A few months ago I explored the pros and cons of juicing, (Juicing for Health: 6 Juicing Facts) and admittedly, had never really tried it. I knew the nutritional benefits and potential problems with the fad, but had decided a long time ago liquid foods weren't really for me.
With New Year's Resolutions on the brain, I decided my Resolution would be an open mind. The nutrition world can be pretty closed minded, although not entirely without reason. With people's health and wellness on the line, and potential bodily harm, you can understand the hesitation to accept new trends without adequate research. But, I've noticed that our slow acceptance of new trends is causing us to lose favor with the public. We need to be better than the fad diet billionaire's and celebrities. So, my solution is to be more willing to lend an open mind and work with an individuals beliefs about nutrition and personal nutrition desires and be less of a negative Nancy.
When it comes to juicing and smoothies I had always had a " I won't kill you but I don't recommend it" attitude. A lot of dietitians do. We have a tendency to discredit things that are born of faulty science and theories. But what if we're missing the big picture... some of these trends and fads may be doing all the right things... or at least SOME of the right things, even if for all the wrong reasons.
Juicing and smoothies began with the Fletcherizing Fad Diet. The idea was that our bodies cannot break down the nutrients and so need better access to them. So on the Fletcher diet, individuals were instructed to chew their food 100 times. When that became exhausting, someone else suggested blenderized food.
Before either of these diets were a thing, a doctor disproved the very foundations of them. Way back in the day, like during the Civil War, a doctor happened upon a soldier with a battle wound which gave him access to the soldier's stomach. He used this portal to test the strength of the stomach's acids. And he found that our stomach are capable of breaking down bones. Not only that, our intestines are long... about 14 feet give or take. And inside our intestines it looks kind of like a carpet. If you're a seamstress type of person, imagine you are making a rouched piece of clothing.... you need way more material to cover the body when something is rouched! The intestines are the same way, the surface area food comes in contact with is immense. And this gives nutrients innumerable chances to be absorbed. Do some get past the intestines? Sure they do, in fact there are scientists who study poop just to see what wasn't used. And generally nutrients don't get absorbed when the intestines are overloaded with nutrients, otherwise it could be the result of a disease. They can only absorb so much at one time, so blending it wouldn't make much of a difference anyways if there's just too much. -- Another reason to eat small, frequent meals!
Giving It A Fair Shot
So what of this juicing thing.... well the other reason juicing and smoothies aren't super well liked for people trying to lose weight is that liquid leaves your stomach faster than solids... leading to hunger sooner. So I thought about this, and I thought "okay, well if its a smoothie versus a juice, there's still some fiber, so that's a redeeming quality. It's still a liquid so it will leave the stomach faster than a solid, but its more solid than juice because of the pulp and seeds." So this made me feel a little better. And, if people struggle to get their fruits and vegetables anyways, this may be a more flexible option to consume them. So that's another plus.
I decided that in order to make this fit for me, it would have to just be a means to eating my fruits and vegetables, which means low calorie and used as a supplement rather than a meal. So I threw together a little smoothie this morning:
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1/2 cup water
You can clearly see its very low in calories, and for the calories, the fiber is awesome! I could drink this twice in one day and barely affect my overall caloric intake. BUT! If I drank this twice a day, every day, over a year, in addition to my current diet (i.e.: didn't remove 100 calories to make room for it) I would gain 1 pound. It's not a freebie!
I surprisingly wasn't hungry for about an hour, but I did feel dizzy in my yoga class, probably because the calories were so low. For a pre exercise meal, this is actually ideal because its a liquid! Its gets something in your stomach, but will leave your stomach quickly so you don't barf. Plus its hydrating. The vitamins are pretty useful too, not to mention the antioxidants you're getting, especially if you weren't getting them before.
So here's my tips:
- DON"T go crazy with the calories, or you defeat the purpose of this drink.
- DO choose a smoothie over juice to keep the fiber.
- DO add a protein source like soy milk if you don't plan on eating a more balanced meal within a few hours.
- DO pay attention to your hunger when implementing into a routine. If you find yourself hungry within 1-2 hours, you either need to add more fiber, use this as a snack rather than a meal, or readjust your daily meal plan schedule.
- DO Use at least half vegetables, going overboard on fruit just adds extra sugar.
- DO use before exercise!
- DON'T add extra calorie sweeteners like raw sugar, honey, or agave! Instead be cleaver with your fruits, or use a non-caloric sweetener.
- DON'T rely on these drinks as your only source of nutrition. They don't provide everything you need.
- DO factor into your overall calories! It's not a freebie!
- DO choose a low calorie recipe (like the one above) to add to a meal or snack instead of replacing an entire meal or snack!
- DO practice portion control! Kale, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables contain Vitamin K and Oxalates, which mess with blood clotting and block iron absorption.
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