By Marianna Duba
We know that they are important! We know that eating five to ten servings of fresh vegetables and fruit can increase our energy, boost immunity, improve our gut health, help manage our weight, and support the body’s detoxification pathways. Still, many of us find it difficult to meet this dietary target and thus become deficient in those essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and other health-supporting compounds that vegetables and fruits are loaded with.
There are various ways how to incorporate fresh produce into our diet. Cut-up veggies are great for snacking with hummus or dip. They can be served in salads or as toppings on sandwiches. Many of them can also be enjoyed in their fermented or sprouted forms. However, one of the easiest ways to increase our fresh produce consumption is to drink them in smoothies or juices. Not everybody is truly familiar with the differences between the two and think they are the same. While they both are fantastic at providing nutrient-packed meals/drinks to our meal plan, each of them have their own unique features.
Smoothies are prepared by blending various types of vegetables, fruits, herbs and other healthy ingredients. They can be served cold, at room temperature, even hot as a warming soup in winter. Smoothies provide a generous amount of fibre, retained from all its ingredients, thus promoting bowel regularity, balancing blood sugar and supporting weight control. By carefully selecting the foods used for blending, smoothies can be turned into a complete nourishing meal providing all essential macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fat. The first step in smoothie preparation is choosing the liquid base. I like recommending coconut or other nut milk, even kefir for their protein content, but plain water can work well too as long as it is combined with an additional source of protein (protein powder, yogurt, etc.). Some prefer unsweetened juice, while others favour milk. These, however, are not my personal favourites. The basic rule for making a smoothie is using twice as much vegetable than fruit in serving size. Green smoothies are my favourites. In these, green leafy vegetables (spinach, Swiss or rainbow chard, kale, romaine lettuce) are staples which I combine with other veggies that I have on hand at the time: broccoli, celery, carrots, cucumber, etc. To increase the sweetness, I always include some type of fruit. Great choices are berries, pineapple, mangoes or apples. Adding a banana will enhance the smoothie’s creamy texture. Nuts, seeds and their butters, avocados, coconut, hemp or flaxseed oils can be added to provide healthy fats. In addition to these basic ingredients, I also like to include other nutrient-rich components such as herbs and spices. My favourites are cilantro, mint, fresh ginger and turmeric roots.
Juicing makes it even easier to reach your daily target in fresh vegetable and fruit consumption without feeling overstuffed. The valuable nutrients are concentrated in the extracted liquid while the fibre has been separated during the juicing process. Fibre elimination allows a quick and easy absorption of essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients that many of us are missing. This can be helpful in particular to individuals with compromised digestion or inflammatory bowel conditions. However, anybody can benefit from drinking fresh-pressed vegetable and fruit juice as it is easily digestible and its nutrients go straight to the body’s system leaving us re-energized and re-freshed. For juice preparation, I recommend the same type of vegetables and fruits as for blending. The amount of added fruit needs to be much smaller though. They are naturally rich in sugar which, in the absence of fibre, may have a negative impact on blood sugar balance. Keep in mind, that fresh juice is not a complete meal as there are no ingredients providing fat in it and its protein content is also very low. Therefore, it should not replace your main meals, rather it can be enjoyed as a snack or a delicious drink with other foods. If you are up to a challenge, you can try drinking juice first thing upon awakening and skipping on your morning java!
Here are some final suggestions to consider before juicing or blending:
- Work with fresh ingredients! Do not use produce that has been waiting in your fridge to be discovered for more than 5 days. The nutrient-content of produce rapidly decreases after harvesting.
- Rotate your foods used for smoothie or juice preparation! Variety is key! Do not include the same ingredients every day, be bold enough to experiment and try new vegetable and fruit varieties and combinations.
- Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen guide which enlists the produce with the highest level of residual pesticides. Buy organic varieties from these foods to lessen your toxin exposure.
Are you interested in learning more about the healthy ways of blending and juicing? Sign up for my free class at Goodness Me in Waterloo on July 12th at 6:30pm. I will provide more details on produce selection, various tasty combinations of vegetables and fruit, information on the types of blenders and juicers, tips for storing your magic elixirs, and of course recipes. I hope to meet you there!
Cherry Blast Smoothie
Smoothie Recipe by Marianna Duba
1 cup fresh or frozen dark cherries
½ ripe banana
1 cup unsweetened almond (or other nut) milk
½ tsp vanilla powder or pure vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp hemp seeds
Place all ingredients in a blender starting with the almond milk. Blend for 45 seconds and pour into a glass. Top with raw cacao nibs. Makes 2 smoothies.