Juicing: Is it Worth the Squeeze?

JuicingSo we all know about the latest food fad, or at least the most prominent one right now; people are drinking their produce instead of eating it. For many out there this probably just sounds like throwing a bunch of random fruits and vegetables (don’t forget the kale) into a juicer and hoping that the end result is something remnant of a Keva Juice smoothie. Of course, this is not the case. We are talking about strictly the juices here people, no blending, and no bulk. There are a number of reasons you may be thinking about taking the plunge into liquid meals; maybe you want to jump start or complement a new diet, maybe this is an easier way for you to get your daily intake of vegetables and fruit, or maybe you just like the idea of drinking freshly squeezed juices from your favorite produce. Whatever the reason may be, you should definitely know what you’re getting yourself into.

The question that comes to mind is: is it really worth the effort? You do have to wonder how much your body really benefits from only drinking the nutrients, rather than consuming the whole fruit or vegetable (thus leaving the fiber out, which is what makes you feel full and moves your digestive tract along more smoothly). We will explore that here; we’ll go over what to expect as you start to juice, the effects it has on your body, when you should actually juice, and we’ll give you some good fruits and vegetables to try if you are convinced at the end that the juice indeed is worth the squeeze.

The juicing starting line

So you have your juicer, you have your produce, and your are ready to drink. One of the first things you must absolutely have a good grasp on before shocking your system with juicing is what state your health is currently in. One of the largest concerns here is for those who are at risk for diabetes. This is because real fruit juice causes spikes in blood sugar when consumed. In contrast, when digesting a full piece of fruit that process is slower than when consumed through juicing. This can be avoided too by consuming vegetable juices rather than fruit. However, if you are generally a healthy person, this should not concern you.

Another thing you should be prepared for as you start this are the actual changes that are going to happen to your body as you change your diet. As you start consuming more quality foods through the juicing, your body will start to get rid of the unhealthy tissues in your body and replacing them with new and healthier tissues. Some discomfort can occur during this process. If you have ever done a detox before, you know exactly what we’re in reference to. It’s like a less intense equivalent your body having withdrawals. Your body was used to the unhealthy foods you were once eating, or maybe the coffee you were drinking in the morning, whatever it was you are cutting out. Now that you are removing them your body craves them. As those bad tissues and toxins start to exit your body, it causes irritation, and sometimes light feelings of pain.

So what is happening inside your body?

Well for starters, those light feelings of pain you may be feeling are completely normal, at the start at least. The symptoms can range from a slight headache, weak limbs, and other such aches. You may also be experiencing lethargy; your body is not used to the smaller intake of food just yet, so the breaking down of the energy is done much quicker than it was before. Your body has to balance itself with this new diet.

When you feel these symptoms, keep in mind that it is a temporary sensation. Your body is going through a regeneration process, and it can take a couple weeks or so for your body to be rid of the toxic stuff. Your body is making itself healthier now that you are keeping the bad (or at least a good amount of it) out. Don’t think of this as a detox necessarily, this reaction is happening because you have introduced those healthy foods into your body, and it must adjust.

Juicing woman

When is the best time for me to juice?

Well, many people like to replace their breakfast with juice or maybe as a snack in the middle of the day to get through a hunger pang or get a little bit of energy. Really, the best time to juice are the times your stomach is empty. So sure, breakfast time is rather ideal. It is good to do it on an empty stomach because your stomach is ready to absorb anything you put into it, thus getting those nutrients absorbed into your system much quicker. Starting your day with the juice will provide a decent amount of complex carbohydrates which give you energy; the sugar in the morning is not harmful, when you think about the sugary meal you would have maybe eaten, of the sugar in the coffee you drink, it’s not bad in comparison at all. However, if you want to have juice later on in the day maybe do a green juice, or a mixture between the two (less sugars).

What are some good fruits and vegetables for me to try out?

Well, when you first start juicing, you should start with what you know or what you’re comfortable with, but more importantly, what you actually like to eat. We don’t expect just anyone to start juicing a piece of kale and actually find it to be palatable (because lets be honest, kale isn’t an especially good tasting green, no matter how good it is for you). That being said, one thing you will need to get used to, if you choose to juice your way through your days, is consuming green juices. They are heavy in nutrients and are much better for you than fruits individually.

The good news here is that those greens you may be dreading can taste super good when combined with the right fruit(s). Start with apples, oranges, strawberries, and even carrots. They are easy on your stomach (not very acidic) and mix well with other fruits and veggies. From here is where you can introduce the vegetables and greens that are going to really make the difference in your health.

Maybe start with cucumber or spinach as you begin to introduce the veggies; these are light and really don’t add a whole lot of flavor to the overall result. Then, work your way up to the more intense greens like broccoli, cabbage, and yes, kale.

