Wellness through juicing and blending

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I am very happy to see that our area is getting more and more options for getting juicing and healthy blending on the go.

The most recent addition is the Wellness Bar on Fourth Street in Coeur d'Alene, and I was impressed with its juicing choices. It has blends such as "Super Power," a mix of fresh spinach, kale, cilantro, green apple and lime - now that's a refreshing juice for a hot day.

Juicing and blending are both great ways to maximize the nutritional resources in fruits and veggies. They both allow for easy absorption of nutrients into your body.

Both deliver a ton of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that help boost your immune system. These fresh nutrients can help with improving immune response, hormonal imbalances and prevent digestive issues. Both can give you huge boosts in energy and even help mood and brain function.

So which is better, juicing or blending?

Let's start with juicing, which is the process where a juicer is used to extract water and nutrients from fruits and veggies. Once juicing is complete, you toss out the pulp or fiber from the fruit or vegetables.

Since juicing removes most of the pulp and fiber, your digestive system can absorb the nutrients very quickly. Juicing provides a much higher concentration of nutrients for your body to use than if you were to consume the fruits and vegetables whole. This approach can be very helpful for people who do poorly with lots of fiber in their diets due to digestive issues.

The most effective way to get the most out of fresh juice is to drink it on an empty stomach. Drinking juice on an empty stomach allows your digestive system to draw the most vitamins and minerals from the juice and enter your bloodstream quickly. It is also important to consider that intense concentrations of nutrients from veggies can be medicinal for those people fighting illness, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

There is a downside to removing the fiber from the fruits and veggies. Without fiber, the sugars from the juices are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. This quick absorption can cause a huge spike in blood sugar, and some people experience the same nasty sugar crash you get with other sugary foods. Also, since fiber is so filling, removing it may leave you getting hungry again fairly quickly.

The other option is blending your fruits and veggies into smoothies. This approach, unlike juicing, can be quicker, with less waste since the blending uses the entire fruit or vegetable.

Blended smoothies break down the fiber, making digestion easier and creating a more even release of nutrients. Dense green smoothies tend to be more filling and generally do not spike blood sugar. Another advantage of blended drinks is they do not oxidize quickly, so you don't have to drink them right away. Blended smoothies can be iced and consumed at a later time.

The downside to blending comes in the form of overdoing it with the contents. Many people blend protein powders, yogurt and other non-fruit or vegetable items into their smoothies. This can lead to high sugar content, high calorie intake and generally making your healthy smoothie not-so-healthy.

There are many common mistakes people make when it comes to juicing or blending. The most common is using too much fruit. Fresh fruits are a great source of antioxidants and vitamins, but they are loaded with sugar. It is much better to have balance in the amounts of leafy greens and other vegetables along with your fruits.

As I have mentioned earlier, adding sugary ingredients to your juice can lead to weight gain and pushing your blood sugar through the roof. Some people also make the mistake of using juicing or green smoothies as a weight-loss program. This approach can result in some weight loss, but replacing healthy, protein-rich foods with just juice is not wise. Your body will start to use lean muscle to get the protein your other body systems need. This will result in a weakened immune system, fatigue and loss of the lean muscle mass needed to burn fat.

The last thing to consider when it comes to juicing and or blending those leafy greens is the concern over goitrogens and oxalic acid in raw vegetables like kale, collard greens and spinach. These anti-nutrients found in leafy green plants are phytochemicals, which can cause health problems if consumed in large volumes. So it is important to remember: All things in moderation.

Overdoing consumption of raw leafy green juices or green smoothies can be a problem for people with pre-existing health conditions such a thyroid problems or a susceptibility to kidney stones, so approach juices and smoothies carefully. Juicing can have huge benefits with helping heal an illness, but too much of a good thing can backfire, always keep this in mind. If you're unsure how you should approach juicing, talk with your doctor or dietitian.

Here are a couple of other great examples from the Wellness Bar:

* Beet the Blues Juice: beet, apples, celery, carrots, lemon and ginger.

* Chocolate Chunk Smoothie: banana, almond butter, vanilla, almond or coconut milk and chocolate.

Juicing or blending can have a profound positive influence on your health and nutrition. I would recommend, to those who have not seen the documentary "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead," watch it soon. This documentary tells the story and benefit of juicing in a way that all can understand. It's a must-see. Now get out there and start getting healthy by adding juicing and blending to your diet!

Judd Jones is a director for the Hagadone Corporation.

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