Juice cleansing: Confessions of a first-time juicer

20151107_132637(Story previously published in Winnipeg Free Press)

In the era of 24-7 communication, we’re constantly connected, and always on the go. Life comes at us fast, with stressors all around. Taking care of ourselves can become the last priority on any given busy day.

What we put in our bodies – the fuel that keeps us going – greatly affects how we function and feel. Poor eating habits are cumulative, and over time can make you feel sluggish, zap your motivation, and drag you down. To pick yourself back up, there’s a growing wellness trend that’s easy to do, doesn’t cost a lot, and – best of all – it really works.

Juice cleansing is increasing in popularity, and medical professionals like Dr. Jason Bachewich ND are seeing the benefits it can generate.

“Juicing has very much come into vogue in the last 10 years. Typically it was recommended for people with serious disease issues but it can play an important role in the average North American’s diet,” says Bachewich, a Naturopathic Doctor at Nature Doctors clinic. “For the most part, it can be a very healthy strategy to employ in one’s life to optimize health.”

THE BENEFITS OF JUICING

For starters, juicing gives the digestion system a much-needed rest. It takes up to 18 hours digest an entire meal, which means your system rarely – if ever – gets a break. If you free your body from the burden of solid foods for a period of time, and just drink juices, your stomach extracts nutrients directly into the body without first having to do all that upfront breaking-down work. Think of it as nutrient-loading.

Juicing also gives our main detoxifying organs – the liver and kidney – a rest. They work nonstop to remove toxins that accumulate in our bodies through foods, beverages, and medications. We’re also toxified from our lifestyle, environments, even the air we breathe. Taking food out of the equation for a time reduces the detoxifying workload and recharges the system so it can work more efficiently.

There are noticeable benefits, too, like improved mental clarity and overall functioning. This in part can be attributed to simple rehydration, since drinking enough fluids daily makes the body function more efficiently. At the same time, flood the body with a surge of super nutrition from produce, and you’ll not only get an infusion of vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients, which allow for optimal cellular function and cell-to-cell communication. Phytonutrients also boost the immune system, and the body’s ability to heal itself.

Just as eating fatty or processed foods can sap your energy, consuming nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables does the opposite. When your body has an abundance of nutrients, you can’t help but feel energized. Juicing is an ideal way to shake afternoon lows, enhance your mood, and even improve your sleep.

Overall, juicing is an opportunity to push the reset button, and kick-start your way to a healthier way of thinking. And doing it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive either. All you need is a juicer or blender, some online research, and initiative to create your own plan. For an even easier approach, there are restaurants here in Winnipeg that will do all the planning and grinding for you.

ONE-STOP JUICING SHOPS

Health-minded franchise Freshii opened on Corydon Avenue in July. On the menu are salads, soups, wraps, burritos, bowls, smoothies, and fresh-pressed juices. They’ve created a juicing program with three options – one day, three days, and five days – to give customers a healthy boost.

“As a leader in serving nutritious food, we want to make sure we’re on top of the latest trends, and juicing is one of them,” says Andie Shapira, Freshii’s in-house nutritionist. “We knew it was something we wanted to offer because anytime you are drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, it’s good for you. And that’s what Freshii is about, nourishing your body with healthy foods.”

Freshii prepares everything for your cleanse; all you have to do is go in and pick it up – either in the morning, or the night before. Each day you’ll consume four different juices, and a ‘Metaboost Salad’ packed with greens, spinach, kale, carrots, edamame, mango, almonds and goat cheese.

Shapira acknowledges that while juice programs typically don’t include anything but juices, cutting out solid foods entirely can be daunting to some people. That’s why they’ve added the salad.

“Our juice recipes were put together to maximize nutrients, pick you up, and keep your blood sugars level throughout the day. Having the salad at dinner not only satiates you, but also provides a good start for establishing a new healthy eating routine.”

“The other positive thing is, after a day of consuming only juices, having that salad is like a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Over in Osborne Village, Green Carrot Juice Company is all about the process. Opened in April 2014 by former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Obby Khan (and some business partners), Green Carrot features cold-pressed juices – meaning all traces of heat are eliminated from the shredding and extracting, allowing the juice to retain maximum nutritional value.

