Juicing and Smoothies – Your Ticket To Vibrant Health
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 absorbed 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. They are an effective way of improving the body’s pH and most inflammatory conditions are worse in an acidic body.
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 a great detox aid, especially when they are packed with liver-cleansing and alkalising veggies such as celery, cucumber, kale, cabbage, broccoli, watercress, spinach, silver beet, rocket, coriander, chickweed, dandelion greens, puha, parsley and lemon juice.
The downside of juices is that they can be very high in natural sugars, especially when they contain a lot of fruit or sweet veggies like carrots and beetroots. This needs to be considered because a high natural sugar juice can be as problematic as eating a sugary food.
Juices don’t contain fibre because this is left behind when the juice is extracted from the fruit and veg, which means that sugars are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and can create metabolic stress, especially for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
Some fruits can 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 low sugar fruit, eg. lemon, apple, pear, berries, grapefruit or tomato for an extra zing and some natural sweetness. If you use carrot or beetroot, keep the amount small.
Consume the juice with a small amount of food containing quality fats and proteins (eg: a small handful of walnuts or a soft boiled egg), or add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seed into the juice at the end of making it. These measures will also improve the rate at which the sugars are released, and will serve to improve your ability to digest the nutrients in the juice because a small amount of fat and protein is required to trigger the digestive response properly.
Limit your intake of the higher sugar juices to a very 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 if they contain a source of protein. 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 pack them full of micro-nutrients and antioxidants, depending on which fresh fruit, herbs, seaweeds and veggies you decide to add to your smoothies.
As you get the whole fruit/vegetable/plant that 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 pea/whey/rice protein powder, or some raw nuts and seeds or natural, unflavoured and unsweetened yoghurt. Add a 1-2 serves of low-GI fruits like berries (fresh or frozen), citrus fruits, apples or pears, and a sprinkle of ground chia seeds or flax seeds for those good fats. If you use banana, keep it to a half.
For the liquid component of your smoothie, use water, coconut water, oat milk or nut milk for a gut-friendly blend. Avoid cow’s 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 good handful of leafy greens to your smoothie. Mild greens like spinach, chickweed, Italian parsley or silver beet hardly alter the flavour and are a great source of alkalising chlorophyll, minerals and amino acids.
When making smoothies, you can also add coconut water for its hydrating properties, coconut oil or kelp for a quick energy boost and weight management, Morlife Greens, wheat grass or barley grass for detoxification, or Maca, Gogi berries or gooseberries for immune health and well being!
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 can 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 artificial additives, sweeteners and preservatives.
Even fresh smoothies you buy as a take-out can be loaded with sugar from added sorbets, yoghurts and sweeteners, and bought 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 spray-free or organic foods. If you are on a budget, you can usually pick up spray-free or organic vegetables and fruits from farmer’s markets, friends and neighbour’s gardens or grow your own for a very reasonable price!
Don’t be deterred by produce that looks less than perfect – these still work a treat for juices and smoothies.
If you can’t get spray-free or organic produce, wash your fruit and veg thoroughly before using them.
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 long term, 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 or 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.
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 700 ml 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)
1-2 heaped tbsp mixed raw seeds – grind and soak overnight in water before using for optimal nutrient absorption (eg. linseeds/chia/sunflower/pumpkin/sesame)
20-30gm protein powder (vanilla or natural flavour)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp raw honey
200-300 ml almond/oat/rice 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 300 ml water)
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1-2 cups baby spinach leaves or other 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-Inflammatory, Arthritis-Busting Juice
1 Medium Cucumber
Juice of 1 Small Lemon (peeled)
1 Green Apple or Pear (skin on)
3-4 Large Stalks Celery
1 Handful of Fresh Parsley/Coriander
2 x 2cm Knob of Fresh Ginger or Turmeric (Use 2 tsp powdered turmeric if you can’t get the fresh root)
Benefits: These ingredients are alkalising, anti-inflammatory and mildly diuretic to help relieve joint swelling, pain and inflammation.
1 Handful Parsley
2 x 2 cm 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 33 ml water per kg of your body weight daily, more if you are working in the heat or exercising a lot.