I knew that the person asking was genuinely curious, and genuinely clueless as to why, so I began sketching out a full explanation in my mind, which turned out to be detailed enough to make a full blog post.
I wrote my friend:
I'm embarking on a detox.
I had really poor health as a child, which is why I got into nutrition (when doctors couldn't help me), and while I'm now more healthy than the average American by far, I'm still not nearly where I could be. I still have a lot of progress I aspire to. I want to be able to run a mile (which is an astounding goal when the vast majority of my life I couldn't walk a mile.)
I've done detox-like regimes for a while now. Raw food in general is a detox of sorts, but various things slow down the process, such as not completely chewing one's food.
Chewing food is actually the first step of digestion, and it's rarely done efficiently. By juicing or blending food first, it's chewed thoroughly. In addition, when blending or using something with blades, the cell walls are often ruptured. This is good and bad. It's good because it means many nutrients that would be otherwise unavailable or hard to digest, become readily available. It's bad because some nutrition is lost in the process.
With juicing, using a blender the smushes the food into mush (instead of slicing it with fine little blades), the cell walls are not ruptured in the same way, preserving more nutrition, while still removing the fiber and creating a smooth easy-to-drink juice.
There are several advantages to this. Many plants have virtually indigestible fiber, such as wheatgrass. If you didn't juice wheatgrass, but instead, put it on a salad, you wouldn't benefit from it, and may even develop an upset stomach (or so I'd led to believe; I have not tried it).
Another benefit of juicing is the easy-to-drink aspect. It means you can turn a large amount of hard tough bitter greens (like kale, chard, collards, etc) into a small little shot of green juice. Or better yet, you can juice some delicious fruit with the vegetables. Either way, you've turned a bunch of greens that would have made your jaw sore from chewing into something that takes moments to consume. You can make a small straight-green shot and "get it over with" or juice some mango, frozen blueberries, apples, oranges, etc, with it and make it a delightful juice where you can't even tell you're consuming vegetables.
For people who already love vegetables (and I'm not one of those people) it may seem like that isn't a big benefit, but no matter how much you love vegetables, we all only have so much time to chew, chew, chew, chew. I know some tricks (that I'd be happy to show you at some time) for making less of a chew-fest out of tough greens (without cooking them), but regardless, I find juicing the most effective way to painlessly consume multitudes of fresh greens.
The other benefit of juicing, and probably the biggest and most important benefit, is that fiber-removal.
Fiber is essential and important for pushing waste from the intestines. Most people don't get enough. However, raw foodists generally get more than enough fiber since it is in everything within the raw natural kingdom of plants. Fiber isn't actually digested. It goes through the system virtually untouched. It's one of the few things that is virtually unchanged by cooking in terms of how our digestive system handles it because our digestive system doesn't interact with fiber. Fiber is just a broom going through the system.
The fiber broom takes a long, long time to go through the system. For some, they may have fiber in their system that they consumed three or four days ago, especially if they are not particularly healthy and active. It's not really a big problem that the fiber takes all that time to go through the system, especially when you consider that most people are carrying around fifteen to thirty pounds worth of undigested food in their intestinal track that is breeding bacteria (including Candida), and causing an array of discomforts.
All of that considered, imagine if you're not eating much of anything that has an issue making it through the system? Imagine it's all very completely blended/squished raw food that is absorbed readily due to high-enzyme activity and bio-availability: the need for fiber is eliminated. This means that one can reach a state where the intestines actually become empty. This is something that most humans will not ever experience in their lives. It can only be achieved through a liquid diet over a period of time.
The process, overall, not only empties the intestines, but it empties out toxins from the lymph fluid. We have roughly six times as much lymph fluid as blood. What's in the blood is directly correlated to how we feel at a given moment. If the bloodstream is natural and toxin-free, we feel great. If the pH level in our blood is a healthy alkaline, we feel great. But meanwhile, our lymph fluid (which is bathing our organs and keeping them moist and functional) can be toxic and damaging. Detoxing brings toxins out of the lymph and into the bloodstream, and finally out of the body. It makes people miserable for a time, but in the long run makes your whole life healthier.
Once the lymph fluid begins to reach a toxin-free state, it can pick up toxins from muscles, organs, fat, brain tissues (no kidding!), and anywhere toxins have been deposited in the body. Then it can move into the blood and out of the body.
This entire process takes a long time. It's like trying to clean a pot that has baked on grease by running water and juice over it and gently rubbing it with the skin on your fingertips here and there. Deep breathing helps because it massages the internal organs. Exercising helps because the contracting of the muscles causes toxins to be released. This is why some people try to exercise and quickly feel awful. Toxins are being released into the blood and the body has no quick solution to rid itself of these toxins.
