I guess you could say that it all started for me in early 2016. That’s when I first started researching the use of nutrition to heal. Thinking that I couldn’t even consider doing something as drastic as plant-based, I started focusing on all the information out there regarding added sugar. I was finding literature linking artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame with either the onset of, or incidents of flares amongst fibromyalgia patients. The more I read the more I was convinced that going sugar-free was going to help me reduce inflammation and with any luck, pains – at least levels of. I was successfully completely sugar-free (not counting natural sugars such as fructose) for about 4 months. My problem came when I tried to eliminate Gluten along side it. Having already given up most flours already, I thought it would be easy. Hahahahaha. That’s all I have to say about that!!
Anyway, I did feel better during my time sugar-free and most of the principles it taught me, stuck. I think the biggest difference I saw was in my fatigue. When I look back on it now, I realise how it started the habits and knowledge of more whole food options and alternatives. As luck would have it, it’s been a good foundation for what I’m doing now, in as much that my pantry is already pretty much stocked appropriately and I know what to do with these previously foreign ingredients. Bonus.
Most importantly, I had a wealth of smoothie recipes in my arsenal, which has been a staple for me over the past year, and in turn, led me to research the differences between juicing and smoothies. On my recipe hunts, I would come across all these yummy sounding juicing recipes and I wondered whether I should add this into my routine, what were the benefits of this over my morning smoothie? As it turns out, it’s a beautiful combination. It’s not particularly that one is better than the other; at least that’s how I’ve taken it. The principles are the same, but with juicing your cutting out some of the dietary fibre.
For me, I’ve found that I’m consuming more nutrients by juicing, alongside my smoothies. Quite honestly, a smoothie will fill me up so much, I haven’t got room for more than one a day, but with the addition of juicing, I feel I’m increasing my vitamin, mineral and antioxidant intake exponentially. The one thing I am conscious of is making sure I am making juices with plenty of vegetables. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all about having a fresh orange juice every morning. Experiment. Play around with recipes you find, make them your own. Aim to get your juicing leftovers to look like a rainbow! You’ll soon be putting together yummy juices and feeling a whole lot better for it!! You’ll be pleasantly surprised how different even your favourite fruits and veggies taste when juicing, for the better! My top tips for beginners:
1: There is a massive market for juicers now. You can pretty much spend as little or as much as you like. The main thing that you need to know is that; there are centrifugal juice extractors and masticating juicers or cold-press juicers. Now cold-press juicers yield more juice and the fact that they’re slow juicers, means they don’t heat up the same as a centrifugal juicer, meaning less incidence of damage to those nutrients your hoping for. Having said that, during my grueling research when buying my own, slow-juicers within my comfortable price range, weren’t getting the best reviews. I didn’t want to over spend on my first juicer, as let’s be honest, it’s an experiment in lifestyle. I wanted to be sure it would become a daily part of my routine before breaking the bank! I bit the bullet and went with a centrifugal juicer, which was given rave reviews. It was a steal at £35 and I haven’t looked back!
2: When your researching juicers, my biggest tips on what to look for would be; ease of cleaning is ESSENTIAL! The last thing we need is something complicated to take apart and clean, so check it’s also dishwasher friendly, for those bad days, when feeding ourselves high nutrients is EVEN more detrimental!! Look for something with a reasonably decent sized chute, the less chopping and prepping you have to do, the more likely you are to stick with your new-found love. Lastly, take note of the jug size; they’re easy to fill when making a fruit and veggie cocktail! Other than that, trust the reviews, you can’t discount real-life experience with a product.
3: Not sure where to start with your search for recipes? Think of your favourite veggies, get yourself on google and go from there. You’re obviously more likely to instill this in your daily habits if you enjoy what you’re making. Find just 2 or 3 recipes and stock up as required. As a side tip, if I see something on offer or reduced in the supermarket, I get my ass on google and search, “strawberry juice recipes” for example, then I can pick up anything else I may need whilst I’m out!!
4: Stick to organic, not only will it taste better, it’s also much better for you. I made the mistake of buying regular carrots…wow-did it taste different, even the colour was less vivid! Lesson learned!
5: Don’t be afraid to omit or add to a recipe you’ve found. I’ve found that celery in particular, can be quite an overpowering flavour, for my taste. Usually if a recipe calls for more than one or two stalks, I’ll either replace it with something like an apple, or just go with less!
6: I have tried refrigerating and freezing juices, but to me they’re never the same. I like to make mine fresh when I want it and drink straight away. There’s plenty of debates out there regarding the loss of nutrients as the fruits in particular, oxidize. Some people say to drink straight away to get the best out of it, others say the loss is negligible. I’m inclined to believe the former, as to me, when I’ve experimented, the taste difference is massive!
7: Over time, your taste buds will change. Invite that by trying new things, things you might not have necessarily eaten or liked before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised I promise!
8: The biggest piece of advice I can give you, is to have at least one easy, go to juice that you can have on a flare day. Something that takes no prep, with potentially just one or two ingredients. When the pain, fatigue or any of the countless symptoms is playing up, it’s even more imperative to get that nutritional goodness.
For me, it’s carrot juice. I always make sure I’ve got carrots in stock so that, on a bad day, I can still muster up just enough energy to whizz them through the juicer. I don’t peel or chop them, most of the time I don’t even wash them, depends on how they look really. Even then, they’re just getting a quick rinse. It’s got to be quick and effortless. The longer I spend in the kitchen, stood prepping food, looking down at my chopping board, the worse my neck can get on any day, but on a bad day, it takes all but minutes. Be kind to yourself and remember, just a small amount of effort on these bad days when all you want to do is stay in bed, will pay off dividends in the long run!
A smoothie bowl and a fresh juice in the morning is my staple, it really does set the tone for the rest of the day. Occasionally I will have a second juice in the afternoon, as a pick me up, as I don’t drink coffee or any caffeine anymore, remember?! LOL
Before juicing, I would drink my smoothie, like a normal person. But as you’ve probably noticed by the pictures (especially if you follow me on Instagram.) I always have my smoothie in a bowl now, topped with a combination of nuts, seeds, fruit, whatever really. The main aim here is to get my digestive juices flowing. When you’re having a smoothie and a juice for breakfast, essentially liquified foods, you want to make sure you’re activating your digestive fire and creating an optimum environment to assimilate nutrients. Chewing is the first step in digestion, not only does your saliva play a massive role in digestion, but it also sends signals to activate your entire digestive system. So, having something to “chew” in my smoothie, definitely helps with this process. I even steal little bits of fruit/veg/seeds as I’m making my smoothie and juice, so the process has started before I even sit down to eat it. I realise now that having a smoothie and just drinking it, isn’t giving me the best opportunity to really make the most of the goodness I’m ingesting.
It’s amazing really how much can change in such a short space of time. I’m sure we are all acutely aware of this, it’s the nature of chronic illness, it can change everything. But it’s also true of the other end of the spectrum, not all change is bad. I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come over the past year. How many habits I’ve changed for the better, how many obstacles I’ve overcome, how much I’ve leant and most importantly, I really feel like I’ve grown as a person.
I’ve built new life habits, carving a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle for myself over the past couple of years. The knowledge I’ve gained in so many areas that used to just live in my inquisitive overactive nighttime brain, I’ve now been able to research and delve into, that in itself, has been a fabulous journey. I’m so thirsty for more information. It gives me a newfound sense of excitement about where my journey will lead me. There is still a long way to go for me, a lot to learn, but I can’t envisage ever quenching this thirst I have to expand my understanding of the world I now find myself in. It’s important to hold onto these passions and inspirations we have, it’s the most important fuel of hope, to keep us going, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.