Spring Cleansing

Jessica Patton Pellegrino
Blended or Juiced, It’s a Great Time of Year to Drink Your Greens
Recently, after watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, my husband announced he was doing a juice cleanse. Now, this is a guy whose favorite “juice” is Hawaiian Punch. He regards vegetables as delivery systems for mayonnaise. He quit smoking six months ago and substituted carbs for Camels, and consequently gained 30 pounds. The movie had found its target audience.

So when he asked me to help him embark on a five-day cleanse, I enthusiastically got on board. At first I fancied myself the healthier supportive spouse but, in truth, my own eating habits were due for a tune-up. While I have a fairly “clean” diet (vegetarian, minimal processed foods), someone installed a motion-sensitive candy machine at work. What this means is that if you happen to wave an open palm under its spout, M&M’S pour forth. If you happen to do it two or three times per week, then per day, within a month your occasional indulgence has become a habit rivaling your spouse’s former nicotine addiction.

We don’t own a juicer, but I was gifted a Vitamix a few months back. It is a beast of a blender. I’ve used it to grind nuts, grate cheese, make frozen desserts and sauces, destroy forensic evidence … and it recently dawned on me that the “HOT SOUPS” setting might actually make, you know, soup that was hot. It does. But I know the Vitamix doesn’t make juice, because I’m no dummy, and because there’s no “JUICE” button.

Now, I personally love smoothies and don’t mind the texture of pureed greens, but my husband isn’t a fan of pulp, and the FS&ND director, Joe Cross, advises juice over smoothies for the “reboot,” as he calls the cleanse. I can’t speak to the scientific-nutritional differences between smoothies (i.e., pulverized whole fruits and veggies) versus extracted juice minus the produce’s insoluble fiber, but if your preference is juice—yet you don’t own a juicer, or are trying to decide between purchasing a blender or a juicer—here’s a helpful tip I found on several raw food forums (those raw foodies are some resourceful folks!):

I blend all ingredients (this morning’s concoction, for example, was baby spinach, apples, pears, lemon, celery and ginger), then strain the mixture through a nylon jelly bag. I picked up a two-pack at Agway in the canning section; they seem identical to the paint straining bags a couple aisles over, and probably are, but I bought the hopefully food grade ones, just in case. They both say “Made in China.” I’m sure they’re the same, and the paint ones are cheaper. Caveat emptor. (Something similar, marketed as a nut milk bag, is available on health food sites, Amazon and eBay.)

Anyway, I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, but I suspect this method takes no longer than using a juicer, because the Vitamix is so easy to clean compared to most (all?) juicers. I put the bag in a coffee filter cone atop a wide-mouthed jar, pour in the smoothie and let ‘er drip. The process can be sped along by twisting/squeezing the bag. I’ve also tried inserting the straining bag into a Mason jar, pouring in maybe a cup at a time and twisting/ lifting the bag to extract the juice. The narrowish mouth of the jar assists in forcing out the juice. With the first method I’m able to walk away from it and tend to other things for a few minutes, letting gravity do the work. Either way, after squeezing down the bag, the remaining roughage is nearly dry, and there’s very little of it. The raw forum suggested making burgers or crackers with it. (I give it to our hens.) I hope I’m with some “live food” advocates when Armageddon strikes, because I suspect they will laugh in the face of massive power outages and get busy weaving shelters out of wheatgrass.

My husband lost 10 pounds in five days and felt very energetic—albeit hungry—the whole time. I ate vegan soups and salads in addition to two or three glasses of juice each day, and have managed to take the long route around the M&M machine since then. For both of us, the cleanse indeed felt like hitting the restart button on our eating habits, radically upped the amount of micronutrients in our diets and got us in the habit of juicing every day—something our kids are benefiting from as well.