It is well-accepted by an increasing number of health professionals that many plant foods have detoxifying, immune boosting and repairing properties that the body can use to optimise health. Along with whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables are recognised as key foods in a cancer prevention, fighting and recovery diet. For a variety of reasons many people undergoing treatment want to increase their intake of plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. But just when you may want to start making some positive dietary changes your body may tell you, in no uncertain terms, to ‘hold fire’.
Why juice? Due to chemotherapy’s effects on the digestive tract fibre-containing foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, can cause discomfort and pain when being digested. This pain and discomfort is also a sign that you may not be absorbing as much of the nutrients from your food as would be hoped.
But even if your digestion is affected by your treatment you can still help yourself to most anything in the produce aisle – by juicing. For those on treatment, or who have compromised gut function, juicing is a fantastic way of keeping in the fruits and vegetables that might otherwise have to be avoided during this time. With juicing you get most of the nutrients without the bulk.
Additionally, for those with a poor appetite, or who are losing weight, emphasis needs to be on higher-calorie, higher fat foods. Fruits and vegetables, although obviously very nutritious, are not always appropriate in quantity as they can leave you full without taking in enough calories or fat. Juicing can help provide nutrients during this time.
Even when you are able to eat a varied diet juicing can provide additional nutritional ‘insurance’ during treatment when overall nutrient needs are greater, but absorption of nutrients is lessened. I like to think of juicing as a natural liquid supplement.
So, why not drink supermarket-bought juices, you may ask? Well, they are perfectly adequate as a nice refreshing drink, and one glass can count as part of your ‘five-a-day’ (the latter of which is woefully low), but are not hugely nutritious; at least not as much as the average person thinks. The shelf-life extending double pasteurisation they are usually required to undergo zaps the life out of most of them. Some nutrients will survive but will inevitably be compromised. Many nutritionists think bought juices are no better than soft drinks. I don’t agree, but freshly juiced fruits and vegetables (and the variety you introduce) are without doubt vastly superior.
Before you start juicing. Most of the recipes on this page are termed ‘green’ juices, even though some of them are definitely not green in colour. These are quite different to juices you get in the supermarket. Pure green juices are very powerful and are usually tempered with sweeter or milder vegetables and fruits, typically apples and carrots. If you wish to experiment make sure that not more than one-quarter of your juice is green: this especially applies to spinach, kale, dandelion and beetroot (Romaine lettuce is okay in quantity though).
Novice juicers should start with a breakfast glass size (150ml/5 oz), diluting with water if desired. Share the remaining juice with other family members or save in a thermos or bottle and keep in the fridge. Juice loses its potency very quickly but will still be very good for you if drunk within 24 hours. Vary the type of juices that you have for a better spread of nutrients and to ensure that you don’t have too much of a good thing (e.g. too much spinach can inhibit the absorption of calcium). Resist the temptation to undergo a ‘juice fast’ or drink more than half a litre per day.
All of the juices below have immune enhancing nutrients and some have nutrients that specifically support particular organs in the body and may have ‘anti-cancer’ properties. Although there are no rules really when it comes to juicing these recipes give guidance as to amounts and combinations. Drink first thing in the morning before breakfast to get the full benefit, but any time is great.
On Chemo? Although juicing can be a great way to get in much-needed and valuable fruit and veg when treatment-related appetite and digestion are poor, you do have to be careful. Always, always thoroughly scrub and rinse all produce before juicing (even if you peel it). And make sure your juicer, cutting board and knife are scrupulously clean. If you are neutropenic you will probably be advised to have your produce cooked rather than raw/juiced. If this is the case, a good quality commercial juice or smoothie makes a good substitute for ‘the real thing.’ I don’t advise juicing or eating raw sprouts during treatment or when immune function is low – the risk of bacterial infection is much higher in sprouts than for most other plant foods. Always ask your treatment team/physician if it is okay for you to continue juicing while undergoing treatment, but do tell them it is not to replace food. Some doctors do worry that their patients will go on juice fasts. That is something I do not advocate under any circumstance.
And just to be super clear: juicing is NOT more nutritious than eating whole vegetables and fruits, but it can help with nutrient intake when digestion, appetite or desire - for whatever reason – are compromised.
Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Preparation:
Which juicer? You can find a range of juicers – from the cheap and serviceable to the expensive and covetable – on sale at department stores, ‘catalogue’ stores (like Argos in the UK), or online. Check supermarkets, too. The most popular, easily available and cheapest option is the centrifugal juicer. These juicers have a high speed, spinning fine-toothed ‘basket’ blade that minutely shreds the produce, separating the juice from the fibre. When choosing a centrifugal juicer try and get one with the highest wattage as this will ensure that you get more delicious juice and less wet pulp (i.e. the waste – good for the compost heap).
Some nutritionists advise purchasing a masticating/auger juicer, as the lower speed may leave more nutrients undamaged by the heat that centrifugal machines create. These juicers are usually much more expensive and work by slowly chewing (masticating) and pressing rather than tearing the produce. They also produce juice with more pulpy fibre. Depending on your needs, both are great ways of getting fresh, phytochemical-rich juice. Personally I think that the centrifugal juicer is a good way to introduce yourself to juicing and may be best if you are finding fibre tricky for now, as they are the ‘clearest’. The juice from masticating juicer is more textured and lasts longer, but if you are juicing ‘to order’ this doesn’t seem to matter much. Here is an explanation of the two types of juicers, with pros and cons for each.
