JUICE IT UP – Unleash the health benefits of vegetables & fruits by juicing for your bird.
By Kathleen Lance
As we learn more about parrot nutrition, almost all agree that fresh fruits and vegetables should be a part of every bird’s diet. Birds should consume a greater quantity of vegetables, as these provide the necessary vitamin-A precursors and calcium.
Fruits and vegetables contain two parts: the fibrous, partly indigestible component and the juice, which is easily assimilated into the digestive system. Although fiber is important to a bird’s digestive system, the juice of fresh fruits and vegetables is a powerhouse of readily available and healing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and flavonoids.
Enzymes have many important jobs to perform, notably the digestion of food, stimulation of the brain, provision of cellular energy and repair of all body tissue.
Before you run to your kitchen cabinet to pour your feathered companion a bowl of juice, know that not all juices are created equal. Those in the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store have been heat-treated to extend their shelf life. And, in the heating process, important nutrients, including vitamin C and other water-soluble vitamins have been destroyed. In addition, the label will likely list added sugar or artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other additives.
Even the “fresh” juices in the refrigerated section begin to lose a lot of their nutrition only hours after being bottled. Because fresh juices are made from raw produce, all of the nutritional components remain intact.
Juicing For Exotic Birds Tips
It is easy to make fresh, nutritious juices at home for your parrots and for yourself. There are many juicers available of varying prices. Invest in a quality juicer, as price usually indicates the capabilities of the motor and the ease of cleanup.
Whenever possible, buy organic produce, grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, neurological problems, hormonal imbalances, and immune-system disruptions.
The most toxic conventionally grown fruits and vegetables include apples, bell peppers, cherries, Chilean grapes, kale, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries. If you use conventional produce, wash it thoroughly with a vegetable wash, grapefruit-seed extract, or the recipe from Dr. Mehmet Oz, to help remove waxes and chemicals before juicing. (Dr. Oz’s recipe: 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda, half a lemon; mix ingredients in a spray bottle; spray food and let sit five minutes, then rinse.)
Remove all pits and seeds before juicing. Apple seeds in particular, contain cyanide and should not be offered to parrots. In most cases, leaves and stems can be left on; however greens attached to carrots should be removed since they contain toxic substances. The orange-colored part of the peel of oranges should be removed because it contains indigestible oils; however, the whitish portion can be left on, as it contains important bioflavonoids.
GET YOUR JUICE FIX – These add flavor & improve your health:
- Cancer Protection: beets
- Live Toxicity: carrots, tomatoes, dandelion greens
- Feather Health: parsnips
- Eye Health: carrots, turnips, kale, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, turnip and beet greens, ginger
- Metal Toxicity: carrots, peas, tomatoes, cranberries, potatoes
- Stress Relief: carrots, collard greens, parsley, ginger, red pepper, kale, broccoli
- Motion Sickness: kale, sweet peppers, strawberries, turnip greens, broccoli, ginger
- Arthritis: carrots, ginger, apples, cherries, pineapples, blueberries,kale
Time is not a friend of fresh juices, and those not consumed within a couple of hours begin to lose nutritional value. However, leftovers can be stored briefly in the refrigerator in an airtight container or frozen in ice cube trays. Some nutrients are still lost in freezing, but it is nonetheless, a healthy food.
You can serve fresh juices to your birds “straight up” in a bowl. Other suggestions are to soak pellets in the juice. Birdie bread, unsweetened shredded-wheat squares and whole-grain bread can be soaked and given
There are many juice “cookbooks” available. As you become more comfortable with juicing, it is fun to experiment with different combinations of fruits and vegetables with tastes that are pleasing to both you and your parrot. For the novice juicer, a good start is four or five carrots with half an apple (no seeds) and a sliver of fresh ginger. Adjust quantities according to number of parrots.
Green juices made from such things as kale, alfalfa sprouts and dandelion greens, are best diluted with carrots and apples, as stronger tasting greens can overpower the flavor. The bright orange color of carrot juice, together with the naturally sweet taste, is usually highly acceptable to parrots. Further, they are able to convert beta carotene into Vitamin A, thereby boosting their immune system and promoting healthy cell growth. The beta carotene in carrots is also a powerful antioxidant, which helps to neutralize toxins. Carrots also contain alpha carotene, believed to be an inhibitor of tumor growth. Parrots are able to assimilate almost 100 percent of the beta carotene in juiced carrots as opposed to only about 1 percent when eaten in the whole form.
As you become more comfortable with juicing for both you and your feathered companions, you will want to expand the ingredients you use and, in so doing, reap the healthful benefits o rainbow of fruits and vegetables provide.
Kathleen Lance is owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, NJ. She has studied parrots for the past 30 years, and this knowledge, along with a master’s degree in International Management and a degree in teaching, provide the ideal opportunity for her to fulfill two passions – her love of parrots and educating the avian community.