This post is for anyone new to the world of raw juicing. We’ll provide some quick definitions, give you the lay of the land from our perspective, and help you make an informed decision about the degree to which you incorporate juice into your lifestyle (or not…you just do you)!
Why do we even need to level-set about raw juice in the first place? Basically, the juice category is expanding quickly and includes a broad range of healthy (and unhealthy) products, making it harder and harder for folks to know which juice to buy for specific needs– pasteurized, raw, HPP, organic, cold-pressed, and so on….and frankly, it’s confusing! Shouldn’t we know what’s going on inside that $10, $12, or $15 bottle? Let’s dig in…
Wait, back up. Why is raw juice even a thing?
People generally drink raw juice for two reasons: health and beauty. Juicing has gained popularity for its ability to heal, detoxify, and energize the body, inside and out. Vegetable and fruit juices can fuel the body with beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and live enzymes that transport nutrients quickly to all the right places. Many wellness and holistic medicine experts claim juicing has the ability to improve skin health, gut health, reverse the effects of disease and elevate mood and mental clarity (naturally, without the use of harmful drugs). Once the body gets the nutrition and enzymes it needs, it begins to burn excess fat (in a safe way, not with crash diets or drugs). The body then starts naturally making more energy, healing, and detoxifying – making you look and feel better.
Many folks also use juice to “cleanse” or “juice fast,” for a variety of reasons – mainly for detoxification, weight loss, mental clarity, disease mitigation, or just to get that “juice glow” we’ve all heard about (btw, that’s a real thing). Think of the body as a superhighway. On a cleanse, the juice gets to speed in the fast lane inside your body, skipping the “traffic” that chewable food has to go through. Cleanse fans say, this basically allows the digestive system to take a little holiday (after all, it does work around the clock). When the digestive system gets a break, the body focuses on energy not on digesting food, but repairing damaged cells and getting nutrients to places that need them most, and fast. Juice cleansing isn’t for everybody, but many think it’s a powerful way to quickly reap the benefits of juice.
The bottom line: whether you simply want to flood the body with good nutrients occasionally, get more healthy plants in your diet or do a full cleanse, raw juice can make you feel and look better. So, it’s kind of a big deal (in the Ron Burgundy sense).
So, what does “raw” really mean?
Raw juice is comprised only of whole vegetables, fruits, and herbs (and sometimes spices), AND was never altered from its original form (e.g. cooked or heated). Any “raw” juice that has a shelf life longer than 3-5 days is not truly raw…the big brands just want you to think it is. Because $$$.
You’re probably thinking: ok raw is best…got it. But, why? Remember those live enzymes and nutrients we talked about? Those benefits are most powerful in truly raw, unadulterated juice, and are killed in more conventional preservation processes, like pasteurization. What to avoid if you are looking for (truly) raw juice benefits:
Pasteurization (or gentle pasteurization): Applies high heat temperatures for varying lengths of time and destroys enzyme activity, diluting nutritional value and flavor. Colors, “natural flavors” and vitamin additives are then put back into the liquid that was once juice (ick). Commercial juice is pasteurized, which is why it can sit on a shelf for months. For purists that prefer natural approaches, this is blasphemy! Pasteurizing juice defeats the whole purpose of juicing in the first place – to consume the powerfully healing active enzymes and antioxidants that come with fresh raw juice. We say, don’t waste your money on pasteurized juice.
High-Pressure Processing (HPP): High-Pressure Processing, or HPP, is a form of pasteurization that uses pressure in place of heat. While it appears to kill less of the good stuff than traditional pasteurization, the evidence is still emerging (HPP is still relatively new to the juice industry), experts say HPP still kills many of the active enzymes, but maybe not to the same degree as pasteurization. The verdict is still out about this particular approach…so we hope more research is done about this process soon.
Freezing is less annoying to us than the above methods of preservation, but frozen juice simply doesn’t taste the same, and still loses many nutrients in the freezing process. It is, however, our preference over pasteurization or HPP if you don’t drink fresh juice or need to preserve it for more than 3-5 days.
Bottom line about the process: if you care about filling your body with truly fresh, pure, raw ingredients with live enzymes and full healing potential, we think you are wasting your hard-earned dollars on juices that are pasteurized, frozen, or have been through HPP.
Equally important as process, is produce…
Organic, local, clean produce is key
There’s a growing body of research about the harmful effects of pesticides and herbicides found in conventionally grown produce…but we won’t get into that here. By now, we have learned that harmful carcinogens (AKA cancer-causing substances) may be found in produce that has not been organically grown (even if it is peeled), so we think it is critically important for raw produce in the juice to be organically grown and local, whenever possible. That’s why we are meticulous about every single item that goes into ZDF juice. If we don’t grow it ourselves, we only buy from reputable farmers that grow organically, and we stay local whenever possible. Costs are generally much higher for juice companies that go organic and local, but the quality simply can’t be beat.
Once produce is sourced and gathered for a batch, each inch of it must be carefully soaked, scrubbed, and rinsed with clean, fresh water several times to ensure it is squeaky clean and ready to meet the cold press. We could go on and on about the importance of clean produce...but we'll leave it at this for now. Which brings us to the next step....how that beautiful produce ends up inside the bottle.
No matter what the big juice companies tell you, the juicing process matters
Let’s break it down a bit. There are two basic ways to juice – centrifugal and slow (most commonly known as “cold-pressed”). There are several different processes within these two categories, but we’ll stick to the basics in this post.
1. Centrifugal juicers use a fast-spinning blade to pulverize and extract juice from produce.
2. Slow home juicers (masticating and triturating are most popular) that slowly crush produce at low rpm, sometimes with a single auger or between two gears.
2. Professional cold-press technology produces the highest quality juice, by slowly pressing produce with thousands of pounds of pressure, between two plates
Ok, but who cares? As a juice consumer, you should! The way your juice is processed matters…because…quality and freshness, the health and nutrition experts say. In short, centrifugal juicers add heat to the process by way of the spinning blade, which destroys many of the beneficial enzymes and oxidizes (by forcing air in the juice), compromising nutrients and quality. While slow masticating juicers produce higher quality juice than a centrifugal system, professional cold presses win every time. True cold-press systems don’t generate heat and extract more of the good stuff from the produce since it’s more deliberate in its slow produce-crush, avoiding oxidation. Cold-pressed juices produce the most nutritious product and also stay fresh a bit longer 3-5 days. We only use professional, cold press technology (produce is crushed between two plates) to produce ZDF juices, by the way (shameless plug).
Putting it all together
Focusing on three things - Shelf life, produce quality, and juice process - can be a helpful guide as you forge ahead on your juice journey. Your body can receive the most benefit over time from truly raw, fresh juice that is comprised of organic and local produce that has been properly cleaned and (truly) cold-pressed.
It’s important to remember that there is no silver bullet for health. Sure, we’re big juice fans. But, like anything else, raw juices aren’t a cure-all, and should not be used as an absolute substitute for eating fibrous vegetables and other healthy whole foods. We strongly believe juicing is healthiest when it becomes a long-term lifestyle, and not used as a quick fix or fad diet. So find a healthy balance that works for your unique and beautiful self, incorporating fresh raw juice when you can, and start experiencing the amazing benefits of the raw juice life.
Zen Donkey Farms and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on the Zen Donkey Farms blog is provided for educational and inspirational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.
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