I recently went on a college road trip with my three teenage daughters. While I enjoy traveling, I don’t enjoy eating out on consecutive nights, because even if we go to “healthy” restaurants, it’s just not the same as home-cooked food. When I get home, I feel like I need to “lighten up.” In the past, I was tempted to go on a juice cleanse, thinking that it would help me shed the excess from my travels. I have come to learn that juice cleanses are not as healthy — for us or the environment — as they might seem.
First of all, in terms of our health, juices are a very concentrated form of sugar because all the fiber has been removed (yes, that’s all the stuff that never makes it into the juice). The problem with sugar is the not the sugar per se, it’s the fact that it lacks fiber and therefore the sugars are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, producing a sugar rush. When we consume too much sugar, the excess energy produced becomes stored as fat, and eventually causes weight gain. The same thing happens when we consume juices that are devoid of fiber. We get the same sugar rush as if we were having a soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage. The lack of fiber in a juice causes another problem because it limits the good bacteria in our gut. Bacteria thrive on fiber. In turn, good bacteria help keep us healthy because 80% of our immune system is in our gut, and the balance of good and bad bacteria in our bodies helps regulate our bodies’ inflammatory responses (you can read more about this in my blog posts from September 2015 and February 2016). So, really, those juices that look so healthful and light, are just a concentrated form of sugar without many additional health benefits.
In terms of the environment, juices (cold-pressed juices, specifically) aren’t so great either. According to a recent article in the Summer 2016 issue of Modern Farmer magazine (modernfarmer.com), a 16oz. juice produces 3.5lbs. of pulp waste (which can’t even be used in compost because it’s too difficult, but also breaks down too quickly). In 2015, 175,000 tons of pulp waste ended up in landfills. Once there, the pulp rots and produces methane gas. So, for 175,000 tons of pulp waste, the equivalent of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere – a big problem for the environment.
I have found that I much prefer soups to juices because they contain all the nutrients and vitamins that juices have, in addition to fiber. So, after I returned from my travels, I made a big pot of Chilled Carrot and Fennel Soup. See the recipe below:
Chilled Carrot & Fennel Soup
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 heads of fennel, coarsely chopped (if you
can, reserve the fronds for garnish)
6 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crème fraîche (optional)
- 1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add onions, fennel, and carrots; and saute until soft.
- 2. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil; cover and lower heat.
- 3. Simmer until vegetables are soft, 30-40 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 4. Allow soup to cool, then purée in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- 5. Serve with a dollop of Crème fraîche, if desired.
READ PAST ARTICLES
The Hidden Half of Nature
The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
David R. Montgomery & Anne Bikle
I recently attended a lecture series at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. The lecture series examines the connection between how food is grown and our health (the last lecture will be on July 21 – check out this link if you want more information or are interested in attending www.stonebarnscenter.org/visit/the-prescription.html). The first lecture was given by David R. Montgomery, a geologist, and Anne Bikle, a biologist, and was based on their book The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health.
The book examines the role of microbes in the health of the soil and, subsequently, our environment and our health. For many years, microbes were reviled and scientists sought to find ways to get rid of them. In their book, Montgomery and Bikle explore how microbes in the soil affect the health of plants, how the microbes in our gut affect our health, and how recent research has led scientists to come to terms with the fact that microbes actually play an important role in both soil health and human health. As Montgomery and Bikle note, “Long neglected, the beliefs of these early prophets of organic agriculture are proving remarkably prescient as scientists today unravel the myriad ways in which communities of microbes influence the cycling of nutrients from rock and soil organic matter to plants. We also know that a plant’s interaction with certain soil microbes influences the production of photochemicals that bolster plant defenses and health – and the health of people and animals that eat them.” (P. 230)
More than just an examination of the evolution of scientists’ view of microbes, the book is a call to revisit our relationship to nature. Towards the end of the 19th century, scientists discovered that nitrogen in the soil could yield significant gains in agricultural production. Thus began the development of fertilizers to increase crop yields, at the expense of the soil. At the same time, germ theory became one of the main concepts in modern-day medicine. Germ Theory postulates that diseases are caused by micro-organisms in the body. Therefore, it became crucial to rid the body of these micro-organisms. Hence the development of antibiotics, vaccines, and other modes of preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. What scientists are learning now, however, is that we need to rethink the use of fertilizers as well as germ theory because not all micro-organisms are bad, and that too clean an environment can actually be detrimental to our health and that of the environment.
Here’s a list of my planned summer reading and watching:
The Dorito Effect
by Mark Schatzker
Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
by Lizzie Collingham
The Dirt Cure
by Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein
The Good Gut
Taking Control of
Your Weight, Your
Mood, and Your
by Justin Sonnenburg and
Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs
Chef’s Table – Season 2