Which fruits and vegetables? Almost anything that you would eat whole can be juiced. During treatment perhaps concentrate on those ultra-nutritious things that you are finding difficult to chew or digest – broccoli, cabbage, celery, kale, beetroot – sweetening them with beta-carotene rich carrots, quercetin-containing apples and tropicals like pineapple. Add in some herbs too. But really, do your own thing!
Preparation: Regardless of whether or not you use organic, all fruit and veg should be thoroughly scrubbed, topped and tailed. Apples and fruits with hard seeds should ideally be quartered and seeds removed. Oranges should have immediate skin removed but keep the white pith; lemons and limes can keep their skin but you may remove these if you find it too bitter; fold up leaf vegetables and insert into the juicer with either a carrot or the ‘pusher’; ‘sandwich’ softer things like limes between hard produce such as carrot and apple. Cut up everything just before using to retain the optimum amount of nutrients. Blend in bananas and soft fruits, if using, with a hand blender (blender stick) after juicing the other produce. Sieve the seeds as necessary. Some people juice the berries but I don’t find they juice all that well, at least with a centrifugal juicer.
Juicing Ideas – these make 1-2 servings, as tolerated
Beetroot Blaster: small or ½ medium beetroot, 2 large carrots, 2 apples, ½ lime, knob ginger (about 2 cm) – this is my favourite juice and is quite energising so don’t have this at bedtime! Divide this juice into two servings, or share.
Raspberry Soothie: 2 carrots, 1 pear, 1 apple, ½ lime, knob of fresh ginger, 100 g fresh/frozen raspberries (blend the raspberries into the juice with a hand blender). Absolutely delicious!
Best Green Juice: ½ bunch broccoli (florets and stalks), 2 carrots, 2 apples, 1 kiwi, ½ mango, ½ lime, 1 small banana (blended in with hand blender when everything juiced). You won’t taste the broccoli; a good one for children and broccoli-phobes.
Easy Broccoli Juice: ½ bunch broccoli (stalks and florets), 3 carrots, 2 apples
Mega Nutrient Juice: ½ beet, 2 handfuls spinach, 8 Romaine lettuce leaves, 2 kale leaves, 4 carrots, 1 apple
Kale Magic: 3 large kale leaves, 1 handful spinach, 8 Romaine leaves, 4 apples
‘Cleanser’ Juice: handful parsley, handful spinach, 1 stalk celery, 4 carrots, 1 apple, 2 cm ginger
Red Cabbage Wonder Juice (full of glucosinolate): 200 gm (ish) red cabbage, 3 carrots, 2 apples
Green Dream: 2 apples, 1 stalk celery, 2 handfuls spinach, handful parsley, 5 Romaine leaves
Tropical Papaya Juice: 1 papaya (deseeded), handful strawberries, ½ lime, banana (optional, blended in with hand blender) – good for weight gain
Pineapple Digester Juice: ½ ripe pineapple (scrub skin very well), 2 cm ginger, ½ lime (optional)
Gut-tastic Pear Juice: 1 pear, 1 apple, handful black or purple grapes, small knob ginger (optional)
Kidney Flush Juice: 1 handful cranberries (if frozen, defrost for ½ hour; juice cranberries first), 2-3 apples
Tropical Russian: 1 apple, I carrot, ¼ sm red cabbage, ½ medium beetroot, small knob gingerroot, 1 orange, 1/8 pineapple
Tropical Storm: ¼ pineapple, ½ lime, 2 apples, ½ large mango (this blended in with hand blender) – good for weight gain.
Here is some guidance if you want to do your own thing with juicing.
Best Fruits and Vegetables for Juicing
Below are lists of common foods that are known to be useful in preventing and fighting cancer. These items should be consumed fresh and raw in order to get the full benefits, which is why juicing is such a powerful add on. Try any combination that you find appealing, but do try and have lower sugar combination or have the fruity ones with something containing protein or fat to slow the sugar absorption. Other than that, No Rules!
Cruciferous Vegetables contain very powerful anti-cancer properties. Some cruciferous vegetables are:
- Collard Greens - Kale - Cabbages (especially red and purple) - Cauliflower (including stems) - Broccoli - Turnip – Chinese greens – any strong tasting and smelling leafy green vegetables
Beta Carotene is another powerful cancer fighting ingredient found in foods. These foods include:
- Carrots - Peppers (chili, green, red, yellow) - Leafy Greens (mustard, romaine, collards, kale, turnip greens, spinach, dandelion) – Mango (not too much because of sugar content)
Proanthocyanidins (or PACs) are powerful cancer fighters as well. Foods that contain PACs include:
- Beets (not the leaves as may be hard on kidneys) - Blueberry - Dark Plums - Purple Grapes (with seeds and skin) – Raspberries – Pomegranates
Other fruits that contain powerful cancer-fighting ingredients include: Pineapple - Tomato - Dark Berries (strawberry, blueberry, red raspberry, black raspberry) – Papaya
Add ginger, cinnamon, garlic, lemons, limes, apples or a pinch of turmeric, according to taste and type of juice you are making. Tropical fruits are good to help disguise cruciferous vegetables. Citrus goes with any juice. Depending on treatment, some people may need to avoid grapefruit juice.
There are plenty of websites and books with great ideas, so explore and experiment to your heart’s content. For deciding what juicer to buy, have a look at harvestessentials.com and ukjuicers.com. Some good-looking green juice recipes can be found at omegajuicers.com and zestycook.com. Additionally, the livestrong.com website is full of juicing pages and links. PS New juice recipes are usually posted on my sidebar every week.
Please read the Disclaimer on my ‘About’ page before acting on any information in this article.