Vegetable juicing & smoothies for optimal health
There is no easier way to increase your vegetable intake than with the addition of a green smoothie. You can use a wide range of different vegetables (and fruits) to make a smoothie which gives endless combinations both in terms of the flavours and their health-giving properties.
What is the difference between a juice and smoothie
A green or vegetable juice is usually made using either a centrifugal or ‘slow’ masticating juicer – it extracts all the juice and leaves behind a pulp, which ends up in the bin. A slow juicer is usually much better at producing a ‘dry’ pulp – meaning more juice for you. The cheaper centrifugal juicers often leave a wet pulp behind, which is more wasteful and more produce is required to make the same volume of juice.
A smoothie is made using a ‘jug’ blender or a device such as a NutriBullet. A food processor or stick blender is unlikely to give you a good texture. While there are pros and cons to both types of green drinks, I generally recommend people make smoothies rather than juices. There are several reasons for this:
- A smoothie will contain all of the fibre, which means ‘pre-biotic’ food for your gut bacteria, to keep them happy.
- Due to the extra bulk from the fibre, you generally need less produce to make a smoothie when compared to a juice – which means reduced cost.
- Less preparation time is required for a smoothie – after rinsing, many ingredients can go whole into the blender – while juicing often requires produce to be cut into the right size to feed into the juicer being used.
- Also due to the bulk, a smoothie often leaves people feeling fuller for longer.
- You can add nuts, seeds, coconut oil, ice, frozen fruit or veggies and other ingredients into a blender which might be more tricky to add to a juicer or stir direct into a juice.
- Finally the combination of fibre and less produce being used means that blood sugar levels are usually better maintained by a smoothie when compared to a similar juice.
In defence of juicing – a good slow juicer can create a very nutrient dense drink, which is easy to consume in a hurry and so long as only a minimum of fruit is used, it shouldn’t disrupt blood sugars too much. Juicing may be better than blending for some individuals who have digestive issues and are sensitive to fibre, especially raw fibre.
When to smoothie?
Smoothies are great at breakfast time or as a morning or afternoon snack. If you’re feeling unwell or have a low appetite, a green smoothie (like soup) can be a substitute for real meal – it doesn’t take long to make and can be nutritious and easy to digest. Smoothies can be made in advance – store in an airtight container, refrigerate to minimise oxidation and ideally consume within 24 hours. The smoothie will not cause harm to drink in 48 hours but the nutrient quality will start to deteriorate from the moment the ingredients have been blended.
What equipment do I need?
That depends upon what ingredients you use. A blender or Nutribullet will give a better texture if you’re using whole nuts or fibrous fruit/vegetables. A stick blender may sufficient for softer ingredients or powders. Nutribullets work very well and are a relatively inexpensive option if you’re just starting out. They are small enough to travel with, too.
Can a green smoothie also be a protein smoothie?
There are no fixed rules when it comes to making either protein smoothies or green smoothies. If you want to add protein you can - either through ingredients such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, yoghurt, ricotta or cottage cheese. Alternatively, you may use a protein powder – whey, soya, pea, hemp, rice protein can all be purchased. Note that you would generally just add a small amount of protein powder to a smoothie since it can become very dense.
Note: if you are following the NutriClean 14 Day Programme, cheese and whey or soya protein powders will be off limits but they may be useful for you to consider in the future.
Easy on the fruit / sweeteners
One very important consideration is not to use too much fruit. Although fruit is good for us, too much fruit in a smoothie can lead to blood sugar peaks (…and then troughs). While natural sweeteners such as stevia may be useful in moderation, ultimately, if we want to help our tastebuds adjust, this is only possible by reducing exposure to fruit/sweeteners. Aim to use just enough fruit to give the smoothie good flavour, without being too sweet.
Help, my smoothie tastes like grass!
Perfecting the green smoothie can take a little trial and error, as you work out how to get the right ratio of veggies to fruit. Start with lighter tasting veggies, such as cucumber and baby spinach, before graduating up to the big guns – kale, broccoli and cabbage. As your taste buds adapt, you’ll be able to slowly increase your veggie to fruit ratio – if you need to start with a little more fruit, that is OK but be sure to try and rein in the fruit content over time.
Just like a mixing cocktail, it is about finding the right ratio of sweet, sour and bitter - ingredients such as lemon / lime, ginger or mint can really help to lift a smoothie which has gone ‘too green’.
When it comes to produce, aim for organic where possible. Wash all produce and peel if not organic. Frozen bags of organic berries are much cheaper than fresh and are perfect for smoothies. Buy organic veggies and fruit in bulk, chop and freeze in small batches for easy use later on. Blend a whole bag of greens with a little water and freeze into large cubes for later (I use silicon muffin tins). Tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango and papaya freeze well - because tropical fruits are higher in sugar, freezing enables you to use small amounts and freeze the rest, meaning less waste and good blood sugar control.
Stewed fruits such as plum, rhubarb, apple work well too. As do cooked beetroots. Note: although banana is great in a smoothie, is very high GI and should only be used in moderation – peel, chop and freeze – limit to ¼ large banana per smoothie.
Superfood powders or other ingredients
Superfood powders such as wheatgrass, chlorella or spirulina can be a great way of adding other ingredients into your smoothie but be aware that they can be quite powerful - introduce slowly to avoid possible reactions.
You can also add heath fats such as coconut oil, 3,6,9 oil or MCT oil to your smoothie.
How healthy is it?
This website lets you calculate the nutritional value of your green smoothies, although I found it didn’t list many nuts and seeds, which I love to add for extra protein and healthy fats - for a more filling smoothie.