What juices and smoothies can do to help reduce cancer risk, and improve heart and brain health.
Article courtesy of | Jesse Darland | ©CTW Features
Why eat your fruits and vegetables, when you can drink them? While some have promoted juices or smoothies as a way to lose weight, they can be an incredibly effective way to improve your health.
That’s because making juices or smoothies at home can boost the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables in your diet. The USDA now recommends that women age 51 and older eat one and a half cups of fruit and two cups of vegetables per day. Men age 51 and older should eat two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables each day.
And if you’re worried about investing money in a bunch of fancy equipment, you can likely just get started with the blender that you have in your kitchen cabinet.
“Drinking fruits and vegetables may be beneficial for older adults who may be experiencing changes in taste, decreased appetite or difficulty chewing or swallowing raw produce, preventing them from consuming the recommended daily amount for optimal health,” Laura Dilz, a registered dietitian/nutritionist in Cincinnati, says. “Juicing should be integrated into a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and heart healthy fats.”
But first, a word of clarification: Making juice and making a smoothie are not the same thing. “Juicing” is the practice of extracting juice from fruits and vegetables, while smoothies are made in a blender and retain shredded fiber from the ingredients.
Sonya Angelone, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends smoothies that use whole fruits (including most of the fiber rich skins) and vegetables over juices, which eliminate the fiber. “A very important aspect of good health is maintaining a good gut microbiome,” she says. Healthy gut bacteria feed on fiber to produce gut health promoting chemicals, and juicing eliminates that fiber.
Fiber is also a key nutrient to healthy digestion, controlling blood sugar, and keeps you feeling full for a longer amount of time, Dilz adds.
Most any blender works just fine, and they’re ideal if you’re making a smoothie. If you’re serious, though, Agelone recommends blenders from NutriBullet and Vitamix. Other than price (they do cost more), the main difference is the strength of the motor. A stronger motor means a shorter time to blend and a smoother finished product, she says.
If you’re interested in just juicing, know that there are three main methods used to make juice: cold press, centrifugal and masticating. “Machines vary in quality and price, with centrifugal typically being the least expensive and most common in stores,” Dilz says. “Cold press and masticating juicers work great with extracting juice from leafy vegetables, but tend to cost more.”
No matter which machine or method you choose, the process is fairly simple: select fresh, colorful and minimally processed fruits and vegetables, switch on your machine, and then drink a glass full of refreshing, delicious goodness. If you’re juicing (and not making blended smoothies) one word of warning: consuming adequate dietary fiber is still essential. “Therefore juicing can be incorporated into a healthy diet, but should not replace fresh whole produce full of fiber,” Dilz says.
In addition to introducing more fruits and vegetables into your everyday diet, juices or smoothies can also help deal with chronic health conditions. The naturally occurring nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables can help decrease oxidation and inflammation, “which is a common thread in most chronic diseases,” Angelone says, including breast cancer. Strawberries and raspberries, in particular, are a potent source of ellagic acid, a phytochemical that has been shown to prevent cancers of the breast, skin and lung in lab studies, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Kale and spinach both have super-high levels of carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that protects against free radical damage that contributes to cancer development.
For those living with diabetes, experts recommend smoothies and not juices, because the higher fiber content of smoothies can help manage blood sugar levels. “They also can be filling which can lead to a lower calorie intake when eaten before meals or as snacks,” Angelone says. If juicing, Dilz says that, because fruits have more sugar in them than vegetables, “Individuals with diabetes require a juice with more vegetables and fewer fruits to control their blood sugar.”
Because some vegetables are good sources of calcium, juices and smoothies can go a long way towards promoting bone health and lessening the risks of osteoporosis. Dilz recommends leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens and bok choy as great ingredients for reducing the risk of fractures. Broccoli and cabbage are also great sources of calcium.
If heart disease is a concern, juicing and smoothies can help. The American Heart Association wants all Americans to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables to maintain health and prevent or delay the development of cardiovascular disease, so boosting your intake through juicing or smoothies goes a long way. “The concentrated source of nutrients can help decrease inflammation, which can help prevent heart disease and also provide plenty of potassium which can lower elevated blood pressure,” Angelone says.
Adds Dilz, “Beet root juice is getting a lot of attention right now for its potential to improve blood pressure and heart health.”
It is important to note that certain nutrients may interfere with certain medications. For example, Vitamin K (found in green, leafy vegetables) may interact with blood thinners, and grapefruit may interact with statins. “If you are taking medications I would advise meeting with your doctor and/or a registered dietitian to play it safe and choose a juice that is right for you,” Dilz says.
The experts recommend checking out eatright.org, an online resource that contains tons of information about nutrition in general and juices and smoothies in particular.
© CTW Features