Juices and smoothies sit under a slight health halo but can have hidden traps that threaten your waistline. Suss out how to swerve them and max the nutrition in your blends
Supercharge your smoothie and pack more juice goodness in every glass with these fast, easy drink hacks
Blenders and juicers have Michelle Obamalevel cred in the wellness world: wholesome, fun and serious BFF material. And those drinks you’re blitzin’ pack major potential. As Jessica Spendlove, a sports dietitian who works with AFL’S GWS Giants, says, “When done right, smoothies and juices can be nutrient-rich ways to meet your requirements. Most Aussies don’t eat enough fruit and veg, so finding other clever ways to incorporate them into your diet can help fill the gaps.”
But watch your step for easy-to-fall-into traps, adds Spendlove. “Smoothies in particular can contain ice-cream and additional sugars like honey and syrups. Choose options with ingredients lists, so you can make an informed decision.” Got it? Great. Whether you’re buying or Diy-ing, it’s time to get more from that blender. Mrs O would be uber proud. BONE UP ON FIBRE
Captain Obvious here: liquid fruit and veg ain’t ever gonna beat out eating whole produce, but you can even the score a tad. “Juices have some or all of the fibre removed – depending on the juicing method – along with vitamins and antioxidants found in the skin and outer layers of the fruit,” explains dietitian Rebecca Gawthorne. “This loss means the juice is much easier to drink, a lot less filling and easy to over-consume.” Your moves: juice produce with the skin on where you can, and salvage any pulp to put back into the final product.
THINK OUTSIDE THE VEG BOX
Nyc-based dietitian Kara Landau suggests adding the vegetable jicama (often known as yam bean here) to your juice: “It’s a rich source of fibre and not very dense in kilojoules.” Your aim? To fill three-quarters of the drink with vegies.
“Use some darker-coloured ones to pack in as dense a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols as possible,” says Landau, also the founder of prebiotic brand Uplift Food. “Celery and cucumber are great, too.” Plus, spices such as ginger and turmeric add kick.
CHEW THE FAT
Juices can easily pack in way more fruit than you’d eat in one sitting. This sugar hit, plus reduced fibre, can cause blood sugar levels to spike and drop quicker than your emotions during a Queer Eye episode. Adding fat slows this down, reveals Spendlove – but short of chucking nut butter in your juice (maybe not), how can you put that info to good use? “Pair a handful of nuts with the juice as a snack,” she suggests. “A vegie juice with a bliss ball, which often contain nuts and seeds, could be another good pairing.” And down no more than 125ml
(half a cup) of juice at a time.
WORK FRUIT HARDER
It’s all about making the right choice. “Some fruits have a lower glycaemic index than others, which is beneficial for keeping us full for longer and preventing [blood sugar spikes],” explains Gawthorne. Step forward, apples, bananas, berries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, kiwis, mandarins, mangos, peaches, pears, plums and prunes. “These would be better for keeping you full, especially if you compare them with, say, a watermelon juice, which would have a high GI.”
LOOK FOR ‘COLD PRESSED’
You’ve heard of it, sure, but here’s why those two little words can make all the difference: “Cold-pressed juicing machines work by slowly and delicately crushing and pressing the fruit and vegetables, with less heat produced by the machine,” explains Gawthorne. “This means more of the nutrients and enzymes are left intact, resulting in a higher nutrition content than if the drink was made by a regular juicer. Coldpressing also reduces the amount of fibre lost.” Press on at home with Breville’s Juice Fountain Cold Juicer ($249, harveynorman.com.au).
SWERVE JUICE CLEANSES
Take those kilo-shedding detox promises with a pinch of Himalayan salt. “I don’t advise juice cleanses,” warns Spendlove. “It’s a short-term solution, because the weight loss that happens over a few days is often caused by the body just depleting its stores of glycogen, as well as lost water and possibly muscle.” As for detoxing? “Juices are often claimed to cleanse your body, [alkalise] and draw out toxins,” says Gawthorne. “These claims have minimal scientific evidence – it’s the job of your liver, kidney and other organs to remove toxins.” Lesson learnt.
DOWN IN ONE
Tiny but mighty, health tonics deliver a shot of medicinal benefits. Cali Press's 50ml vegie/oil/spice combos are teamed with ingredients such as echinacea and B12. “For instance, if you have a headache, our Glow shot is made from fresh-pressed turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory which can assist with pain relief,” says co-founder Joshua Johnston. Try this immunity shot Spendlove gives to athletes: mix half a teaspoon each of powdered turmeric and ginger with water (or a little orange juice), then half a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil plus some cracked pepper.
MASTER THE FORMULA
Right, here’s your dream smoothie: some protein (“important for appetite control and, if you’re training, for gaining muscle mass, whether it’s milk, yoghurt or protein powder,” says Spendlove); a little healthy fat (“also for appetite control”) such as nuts, nut butter, avocado, chia or hemp seeds; fibre from things such as fruit skin, oats or psyllium husk; slow-release carbs from banana, fruit or oats; plus colour in the fruit and veg to pack in vitamins and minerals. Landau adds, “I always include kefir, which is an absolute probiotic powerhouse.” If your smoothie’s a snack rather than, say, brekkie, stick with the same formula, downsize your portion and tweak the carb content based on your activity level. Blitz away.
KAPOW WITH POWDER
A few sneaky additions can take your smoothie from bronze to gold in a flash – or a scoop. “I always include my Daily Uplifter ($45.99, upliftfood.com) – a prebiotic soluble-fibre, resistantstarch and high-vitamin D mushroom powder – to support the probiotics in my gut and help me feel full,” says Landau. “And if you’re open to powders such as a sea mineral complex that’s packed
with magnesium and calcium, or an algae oil with omega
3s, these could be fabulous boosts.” Others to try: Vital All-in-one (from $32.95, vitaleveryday.com) for a green hit including spirulina, wheatgrass and chlorella; and Vida Glow’s Beauty Mind ($59.95, ausnz.vidaglow.com) with its impressive brainboosting line-up of maca, cacao and B vitamins.
BLEND LIKE A BODYBUILDER
If banana is your staple but you want to reduce your smoothie’s carb and natural-sugar content, swap half the ’nana for half a zucchini. “Bodybuilders often use frozen zucchini in smoothies to thicken them up and get the same texture of a frozen banana,” says Spendlove. “It doesn’t affect the flavour [either] and is really undetectable.” Just remember, as with your yellow mate, to chop up your zucc before freezing. We’ve all made that mistake.
Don’t score an A+ on the ingredients only to fall at the portion hurdle. “If you’re being mindful of your weight, I’d just include one or two healthy-fat options,” suggests Spendlove. And don’t load up with abandon. “Avocado, nuts, nut butters and coconut milk are very nutritious but very energy dense – half an avocado can be close to 150–200 calories on its own. So, if you have that, nuts and seeds, and a high-energy milk, a smoothie can be 700–800 calories, which is the same amount as a decentsize meal.” Duly noted.
Like the MAFS cast, charcoal always comes to the party.
But should you order it in your blend? Only in moderation, says Spendlove. “Activated charcoal does have some merit: it binds to toxins and removes them from the body,” she explains. “But be mindful – if it’s binding the bad stuff, it’s also binding the good stuff.” So? Charcoal won’t hurt if you want to try it, but it’s not something she’d recommend on the reg. Burn indeed!