To add a bit of flavor, adding lemon juice to the mix is always a good idea. It is great for taste and it is a superfood that will help detoxify your system and increase the rate of absorption of nutrients. You can also add essential oils and vitamins to your juice to really boost things up.

So, in the end it may sound like a daunting task to actually become a juicer. You not only have to buy a juicer to do it properly (which can be costly in some cases), but there are specific ways of going about it, certain combinations that are better and more nutritious than others, and it altogether is a change in lifestyle. That all aside, it is all for the greater good and benefit of your health right? So, what will it be? To juice, or not to juice?

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Cholesterol: Get to know it; it’s sticking around for a while.

Cholesterol

It is a fairly known fact that cholesterol is something that should be monitored and regulated; that is has a very serious effect on your overall well-being, a high total of it is bad, and all that jazz. But what exactly is cholesterol? What is considered healthy? How do you keep in it check, how do you know it’s actually high, what are some things to avoid or do to insure you actually have a healthy level of it. We’ll talk about those things here briefly, along with the possibility of cholesterol reaching too low of a level.

Cholesterol levels can fall into three ranges; for adults, a normal level usually ranges from 140-200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Any levels that reach above 240 mg/dl are considered high, and as you probably guess any levels dropping below 140 mg/dl are considered low.

But before diving into different levels of cholesterol, and all of the topics that encompass it, let’s cover very quickly what cholesterol even is. It is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in the body and is actually created by the liver. The foods that we eat also contain cholesterol, so as you will see momentarily that affect our levels substantially. Cholesterol is present in just about every nook and cranny of the body, including our brains, nerves, muscles, and yes most importantly—the heart.

Why is high cholesterol a concern?

Ultimately, if you have high levels of cholesterol throughout your body, you are increasing your chances at developing cardiovascular diseases, namely heart disease. While it is not good for the rest of the usual affected areas either, the heart is the most at risk here. The cholesterol will build up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to and from your heart; if this build up gets to too high of levels, there is less blood being pumped, thus less oxygen flowing through your body. Heart attacks, stroke, and chest pain are also at risk here.  To find out your cholesterol levels, just be sure to visit your doctor and have yourself checked out. No use hiding from something as controllable as cholesterol.

heart fruits

How can I lower my cholesterol levels?

Don’t let a higher level of cholesterol scare you; your body creates it for a purpose and uses it to function properly, it’s just up to you to maintain it. That being said, there are ways to help control that pesky cholesterol, and they really are no brainers.

While such things like genetics, age, and weight are all also factors in what your levels are at naturally, actions you take can battle that. Aeorbic exercise is one of the most helpful things you can do to bring your levels down; aim for about 30-60 minutes of some type of aerobic exercise (running, swimming, biking) on most days out of the week.

Your diet is a huge contributor to the levels in your body. So it should come naturally to you that you should stop eating foods that contain high levels of fat (ice cream, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, etc.). Now you don’t need to cut it out completely, that’s nearly impossible. But start replacing those bad fats with good, healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fats. Think nuts, avocados, and other such foods.

Taking natural supplements is also a great idea, especially if your diet is not giving you sufficient nutrients and vitamins (and don’t beat yourself up over this either, a lot of people don’t get their required daily intake, so supplements are awesome!) Fish oil is an excellent one to consider; it is known to lower triglyceride levels (fatty cells, basically). Garlic is also a good supplement to take, as it is known to reduce over all levels of cholesterol on its own.

Other steps can be taken to fight high cholesterol like quitting smoking, practicing stress reduction techniques, and most importantly educating yourself on what it is you are putting in your body in the first place. Read labels, get to know the food you eat!

happy field girl

My levels are actually considered low, can this be a problem?

Low levels of cholesterol are obviously something you should strive for in terms of your health altogether; many if not almost all doctors have said there is really no huge health concern or chance of complications if your levels are below the normal level. A lot of people who are considered healthy have had extremely low levels, and never had any issues arise because of it.

However, there are always exceptions to the rules. While in general you should not worry about this, do be weary that every now and then something does come up. Your heart will be just fine, but it’s the other areas of your body that may be affected, if at all; the brain, liver, and digestive system have been known to rarely suffer from unusually low levels of cholesterol.

Some doctors have come across cases where depression and anxiety were present in people with very low levels; low levels of cholesterol can hinder the actions of serotonin. You may eventually develop higher risks of stroke; cholesterol actually helps maintain blood flow in the brain. There have also been cases of low baby weight in women who had low levels of cholesterol, and in some cases premature birth.

These are really the main concerns, and as mentioned, they rarely ever occur in conjunction with low levels of cholesterol, so do not worry yourself over it.

