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Turkey Tracks: Juicing

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Turkey Tracks:  May 27, 2011


My niece, Lauren Howser Black, is starting to experiment with juicing–which she shared on Facebook.

I am trying to figure out juicing myself and am slowly coming to some conclusions.

First, all food is made up of three ingredients:  protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  Protein and fat are the building blocks of the body.  They are absolutely necessary for ideal  human health.  Carbohydrates are, apparently, not, since one can get every single nutrient, vitamin, enzyme, etc., one needs from meat alone.  (This information comes most recently from Gary Taubes in WHY WE GET FAT–which I covered in Tipping Points Essays 29 and 30.)

We eat carbs to give ourselves energy.  And, they taste really good for the most part as most are yummy fruits and vegetables.  But, the plant kingdom has been vastly misunderstood for some time.  Plants are chemically based, and they can pack a powerful punch.  For instance, all the major drugs that really work come from plants.  And, plants have chemicals that are absolutely addictive for humans.  Sugar and grains are an example.

Second, humans do not handle cellulose well at all.  Unlike cows, we don’t have four stomachs full of bacteria specifically meant to break down cellulose, in the form of grass.  Our system is much closer to dogs.  We have a single stomach, longer intestines, and bacteria specializing in processing meat and fats.  When we overload them with cellulose, we set up gut conditions that make us sick since all that bulk in the gut, according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who wrote GUT AND PSYCHOLOGY SYNDROME, starts preventing the absorption of the good nutrients we need.

Third, humans really do not handle sugars well at all.  Sugars of all kinds throw off the delicate balance of our digestive system–which, in turn, causes the host of chronic diseases associated with people who have settled in one place and are growing, particularly, grains.  You’ll recognize some on the following list:  arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, and cancer.   Autoimmune and inflammatory conditions abound.  These all appear alongside developmental degradation, like crooked teeth and bad eyesight.  Hunter-gatherers and nomad herders, on the other hand, have been and are (yes there are still some in the world) disease free.  [This kind of assessment is widely discussed.  Here, I’m using Lierre Keith’s recounting of this history in THE VEGETARIAN MYTH (139+).  She is, in turn, drawing on the work of Dr. Loren Cordain, who has worked extensively with archeological evidence of what earlier people ate and how it affected their bodies.]

Given this information, one might avoid all carbs.  I think that would be hard, and most hunter-gatherers and nomadic herders foraged for greens, tubers, seasonal fruits (which were much less sweet than our fruit today), and the like.  Plus, we are surrounded with eye-catching produce all year around.   AND, one has to consider, also, that juicing has long had a place in healing circles.  Maybe it works to detoxify the body–short term–but long-term health requires nutrient dense foods.  Vegetables are not nutrient dense.  Period.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride absolutely holds a place for juicing in the GAPS diet.  (I wrote about GAPS in Tipping Points 31.)  But, she is dealing with a population of sick people (autism, in particular) who have significant gut issues.  (There is a growing recognition that autism almost always has a particular profile of an impaired digestive system AND that autistic people crave carbohydrates and have very limited diets.)  I know I have a gut issue–it was the root cause of my food allergy issues.  I suspect most Americans today do, given all the grains, other carbs, processed food, and chemicals they’re eating.

Dr. Max Gerson was one of the pioneers of healing the body through, among other practices, juicing.  But, he also used infusions of raw liver as well.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has an interesting web page and who wrote THE NO-GRAIN DIET, juices–but mostly green vegetables.

So, how to think about this issue?

It’s pretty clear that fruit juices are really high in sugar and offer a terrible jolt to the system.  Fructose sugars are particularly difficult for the body to handle and cause elevated insulin levels.  No one should ever drink commercial fruit juices.  If one is struggling with obesity, too much fructose can and does lead straight down a road that has stops at diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and so on.  But, what about vegetable juices?

I have a Vita-Mix, which pulverizes whatever goes in, so I have to think about all the added cellulose as well.  I’ve decided I need to strain whatever I am going to mix up.

Let’s start with a seemingly balanced approach.  Campbell-McBride says juicing is a great way to get nutrients without all the cellulose.  She advocates about a 50-50 ration of fruits to vegetables.  The sweet in the fruits make the good of the vegetables drinkable–especially for picky eaters.  And, the GAPS work shows that some fruits help heal the gut.  She  recommends two cups of juice a day total.  Here are some of her suggestions:

Pineapple, carrot, and a little bit of beetroot (5%  total) in the morning prepares the digestive system for the coming meals.

Carrot, apple, celery, and beetroot cleanses the liver.

Green juices from leafy veggies (spinach, lettuce, parsley, dill, carrot, and beet tops) with some tomatoe and lemon chelate heavy metals and provide magnesium and iron.

