Beverages with benefits

Drink your produce with purpose

When you prepare your produce right – keeping the ingredients as whole as possible – blended juices and smoothies are an easy way to meet your daily goal of plant-based foods.

The nutrition team at Medcan cautions that while cold-pressed juices may be alluring, there is very little evidence to support the marketed benefits. For one, the vitamin- and mineral-rich edible skins, seeds and pulp are removed in the juicing process.

To ensure your beverages have the most benefits, follow this approach.

Stick with blended or “whole” options.
Drinks that include the fibrous skins, pulp and seeds (rather than just the juicy or soft parts known as ‘flesh’) have brain and body boosting benefits, including more antioxidant activity.

Choose blends with a higher ratio of vegetables to fruit.
Vegetables generally have lower sugar levels.

When indulging in pure juices, enjoy in small doses.
No more than ½ cup daily to keep your sugar levels in check and your kidneys in equilibrium.

“Even the purest versions have an excess of sugar that would be better consumed over the day rather in one serving,” says Stefania Palmeri, a registered dietitian at Medcan. “Excessive intake of juices can strain the kidneys and contribute to kidney stone formation, particularly when fruits and vegetables are high in oxalates.”

Avoid processed and packaged products.
The extra sugar, salt and preservatives offer no benefit to your brain or body.

Try three of our favorite beverages with benefits you can blend yourself.

Pink Powerhouse: a pre-workout energy boost

“This is perfect to charge you up before a big workout,” says Alexandra Friel, a registered dietitian and long-distance runner. “The sugars from the fruit provide quick energy for working muscles.  Beets are a natural source of inorganic nitrate, which our body converts into nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is known to improve muscle contraction, blood flow, and neurotransmission –  all of which improve exercise performance.”

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 small raw beet, peeled and roughly chopped
1 apple, cored & roughly chopped
1 Fresh Grapefruit juice, to taste (suggested: 6 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice) or other citrus to taste

In a high-speed blender, add the cucumber and blend on low speed to break it up. Now add the beet and apple. Blend, starting on a lower speed, and gradually increase the speed. If needed, add a bit of water. Blend on highest speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add in citrus juice to taste and about 4 ice cubes. Blend again until smooth. Serve immediately. (Adapted from OhSheGlows.com)

Tart Tropical Spin: support your gut health

“This beverage includes kefir, a cultured dairy product packed with probiotic bacteria that keeps our digestive tract happy and healthy,” says Palmeri. “Research from the American Psychological Association reports that 95% of the body’s serotonin levels are produced by gut bacteria, which can influence mood, cognition.  Feeding the microbiome with kefir’s magnesium and calcium supports the nervous system, while its rich B vitamin content is linked to brain function.  Preliminary studies in animal models are also quite promising, as kefir may play a role in cholesterol metabolism, tumor suppression, increased speed of wound healing, and immunity.”

1 cup frozen chopped mango
1/2 cup frozen sliced strawberries
2 tbsp chia seeds, hemp seeds or ground flax seeds
1 to 2 cups kefir (fermented milk drink)
1 1/2 tsp liquid honey or 2 tsp of maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using frozen mango and strawberries creates a thick smoothie. For a thinner smoothie, use fresh mango and frozen strawberries. In a blender, combine mango, strawberries, chia, hemp or flax seeds, kefir, honey and vanilla. Purée until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately. (Adapted from Cookspiration.com)

Green Goodness: boost and protect brain function

“Leafy green vegetables are nutrient dense and lead the charge in the foods supporting the treatment and prevention of depression and mood disorders,” says Vandana Gujadhur, a registered dietitian at Medcan. “This recipe includes both kale and lentils and optional dried fruit for sweetness. Feeding the microbiome with plants has also been linked to improved brain function.”

1 cup chopped kale, spines removed
2-4 pitted dates (as per sweetness preference)
1 medium banana, peeled
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 cup fortified milk substitute such as soy beverage
1/2 cup cooked split red lentils
2 tbsp lemon juice

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate or enjoy immediately. (Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada.)

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