozen and clean 15.)
The Truth About Juice Cleanses
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Before you follow in go all in and replace meals with sips, know this about juicing for health:
- You're not flushing anything out. Your body runs on an auto-cleanse system that's managed by your kidneys, liver, and intestines, and there's no evidence that juice improves the process. If you feel "lighter," it's probably because you're eliminating junk food, not toxins. (See our complete breakdown of what happens to your body on a three-day juice cleanse.)
- You won't stay slim forever. You may drop several pounds quickly, but most of it's likely to be water weight. When you cut calories, your body gets energy by releasing glycogen, a type of carb that holds on to water. As soon as you stop the cleanse, you gain the pounds back. Lasting weight loss comes from changing your diet long-term.
- You might feel as if you have the flu. Fatigue, nausea, insomnia and headaches are some of the possible side effects. And if you have a history of eating disorders, a juice fast can trigger a recurrence.
Juicing For Health: Get Your Refreshing Rx
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Keep reading to discover the best drink for what’s ailing you.
Just remember: Because juice doesn't contain fat or protein to sustain you long-term, pair it with a slice of whole-grain toast and peanut butter for breakfast or with almonds or string cheese as an afternoon snack. And make it veggie-focused (Dr. Katz advises a ratio of two parts vegetables to one part fruit for just a hint of sweetness) to keep sugar in check. (Related: 9 Juice Pulp Recipes to Stop Wasting Perfectly Good Fruits and Vegetables)
The Best Juice to Fight Aging
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When stress, free-radicals, and lack of exercise and sleep attempt to age your skin, Patty James, certified natural chef and author of More Vegetables Please!, recommends juicing for health and fighting off Mother Nature with antioxidant-packed fruits and veggies that can easily be juiced.
- 1 1/2 cups liquid of your choice (water, any kind of milk, or aloe vera juice)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup strawberries
- 1 large leaf kale (thick stem removed)
- 1/2 medium beet
The Best Juice for Your Sex Life
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While oysters and chocolate are a delicious way to get you and your partner in the mood, they're not so appealing juiced. Thankfully, James' top libido-boosting foods are also delicious in liquid form. "Celery contains an ingredient that increases those well-known pheromones in men that send out signals to women saying 'here I am'," James says. "Watermelon helps to relax the blood vessels that increase sex drive, and avocados contain a B vitamin said to boost male hormone production." (P.S. Your lack of sex drive probably isn't sign of a disorder...)
- 2 cups coconut water or aloe vera juice
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 banana
- 1 small piece ginger
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 handful basil
- 3 figs
The Best Juice to Boost Energy
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Instead of reaching for a coffee, try a green juice instead. "Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, helps oxygenate the blood, creating increased brain function and physical energy," says Judita Wignall, author of Going Raw.
- 1 large cucumber
- 8 stalks celery
- 1 handful kale
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 handful parsley
- 1/4 lemon (with rind if organic)
- 1-inch piece ginger
The Best Juice for Sweet Cravings
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"Celery juice helps balance out the sweetness of this juice while providing electrolytes and alkalizing minerals, as well as helping to reduce sugar cravings," Wignall says. Also; cinnamon contains compounds that help regulate blood sugar. The ultimate juicing for health equation: Stable blood sugar = less sugar cravings.
- 2 apples
- 8 stalks celery
- 1 dash cinnamon
The Best Juice for Your Immune System
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Sip on this to stay well all year! "Broccoli is very high in vitamin C, which increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells," Wignall says. "Garlic contains sulfur-containing compounds that have powerful immune-boosting antimicrobial properties."
- 1 small beet
- 3 carrots
- 8 stalks celery
- 1 stalk broccoli
- 2 cloves garlic
The Best Juice for Hydration
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The coconut in this juice recipe delivers a dose of electrolytes similar to those that balance out our own blood. In fact, doctors have used coconuts to help fight dehydrating diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and influenza, helping save the lives of thousands of children in underdeveloped parts of the world, according to Organic Avenue founder Denise Mari. Coconut water is available in many stores and restaurants (We love Organic Avenue's Indo Coconut Water!), or you can make one for yourself. (Related: Surprising Things You Never Knew About Coconut Water)
- 1 young, green coconut
Cut it open and drink the water straight out of the coconut!
The Best Juice for Stress Relief
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When Eat Naked author Margaret Floyd needs to wind down after a long day, she turns to spinach. "Spinach is high in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps elevate your mood and promotes better sleep," Floyd says. "It's also high in magnesium, which helps to relax nerves and muscles." (Related: 6 Unconventional Ways to Soothe Sore Muscles)
- 2 big handfuls spinach
- 3 to 4 stalks broccoli
- 3 to 4 stalks celery
- 1 large or 2 small carrots
The Best Juice for Digestion
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Floyd turns to the well-known digestive aid, papaya, when having stomach issues. The fruit contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. But it's not the only powerful ingredient in this juice for health recipe. "Ginger relaxes the intestinal tract and reduces gas; also often used to quell nausea," Floyd says. And cabbage helps cleans waste from the stomach and upper bowels, which improves digestion and reduces constipation. (DYK your mental health makes a huge impact on your digestion, too?)
- 1/2 small papaya
- 3 leaves kale
- 1/8 head cabbage
- 1 thumb-sized piece ginger
- 1 wedge lemon
The Best Juice for Fighting Colds
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Eric Helms, founder of Juice Generation, stays juices for health during cold season and drinks a 1 ounce "Vital Shot" consisting of ginger, lemon, and cayenne pepper. (The latter is just one of the 12 spices you should always have in your kitchen.) "Ginger stimulates the digestive system and has long been used as a natural treatment for colds and the flu," Helms says. Cayenne pepper contains a high concentration of beta carotene, which helps rid the body of free radicals that cause cell damage and protects against infection. Finally, the high content of vitamin C in lemon juice can help safeguard your immune system from infection and the common cold, Helms says.
- 1 ounce organic ginger
- 1 squeeze lemon
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper