Much like food trucks and FroYo shops before them, juice bars have been popping up all over the country recently. But juicing is more than a trend. It’s an easy and palatable way to incorporate fruits and veggies into a diet that might be lacking in fresh produce. One caveat, though, before you start stockpiling carrots: According to the Mayo Clinic, while juices offer a lot of nutrients, the juicing process removes fiber from produce, and calories and natural sugars from juice can add up quickly. Ideally, juices should not replace fruits and veggies in your diet; they should simply complement the nutrients you’re already getting from food.
Choosing a juicer
There are hundreds of juicers on the market and, like any kitchen gadget, it’s hard to know which one to pick or how much money to invest. Many newbie juicers opt to buy a less expensive version and work their way up to a more professional setup as juicing becomes a part of their routine. Then again, if the juicer you buy isn’t high quality, or isn’t convenient to use or clean, you might be discouraged from getting into the habit to begin with. First, research the type of juicer that will suit your needs, then read reviews and ask friends, or the staff at your local juice/smoothie bar, for recommendations.
Once you’re juicing regularly, you’ll need to keep plenty of fresh produce on hand. Some stores sell larger bags of juicing carrots, and farmers markets can be a great place to stock up and try new varieties of fruits and veggies. When you have a handle on what combinations you like and how much it takes to make a juice, you can wash and cut veggies a couple days in advance and refrigerate them in pre-portioned glass or plastic containers. Most fruits and veggies can be juiced with skin, stems and leaves intact, but make sure to remove stone-fruit pits, pineapple and melon rinds, and citrus peel – and to wash all produce thoroughly –before juicing.
Since it’s going straight from the fruit or veggie to your glass, and thus isn’t processed or pasteurized, fresh juice tastes quite a bit different from – and more intense than – what comes out of the OJ carton. Before you buy anything in bulk, experiment with different juices on your own or at a local made-to-order juice bar.
Mix and match
There are no hard-and-fast “recipes” for juice, but flavor profiles and water-ratio balance are important to keep in mind. (For example: a juice made from celery and cucumber may be watery, likewise a juice made entirely of root vegetables like carrots and beets may be very rich.) If you’re a fruit-juice drinker, pure veggie blends might seem too bitter at first. Start with all-fruit or fruit-veggie combinations; your palate will adjust to the less-sweet flavors as you introduce more veggies into the mix. A bit of lemon, a carrot or a couple slices of apple can also cut through the earthiness of kale, beets or spinach.