So, you’re saying cholesterol is not the worst thing and is here to stay?

That’s right! Cholesterol is absolutely necessary in order for your body to function properly. But, as with most things in our lives, we just need to be sure to maintain a healthy balance of it in order for it to do its job appropriately. So that of course means living in moderation and taking actions to keep yourself healthy. More than just your cholesterol is going to benefit from that!

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Blood Pressure: Is it too high, too low? What you should know.

highbloodpressure

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls as it flows through the body. It is something that is ever changing and can be forced up or down for a whole variety of reasons. It is a very reciprocal relationship between good health and having a healthy blood pressure level, one that depends greatly on your lifestyle, but can still be greatly affected by genetics and existing medical issues.

When you read your blood pressure, it has a top number (systolic: measures amount of pressure on arteries and vessels while heart is beating), and a bottom number (diastolic: pressure that is exerted on the walls of various arteries around the body between heart beats, or when the heart is relaxed).

Before diving into things, however, let it be known that a ‘normal’ blood pressure is should usually be somewhere around less than 120 over 80, or 120/80. There can be slight variations and still be considered healthy, but this is a more ideal pressure reading to have.

We will take a brief look at what may cause your blood pressure to drop or rise, how you can pin point the symptoms for either, and what potential consequences are. We will also succinctly discuss what it is you can do when you have either high or low blood pressure, to help alleviate and even get rid of those symptoms you may experience.

High Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure ultimately means that there is a high amount of tension within the vessels, making it much harder for the heart to pump blood through them. This would not necessarily mean you have emotional tension or stress, but they are both things that can contribute to a rise in blood pressure.

Other things that will contribute to heightened blood pressure include: smoking, being overweight or obese, lack of exercise, high intake of sodium, high intake of alcohol, and older age. As mentioned before, genetics and existing disease or disorders (especially those having to do with kidneys or thyroids) are big contributors to hypertension.

Some people have claimed experiencing nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping, or facial blushing as symptoms of hypertension; others have claimed headaches, nosebleeds, and blood spots in the eyes. Most of these symptoms are inconclusive, and many people will not actually experience symptoms. What is absolutely necessary is having your blood pressure checked at the least somewhat regularly by your doctor. That is the only sure way to know where your levels are at.

If you do have high blood pressure, eating healthier and involving yourself in physical activity are immediate ways to start lowering it. Not only will your blood pressure go down, but other areas of your health are going to improve as well. If you are a smoker, the obvious and really, only option there is to stop smoking. This will drastically improve your health, especially your blood pressure.

If you do not address and start to alter your life style to lower your blood pressure, you will run risks of developing heart disease, kidney disease, hardening of the arteries, eye damage, and stroke. The quicker you make efforts to normalize your pressure, the lesser chance you’ll run into any complications down the road.

blood-pressure-facts

Low Blood Pressure

Referred to as hypotension, low blood pressure is a harder issue to diagnose, because for many the point at which blood pressure could be too low varies from person to person.  In reality, the lower your blood pressure reads, the better, as long as no troubling health symptoms are present. People have had blood pressure as low as 85/55, and have experienced no health complications, so really it is definitely just something you need to pay attention to; too low of pressure could cause inadequate blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.

Some things to be weary of if they are occurring are: dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting, dehydration (which can cause low blood pressure), lack of concentration, blurred vision, nausea, cold and clammy skin, shallow breathing, fatigue, and even depression.  A lot of these symptoms can be symptoms of so many other ailments, even just the common cold. So if they persist you should definitely have yourself checked out.

Hypotension can also be a symptom itself of underlying problems; heart problems, endocrine problems, severe infection, allergic reaction, or nutritional deficiencies could be the actual issue you’re facing, and a drop in blood pressure could be telling you something. Alcoholism can also cause a severe drop in blood pressure; it was listed above in relation to hypertension, which with it being related to both, it should just be clear that alcohol should be consumed in total moderation.

Having too low of blood pressure as mentioned is not necessarily going to be a complete health issue; it is also very avoidable if you’re sure to take care of yourself. Be sure to drink plenty of water, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get checked by your doctor. Low blood pressure is a much easier thing to deal with, if it gets too low. In many cases however, it won’t, so don’t worry too much about it. This complication mostly occurs with elderly people, who are possibly going to have a higher chance of the above mentioned health issues.

When it comes down to it…

Unless you have unfortunately inherited a tendency to have high blood pressure, or have developed a disease or disorder that would bring it on, the ball is completely in your court in terms of what your blood pressure levels are at. As we have seen, too low of blood pressure is very rare, and high blood pressure can be brought down through very easy means. It is not only avoidable, but very controllable.

As long as you take care of yourself and insure you are leading a healthier life, your blood pressure will be of small concern to you.

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