Here’s a list of vegetables she uses:  carrot, beetroot (5% of mixture only), celery, cabbage, lettuce, greens (spinach, parsley, dill, basil, fresh nettle leaves, beet tops, carrot tops, white and red cabbage)

And, her list of fruits comes from the GAPS approved fruits.  She also really likes black elderberry as an immune builder.

The Green Approach.  Dr. Mercola does not permit fruit juice because of the elevated levels of sugar.  I’m not sure I see the difference between eating an apple and juicing it, however, especially since I have this new sensibility about all the cellulose in the apple itself.  Anyway, his juicing is confined to green vegetables.  He avoids carrots, beets, and squashes.

Here’s his beginner green drink:  2 stalks of celery, 1 cucumber, 2 stalks of fennel.

He recommends starting with 1 or 2 ounces and adding to that until you are drinking 12 ounces at a time.

He recommends mixing mild greens (lettuces, but not iceberg; endive, escarole, spinach, cabbage) with stronger veggies (kale, collard, dandelion greens, mustard greens), and adding herbs, eggs (1 to 4), and some flavorings (1 Tablespoon coconut that is whole fresh grated or unsweetened dry from a health food store, 1 Tablespoon fresh cranberries, 1/2 lemon, 1 inch ginger root).

Hmmmm.   I’d have to work up to liking these green mixtures.  But, it’s something about which to think.  I would caution that spinach and chard have high levels of oxalates which can give you kidney stones if eaten in excess.   Also, I really like the cookbook THE GARDEN OF EATING, Rachel Albert-Matesz and Don Matesz.  She has a few juiced drinks as well, but has a Vita-Mix and one eats everything.

CAUTION:  YOU MUST USE ORGANIC PRODUCE!  If you want to be healthy, you cannot consider eating anything that is full of poisons.  Juicing for health when you’re using a tainted food defeats your whole purpose.  The Environmental Working Group now has a web site listing what poisons are on our foods:  http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/

I juiced a mixture of fruits and veggies today, and we drank it for lunch.  I used too many fruits.  It was sweet and good, but I had a headache an hour later.  I think for the moment I’m going to stick with my homemade yogurt, egg, coconut oil, fruit smoothies for the moment, with more limited fruit included.  And, a tonic of raw eggs, lemon juice, and honey.  Maybe I’ll play around with Mercolas more green suggestions.  But, we eat so many fresh, locally grown greens and bone-broth soups, that maybe I don’t need the juicing thing.   I am worried about too much fruit and weight loss, which I need to do.  Hey!  I just read that cinnamon is MAGIC for getting tired, insulin-resistant cells to give up fat.  Will add it to my smoothie in the morning.  I do like Campbell-McBride’s suggestions–just have to curb the urge to put in more fruit.

Mainely Tipping Points 16: WOLF TOTEM

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Tipping Points 16


 Millions of Chinese have purchased Jiang Rong’s novel WOLF TOTEM (2004), published in the west in 2008.  The novel, according to its English translator, sparked a heated debate about the national character of the Chinese people.  I would argue that Rong’s metaphors apply to Americans as well.

 In 1969, student Rong took part in Mao’s Cultural Revolution where up to 20-million young city dwellers relocated to rural areas.  Rong went to a remote grassland, Inner Mongolia’s East Ujimqin Banner, and for 11 years lived with and grew to love deeply the traditional herdsmen.  Called Olonbulag Banner in the novel, this grassland produced Genghis Khan and the famed Mongol hordes of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries who overran Rong’s Han ancestors. 

Rong experiences the moment when the Chinese people, who are agrarians, occupy the grassland, try to farm it, and in the process destroy the delicate balance of shepherds, sheep (the right animal for the grassland), and the predator wolves that are the linchpin of this system.  In scant months, the wolves are hunted with military vehicles and slaughtered with rifles.  In a few years, a lush portion of the pristine grassland is fouled by farmers and turns to desert.  In a few decades, the whole grassland becomes a desert, and the herdsmen are penned into individually owned, fenced enclaves and a lifestyle that is a parody of their traditional culture.  

What has been lost is what one Chinese student in the Olonbulag, Zhang, calls “the middle way.”  The Han Chinese, he says, prefer extremes where the east wind overpowers the west wind, or vice versa.  But, the grasslanders use the contradictions inherent in their world, specifically the wolf, who controls the “big life” of the grassland by being a strong predator of the “little lives.”  What derives is a balanced, sustainable system where all within the system must be strong to survive (376).     

