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Juices + Smoothies – Health Hit or Miss?

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So, you’ve become a convert to liquid nutrition!
But are you falling into this common trap?

Fresh smoothies and juices have catapulted in popularity in recent years, with the sipping of colourful concoctions in fancy containers becoming commonplace.
And they are a great way to pack more fresh nutrients into your day rather than chowing down on a bag of raw kale!

But before your next smushing session, take a moment to check you’re not falling into this easy trap:

I call it… Dah dah DAH! Fructose-Aggedon!

Many of us hauled ourselves on the liquid nutrient bandwagon to kick a sugar habit of some description. It may have been Diet Coke or pain-au-chocolats or too many caramel lattes. Whatever it was, that sweet tooth can still nag at us to make our healthy alternative just as sweet and palatable. Here are some pointers:

Keep it moderate:

  • Be careful how much fruit you are adding to your juice or smoothie mix, because even though fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruits, it still spikes your blood sugar. Your body may choose to store that excess sugar in fat cells, it may feed a bacteria imbalance, it may exacerbate inflammation in your body…
  • When using the whole of the fruit in a smoothie, you keep the benefits of the fruit’s fibre content. This reduces the blood sugar spiking effect.
  • But when you push fruits through a juicer, all the fibre remains in the pulp that you throw away, so you get liquid vitamins, phytonutrients, etc… and fructose.

You will adjust:

  • If you’re loading up your blender with fruits, keep in mind that it only takes a few days for your taste buds to adjust to a lower level of sweetness, and this is a good thing all round! After all, wouldn’t it be great to sip a soda and realise it’s actually sickeningly sweet and you genuinely don’t want to drink it?! I promise you, it happens!
  • Eating naturally sweet vegetables also helps to curb our desires for super-sweetness. Add carrots, bell peppers and beetroot to your juices and smoothies to get a more subtle level of sweetness and lots of vital nutrients too.

Try alternative sweetness:

  • You could forego the fruit altogether and add a pinch of natural stevia leaf to your veggie drink. Stevia leaf is one of the most potent sources of natural sweetness on the planet, and it has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels. It’s subtle aniseed flavour works well with vegetable juices and is certainly worth a try for the health benefit potential of drinking purely veg-based juices and smoothies.
  • Beware of common brand names that are a play on the word Stevia. Most of them will be packed with additives such as maltodextrin, they contain very little Stevia, making them not only bad value but not exactly a health food. You can also buy stevia extract as a super-sweet white powder – fewer additives but still a processed version of the natural leaf.
  • Personally, I buy pure, dried stevia leaves – it’s not exactly a chore to crumble some into a smoothie or juice!

Herb and spice things up:

  • Experiment with herbs to add flavour, variety and extra health benefits to your drinks. Parsley and coriander (cilantro) are potent detoxifying herbs. Mint makes for a really refreshing elixir and naturally aids digestion.
  • Spices can also add new flavour profiles and nutritional value to your drinks.
    Try ginger for warmth, spiciness and immune-boosting and digestive benefits.
    Cinnamon helps to curb blood sugar spikes and promotes satisfaction.

Here are two recipes that will help you get the balance right

juices and smoothies
Super-Green Juice Boost

1 small cucumber – peeled if not organic
1 celery stick
1 Kiwi fruit
1 large handful of spinach or kale
1 small handful parsley
1 courgette (zucchini)
1/2inch slice ginger
1inch slice lemon or lime
pinch stevia leaves
Juice all the ingredients except the stevia. Crumble the stevia leaf into the juice, stir and enjoy!

Special Choc-Mint Smoothie

½ banana
½ avocado
3 dates, pitted
1 tablespoon chia seeds, soaked in a little water
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 handful spinach leaves
A few mint leaves
Pinch of stevia to taste if required
Whizz all the ingredients in your jug blender or with a hand blender until smooth. Thin with water, coconut water or almond milk to required consistency. Sip and enjoy.
Tip: One of my clients takes this to the cinema as an alternative to a soda or milkshake.

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