On a recent flight back from holiday, I sat next to a really interesting guy and, as we talked about mind, body and food matters, we laughed as we shared our passion and enthusiasm for all things juice and smoothie related – yet with a fundamental difference. As he was describing the daily concoction of stuff he added to his early morning smoothie, from apple cider vinegar to maca powder (both of which I’m sure have great beneficial properties!) along with a suitably diverse bunch of vegetables, he admitted that no-one else in the family would go near it! When Hippocrates stated over two thousand years ago, “Let medicine be thy food … ”, I don’t think he meant that our food should taste like medicine!
My love affair with juices and smoothies began several years ago when I was constantly on the go, often with very early morning starts which meant that I was eating on the run and, as a result, I was really missing my “5 a day”.
That’s a whole new article on my “road warriors survival kit”, but for another day ☺. Enough was enough, I was constantly tired, often irritable, my digestive system was complaining at the lack attention and I was catching colds and bugs. I had to find a solution. So I did my research, bought a pretty pricey (but soooo worth it) Vitamix blender (www.vitamix.com) and began to experiment.
Juices and smoothies are both loaded with nutrients, give you an energy boost, and taste fabulous. But they’re not the same thing. The difference lies in the machines used to make each drink. Now, I don’t want to get too bogged down here with the differences between juices and smoothies, but it’s probably worth a quick explanation of the key ones.
To make fresh homemade fruit or vegetable juice, you need a juice extractor. The juice is the water and most of the nutrients that have been separated from the fibrous pulp in those fruits and vegetables.
Smoothies require a blender or Vitamix machine. This is what I use as it’s multi-functional and its high speed motor ensures that the pulp that’s left in the smoothie is palatable and digestible. Unlike a juicer, we add liquid such as fresh juice, milks (both dairy and non-dairy versions), along with fresh fruits and/or vegetables that are processed into a purée in the blender, so the resulting drink is thick and smooth. We can also add extra nutritional items such as wheat grass, maca powder, spirulina and nuts, among many others.
In my experience, having been through a few machines of both types over the years, you do get what you pay for so I encourage you to do your research, read reviews and go for the best you can afford – oh, and measure the height of these gadgets – especially if they need to fit underneath overhead cupboards in the kitchen!
So what are the benefits of Juices and Smoothies?
A sure way to get our 5 a day (the new recommendations are to exceed this daily amount):
In order to get the most benefit from eating vegetables, it’s best to eat them raw. Of course, it can be difficult to eat large quantities of raw vegetables, so drinking your fruits and vegetables daily is relatively easy. I take a flask with me if I’m travelling so I can drink it before I get to my destination if on a long journey. Tip – add a few ice cubes or frozen fruit (fantastic for fruit smoothies and a cheaper way of buying some fruits) to the smoothie mix before blending so it stays cool for your second helping when you arrive at the office.
Supports your immune system:
Vegetable juices, green smoothies and fruit smoothies provide your body with a very concentrated source of nutrients and enzymes, particularly when organic vegetables are used, that support our immune function and help detoxification. Also phytochemicals, antioxidants and other immune enhancing vitamins and minerals are concentrated in juices and smoothies in an easy to absorb form. All these help to detoxify the body and boost your immune system.
Aids recovery after illness:
Veggies are generally lower in sugar and higher in nutrients and enzymes than fruits, so vegetable juicing/blending is an especially good way to nourish the body and accelerate your recovery after an illness.
The body can quickly and more easily absorb larger amounts of nutrients from liquid foods than from solid foods because the process of digestion that is necessary when you eat whole foods is simplified. Fresh juices and smoothies are an easy way to get the beneficial enzymes that aid digestion into the body. Proper digestion is just as important as nutrient concentration – undigested nutrients cannot be utilized by the body.
Supports any weight loss plan:
Juices and smoothies for weight loss, particularly when vegetables are emphasized, is one way to ensure that you choose a healthy weight loss plan that does not sacrifice good nutrition. Remember, fruit contains a lot of sugar so it’s important to go easy on the all-fruit smoothies (maybe just one a day to begin with to ensure you have room for the veggie ones!) especially when trying to lose weight. Monitoring our sugar intake will also avoid the energy spikes many of us experience throughout the day which lead to cycles of short bursts of energy followed by tiredness, followed by sugar cravings. With that in mind, I always start my day with predominantly vegetable blends. (More on this in later posts.)
Be warned, once you start, you’ll be hooked and so will your partner and any children in the family!
Sure, not all my favourite recipes are liked by everyone in the household, but that’s fine by me as I get to choose what goes into mine, safe in the knowledge that they won’t disappear from the fridge ☺.
Check out my current favourite smoothie recipes here in our Food Matters section, and get ready to experiment! I’d love to hear how you get on so leave a comment below or drop me an email. I’ll be sharing further recipes over the coming weeks, but feel free to send me your favourites too.
With love and wellbeing wishes,