 The Han Chinese, says Zhang, “know nothing about life on the grassland.  All they care about is quantity, quantity, quantity.  In the end, they’ll lose everything by being single-minded.”  And, predicts Zhang, “millions of peasants keep having babies and reclaiming the land.  The population equal to an entire province is born every year.  Who can stop all those people from coming to the grassland?” (376).

Rong’s character in the novel, Chen Zhen, visits 30 years after his departure.  Zhen sees that the grassland can no longer support the life it once supported and that livestock numbers are being reduced.  The grassland cannot even support the horses whose “hooves once shook the world” (510).  Motorcycles have to be used instead.  “Mice,” says Zhen, “are kings on the wolfless grassland” (511).  

Zhen fears, when he sees an area supporting huge, penned sheep flocks, that what he is seeing is “a false prosperity,” experienced just before the Inner Mongolian grassland dies off (514).  He discovers that much pasture land is leased to outsiders by Mongolians who have become drunks.  One of the old-timers reports that these “outsiders” from farming-herding areas “don’t give a damn about capacity, so they raise two or three thousand sheep on land that can only support five hundred.  Their sheep graze the land for a few years and turn it into sand; then they get out of their lease, sell their sheep, and go back home to do business with the money they got here” (518).

 Zhen, whose career has been spent studying system models, economic politics and urban and rural issues in China, makes the following assessment:  “We’ve witnessed the `impressive victory’ of an agrarian society over a nomadic herding society.  Current government policy has developed to the stage of `one country, two systems,’ but deeply rooted in the Han consciousness is still `many areas, one system.’  It doesn’t matter if it’s farmland or pastureland, forest or river, city or countryside; all they want to do is mix them all up to create a `unified’ flavor.  With the `impressive victory’ has come a tremendous amount of subsidies, but the grassland could not return even if the subsidies continued for the next century” (510). 

Already, too, children are detached from the workings of nature.  A teenager riding a motorcycle is seen killing a hawk with a rifle.  He is oblivious to the fact that the hawk kills the mice whose overpopulation is helping to kill the grassland.  Once powerful and necessary hunting and guarding dogs, if they are kept at all, have become pampered pets (512). 

 In the spring of 2002, Zhen gets a call from his old friends on the Olonbulag.  Eighty percent of the pastureland is now desert.  The whole area, say the callers, will now be changed from “settlement herding to raising cows and sheep, more or less like the animal pens in your farming villages.  Every family will build rows of big houses” (524).

 Zhen did not know what to say.  But, Rong ends the novel with a “yellow-dragon sandstorm” that “rose up outside his window, blocking the sky and the sun.  All of Beijing was shrouded in the fine, suffocating dust.  China’s imperial city was turned into a hazy city of yellow sand” (524).  The sand storm embodies the national character of the Han Chinese:  they are destroying their habitat because they refuse to understand and live within nature’s mechanisms.     

Dan O’Brien, in an article for EATING WELL magazine (“Buffalo Are Back,” March/April 2009, 49-59), writes that Americans killed 60 million buffalo in the late 1800s.  By 1900 only 400 survived.  Today, writes O’Brien, “the Plains are broken up by fences that hold cattle destined for feedlots.  Most of the native prairie has been plowed under, leaving the land bare to the ravages of wind and water erosion.  Native grasses have been replaced with government-subsidized commodity crops, such as corn, cotton, and wheat.  These crops grow with the aid of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that run off into the water.  With less available habitat, native animals and birds are being squeezed out.  To complete the circle, most of the subsidized corn is fed to the cattle that replaced the buffalo” (the right animal for the grassland). 

Lierre Keith, in THE VEGETARIAN MYTH (2009), notes that 99.8 percent of our native prairie is gone, planted to industrially raised corn, wheat, and soy (40).  Nature, she writes, sees bared soil as an emergency and responds with quick-growing annuals (32).  Industrial agrarians plow the soil, creating long rows of one plant separated by bared soil, which results in topsoil loss and a lack of nutrients in industrial food. 

History shows clearly, writes Keith, that the repeated result of grain-based systems is population growth, topsoil loss, and the eventual collapse of a bioregion.  The “last people who know how to live sustainably—how to integrate themselves into the living landscape of grasslands and rivers—are [being] pushed off by the agriculturalists, to disappear into a hostile world where, like the [native] animals, they will surely die” (51).     

The world population is too great; there is no more “new” land.   Keith says, “we’re out of topsoil, out of water, out of species, and out of space in the atmosphere for the carbon we can’t seem to stop burning” (51). 

We are all in Rong’s space of “false prosperity.” The sand storm made by our national character has already arrived.  Minimize local impact by supporting organic (sustainably grown), nutrient-dense foods.  

If you’re looking for more information, see David Montgomery’s DIRT:  THE EROSION OF CIVILIZATIONS (2010) and DIRT!  THE MOVIE.