Juicing and Smoothies – Your Ticket To Vibrant Health
Juices and smoothies are immensely beneficial for health and wellbeing, but people often wonder which one is best.. Or is there even a best one?
The truth is, homemade juices and smoothies are both a great source of nutrition but have different effects on the body, so one may suit certain people or health conditions more than the other.
Sometimes a combination of both is the best way to give your diet a nutritional boost!
A well-balanced juice can provide your body with easily absorbable nutrients, health-boosting phytochemicals and a quick source of energy.
Juices are a concentrated source of ‘plant power’ and save you from needing to eat huge amounts of raw fruit and veg to gain the same nutritional benefit.
In addition to containing a load of essential vitamins and minerals, juices contain active plant enzymes to aid with digestion, reduce inflammation in the body (great for arthritis) and more.
For this reason, raw juices are ideal for people who struggle to absorb nutrients, have digestive problems or difficulty eating, eg. the elderly, people recovering from illness or surgery, etc.
Since they are easy on the digestive tract, juices can also make a great detox aid, especially if they are packed with liver-cleansing and alkalising veggies such as celery, cucumber, greens, parsley, coriander and lemon juice.
The downside of juices, is that they can be very high in natural sugars, especially if they contain a lot of fruit or even veggies like carrots and beetroots.
Juices don’t contain fibre, as this is left behind when the juice is extracted from fruit and veg, which means that these sugars are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and can create metabolic stress, especially for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
Most fruits also have an acidic effect on the body, so if you consume a lot of fruit juice, even home made fruit juice, you could be putting yourself at risk of osteoporosis down the track, as calcium is leeched from the bones into the blood system to counteract high blood acidity levels.
So, to get the most benefit from juicing, choose alkalising green ingredients like celery, cucumber, fresh herbs or green leafy veggies to make up the majority of your juice and combine these with a small amount of fruit, eg. lemon, apple, pineapple, watermelon, for an extra zing and some natural sweetness.
Limit your intake of the higher sugar juices to a small glass every couple of days, and dilute it with water to drink.
Unlike juices, smoothies are rich in fibre, so they are great for promoting bowel health by supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and encourage bowel regularity.
The fibre content in smoothies is also great for binding to toxins so they are excreted from the body via the digestive system.
Smoothies are a more filling beverage than juice, provide a source of slower-releasing energy, and can be used as meal replacements. This makes them ideal for people trying to lose or maintain weight, and usually a healthier option for people with blood sugar problems.
Ideally, smoothies should contain a delicious mix of protein, good fats and low-GI carbohydrates. You can also pack them full of micronutrients and antioxidants, depending on which fresh fruit and veggies you decide to add to your smoothies.
As you get the whole fruit/vegetable/plant you add to your smoothie, some would argue that smoothies contain even more nutrients than juices – they are also cheaper to make than juices, as you need far less fruit and veggies to make the same quantity of smoothie as you would a juice.
Base your smoothie around a good source of protein, this can be in the form of a protein supplement, or some raw nuts and seeds/natural unflavoured yoghurt, add a 1-2 serves of low-GI fruits like berries (fresh or frozen), citrus fruits, apples or half a banana, and a sprinkle of chia seeds or flaxseeds for those good fats.
For the liquid component of your smoothie, use water, coconut water or nut milk for a gut-friendly blend. Avoid dairy milk if possible, as it is highly processed, acidic and often causes allergic reactions.
For maximum nutritional benefit and a feeling of satiation that lasts longer, add a small handful of greens (yes leafy greens!) to your smoothie. Mild greens like spinach hardly alter the flavour and are a great source of alkalising chlorophyl, minerals and amino acids.
When making smoothies, you can also experiment with adding coconut water for its hydrating properties, coconut oil for a quick energy boost and weight management, super green powders for detoxification or antioxidant berry blendsfor immune health and wellbeing!
Why You Should Make Your Own
When we talk about the benefits of smoothies and juices, we are only referring to home-made freshly juiced or blended beverages.. not the ones you buy in a bottle from the supermarket or even those that you get at your local juice/smoothie bar.
Why? Firstly, when you make something yourself you know exactly where the produce has come from, how old it is, whether it is organic or not and you control what goes into it.
Pre-packaged juices or smoothies might have pretty labels, but they are also likely to contain diabetes-inducing amounts of sugar and possibly even artificial additives, sweeteners and preservatives.
Even fresh smoothies you buy out can be loaded with sugar from added sorbets, yoghurts and sweeteners and juices will usually contain far more fruit than veg, which, as we know is not the best combination for health.
