Should you drink your greens?
What's your favourite green juice recipe? Don't have one? Are you really serious about your health?
It seems like juices and smoothies are all the rage, especially green ones. You're no-one unless you're instagramming a glass of bright green something. So are these drinks really the key to glowing good health?
Juice from fruits and vegetables contains a range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients - just like the whole fruit and veges do. What juice doesn't typically contain is the fibre that comes in whole fruit. It's this fibre that helps keep us feeling full, keeps us regular and feeds the good bacteria in our guts.
When you make juice all that fibre is filtered off with the pulp, and often thrown away. A smarter idea is to save it and use it in baking - add to your favourite loaf or muffin recipes, for example.
Fruit juice - even homemade juice - can also pack a lot of sugar. Yes, it's natural sugar, but it comes concentrated - again, without the moderating effect of fibre that you get in whole fruit.
It's far, far easier to drink the juice of four apples than it is to eat four apples, and the former won't make you feel full the way that the latter will.
Fruit and vege blends - or just veges on their own - are a good way to cut the sugar in any juice you make. But don't think you're getting a serve of veges when you have a vege juice, and especially don't make it the only way you get veges. Count it as extra to the five or more whole vegetables and fruit you're eating.
Smoothies are a slightly different story. In a smoothie you retain the fibre from the veges and fruit; everything is crushed up together. When you make a smoothie you also have the opportunity to add extras for extra nutrition, like milk, yoghurt, nuts, oats, LSA (linseed, sunflower, almond), coconut, nut butter - the options are endless. A smoothie is a good way to get an extra serve of veges into your day.
Keep in mind what a serving is: two handfuls of greens or one handful of other veges and fruit. And again don't use a smoothie to get all your veges for the day. You still need veges you can chew.
Be wary of commercially available "smoothies". These can be nothing more than different kinds of concentrated fruit juices and purees in an apple juice base - not what you would use if you were making the smoothie yourself, and probably with less fibre. Some contain eight or nine teaspoons of sugar per bottle.
So what makes for the perfect smoothie? It's down to personal taste. Hardcore green smoothie makers don't include any fruit, just handfuls of greens. I prefer to eat my greens sauteed with garlic and olive oil, so that's not for me. I do like a mixed combo of kale or silverbeet, cucumber, ginger, banana and pineapple. It tastes delicious, and is good for you, too.
Niki Bezzant is a healthy cooking expert and the editor of Healthy Food Guide magazine, latest issue on sale now. Email Niki editor@healthy food.co.nz with SST in the subject line.
Sunday Star Times