Tip #6: Drink Green Juice and Green Smoothies
If you’re new to juicing ~ or new to eating a lot of greens ~ this might sound like a scary post. But there’s really nothing to be afraid of when it comes to juicing or getting enough greens. In fact, it can be downright delicious and easy!
Dark, leafy greens are absolutely loaded with nutrition. They are incredible stores of vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and even several B vitamins.
They also are rich in minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They are full of amino acids, which help our bodies to repair after strenuous work and which help to keep our brains functioning at their highest ability.
The phytonutrients (plant chemicals) in leafy greens, which include beta carotene and lutein, help to ward off age-related cellular damage and eye problems. Chlorophyll in leafy greens stimulates the production of red blood cells and helps keep the blood clean and fresh.
Leafy greens are also alkalizing, which helps to balance your body’s pH level against the harmful effects of acidifying foods such as alcohol, meat, cheese, coffee, and chocolate (in addition to the acidifying effects of stress, pollution, and everyday toxins). I’ll be writing a post on the acid/alkaline balance at some point this year, so stay tuned!
Leafy greens include:
- Lettuces, such as romaine or butter lettuce
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Beet greens
- Barley grass
- Alfalfa sprouts
The fresher the better! And when juicing, always choose organic vegetables because if there are any chemicals on your veggies, they’ll head straight into the juice and be instantly absorbed by your body. Please, even if you don’t regularly choose organic vegetables for financial (or whatever) reasons, give your body a break and choose organic when juicing.
Keep reading to learn more about juicing your greens and making smoothies. It’s important to note I’m talking about fresh juice, not juice that has been pasteurized for safety and a long shelf life. Pasteurization kills many important enzymes and destroys many of the vitamins and minerals in juice. The fresher the better! A juicer or a power blender can be one of the healthiest investments you’ll ever make.
The Benefits of Juicing
In the last few years, juicing has become a huge trend. I remember when the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer first made its way to informercial land ~ can you believe that was ten years ago? Needless to say, I didn’t buy a juicer back in 2002. It wasn’t until 2007, when an acupuncturist and Qi Gong Master friend passed along the wisdom, “Eat your fruit and drink your vegetables,” (note: see Cautions, below). The argument he made was that eating fruit provided fiber and a slow uptake of natural sugars, while drinking vegetable juice provided a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes while giving the digestive system a rest.
Digesting takes a lot of energy! Giving your body a chance to rest from the exhausting process of digestion and elimination helps to revitalize the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. This, in turn, also helps to rejuvenate your endocrine and immune systems.
If you’re an athlete or if you’re recovering from an injury or illness, drinking a fresh vegetable juice per day can help to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need while putting your body’s energy to use healing and recovering.
Drinking fresh, raw vegetable juice every day also helps your body to more efficiently release toxins that build up during normal day-to-day living. The antioxidants in fresh juice help to remove these toxins and restore vitality to all of your cells, tissues, and organs.
There are literally endless combinations you can try. If you like to mix fruit and vegetables, go for it! If you prefer veggies only, then go with that. I like to add a squeeze of lemon or lime to my juice (which boosts the alkalizing effects even further!). If I’ve been training for a race and sweating buckets, I’ll sometimes add some sea salt. Mix it up to find a recipe that’s right for you. Some of my favorite combinations include:
- Kale-chard-cucumber-celery-green apple (my all-time favorite blend)
It’s important to note that when my acupuncturist friend recommended “eating your fruit and drinking your veggies,” he was speaking to my partner, who was dealing with digestive troubles at the time. The advice helped him rebalance his digestive system, and ultimately his entire body responded positively. HOWEVER, I would not recommend “drinking your veggies” as a total replacement for eating them. Fiber and possibly other benefits are lost through juicing. But when it comes to ingesting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant chemicals), juicing is an easy way to get a lot in you without having to eat seven salads a day.
It’s also important to note that I’m not talking about juice fasts or juice cleanses, which usually require ingesting nothing but vegetable juice, sometimes for days on end. Every body is different and I can’t claim what’s right for you. But what I’m talking about here is adding juice to your regular diet ~ or if you’re making an exchange, trade a snack for a juice but not a whole meal. Again, I can’t tell you what’s right for your body ~ so, as always, take what works for you and leave what doesn’t!
Juicing Alternative: Green Smoothies
One way to keep the fiber and get all the benefits of juicing is to make green smoothies. Doing so requires a super-powered blender, such as a Vitamix or a Kitchenaid Pro Line blender (that’s the one we have), which will blend your veggies until super-smooth. The operational word here is “green.” That means you’re not making milkshake equivalents out of just bananas, ice cream, and sugar! (At least, not in place of juicing. Maybe for dessert on a special occasion.)
Green smoothies can also incorporate protein-rich ingredients, such as rice milk or hemp protein powder, which make them a great option for athletes and other highly active people. Keep in mind you’ll usually have to add 1/2 a cup of water or so to get the right consistency for your smoothie. Some green smoothie recipe ideas include:
- Banana-hemp protein-rice milk-raw almond butter (for a super post-workout meal replacement!)
What if I Don’t Have (or Can’t Afford) a Juicer or High-Powered Blender?
Depending where you live, you might be able to find unpasteurized, fresh green juice at farmers’ markets or at juice bars. If you can’t find unpasterized, the better option than pasteurized is flash pasteurized, which preserves more of the good-for-you enzymes. Around here, we pick up Columbia Gorge’s Organic Pure Pressed Just Greens, when we don’t have the time or inclination to juice our own. Trader Joe’s has a juice called “Very Green” that’s flash pasteurized ~ just make sure you’re buying the refrigerated one, not the pasteruized “Green Plant” juice.
And don’t forget that Jamba Juice has wheatgrass shots! If nothing else, you can usually find a Jamba Juice nearby and get some supergreens that way!
My personal experience with green juice and green smoothies has been nothing but absolutely wonderful! I would be surprised if you didn’t notice a positive change by adding more greens and more veggies in such an easy way. Remember to always listen to your body and do what’s right for you. I hope you find balance and benefits through greens in your own life!
Questions for readers:
Do you juice or make green smoothies? If so, why? If not, why?
If so, what’s your favorite juice or smoothie combination?