Writing an article about the health benefits of juicing to
a largely Macrobiotic audience has quite a different focus
(and boiling point) than the same topic written to the general
health conscious public. The reason for this is because of
the often strongly held beliefs that the early, most well-known
Macrobiotic books and teachers taught us.
Granted, the argument of what Macrobiotics is, and what it
is not, will be a discussion that will go on long after we
are all pushing up daisies. But when I graduated from the
Kushi Institute in 1985, one of the beliefs that we took from
the Beckett, MA classroom read something like this: "Be
careful of raw food. Juicing can make you too cold, too mentally
spacey, and isn't good for cancer and other illnesses. Besides,
it's yin, and you know how bad yin can be."
Based on blind faith, I did believe that for the first few
years after graduating. Then, as it happens, something called
"personal experience" made me confront that belief.
This came about from the same two things that come into play
whenever one of my cherished certainties starts getting in
the way of reality. The first was meeting people who did not
hold this belief and who were doing quite well (in some ways,
better than me). The second was my own experience of juicing
and how great it made me feel.
Quick Squeeze History
Squeezing the liquid from plants is as old as agriculture
itself, but it wasn't until the first quarter of the 20th
century that juicing started to become popular as a tool for
improving health. This came about largely because of two converging
forces: the growing popularity of the Naturopathic and Natural
Hygiene movements (both which were seeing results with fresh
vegetable juicing), and a couple of timely technologies: refrigeration
and juice extractors.
The first home juice extractor was not invented until the
1930s. It was called the Norwalk Juicer, by nutritionist Dr.
Norman Walker. Walker was a fascinating thinker and health
practitioner, on the same par as many of my own early health
teachers. His exact age isn't known, but he was purportedly
over 110 years old when he finally died in 1984. His juicer
worked by grating produce, placing the resulting mash in a
bag, and then squeezing the bag under a hydraulic press. It
was big and clunky, but it made great juice, and much of Walker's
first books were filled with testimonies that rivaled Macrobiotic
The next big innovation came in 1955 with the Champion juicer.
The Champion was the first to pioneer the idea of forcing
the pulp through a screen during the grating process. This
shrunk the juicer down to kitchen counter size. From that
point on, the juicer extraction business exploded. Manufacturers
started coming up with hundreds of models, trying different
modes of extraction, and becoming smaller and easier to use
over time. With ease and availability, tens of thousands of
consumers purchased juicers and started adding to the pile
of empirical evidence that showed the healing properties of
A side note here: the concept of "empirical evidence"
is an important one to any of us involved in the natural healing
model. Empiricism loosely means "evidence derived from
personal experience." Why important? In a culture that
generally only teaches, acknowledges and validates the "scientific
method" of evidence, where the only truth accepted is
that concluded through laboratories, double blind studies
and lots of small rodents, empirical evidence allows each
of us to be our own human laboratory, our own walking Petri
dish. As the Internet becomes more and more the giant Alexandria's
Library that it is, I believe that each of our empirical "hey,
this is what is happening to me when I do XYZ" science
projects are going to play a larger and larger role in how
we determine what works and what doesn't. This sharing of
experiences will not only help others in their search for
healing, it will also be a powerful method for getting rid
of dogmatic beliefs.
Advantages of Juicing
Juicing's biggest health benefit can be summarized in one
phrase: cellular cleansing.
Bar none, cellular cleansing is the single biggest reason
for why I have stayed drug free, pain free, and symptom free
for the past 29 years.
What type of cleansing have I done? Every kind that has ever
been thought up. Imagine us all being kids again and we have
spent the day out in a big huge pile of beautiful dirt, digging
holes, making castles, playing with toys, living large. We
come back inside and it's time to clean up. How? Every which
way; we clean our hair, our nails, our skin, our feet, our
backs, our ears... wherever the dirt and gunk of the day got
into. Same goes for cleansing our insides, and juicing cleanses
the cells faster than any other food that I've found.
Cleansing is not "new, and improved." We are all
cleansing right now, and have been since the moment of conception.
Every cell is constantly peeing and pooping. Every time we
breathe out, we've cleansed our body of the metabolic waste
known as carbon dioxide. Every time we have a bowel movement,
our body is eliminating old cellular material (interesting:
up to 40% of every bowel movement is dead cells). Cleansing
occurs because our body's cells are constantly dying and being
replaced with new cells. Our spleen and liver and stomach
cells do it, our intestinal walls do it, even our bones and
muscle cells do this regeneration circle of life. All vegetable
juicing does is improve this spring-cleaning regeneration
Juicing works so well at cleansing because of a few reasons:
1. There is hardly any digestive work
needed to process raw, enzymatically active liquid.
