Everywhere I look the green smoothie has overtaken breakfast. Are the health benefits of a smoothie the magic bullet that many seek? It has its good points, but there are some things about that fruit-basket-in-a-cup that may surprise you.
Everywhere I look, the green smoothie has overtaken breakfast. My friends are blending for their kids. Our CEO is drinking one during morning meetings. Random people on the street are walking around with them.
There was no small amount of shock when my father-in-law said to me last Sunday dinner, "Two of my friends read your column. Did you really have two Diet Cokes, an Egg McMuffin, and a candy bar for breakfast?" I have to admit that my confession sparked a renewed interest in healthy eating. So, while I initially balked at the thought of spinach for breakfast, I'm sipping a blend this morning and asking myself, "What's up with the green smoothie?" I, too, am a huge fan of having more energy, glowing skin, and a sparkly personality. But is juicing the secret to all of my wants and desires? Perhaps, but here are things to consider.
1. To eat or not to eat
When it is a matter of eating the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables published by the US Department of Agriculture — or not — many people have found success in drinking those nutrients versus not getting any nutrition at all. For example, a standard 24-ounce green juice may contain as many as three apples, three bunches of kale, a cucumber, a whole lemon, and a bunch of carrots. Most people wouldn't consume that amount of produce in one sitting, but they could drink it while on the go and still enjoy the nutritional benefits.
2. Remember the fiber
How you prepare your juice drink can make a big difference in the amount of fiber you consume and the nutritional value of your juice drink. Those who use a blender to prepare their juice drink are more likely to retain some of the fiber that is often lost when using a juicer machine. Yet both remove a large amount of dietary fiber from the fruits and vegetables.
Fiber is an essential component in a healthy diet and shouldn't be overlooked when preparing juices. Dietary fiber helps regulate digestive functions, helps to lower cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels, and aids in weight loss. The only effective way to incorporate healthy amounts of dietary fiber into your diet is through eating the whole fruit or vegetable.
The quality of the output depends on the quality going in. Yes, a juice drink provides a large amount of produce in one serving, but that drink may also contain things you didn't expect.
For those wanting to control diabetes or high cholesterol levels, juicing has been a popular option. But many nutritionists advocate moderation in juicing as defense against the hidden carbohydrates and sugars in most fruits and vegetables. "People with diabetes should watch the amount of sugar they consume from juicing fruits and some vegetables that are high in natural sugars," cautioned Denise Jones in her blog, BestforJuicing.com. "A large apple for example may contain up to 30 grams of carbohydrate."
"The good news," she added. "Is that many vegetables are low in sugar. So juicing more of these vegetables instead of fruit will help avoid blood sugar spikes. But watch out when juicing carrots, as one medium-sized carrot may contain nearly 6 grams of carbohydrate."
Jones also voiced concern about oxalic acid, which is found in parsley, spinach, bananas, beets and other popular juicing ingredients. When oxalates bind with calcium, it forms crystals that often cause irritation in the kidneys.
"For most people, oxalic acid consumption is not a problem," explained Jones. "However, people with certain health conditions should avoid foods that can produce oxalate crystals. Gout, osteoporosis, kidney disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can be aggravated by oxalate crystals. Oxalic acid can cause kidney stones even in people who have no underlying kidney disease. Therefore, people should consume foods containing oxalic acid in moderation and always drink plenty of water to help flush out excess oxalic acid."
4. Remember to chew your food
For many seeking a kick-start for weight loss, juice cleanses offer a seductive appeal. They are popular, easily accessible, trendy, don't require exercise, and promote quick weight loss. But this notion of drinking your caloric intake on a daily basis has many dieticians and nutritionists concerned.
"While cleanses might appear to work in the short term, they are not a long-term solution for weight loss and can be dangerous. "There's not a lot of scientific evidence showing that cleanses work," she says. "When you're restricting your calories so heavily, you're going to lose weight, but people who follow these cleanses tend to put the weight right back on and leave themselves at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies."
If you can't recall the last time you chewed your food, chances are you are engaged in an unhealthy weight loss strategy, which most nutritionists agree is neither safe nor effective.
This is not encouraging news for those who had hoped standing knee-deep in kale would help shed those unwanted pounds.
"Losing weight in a healthy way can be a process," said Blake. "It's not going to happen overnight, but you can see results by eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and incorporating exercise. The only way is to take in fewer calories than you're putting out."
It seems the green juice phenomenon is here to stay, which is a good thing — in moderation. By maintaining a balance of whole foods with healthy juicing choices, along with an active lifestyle, you can enjoy the tasty benefits of juicing while optimizing good health.
Dr. Amy Osmond Cook received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in Communication. She is Dir. of Provider Relations at North American Health Care and taught writing, communication, and marketing classes at ASU, BYU, and Univ of Utah.