Posted 4 weeks ago

How to Celebrate National Green Juice Day

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Green Juice

Did you know that January 26 is National Green Juice Day? Really, a whole day to celebrate green juice? But isn’t green juice just a fad?

I think we have all heard that green leafy vegetables are good for us. Leafy greens are nutrient-dense foods that offer a plethora of health benefits. Green juice is simply a beverage made out of mixing a variety of green vegetables. Green vegetables  contain sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin C, potassium and many others along with phytonutrients; those naturally occurring compounds that give plant based foods their color, aroma, flavor as well as protecting them from infection and predators;  but also work together to fend off cancer and other diseases in the human body.

The health benefits of drinking green juice include:

 

  • Reduces Inflammation/Anti-inflammatory Effects– inflammation and inflammatory processes lie at the root of virtually every chronic disease. Inflammation = Bad, Anti-inflammation = Good.
  • Improves Digestion- certain compounds may function as prebiotics and probiotics, which feed and support the growth of beneficial bacterial in the digestive tract.
  • High on easy to absorb nutrients– unlike multivitamin and mineral supplements (capsules or tablets) that are synthetic in nature and made in a laboratory, green juices have natural vitamins, minerals and active enzymes that are good for our body. Vegetable juices and broths usually get absorbed within 15-20 minutes of intake whereas some supplements may take hours.
  • Rich in Antioxidants– antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body and this will boost overall health.
  • Builds immunity– green juice provides your body numerous plant nutrients including vitamin C and chlorophyll (aka liquid sunshine). Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known to improve immunity. Chlorophyll strengthens your immune system, helps control inflammation, increases red blood cell production and helps enhance your cells’ ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Hydrates the body-green juices contain mostly water. Benefits of water intake/being adequately hydrated include increased energy, increases metabolism promoting weight loss, helps build and repair muscle, boosts your immune system, flushes toxins, great for our joints, promotes regularity and helps with digestion.
  • Improves your skin- the extra hydration and gut-healing benefits of green juice make it especially good for skin- helping to keep it clear and give it that healthy glow.
  • Aids in weight loss– green juices are generally low in calories (unless you add avocado) and high in nutrients. It is better to consider green juice another serving of vegetables and not a complete meal replacement.
  • Alkalizing effects– when our bodies are more acidic, elements like calcium. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are taken from the bones and organs to help neutralize the excess acid potentially causing mineral deficiencies.

There is no official recipes, but common ingredients include celery, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, wheat grass, cucumber, parsley and mint. Adding small quantities of fruit (that may or may not be green) will add some sweetness and improve palatability. Popular fruit to add includes apples, berries, kiwi, citrus, pineapple and bananas. You do not need to have a juicer to reap the benefits of green juice.

If you do not have a juicer, you can use a blender instead. If making green juice in a blender:

  • Cut the vegetables (and fruits) into smaller chunks, unless you are using a high-power blender, like a Vitamix or Ninja, that can handle big chunks. For kale, it is a good idea to remove the tough veins.
  • Place all the juice ingredients in your blender. Cover, and run the blender on the highest setting like “liquify.” The result will be thicker, more the consistency of a smoothie. If you like it this way, simply pour and enjoy. If you do not enjoy pulp in your juice, use a small mesh sieve to pour the juice through, and use the back of a spoon to press the pulp into the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible.

Basic Green Juice Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 medium apples, cored (peeled if desired) and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (or chopped spinach or baby kale)
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped (English cucumber can be used- do not peel)
  • ½ tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Optional: 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 cup ice 

Instructions

  • Wash the produce.
  • Add the water, apples, spinach, celery, cucumber, and lemon juice to a blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Add 1 cup ice and blend again. Pass the mixture through a medium or fine mesh strainer / sieve or nut milk bag into a bowl (medium mesh contains some of the fiber in the juice; fine mesh makes it completely clear). Pour into a glass and serve, or refrigerate until serving.
  • Juicer variation: To make this in a juicer, simply pass all the produce through a juicer, then refrigerate and chill until cold (omit the water and ice).

 


How to Make a Green Smoothie

When layering a green smoothie recipe for blending, start with the lighter ingredients first (like the greens) and the heavier ingredients on top (like fruit, yogurt and ice if using). Gravity will help make blending easy!

  • Greens & Fruit
  • Kale is the “green” in many smoothie recipe but you can use spinach, or even Swiss chard.
  • For the fruit, you’ll want fruits that are sweet, tart and juicy with a bolder flavor like green apples, pineapple or even mangoes
  • Banana can be added for sweetness and to help thicken the smoothie. Freeze your banana and pineapple beforehand for a great thick consistency.
  • Adding avocado will make it a more creamy consistency
  • Milk and/or Yogurt
  • Healthy smoothie recipes can be made with a wide variety of milks, too: almond, rice, coconut, hemp, whichever your taste buds prefer or for a creamier consistency add yogurt. Plain yogurt is a great base for any smoothie recipe. Plain Greek yogurt is thick and has a lot of protein. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie, add a bit of honey or use vanilla yogurt.
  • Add Ins
    • Add in flax for a boost of fiber
    • Add in your own favorites like carrots, coconut milk, oranges or orange juice or berries to name a few!

Keep adding fruits, veggies and/or juice until you get the flavor and consistency you like! Naturally, a great smoothie has the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

Green Avocado Protein Smoothie

  • 1 handful kale or spinach
  • 1/3 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup ripe avocado
  • ½ cup green apple (with skin)
  • 8 oz. protein drink (vanilla or unflavored)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup ice (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender in order listed and blend on high until blended well and smooth.

Green Juice is definitely not a fad, or at least it should not be. Green Juices and Smoothies can be a great way to get in a serving or two of vegetables, and provide your body with some wonderful nutrition and health benefits  but make sure you include it as part of a balanced and healthy diet.


About Kindra Peterson, MS, RD, CSO

Kindra is a Registered Dietitian. Kindra received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. She then attained her  Master’s of Science Degree in Nutrition from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Kindra has almost 20 years of experience working in Healthcare and Nutrition and over ten years of teaching experience, specializing in courses related to nutrition, health, and wellness at the university level.