Vegetable juice gets into the system quickly.
2. Squeezed vegetable juice is very nutrient-dense.
This concentration acts to supercharge the system in
the same way that herbal tinctures work. One of the
$10 words we are going to hear more about over the next
few years is "phytonutrients," or plant chemicals.
They are proving-as those who have switched to whole
foods always have known-to be the key behind keeping
our bodies free of cancer, digestive problems, and other
3. The most important, and most overlooked, reason:
juicing cleans the liver. I believe that the next big
advance in understanding health will be in acknowledging
the importance of self-detoxifying and de-sludging our
liver. Sure, if you look into any human biology book,
it already tells us that there are now over 700 known
functions of the liver. But what we don't realize is
how that functionality is dependent on how unclogged
Liver cleansing is actually easy, because the
number one job of the liver is to ...cleanse the blood!
In other words, every drop of your nine pints of blood
runs constantly through the liver, removing toxins and
metabolic waste every second of every day of your life.
Since crushed vegetable juice goes quickly into the
blood stream, it goes quickly into the liver as well.
I cannot say this enough: a cleansed liver is a felt
sensation. Improving its function seems to affect everything,
from mental clarity and focus, to emotions, to sleep,
to how stress is handled, our digestion, our skin, even
how we perceive and deal with-at least in my experience-relationships
Sometimes I think the word "juicing" is the
wrong word. We should just call it "Liver Desludging
and Overall Life Enhancement Liquid." Liver detoxification
is so important, and nothing comes close to it like
the juice of raw vegetables.
How to Start
Beg, Borrow, or Buy a Juicer
If you're new to juicing, borrow one from a friend.
Once you feel the benefits, buy your own. There are
three distinct and valid ways to do that:
1. Buy a used on eBay. Use the two ideas below to guide
2. Buy a starter juicer. These will run from $50-150,
and will last a year or two before burning out. This
can be a quite suitable way to test out juicing in your
3. Buy a juicer that will outlive you. These will start
around $200 (for the Champion) and can go up to the
$390-$600 range (for the twin-helical gear models).
There are juicers priced beyond this, but for home juicing,
they are unnecessary.
What Kind of Juicer
Having experimented with a dozen models over the years,
I think the finest juicers on the market right now are
the twin-helical gear units. There are about six models
to choose from, available in both 110 and 220v, and
competitively priced throughout the Internet. Regardless
of the hype you will read, they are ALL good, and ALL
made by two extremely reputable manufacturers in Korea.
And they will all last for ten years or longer. There
are many reasons why they are so good, but I'll quickly
mention two: 1. they juice leafy greens and wheatgrass
(no more need for two separate juicers!); and 2. they
spin at very low speeds (below 200 rpm), thus avoiding
oxidation of the juice.
What to Juice
Every plant on earth has distinct properties and effects
on our body, and since life is an experiment, you can
juice anything you want. To start out, though, here
are some suggested vegetables that work well on a regular
The "baseline" vegetables:
carrots, parsnips, cabbage, beets, celery, cucumbers,
broccoli, burdock root...
The bitter greens: kale, collards, parsley, wheatgrass,
lettuces, dandelion, watercress...
The "high note" vegetables: onions,
ginger, radish, chives
The "high note" fruits: apples, lemons,
limes, oranges, cranberries, grapes
Recipes: Bah Humbug
Juicing with recipes is not necessary. To begin, try
Start with equal parts of carrots, cucumber and celery
Add a piece of ginger and handful of parsley.
Add 10% from the bitter green list.
Add a piece of apple or citrus
General Juicing Tips
Start a simple experiment of 1 to 2 cups of juice every
day for 28 days. Juice lasts in a refrigerated tightly
closed glass jar for at least 2-3 days, so you can juice
every other day.
In general, make your juice taste good. That said, I
divide vegetable juices into two categories:
Delicious juice. This is the kind that you drink and
immediately think "ahhh!" You could drink
a quart a day, even your UPS driver would like it, and
it's generally enjoyed any time.
Tequila juice. This is the kind of medicinal
juice that you sip and immediately make a face. This
is the intensely green drink, the kind that immediately
opens up every duct in your gall bladder and liver.
