What's the Deal with Smoothies Anyway?
Smoothies and juicing have become a staple for me and my family. As much as we LOVE them for a quick and easy way to dose up with essential vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants, there are definitely some down sides to this convenient and tasty way to get our daily dose of the good stuff.
•Fibre- Juicing totally removes the fibre which you need for gut and heart health. Smoothies, however, retain the fibre.
•Sugar- Certain fruits contains a ton of sugar. When blended, the sugar is even more readily available causing spikes in blood sugar which if often repeated, can lead to diabetes and weight gain. Eating a whole piece of fruit with its buffering effect of slowly ingested fibre creates a slower release of sugar. The high sugar levels will also take a toll on your teeth.
•Raw- Raw food is difficult to digest. Often people find that raw food is initially very energizing as it breaks down the tissues. Too much and for too long though causes depletion and loss of resilience, energy and immunity. The good thing is that in smoothies, the tough-to-digest quality is partially offset as the vegetables are thoroughly liquified.
•Portions- It's very easy to consume to much when you eat cool liquified food as the quick consumption bypasses your body’s messages to stop when it’s had enough. Overeating also impairs digestion.
•Bad food combinations. In Ayurveda and even other philosophies note that combining raw fruits with other foods can inhibit good digestion. The idea being that fruit is digested faster than other foods and that if combined together, the fruit over-ferments in the digestive tract, causing digestive problems. On top of that, adding oils, seeds and dairy to a smoothie containing fruit is a big digestive faux pas. However, if fruit is only combined with simple vegetables, thoroughly liquefied, this effect is much reduced.
•Cold- I know, I know, I like mine chilly too. However, adding frozen fruit, ice or cold water to the smoothie will make it cold and this will reduce the power of your digestion. You will be consuming all these fabulous vitamins and nutrients but if your digestion is compromised, you won’t be absorbing or assimilating them. Even worse, you could end up with more toxins than you started out with!
Sounds like a bummer- but it doesn't have to be. Here's a few TIPS to make smoothies work FOR you and be GOOD for you too.
•Keep them simple (fruit, vegetables, herbs and water). That's it- super simple Do not add oils, fats, dairy, seeds, nuts, protein powders or anything else which isn’t a fruit, vegetable, herb or water. Eat these separately or, in the case of protein powders, not at all.
•Minimize fruit. Have the bare minimum or even no fruit. Make sure the fruit is ripe and don’t overdo sour tastes. Try sweet apples, pears, apricots, sweet berries (especially blueberries), cherries, fresh figs, dates, grapes, plums, pomegranate and avocado.
•Lots of vegetables. Greens are excellent! Experiment with kale, dandelion leaves/flowers, young thistle, spinach, rocket, beet tops, romaine, chard, green peppers, radicchio, asparagus, dark green or red lettuces and cucumbers. Remember to rotate greens weekly to avoid alkaloid build-up. I love adding sprouts that I grow with my own four tray seed sprouter such as alfalfa, sunflower, wheatgrass or mung. Root vegetables such as beets, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato and carrots are ok in small amounts because they are more difficult to digest when raw.
A few other TIPS:
•Add ginger and other herbs. Ginger will help with the digestion of the raw fruit and vegetables. Other herbs such as aloe vera, basil, coriander leaf, fennel and mint have fantastic health benefits. My go-to is whole turmeric root (anti- inflammatory)
•Room temperature or slightly warm. Use room temperature ingredients or even slightly warm water or tea. Avoid using ice or frozen fruit.
•Small quantities- I know how easy it is to grab a smoothie and go. Just be aware of the amount you're consuming. Remember your healthy smoothie is loaded with lots of the good stuff so you may not need as much as you think. Drink it slowly and pay attention to when you've actually had enough. I like to sometimes underblend my smoothies for something to chew on (not for everyone)
•Drink when digestion is strongest- Between 10am-2pm. The time of day when our digestive fire is at its peak and best able to digest more challenging foods is around mid-day.
•Know yourself. Smoothies are not for everyone. If you have poor digestion or are a vata constitution, smoothies may not be your friend. If you digest food well, without any bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, and are a pitta smoothies are your friend. If you are overweight, have mucous or have a kapha constitution, your relationship with smoothies is little more fragile. To nourish this delicate friendship make sure that your smoothies are mainly green and with very little fruit. If you begin to find you have digestive problems, gas, dryness of the body or even anxiety and mental agitation, you should "take a break" from smoothies for a while. Click the above links to learn YOUR constitution to better understand your own body and what it needs to THRIVE.
I agree that getting enough of the good stuff in ours and our families' bodies can be challenging sometimes, with busy schedules, meal planning and just keeping track. Smoothies and juicing are generally a GREAT and easy way to nourish the body. Listen to your body, don't overdo it and keep it simple. We're also talking about a MASSIVE business here who's marketing is all about more....add this, try this new product, more is better...etc. Instead, paying attention to how you feel after your smoothie/ juice and choose fruits and veggies that are organic, seasonal and fresh.
Remember also, just because these yummy shots of goodness are a hot commodity, it doesn't mean that they are right for you. You can easily get your daily dose by eating your greens, fruits and veggies whole. You decide what's right for you, your constitution and what your body needs. And remember ABX= always be experimenting.