When planning the juices for Green Carrot, Khan consulted with Dr. Bachewich, who believes that consuming juices is always beneficial, not just during a cleanse period.

“I would include juicing everyday as a way to increase the healthy compounds in vegetables in greater amounts in your diet,” says Bachewich. “It’s also a way to get more veggies in kids.”

Green Carrot offers a one-day and three-day cleanse, each with beginner and intermediate levels, and each consisting of six daily juices. Beginner has more fruit, more variety, and slightly higher calories. They, too, prepare everything for you, and pack it all up in a convenient Green Carrot cooler that is yours to keep.

BUT DOES IT REALLY WORK?

Emily Silver is a former Winnipegger who moved to Vancouver to work as an assistant director in film – an industry notoriously known for long working days. She tried her first juice cleanse last year after hearing a stunt performer on set talking about doing one, and becoming intrigued.

“I had always toyed with the idea of doing one, because proper nutrition and physical activity are tricky things to control in this industry, with the abundance of quick energy foods, rich foods, and long hours. I was hoping the cleanse would help me break my habit of going for the sweets and heavy foods. I also thought it would be a great way to infuse my body with the nutrients I’m sure I wasn’t getting.”

Silver selected a local Vancouver juicing company that specializes in cold-press juices. They made and delivered her beverages each day – three juices, one almond milk, and one ‘heat shot’ consisting of apple, ginger and cayenne.

“My cleanse was four days and I felt just fine. It wasn’t until I finished and had my first day of slow solid food intake did I realize I was in a fog for the whole time. But after that, my thought process became clearer, and my energy levels went up. It also helped curb certain cravings, like sugar and breads,” she says. “I would do it again although I would modify it by adding a chicken breast or a clean salad each day, just to have a little protein and sustenance to help with the 15+ hour working days.”

CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST-TIME JUICER

Brand new to juicing, I did not one – but two – juice cleanses in the span of a few weeks. First, I tried Freshii’s five-day cleanse, and later, Green Carrot’s three-day intermediate. In both cases, I had virtually the same experience.

On day one, I started out excited and curious, yet somewhat skeptical as I eagerly picked up my juices, asked a million questions, and read the accompanying literature. Even though I had no idea how it would all turn out for me, I was all in, and determined to make it all the way. Let’s get this party started!

Fast forward to later that day… I had a pounding headache (which apparently is quite normal), was hungry, and growingly grumpy with each growl of my shrinking stomach. I was tired, sluggish, and feeling hellish. Did I mention I was hungry? How the heck I was going to do this? What the f*** was I thinking??

On day two, I was hungrier than hungry. But at least the terrible headache had subsided, and I was slooowly starting to feel like my old self again. My optimism had begun to creep back in, even though hunger still loomed, and now consumed my thoughts.

By day three, my hunger had actually begun to subside (whaaat??) and I began to feel more energy. The world was looking brighter, and I felt more positive and carefree. On the flip side, I was eager to wrap this up, because by now, the novelty of the juices had worn off – especially the green ones. Blech! It’s not easy drinking greens for three days, no matter how good they tasted on day one.

Days four and five with Freshii were much of the same – lessening hunger, increasing energy. I also noticed that the longer I went without food, the more my thoughts turned to eating food, glorious food! I missed my old friend food, and became acutely aware of just how much people talk and post about food every minute of every day. Seriously, reminders of food are everywhere. I sooo wanted a meal.

Despite my growing obsession with eating, I managed to complete all five days without going astray. After both cleanses – the three-day and five-day – the results were pretty astonishing. Which leads me to conclude that I’m now a true believer in juice cleanses.

I really did feel like I had a clearer mind, and was in a better mood. Stress subsided, and sleep improved. My appetite was suppressed, and smaller amounts of food fully satiated and satisfied me. I felt healthier, happier, and more motivated to tackle the daily grind, no matter what it was. As an added bonus, in both cases, friends told me – without knowing I had been juicing – that I looked great, and that my skin was ‘glowing’.

Perhaps best of all, this experience inspired me to really think about what I put into my body. And that’s one unexpected benefit I hope will remain with me for the rest of my life.

That, and the afterglow.

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