I call it this name because it's best done in small
1 to 4 ounce amounts, shot back like you would tequila,
and works best if you finish with a grimace, a grin,
and a loud "Yeah!"
Try a little of both kinds each week.
I'm generally not a big fan of using my juicer to make
and consume 100% fruit juices. I love fruit, I find
it one of best quick energy sources and can be very
healing in their own way, but I would rather just eat
an apple or orange.
That said, don't be afraid to add some citrus, rind
and all. Or half an apple, a few grapes, or a handful
of cranberries. Before I ever started juicing, I would
have presumed that vegetable juice would not digest
well with fruit juice. What I found was what many of
the juicing authors and experimenters were saying: a
bit of lemon and lime actually do quite well when combined
with most vegetables. I've also found this true with
apples and cranberries.
To avoid clogging the screens and having to clean them
mid-juicing, alternate your soft and hard produce. This
will help clear out the screens. Done right, I can juice
a full quart without having to stop and clean the screen.
I don't think it is necessary to get too specific about
which juice works best for each condition and symptom.
I would just start juicing. Still, it's interesting
to note that every vegetable has its own particular
Cucumber juice is thought to clean your kidneys,
lower high blood pressure and improve skin problems
(I've found this skin part to be especially true).
Cabbage juice is one of the most healing nutrients for
stomach repair. Contains sulfur and selenium, both which
are good for joint stiffness. While cooked cabbage can
give me gas (ask my wife), I digest raw cabbage with
Beets are famous for their ability to cleanse
the blood and strengthen the gall bladder and liver.
Beet juice is very concentrated, so a little goes a
long way; try 20% of the total amount.
Broccoli: Even the staid National Cancer Institute is
excited about this plant, saying that it's showing anti-cancer
properties. A strong taste, so I only add about 10%.
Apples: I think tart apples are one of the most
underrated healing foods we have. Apples contain malic
acid, which is capable of softening gallstones and other
hardening the body. In August, when organic, wild apples
are falling off the trees around our Colorado county,
I take that as a hint to clean out my liver. My wife
and I will drive around and get a bushel of these amazing
little apples and juice them up (it's one of the few
times I drink 100% fruit juice). There are few things
in life that make people roll their eyes up in ecstasy,
and this apple juice we make is one of them. If there
is a heaven, they serve it there.
Celery: long considered a nerve tonic. Parsley: amazing
plant, very high in chlorophyll.
Cranberries: Contains quercetin and tannins,
flavonoids that are getting a lot of attention for their
anti-bacterial, inflammatory and tumor properties. Seems
to help cleanse the kidneys, because it helps lower
uric acid levels (often associated with gout, kidney
gravel, and joint pain). One of the few frozen foods
I'll let into my juice, mainly because you can now get
raw, organic cranberries in the freezer section.
Collards and Kale: more calcium than milk, and in an
extremely bio-available form.
If you do use fruit in your juice, especially apple,
don't eat anything solid for 60-90 minutes afterwards,
to prevent indigestion. Let the juice do its work by
itself, so that it is the only thing in your digestive
A pinch of Celtic gray sea salt can perk up many juices.
I never put garlic in my juice. I eat raw garlic all
the time (there is no stronger anti fungal/bacterial/viral
food out there) and it's one of life's true superfoods,
but I refuse to make my juices taste that bad.
I use ginger all the time, especially in combination
with apple. Wheatgrass is an alkalinizing miracle unto
itself; belongs to the "tequila juice" category.
I always drink it separate from my other juice, and
I always mix in a half lemon. A little onion (like 1%)
goes a long way.
Beliefs That Get in the Way of Juicing
"Vegetable juice contains too much sugar"
I've seen people eat flour-based "health"
desserts on a regular basis and then say they don't
juice because "juice has too much sugar."
I'd suggest exactly the opposite: one evening, instead
of eating flour products (yes, including macrobiotic
noodles...) try juicing before your dinner.
I pray for the day when our children's largest health
problem is too much sweetness from fresh vegetable juice.
I can't wait to hear those complaints: "Did you
hear what they're now serving in the vending machines
at my kid's grade school? Fresh carrot and celery juice!
That's way too much sugar for my kid! Yeah, I want them
to go back to the Snicker's bars."