Choosing Your Ingredients Wisely
Optimally, for health and environmental reasons, the majority of your diet should consist of organic foods. Fortunately, if you are on a budget, you can usually pick up organic vegetables and fruits for juicing for a very reasonable price!
Don’t be deterred by a few bruised apples or brown bananas, these still work a treat for juices and smoothies.
Unfortunately, eating organic isn’t possible for everyone so if you can’t source fresh organic produce, try to pick up fresh and local produce from Farmer’s Markets or reliable Green Groceries and wash your fruit and veg thoroughly before using.
Want to know more about the benefits of Organic Eating? Click here.
Buying The Best Kitchen Companions
Although buying a new juicer and/or blender may seem like a large cost upfront, it is an investment in your health and in the longterm, a more cost-effective way to include healthy juices and blends in your diet.
The most popular and common types of juicers available are Centrifugal and Masticator juicers.
Centrifugal juicers are usually the most budget-friendly juicers, however they can be noisy, clog up easily and do not extract as much juice from your fruit and veg, especially green leafy veggies and herbs, as more expensive juicers do.
They also process your produce at high speeds and can slightly heat the juice which is believed to destroy some of the active enzymes and nutrients in your final product.
Masticator juicers or grinder-strainer juicers can be pricey, but deliver more bang for their buck.
They often last longer than centrifugal juicers, grind/mash fruit and veggies to extract juice without heating them to preserve the nutritional quality of the juice, process herbs, leafy veggies and even wheat grass effectively, and most can make a range of other food products such as nut butters, fruit sorbets, baby foods, etc.
Blenders are less complex than juicers and range from very cheap, lower powered models to top of the range, pricey options such as Vitamix blenders which have a wide range of food processing functions.
Pick the best blender available within your price range, as they will last longer than the really cheap options and make more tasty and smoother smoothies!
Look for blenders with a minimum of 500 Watts of power (optimally more), glass jug attachments with at least 700ml capacity, and a wide metal base for stability and ease of use.
Some Tasty Recipes To Get You Started
Banana Brekkie Smoothie (Makes 1 serve)
1 heaped tbsp mixed raw seeds – soak overnight in water before using for optimal nutrient absorption (eg. linseeds/chia/sunflower/pumpkin/sesame)
1 heaped tbsp protein powder (vanilla or natural flavour)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp raw honey
200-300ml almond/oat/soy milk (or half milk, half water)
Benefits: This smoothie contains a balanced mix of good fats, protein and carbohydrates. It is a delicious and filling breakfast option, with added cinnamon to help balance your blood sugar levels and curb carb-cravings throughout the day.
Green Goodness Smoothie (Makes 2 serves)
Juice and flesh of a young coconut (usually yields around 300ml water)
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1-2 cups baby spinach leaves/leafy greens such as kale
Benefits: Coconut water and flesh provide a mix of healthy fats and electrolytes for hydration, with berries and greens which are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you feeling and looking your best!
Method for both smoothies:
Add all ingredients to your blender (liquid first) and blend until smooth. You can also add some ice to the blend if you want your smoothie nice and cold.
Serve and enjoy!
Anti-Inflam, Arthritis-Busting Juice
1 Medium Cucumber
Juice of 1 Small Lemon (peeled)
1 Green Apple or Pear (skin on)
3-4 Large Stalks Celery
Small handful of Fresh Parsley/Coriander
2 x 2cm knob of Fresh Ginger or Turmeric (or more to taste)
Benefits: These ingredients are alkalising, anti-inflammatory and mildly diuretic to help relieve joint swelling, pain and inflammation.
1 ruby grapefruit
2 x 2cm knob of fresh ginger
Optional: Add 1 tsp Manuka honey to your juice to serve for some extra throat soothing, anti-bacterial action
Benefits: This juice contains fruits and veggies which are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene- important immune boosting nutrients, as well as ginger which has circulation-stimulating and anti-inflammatory actions.
Method for both juices:
Clean all fruits and veggies thoroughly, chop into pieces small enough to put through your juicer, and juice away!
Add some ice blocks to your final product if you like for a cool and refreshing nutrient hit. Makes 1 large glass, or 2 small glasses juice.
Juices and smoothies are best served freshly made. If you need to store them, keep them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in glass jars and add some fresh lemon juice for its natural preservative qualities.
Remember, it is important to keep drinking enough water each day, as juices and smoothies don’t replace your water intake. Aim to drink at least 33ml water per kg of your body weight daily, more if you are working in the heat or exercising a lot.