Q: I recently bought a juicer. How do you feel about juicing and how should I fit it into my diet? —Laynie, West Bloomfield, MI
A: I am a proponent of juicing in moderation. Juicing can be an excellent way to get many vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants into your diet, and that of your children. It can be especially helpful for picky eaters who wouldn’t normally eat the fruits or vegetables whole. But, and here’s the problem, juicing removes all of the fiber from the juice ingredients, and it also lacks protein. So you are consuming a big blast of carbohydrates—albeit super healthy ones—without any fiber or protein to prevent a spike in your blood sugar and create a feeling of satiety.
Even more worrisome, if you are trying to lose weight by juicing in large amounts as meal replacements, you are further sacrificing the very protein that helps you feel full and retain muscle mass. As your muscle mass declines, your metabolism slows down—not a great diet plan. Finally, every reputable medical source I’ve seen rejects the premise that we need to detoxify our bodies with juice or other “cleanses.” Your body has a sophisticated system for clearing itself of toxins, and if you stop ingesting additional toxins every day with poor food choices, and instead move toward a more organic, whole food diet, your body will do its thing and you will no longer be bombarding it with additional poisons it needs to ditch.
My own preference is to make green smoothies as a way to both get a lot of nutrients in one shot and, if one so desires, to cut down on calories. Smoothies use the whole fruit or vegetable, so all of the fiber stays in the drink. Further, it’s easy to mix in a plop of plain yogurt or nut butter to get the necessary protein. Use more vegetables then fruit to keep down calories and natural sugars.
I make this smoothie for my teenager every morning, and he grabs it on his way out the door. Adjust any or all of it to suit your taste, but look at how health-packed his breakfast is. What a great way to head off to school.
George’s Breakfast Smoothie
1/2 ripe banana
1/3- 1/2 cup milk (any milk fine, dairy or non-dairy)
1/2 cup frozen berries (any blend)
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
5-6 baby carrots
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or 2 Tbsp any nut butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla
few drops liquid stevia (if desired, I personally don’t like the added sweetness)
handful of ice
Q: How do I decide which yogurts to buy? The choices are overwhelming! —Sarah, Troy, MI
A: There are several things you should be thinking about when you think yogurt.
- How much sugar is there per serving? Every 4g equals 1 teaspoon, so do the math. Many of the sweetened, fruit-based, and kids’ yogurts have upwards of 5-6 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Avoid these! Add your own fresh, diced fruit and a drizzle of honey if you want sweetness.
- Are you considering whole milk or low-fat? Oftentimes, manufacturers take out fat and then add sugar and other undesirable ingredients to make up flavor. Sometimes, you’re better off having the fat and skipping the additives. That said, if you’re buying plain yogurt, say one of the many Greek brands, and are trying to lose weight, you’re better off with lower-fat yogurts which contain far fewer calories, not to mention less saturated fat.
- Is it organic? Non-organic dairy products are riddled with the antibiotics and growth hormones that were in the non-organically raised cows that produced them. You don’t need to increase your toxic load, so seek out organic whenever possible.
- Are you eating yogurt every single day? In general, the body does not do well being fed the same exact foods all the time. In fact, sensitivities can develop to foods that you overdo, even if your body would’ve been fine with them in more balanced amounts. If you enjoy yogurt for breakfast, try it every other day, and intersperse with other healthy choices such as oatmeal or whole grain toast with nut butter.
- Finally, dairy is one of those pro-inflammatory foods that may lead to a host of ailments that you might never have attributed to it. I’ve cleared up my own kids’ eczema by taking them off dairy for months at a time, then slowly reintroducing it on a more modest basis. In the same way, I’ve far-reduced their nasal congestion and the frequency with which they get colds. If you’re wondering about calcium, please don’t. There are far better sources of calcium than dairy products. Gorillas and other vegetarian large mammals have tremendously strong bones without ever taking a sip of milk or cup of yogurt—they beef up on leafy greens!