There I was lounging in bed having a green smoothie and watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, when it hit me. I have a Vitamix. I haven’t eaten anything else today. My fridge is full of fruits and veggies. I should just do this juice fast thing. Like now. So I did, for 10 days. It was actually very cool. And in my usual backward way, I learned a lot of things I probably should’ve known that might have helped me better prepare for the challenge.
Juice vs. Smoothies. When I first began my juice fast, I figured I could just substitute smoothies for juice since I did not have a juicer. A dear friend had lent me her Vitamix so I had already been playing around with making healthy smoothies. Some things are pretty intuitive. If you are making smoothies for health then it is optimal to use more vegetables than fruit. In fact the sole purpose of fruit is to make the vegetables palatable, but you don’t want to go overboard because then you will raise your sugar level.
Around day three, I was looking for some alternative veggie combinations to mix up my repertoire and I came across this blog post on One Green Planet http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/juicing-or-smoothies-which-are-better/
that made me realize that juice actually has more nutrients than smoothies, because it is more concentrated when all the fiber is removed. That is when I decided to mix in more juice which meant finding another friend to lend me a juicer and visiting the Jus Bar.
Side bar: Can I just say if you are planning on juicing or going organic, that there is a definite cost component here. The Vitamix I borrowed retails for $519. It works great (it should for that price…for that amount it should clean itself magically replenish with fresh organic produce). The juicer I borrowed was much cheaper and also much more annoying. Talk about messy. I made a quart of beet, carrot, apple juice and it looked like they’d borrowed my kitchen to shoot a scene from True Blood. Moreover, I had to run the pulp through a second time because there was a lot of juice that didn’t make it into the jar. Then I had to disassemble it and clean it. This was a major pain in the ass. During the juice process, the beets were too big, so I had chop them up into little pieces because they kept getting stuck.
Note to people looking for a juicer: get a large chute (large enough for a whole piece of fruit or at least a half a piece of fruit). Also look for something that does not require an instruction manual to reassemble after you clean it…and is easy to clean.
That being said, the juice was delicious. It also used almost double the fruit and vegetables I would’ve used to make a smoothie, so just for my budget sake I had to do a juice and smoothie mix. Also, the fiber in the smoothie filled me up more and on day three when I was in full sugar and processed foods withdrawal and the moon got full I needed a little something extra.
Where to shop? Of course I would decide to juice in the middle of winter when my local farmer’s market is shut down (which would be option 1). There are a few other farmer’s markets, but they are on the other side of town and I am lazy. I live in the hood, so my local Safeway has a tiny organics section. I did manage to meet the produce manager and nail down the schedule for when the fruit shipments come in so I can get first crack. I highly recommend chatting up the people who work in your store. If they like you, they might even put in special orders for you. It helps them to know what you’re looking for. I also visited the PCC which is the union version of Whole Paycheck…lovely, gorgeous produce so fresh it still seems like its growing, but that got pricey very quickly. I ended up going to Fred Meyer, which is not as convenient as the other two stores, but was way more affordable and had a decent selection. Also, something that helped add variety was frozen fruit. Fresh is great, but sometimes you just want to switch it up.
By day four, I was really beginning to really get into the Juice fast. My skin got clear. I felt light and had lots of energy. I bought some mason jars and figured out how to streamline my food prep to maximize my time. Also, the mason jars traveled well, so I could take them with me to wherever I was going.
One challenge I had is that I am a very social creature. I often go to happy hour or out to lunch or dinner with friends. It’s kind of awkward to go to the bar with a mason jar or to pull out some mean green while at a restaurant, so I came up with a compromise. I discovered the Jus Bar
, an awesome spot in Columbia City, not far from my hood where they serve a variety of fresh juice and smoothies, but also organic soups, salads, quiche, and sandwiches. They even have wine and beer. So I could get something yummy and appropriate for me and my friends could get their grub on.
The Jus Bar also has great ambiance and wifi, so I basically used it as an extension of my living room. That is how I met the owner, Tiana Garrett.
Tiana and her husband started the Jus Bar about a year and a half ago after running a restaurant in the Pike Street market for several years. “I wanted to go right to the farmers marker and work with local farmers,” she said, explaining that all their ingredients are organic and locally sourced which explains why the menu changes more often than other cafes. They work with what is available locally and seasonally.
When asked about her advice to anyone interested in juicing she said: “Prepare mentally and physically. Listen to your body, the reality is that you are not only going to feel good things. Sometimes they get headaches or there is the social aspect. Be mentally strong. You’re gonna have cravings you might think you’re going to cheat, but for the most part the clarity in your body and mind after the first few days is great. After that you feel all around in the better space. Be prepared for a few things that aren’t all positive, but the outcome is definitely worth it.”
Full discolure, I cheated twice. On days 4 and 5 I just wanted to chew something. I ate a handful of pecans and miraculously felt much better. I don’t know if I needed more protein or if it was just a little psychological trip, but talking to Tiana made me feel better about paying attention to my body. In fact it made me realize that the whole point of the juice fast wasn’t just to clear out some toxins and lose some weight, but rather to reset my palate, reconnect with my body and make some decisions about how I want to eat in the future.
Tiana began juicing a long time ago and has seen the impact not just on herself, but on her parents. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had to go through chemo. Afterwards her stomach was very sensitive and her system was full of toxins. Tiana helped her juice to reset her system. “She hated wheat grass at first, but her blood cell counts were always higher afterwards and she had more energy.” Another added benefit was that Tiana’s mother began to be able to taste her food again. The chemo had really changed her taste buds.
After 10 days on juice, I feel like I am tasting more as well. During the fast, I got very acquainted with raw kale, but post past I’ve been experimenting with different ways to cook it and it is delicious. I am also surprised to discover I like raw beets. I have never in my life enjoyed beets, but mixed with ginger and citrus fruits or even with apples and cinnamon, it’s pretty good. What I crave has changed. Food still smells amazing. If I pass a burger joint, it doesn’t smell bad, but I actually want a smoothie in the morning. I want to eat more fruits and veggies. That is a far different craving from the ones I had before. Flavors seem more vibrant. My stomach is smaller too. I feel my body get fuller faster. I also lost 10lbs, which was a great bonus.
If you are interested in trying a juice fast, I recommend actually doing some research on it first. I found a great website: www.runningonjuice.com
that can get you started with some easy recipes. Also here is a starter juice that Tiana recommends:
Beets, blueberry, apple, carrots, and ginger (this has lots of Vitamin B, beta keratin, apple is sweet but good for digestion)
I also really like my version of the Mean Green:
Kale, cucumber, celery, cilantro, lime, pineapple, ginger
I’m not including quantities because it really depends on how flavorful the ingredients are. A little ginger can go a long way if it’s spicy, same with very sweet pineapple, but part of the fun was in discovering my own preferences. Living on juice for 10 days may seem a bit extreme, but the benefits are real. Good luck.
Reagan Jackson is a writer, artist, YA fiction aficionado, afro-punk, international educator, and community organizer based in Seattle, WA. You can find her most Wednesday nights at the Rain City Poetry Slam or maybe just being nerdy at her favorite bookstores.