Smoothies: Sipping your way back to health
When we talk about smoothies, we are referring to the action of blending whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, herbs, and nuts in a high power blender. Blending is not the same as juicing. Although juicing has become a very popular way of extracting certain parts of food into a liquid form for easy consumption, juicing is not a complete food nor is recommended on a daily basis. Most phytonutrients are located in the skins, seeds, stems and rinds of the food. When food is juiced, the main food nutrients are discarded.
What are phytonutrients?
The term “phyto” originated from a Greek word meaning plant. Phytonutrients are certain organic components of plants that are thought to promote human health. Some of the common types of phytonutrients include:
- Flavonoids (Polyphenols) including Isoflavones (Phytoestrogens)
- Inositol Phosphates (Phytates)
- Lignans (Phytoestrogens)
- Isothiocyanates and Indoles
- Phenols and Cyclic Compounds
- Sulfides and Thiols
Of all the phytonutrients, we probably know the most about carotenoids, the red, orange and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease and age related macular degeneration.
How do phytonutrients protect against disease?
- Serve as antioxidants
- Enhance immune response
- Enhance cell-to-cell communication
- Alter estrogen metabolism
- Convert to Vitamin A (Beta-carotene is metabolized to Vitamin A)
- Cause cancer cells to die (Apoptosis)
- Repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures
- Detoxify carcinogens through the activation of the cytocrome p450 and Phase II enzyme* systems
*The Phase II enzyme enables the detoxifying process. Every cell in our body has been granted with a self-healing device called Phase II enzyme. This process enables cells to detoxify themselves from chemical waste and toxins; however, this process is possible when it is stimulated by phytonutrients. Phytonutrients act as keys that fit into cell receptors and activate the process. One of the most powerful phytonutrients is glutathione, which is found in asparagus.
Where are the phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are found in the cellulose fiber of whole foods such as skins, rinds, seeds, stems and pulp. The sole basis of a comprehensive plant-based diet is to eat the whole food; however, there are some obvious parts of foods we don’t consume like the pineapple skin, for instance.
Blending vegetables and fruits together allows the many nutrients of the food to be absorbed by the body in a more efficient manner. When Mahatma Gandhi said “Chew your drink and drink your food,” he was stressing the scientifically proven benefits of chewing. Inadequately digested food means inadequate absorption of nutrients. The leptin, ghrelin, and cholecystokinin hormones, which are responsible for signaling satiation, don’t reach their peak until 20 to 40 minutes after food is ingested. Speed eaters beat their body’s signal keepers by wolfing down their meals. To make matters worse, poorly chewed food particles are not welcome in the stomach. Sloppily chewed food promotes intestinal bacteria, causing flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps, and even diarrhea.
BLENDING FOR MULTI-VITAMIN INTAKE
One apple for example contains more than 385 phytonutrients. That is again, one apple. Man-made vitamins are meant to extract (just like juicing) one or two beneficial properties of a whole food, mainly to attempt to concentrate the nutrient; however, nutrients don’t work as separate machines, nor does nutrition. Nutrition, per se, is the conjunction of all nutrients working and interacting with one another as a perfect symphony. Think of it as a wonderful piece of music in which every instrument plays a key part. All together they create a perfect balance of nutritional components for your body, so extracting one simply leaves out the other 384 phytonutrients that the body was meant to receive.
BLENDING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
The blending of whole foods not only constitutes a perfect way to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, but it can also be a fulfilling one. Due to the fiber content of whole foods (only whole plant-based foods contain fiber), a blended vegetable/fruit smoothie is a great tool for weight loss. The key to satiety is eating fiber-rich foods that fill the stomach from a volume standpoint, and that have enough calorie density to satisfy the nutrient receptors.
Humans have built-in mechanisms for figuring out exactly how much to eat without calorie or nutrient counting. These are stretch receptors in the stomach that detect when the stomach is filled with food, and nutrient receptors that detect the nutrient density of the foods consumed. Fruits, seeds, nuts, and vegetables fill the stomach, and with few calories, satisfy the nutrient receptors. On the contrary, calorie-dense and processed foods are addictive. They have the same effect on the dopamine receptors in the brain as drugs like heroin or cocaine. Asking anyone to control his or her intake of these foods using willpower is a recipe for failure.
BLENDING FOR CONVENIENCE
Although already packaged drinks sold as healthy smoothies may sound like a good option, beware of the ingredient list. The best possible scenario is to blend the smoothies in your own kitchen. This will allow complete control of what goes in the blender and will not include any of the preservatives of packaged drinks. A powerful homemade smoothie may take from 5 to 10 minutes to make.
The Bottom Line
Blending is not a replacement for eating regular whole foods directly, but a complementing way to increase the intake of whole foods in the daily diet.
– Eating Organic: It is important to eat foods that are organic to avoid the intake of toxins, fertilizers, dirt, and pesticides. Any non-porous produce that is not available in organic form can be
cleaned thoroughly with a fruit/veggie wash. Porous produce must be organic. Strawberries for instance, have tiny holes on the surface without a protective membrane; therefore they absorb the pesticides deep into their flesh. Other whole foods heavily sprayed with pesticides include peppers, celery, apples, cherries, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, peaches, spinach, tomatoes, and berries.
– Blenders: Not all blenders are created equally. Regular household blenders do not puree food as intended, so we recommend the Nutribullet ($119.94 Nutribullet.com), a 3 horsepower blender from Vitamix (Vitamix.com), or a 3 horsepower blender from Blendtec (Blendtec.com).
Written by Margarita Restrepo. All smoothie recipes developed by the Naked Food Chefs.
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