Healthy eating, Nutrition
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The truth about juices and smoothies

Fruit juice has for many years been viewed as the healthy alternative to soft drinks. However, with the current focus by some scientists and the media on sugar, it has become clear that drinking lots of fruit juice is no better than fizzy drinks for causing tooth decay, obesity and in the long term, diabetes.

green juice photo

One small (150ml) glass of fruit juice can be counted as one of your 5 a day but no more. When the juice from a whole fruit is isolated from the fibre of the pulp, the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing an insulin spike that encourages the body to store the calories as fat and over many years can lead to diabetes. If you enjoy fruit juice and struggle to eat more than one piece of fruit per day, drink it with breakfast or another meal. The sugar content of the juice will be absorbed more slowly if it goes into the body with low GI carbs (eg. from oats, grainy toast) or protein, say from eggs.

Green juices are different. They contain mostly vegetables which naturally have little sugar in them. While some of the soluble fibre may be lost during the pulping process, you will still absorb most of the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables without causing an insulin spike in the bloodstream. And you can include vegetables that you may not eat regularly, if ever. Green leafy veggies, such as kale and spinach are a good source of vitamins A, C and K, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron, so are a fabulous food or ingredient in a green juice.

Green juices make a great addition to your diet and can boost your nutrient intake at times when you may be very busy during the day and not able to make the best choices. Drink it at breakfast or as an afternoon snack – whenever it fits into your day. However, don’t use it to replace a meal, you’ll still feel hungry before the next meal and be susceptible to grabbing an unhealthy snack. You could also try a green juice with a piece of toast after a night out. Its high vitamin and mineral content means it would replenish many of the nutrients that are depleted by alcohol and which contribute to the feeling of being hungover.

Making your own juice is always better than buying from the supermarket. The juice will be fresher and you can experiment to find the right combination of ingredients that means you enjoy drinking it rather than tolerate it because it’s good for you! However, you will need to buy a blender and the top of the range ones are really expensive. Start with a standard blender and if you can see yourself using it regularly, then invest in a specialist one such as Nutribullet – they do get the most nutrients from the food and are better if you’re juicing to drink later. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do it yourself, try the supermarket ones.

Strawberry and banana smoothie

Strawberry and banana smoothie

Fruit smoothies have grown in popularity in recent years and are available to buy in cafes and shops throughout the country. They are often sold in large bottles, providing far more than a day’s required intake of fruit. Some of the fibre remains intact particularly in smoothies containing bananas, but just like large juices, they also provide a huge amount of sugar so cannot be recommended to drink regularly. I have never understood why the Australian style smoothie, which is made with milk has not been adopted in the UK.

A dairy smoothie, made with milk and yoghurt is a wonderful thing. They don’t tend to be available in cafes here, but they are very easy to make at home and taste fantastic. Place in a blender, a chopped banana with some blueberries, strawberries or mango, a spoonful of vanilla yoghurt and a cup of milk and whizz for a minute or two. It’s great for kids but for adults too. Many people don’t get enough calcium, which is vital for the formation of strong bones while children and teenagers are still growing but also to prevent osteoporosis in later life. A smoothie is an easy way to get extra calcium into the diet. It also provides protein and some fat from the milk and yoghurt, which slows down the absorption of the sugars in the fruit. It is more filling than a fruit smoothie and makes a great afternoon snack.

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