Smoothies

vegetable juicing

Vegetable smoothies are far healthier than fruit smoothies

You've probably seen the Nutribullet advertorials on TV. If you're a personal trainer in London with early morning clients you probably see this ad every morning. You'll see that they blend a lot of fruit into their smoothies. I want to encourage you to cut down on the fruit, and put more veg into your smoothies.

I deliberately put a menu button for "smoothies" so you read this important message which will have a major impact on your fat loss efforts: Don't drink fruit smoothies, drink vegetable juice and veggie smoothies instead. A small handful of fruit in the smoothie is fine to add some sweetness, but veg should dominate. My current favourite is young leaf spinach with a small handful of blueberries, blended in an ordinary blender with water.

So that you get the soluble and insoluble fibre which is part of any healthy nutrition plan, make sure you eat whole vegetables as well as juiced veg. Soluble fibre 'mops up' your bad cholesterol, and insoluble fibre is crucial for bowel health and reduces your risk of bowel cancer. Eat primarily green leafy vegetables, such as spring greens, and spinach. Broccoli is rich in nutritents too, see below for more information on this and other vegetables.

I encourage al my personal training clients in London to eat far more vegetables than fruit, and no more fruit than 3 portions a day. I'm dead against pure fruit smoothies (as you may have guessed by now!), they're too high in fruit sugar which messes up your insulin system, and causes you to gain body-fat. They're not too good for the enamel of your teeth either. When you do eat fruit, eat the whole fruit with all the fibre, not just the juice.

Vegetable juicing is a great way to top up your micronutrients (ie vitamins and minerals) from the goodness of raw vegetables:

Broccoli - one of the richest sources of vitamins and minerals. It's high in folate (vitamin B9) which is essential for repair and synthesising of your DNA. Folate comes from the latin word for leaf, and it's found in most green vegetables.

Asparagus - another rich source of folate

Green peppers - rich in vitamin C, an important antioxidant which boosts your immune system and reduces your risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Spinach - rich in iron, a mineral which enables the blood to carry oxygen around the body. Plant-sources of iron are harder to absorb than animal sources (especially red meat), but if you combine spinach with lemon juice, the vitamin C in the lemon juice will enable the body to absorb more iron from the spinach. The bodybuilding personal trainer I used in north London told me he went through 4 packets of spinach every day. It was his favouite vegetable.

Sprouts - rich in suphur, a mineral which has dozens of key physiological functions, including healthy hair and healthy cardiovascular system. Other rich sources of sulphur include garlic and onions.

You've heard about the government health campaigns which advise us to eat our 'five a day'. In reality, for optimum health, you should aim for around 8 a day - that is 3 portions of fruit (as an absolute maximum) and at least 5 portions of veg. Yes, five veg! If you really want to maximise your immune system, that is. This quantity of veg will ensure you get plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre to turbo-boost your body. A portion size is the size of your fist.

Sadly the '5 a day' health message is often misinterpreted, which is not surprising given that it's a very clumsy and ambiguous piece of public health information. Many people end up eating 5 fruit and no vegetables at all. And they think a glass of fruit juice counts towards their 5 a day. One of my personal training clients in Chelsea, London SW3, thought that cider would count towards his five a day, because it was made from apples.

It's fine if you only have one or two portions of fruit a day, as long as one of them is an orange, for the vitamin C. As a nation, we need to be eating lots more veg, not lots more fruit. So remember - eat a lot more veg than fruit.

Before I became a personal trainer myself and launched Fitness4London.com, I hired a personal trainer in north London who ended each session by offering me one of the gym's freshly made vegetable juices. That personal touch really impressed me.

You can also add some protein powder to your smoothie, for a more complete nutritional boost, as you need protein straight after your workout to start the process of muscle growth and repair.

Remember: Don't consume more than 3 portions of fruit a day, as fruit is made up of simple sugar called fructose, and excess fructose easily converts to fat. This is because fructose can only be metabolised by the liver, which converts any excess to fat very rapidly.  Always eat more veg than fruit (any personal trainer will tell you that), as vegetables have a lower concentration of simple sugars, and results in a more stable insulin reaction than fruit consumption. Vegetables also contain higher amounts of two types of fibre: insoluble fibre, which helps mop up toxins in the large intestine, and soluble fibre which lowers your bad (LDL) blood cholesterol levels.

Just one more health warning: If you're in a rush, and think that a smoothie is a good substitute for a main meal, think again. You need to sit down and eat something a bit more substantial. A main meal should contain some protein, like chicken or fish or quinoa. If your smoothie contains milk or yoghurt, then it's more substantial and might just pass as a snack as long as you don't make a habit of drinking smoothies instead of eating a proper meal.

Raw Vegetable Juicing

As well as fruit smoothies, you can juice vegetables to extract the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) in concentrated form.

You'll need a vegetable juicer, and there are two types to choose from. You can either get a masticating juicer (which squeezes out the juice and extracts more) or a centrifugal juicer (these are more widely available, and the fast rotating blade slices the vegetables very finely and extracts the juice that way, rather than squeezing it out). I recommend you click to John Lewis website, and type 'magimix juicer' in the search box. They have a great range.

Dilute all vegetable juices 50/50 with water, otherwise they'll be too concentrated, and cause an adverse insulin reaction. And don't juice every day, I recommend 2-3 times a week. Eat plenty of whole veg most of the time.

And don't forget that you need to eat plenty of vegetables every day, and not just vegetable juice. So a vegetable juice drink is not sufficient as your daily intake of veg, because you'll be missing out on the fibre.

Always thoroughly wash and dice all fruit, and peel then dice all vegetables. Experiment with consistencies, some like it thicker, some more liquid. One fruit I recommend you avoid in smoothies is the kiwi fruit - it can produce a thick and bitter 'wallpaper paste' consistency. Fruits like apples can either be juiced in a juicer (with the skin on), or peeled and added to your blender for a smoothie.

To add a twist, try things like fresh herbs (mint and corriander are great in juices), a spoon of runny honey, ginger, and dried spices. To give it a kick, you could add a dash of tabasco sauce, or worcester sauce.

Here are some suggestions to get you started - but be sure to experiment and come up with some unique mixtures of your own.

Carrot and Beetroot (blend with crushed ice). You can buy raw beetroot, and extract its juice with a juicer. Don't try to blend raw beetroot in a blender!

Broccoli, Lime Juice, and Mint (blend with crushed ice)

Yellow peppers  and celery (juiced)

Avocado and Fresh Corriander (blend with skimmed milk) - it's worth spending a little extra and buying the 'perfectly ripe' avocadoes from Waitrose

Carrot and Ginger

Tomato and Celery (and a dash of tabasco sauce)

For added nutrients, add these to your smoothies and juices:

Wheatgrass powder (high in chlorophyll)
Spirulina (an algae rich in beta carotene, vitamin B12, and iron)
Alfalfa sprouts
Parsley
Manuka honey (the most nutritious honey available, originates in New Zealand, the bees take pollen from the Manuka trees)

What are your favourite juice combinations? And what blenders and juicers do you find the most effective? Let me know via the Contact Page and I'll include your replies on this page.

A big thanks to my personal training client in East London (she knows who she is) who gave me some really useful tips on how to spice up your vegetable juices, which I've included above.

If you're searching for a personal trainer in Mayfair, London W1, click the link to find out more. I have several personal training clients in the Piccadilly area, near Fortnums.