People who love to exercise and feel great about doing it are people who are experiencing only the mildest of a detox. As active people, they are persistently removing toxins from their system. This is why very active people can often get away with eating so much junk for years and years before organs begin to give out. They sweat out, breath out, and excrete many more toxins than less active people.
This is all a giant amount of information to explain that I've been an unhealthy child, an unhealthy teen, and while being a raw vegan has made me healthier than ever before, I still feel sluggish sometimes after a bunch of exercise, and my skin still breaks out entirely too easily from eating dried fruit or from skipping a daily face wash, etc -- things that don't happen to many active raw vegans I've met. Since I know I can go so much further with my health, and because I've come so far, I'm excited to go further. I'm excited to rid myself of my lifetime's buildup of toxins and be lighter, freer and stronger than ever before.
It's also tough. I really want to chew, chew and chew on a salad. Chewing it quite addictive. The hardest part about my beginning months as a raw vegan was how much I missed potato chips. I had switched to plain salted organic potato chips at the age of seventeen, but I hadn't given them up altogether by any stretch. Then my husband and I got a dehydrator and I learned how to make my own raw kale chips at home and I was able to move past that body-wrenching craving for something salty and crunchy.
Crunching on something actually releases chemicals in the brain that cause us to relax. This is a large part of emotional eating.
Since we're talking so much about toxins, I ought to define "toxins".
Toxins are any substance that the body is not designed to make good use of. Anything that the body has to remove in order to restore correct function is a toxin. Anything that the body expels in order to prevent damage is a toxin.Toxins: white flour, refined flour in general, white sugar, refined sugar in general, msg, maltodextrin, hydrogenated oil, hydrolyzed oil (or anything hydrolyzed or hydrogenated), oil that is not cold-pressed (oil that has been cooked), many cooked foods but certainly not all cooked foods, cigarettes, alcohol, most anything considered a "drug," chemical house cleaners, many laundry detergents, many soaps, most toothpastes, many body washes/shampoos/conditioners/hair-dyes/sunscreens/sunblocks/suspect-things-applied-to-skin/etc, "natural flavorings," "flavorings," "protein extract," and the vast majority of things that have been powdered, crystalized or turned into syrup.
If it has a shelf life of more than three months then it has likely been refined in some way. The exception to that is seeds and nuts, but those are not things to chow down on. (My e-book is actually "Nut-Free Raw Recipes" because most rawvegans consume way too many nuts. Also, as a bonus, it allows people with nut allergies to get a good collection of nut-free ideas.)
Of course, now I feel I must explain what I mean by "refinement." Refinement is when anything has had a part of it removed -- including water. Technically, dehydrating is refining, even if it is the least harmful form of refinement.Here is the horror of refinement:
Poppy Flower > Poppy Juice > Opium > Heroin
Cane Stalk > Cane Juice > Brown Sugar > White Sugar
Whenever you refine something three times it becomes a horrifically altered thing that the body has no way to cope with. White sugar literally damages the body like a hard drug. Studies that prove it, doctors throughout the ages who've known it, and more, are documented in a book called Sugar Blues and that said book cites hundreds of other sources for more information on the topic.
I'm sure that's plenty to digest for now.
Have a good one.
And so, my letter to my friend made it's conclusion at last.
Thus far today I've made something on the less healthy side (trying to reconcile myself against the urge to eat something chewy)...
I soaked a cup with almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts together and in a separate bowl soaked four dates in drinking water. I had my husband open a young coconut for us. I drained the nuts and rinsed them and added them to a bowl with the coconut "meat" of the young coconut. I added a cup and a half of frozen blueberries to the bowl and three bananas. I kept the dates in their water separate and the fresh coconut "water" in a separate glass. I grabbed a handful of grain sprouts and rinsed them and added them to the bowl with the nuts, coconut and blueberries.
Using the "blank" in the juicer (meaning that it just squishes everything, and doesn't separate fluid from fiber), I put the blueberries, sprouts, nuts, coconut and dates (without their water I soaked them in) through several times, getting them all thoroughly mixed. I also added cinnamon and cardamom. This made a delicious mash. I put aside three quarters of it on a decorative dish on the table.
With the last quarter of the mash I mixed in a couple handfuls of spinach, the water from the dates and the coconut juice and then ran it through the juicer again, this time with the juicer attachment. The result was a thin cloudy mild drink of uber-deliciousness. I drank most of the juice and gave my husband the larger portion of the mash. It was a very filling breakfast, and it didn't qualify as solid, but it certainly was not the best detox food.
I'm alright with this breakfast, but I don't intend to repeat it any time soon. Next time at the grocery store it'll be time for carrots, celery, cucumbers and other excellent juicing specimens.