Juices and smoothies: Give then a Go!
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
I originally wrote this article about the benefits of juices for a magazine called ‘Here & Now’ back in March 2004. With advances in research, many principles about health have changed, so I’ve updated the information and also included smoothies.
Fresh juices and smoothies offer our bodies easy to digest, absorbable, concentrated vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
They’re a refreshing, yummy way to enjoy your ‘multi’ in a glass. And if you have your ‘nutrient cocktail’ as a smoothie, you also benefit from the fibres within the fruits and vegetables you blended.
When I first wrote this article, it was off the back of a long hot summer and many of my clients felt excessively tired from the effects of the heat.
Many were dehydrated even though they drank more water than usual. Most were mineral deficient, especially magnesium, a water-soluble mineral easily lost through sweating and stress.
Many with dehydration also suffered the effects of toxicity because toxins are concentrated when we’re dehydrated. Indeed, you may have previously had a toxic headache when you didn’t drink enough water.
It can be difficult to drink enough water when it’s very hot, and it’s also hard to drink enough hydrating fluid when it’s cold. I say hydrating fluid because many hot drinks like tea and coffee are actually dehydrating fluids.
Did you know that for every cup of coffee or tea you drink, you excrete one and a half cups of fluid? This results in a net loss of fluid, so rather than provide enough fluid to keep your cells healthy, you deplete your body.
Note: herbal teas do not dehydrate the body.
In my article Water the Lubricant of Life I mention how water can feel like it’s running straight through us. When our cells become dehydrated, it’s like trying to absorb water with a dry sponge.
If you’ve ever tried to mop a floor, you know you need to first wet the sponge or mop before it will suck up water efficiently. Similarly, if we get too dehydrated (and the first sign is thirst) then our cells have a hard time absorbing water.
Another example is a small amount of detergent added to a car’s windscreen water. The detergent isn’t there to wash the windows, unless you put too much in, but is there to break the water’s surface tension – as it’s scientifically called. This allows the water to do its job rather than just smear it across the screen.
Fresh juices, smoothies, and soups act like ‘wetting’ agents in the body.
Juices, smoothies, and soups are great to use as wetting agents to expedite better fluid absorption into your cells. Also, the addition of minerals from vegetables and some fruits such as apples helps your body hold water in the right places, that is, inside your cells to help flush out toxins.
When we are dehydrated, fluid is held outside the cells which creates fluid retention that we see as puffiness in the hands, fingers, feet, and especially ankles and lower legs. This is an unhealthy sign of fluid held in the wrong place and it means dehydration at a cellular level.
To act as a ‘wetting agent’ juices only need to be in tiny amounts, say a tablespoon of apple juice in a glass of water or a similar amount of liquid chlorophyll you can buy as a concentrate. You can also juice a small amount of anything green, such as barley grass, alfalfa, spinach, bock choy etc. These ‘greens’ also contain a rich source of magnesium, one of our most valuable and commonly deficient minerals.
Fresh juice provides us with concentrated amounts of minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates. The nutrients are ‘live’ because we gain them from a living source.
The downside to concentrated juice is that the sugar content is often very high, particularly with full glasses of fruit juices and some vegetable juices. There are three ways around this. One is to dilute your juice at least 50/50 with water that is preferable filtered. Another method is to focus on vegetables which have less sugar, such as the greens and only use a small amount of sweeter vegetables such as carrot and beetroot, or small amount of fruit such as apple. The third choice is to have a smoothie instead.
Juices are made in a juicer, which squeeze the juice out in a concentrated form without fibres. This is great for foods that are very fibre rich such as celery juice, which would be difficult to consume if the fibres were present.
Whereas smoothies are made in a blender. Blending vegetables with perhaps a small amount of fruit, along with some filtered water or even nut milk, gives you the ‘wetting effect’ and a high amount of easy to digest nutrients and enzymes. And there’s a bonus. Juicing removes valuable fibres, whereas blending retains those fibres that help your digestive tract and feed beneficial bacteria in your large intestines.
These bacteria, also called microbiome, need vegetable and fruit fibres to feed on. In return for this food they produce what are called ‘short chain fatty acids’ (SCFAs), which are the main source of energy for the cells lining our colon which helps to keep our colon healthy. SCFAs also help to reduce inflammation, maintain a healthy pH, regulate the immune system, and help to control our appetite – all vital to maintain good health.
Eating fruits and vegetables in their whole state should provide us with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. But sometimes we only obtain the maximum benefits from them when they’re juiced or blended, as much of their goodness is locked in the fibres.
When juiced or blended, the goodness is released from the fibres and nutrients can enter our bloodstream more easily. A good digestive system will do this with whole foods, but many people don’t have a good digestive system. Also, some don’t eat enough vegetables, especially kids, but most children enjoy a drink of blended nutrients.
Personally, I feel that the blended versions, rather than juices, offer us a better way to get these extra nutrients.
Other benefits of juices and smoothies
Juices and smoothies provide a quick, easy way to increase your consumption of healthy fresh raw fruits and vegetables. When you make your own fresh juices and smoothies, you’ll find you have increased energy, a glowing complexion, strengthened immune system, stronger bones and a reduced risk of disease (provided of course, you don’t disrespect your body in other areas).
Fresh juices and smoothies can also help to flush toxins from your body, are good for your heart, circulation, general well-being, and weight control (if you don’t have high sugar blends).
Enzymes are also found in raw foods. These are the life force in atoms and molecules that make fresh ‘living foods’ so easy to digest. The faster ‘living food’ is eaten after juicing or blending. the more enzymes and nutrients are present. Fresh is best!
There are many bottled juices and smoothie blends in stores. A problem with bottled versions is that many of the valuable nutrients are lost during the bottling process because they are heat treated (pasteurised) to kill bacteria.
When you make your own juices and smoothies and drink them fresh, you control the quality of the fruits and vegetables that goes into your body.
Another way to utilise juices is with fasting programs. Juice fasting is an effective way to rejuvenate the body. The old classic form of fasting was a pure water fast, but leading detox authorities now agree that a juice fast is superior to a water fast. Fasting on fresh raw vegetable juices, plus vegetable broths and herb teas, results in more effective cleansing and rejuvenation of the tissues.
During a juice fast, the process of elimination of dead and dying cells speeds up and re-building of new cells stimulated. At the same time, the toxic waste products that interfere with the nourishment of cells are effectively eliminated, and normal metabolic rate and cell oxygenation restored.
Vitamins, minerals, enzymes, trace elements and the natural colourings of fresh, raw vegetable are extremely beneficial to normalise the body’s processes and supply essential elements to promote healing activity and cell regeneration. Juices require minimal digestion and are easily assimilated directly into the bloodstream.
Mineral imbalance in the tissues is one of the main causes of diminished oxygenation, consequent disease, and premature aging. Generous amounts of minerals in juices help to restore the biochemical and mineral balance in tissues and cells. Raw juices also contain a yet to be unidentified factor which stimulates a micro-electric tension in the body that is responsible for the cells ability to absorb nutrients from the blood stream and effectively excrete metabolic wastes.
If not doing a juice fast cleanse, then my preference is smoothies. Apart from the benefits already mentioned, smoothies are a great way to add various super foods like coconut oil, spirulina powder, acai berries, nuts and seeds and similar foods that might otherwise be tricky to consume. For more info, see my article What are Super Foods
Juices, especially green juices, smoothies, and raw soups (blended raw vegetables) are great for the elderly who have difficulty eating or digesting or need a boost of vitamins and minerals.
What are you waiting for? Give them a go!
Important: do not attempt any form of fasting without first consulting with an experienced, qualified health practitioner.