If vegetable juice is too sweet for you, cut it in half
"Juicing isn't suggested for cancer"
Only someone who doesn't read from a very wide swath
of data could possibly have come up with this. Successful
cancer cures-current and going back to early 20th century
naturopathic treatments-involve raw vegetable liquid.
Juicing has saved lives.
"Juicing isn't natural"
(Also known as the "if god had intended us to eat
this way, he'd have given us juicers" belief).
Is wearing shoes natural? How about pressure-cooking?
How about moving over the ground at 70 mph while hanging
onto a steering wheel?
"Juicing is too concentrated"
(This also lies in the "if god had intended..."
category) Ever use herbal formulas? Those are concentrated
herbs. Salt is concentrated minerals. Your body can
handle a bit of concentration.
"Juicing is too cooling"
Then put on a sweater and exercise until you sweat!
This often-spouted belief just drives me crazy, and
I have never, ever heard it said by an athlete; it only
comes from people who do not exercise.
Is your body really that precious and delicate? Are
you sure? Can we not torque and play with our core energetics
more than we think? I have had a sauna in my backyard
for years, where I regularly sit, like my extraordinarily
healthy ancestors did, for one to two hours in temperatures
that hover around 180ºF/82ºC. Every 30 minutes,
I (and my guests) run outside to the 3' by 5' cold plunge
pool where,-during the Colorado winter-we have to chip
away or slide out the 4-inch slab of ice before plunging
into the water for a count to 15 (that's right, 15 seconds;
one of the house rules). We do this weekly, often more.
Along with raw garlic and miso soup, I don't have a
method of kicking out viruses, bacteria, or sore throats
better than these amazing sauna rounds. Think about
this: sauna rounds purposely get me really hot and then
get me really cold. And I have not had a cold or flu
"Juicing is too yin, and makes you spaced out"
Compared to what... coffee? Macrobiotic Brick Desserts?
Give me a break. This cold/yin thing has gone too far.
Blaming juicing on the initial spacey feeling that is
sometimes felt is like blaming miso soup on a skin discharge.
It isn't the juice, folks. It's the metabolic waste
that gets released into the bloodstream and brain when
you start detoxifying.
I, too, have met very spacey people who tell me that
they're "into juicing" and are juicing all
the time. If you'll dig a bit deeper, you'll find out
that they are also doing a lot of pot and other drugs,
or have done their fare share of them in their past.
Drugs, along with other everyday toxins, can be stored
in our fat and liver cells. Juicing cleanses the liver,
releasing these temporarily into the body.
"Juicing makes you acidic"
Absolutely nonsense. If you don't think it's alkalinizing,
try this: do two shots of wheatgrass every day for two
weeks. Just two, 1-ounce shots of liquid wheatgrass
a day. Then test your urine with one of those pH strips.
Unless you've been doing too many of those brick desserts,
you will see a rise in overall pH. Juicing can reduce
Squeezing vegetables isn't the Be All, End All to staying
healthy. And it's certainly not the main ingredient
of my diet. But it has helped me stay flexible and symptom-free
for the past two decades. Like many of the great ideas
and concepts that we learned from Macrobiotics, juicing
is one more brilliant tool that we can use to stay healthy.
My advice: lighten up. Try a 28-day program, where you
eat what you normally eat, but you also add a cup or
two of freshly prepared vegetable juice each day. Don't
be alarmed if you go through a bit of detoxification
in the first couple weeks. That's normal, and temporary,
and the blessing of the plant kingdom.
And remember the concept of empiricism: we are all our
own walking Petri dish, and others need to hear of your
experiences. And I would love to hear your results.
Please post them, or ask me any questions, on my online
forum, at www.HowHealthWorks.com.
Scott Ohlgren studied whole food nutrition at
the 9-month Kushi Institute Graduate Program. He became
a certified Rolfing Practitioner in 1988. He has sold
over 90,000 tapes, videos and books on the diet/disease,
diet/health connection. He is currently board-certified
as a Holistic Health Practitioner by the American Association
of Drugless Practitioners. Each month, his online 28-day
Cleansing Program at www.HowHealthWorks.com takes hundreds
of participants through the same process that he learned
25 years ago. His latest book, Cellular Cleansing Made
Easy, is available at Amazon.com. Scott paraglides,
skis, and has been a scuba diver since 1980. He and
his wife Gael live in Boulder, Colorado with cat Lila,
and an outside sauna and cold plunge. His next big acquisition
will be a goat and a few chickens, to mess with the