Juicing has been a popular trend over the past few years. The noted benefits of juicing include ease of preparation, a vehicle for including healthy foods not otherwise consumed over the course of a day, and a portable meal or snack for those with a busy lifestyle. Does this mean all of us should be juicing?
Juicing can in fact provide the benefits noted above. For some populations, however, juicing may not be a recommended option. Whether it is a good choice or not also depends on the ingredients used to make the beverage.
Some appliances for juicing extract the pulp, skins, and other fibers from the juice. Others mechanically process the ingredients into smaller particles. These two changes then result in a rapid entrance of less complex carbohydrates into the intestinal tract which can lead to a surge in blood glucose. Obviously, the more carbs included as ingredients for the juice, the greater the impact.
On the other hand, when we consume foods that have intact fiber, these need to be broken down by the various parts of the intestinal tract. The result is then a more gradual entrance of blood glucose. Why is this important?
For persons with blood glucose issues (diabetes or hypoglycemia), high triglycerides, or concerns about overweight/obesity, a rapid rise in blood glucose is not a good idea. Besides entering the intestinal tract more quickly, liquids requiring less mechanical breakdown also leave the system more quickly. This means the fuel from the juice disappears after a shorter period of time. For the individual, this not only means less energy available shortly after consuming the juice, but can also prompt a drive to eat shortly after and a greater intake of overall calories for the day.
Studies tell us that people tend to overconsume calories when they come from liquid rather than solid sources. Interestingly, the research says that unlike our intake of calories from solid foods, our bodies do not compensate for the calories we consume from liquids by reducing overall daily calorie intake for the day.
When juiced beverages are used to replace a meal or snack, care should be taken to consume needed calories and nutrients. Some weight loss programs will include a beverage as a meal replacement, but if calories are too low, energy levels and nutrient intake may be compromised. Also, when calories are significantly low the outcome can be weight loss that is too rapid which can be harmful for a number of reasons (such as loss of muscle mass, fatigue, stress on body tissues, etc.).
The recipes for many of the juicing drinks may also call for additions like isolated powdered protein products or other processed ingredients. These are generally not harmful, but they may be limited in the broad range of nutrients that can be provided by “real” foods.
Let’s take a look at another quick and easy option for use as a meal or snack – soups. As compared to juicing, the end result of “souping” can be a warm comfort food on a cold winter day. Similar to juicing, soups can contain a wide range of ingredients. In contrast, however, soups may contain either minimal carbs or more complex carbs.
Soups can also contain a lot of various intact fibers. These contribute to feelings of fullness, can help extend the length of time fuel is available from the meal or snack, can help to reduce the risk of many health concerns, and can benefit the functioning of the intestinal tract.
Many soups contain some form of protein, another ingredient that provides fullness, satiety, and allows the carbs in the soup to trickle in over a longer time.
Preparing soups at home puts you in total control over the ingredients. By modifying the ingredients, you can create an almost infinite number of delicious healthy recipes. Soups are easy to make in large amounts that can be portioned into containers and refrigerated or frozen for later use as lunches, dinners, or snacks. Slow cookers are great appliances for busy people.
Homemade soups are perfect for those on a tight budget. For cost savings, use ingredients such as canned beans, lentils, brown rice/bulgur/quinoa/whole grain pasta/barley, leftovers, frozen vegetables (which are also ready-to-use with no prep), root vegetables, members of the onion family (shallots, scallion, garlic, leeks, red/yellow/white onions, etc.), and other less expensive ingredients.
Purchased soups tend to be high in sodium. When making your own, try for lower sodium ingredients and use a variety of seasonings for flavor instead of salt. Start with either water or a low sodium broth, and possibly some low sodium canned tomatoes. Seasoning ideas to boost flavor might be assorted herbs, curry, cumin, chili powder, coriander, Chinese five spice, allspice, ginger, hot peppers/cayenne/hot sauce, etc. For “cream soups” replace the cream with evaporated skim milk to lower calories and saturated fat.
Even for the beginner, soups are easy. Into a pot, add the liquid ingredient, a lot of vegetables, some form of protein (beans, edamame, lentils, shrimp, fish, lean pork/beef, poultry, tofu), the seasonings, and possibly some form of whole grain. Bring to a boil and simmer until all ingredients are cooked. The good news is that soups taste even better the second day!
By including sources of complex carbs, protein, and fiber in a soup, it can be a calorie-efficient way to get appropriate energy, nutrients, and numerous health benefits!
Posted Jan 18, 2018
Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth, N.H. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy, presents workshops nationally, and is Board Certified as a Specialist in Sports Dietetics.