This section of GSU (together with ‘Raw & Cooked Vegetables’) is essential when considering a healthy and balanced diet. Since raw fruits and vegetables are so rich in vitamins and nutrients they could easily replace vitamin pills, dietary supplements, and some medical treatments and act as energy boosters if eaten regularly and in the right amount. Studies have also shown that they help to strengthen your body’s natural abilities to fight off illnesses and heal itself.
Ideally, 50% of the food you eat every day should be raw vegetables and fruits but sometimes reaching that goal seems almost impossible. Turning these vegetables and fruits into liquids makes this number much more attainable and fun.
Almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and orange juice are going to be our complementing mixers. Getting the freshest produce will maximize the flavor and nutrients in your smoothies and juices so, shopping at your neighborhood farmers market could be your best choice. Try to keep it local and choose this season’s freshest and most flavorful fruits!
Some of the most popular ingredients:
Blue and Black Berries→ these are two of the most nutritious types of berries, but in general, all berries are extremely high in phytonutrients: great source of vitamin C and anthocyanins, antioxidants, and fiber. Blue and black berries help fight heart disease and cancer, and are proved to slow brain aging and Alztheimer’s disease. Cooking berries increases their nutritional content, so consider making a berry compote to add to your smoothies! Frozen berries are almost as nutritious as fresh berries, so feel free to buy larger amounts, freeze them in Ziploc bags, and eat lots of berries year around!
Bananas→ native to tropical South Asia, these are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They are high in calories but very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Bananas are a great source of fiber, vitamin C (one of the most powerful antioxidants) and B6, and also potassium and manganese.
Apples→ green, yellow or red, apples are originally from Western Asia, and like many fruits, where brought to American by European colonist. Apples are a good source of vitamin C and fiber (which helps lower cholesterol and assist with digestion and elimination). They also help to regulate your blood sugar and to prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, the nutritional content found in modern apple varieties, which are usually sweet and delicious, is extremely low in comparison with apples grown a few decades ago, when the saying “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” might have been true. In order to get the most health benefits from your apples, choose from the best varieties available at the store, such as Cortland, Discovery, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious. If possible, buy organic and locally grown apples, pick the most colorful ones, and eat them with their skin, which is full of phytonutrients! To better preserve your apples, store them in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Citrus→ this family of fruits originated in Southeast Asia and the Northern regions of India. The most common citrus are: lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. These are a great source of vitamin B6 and C, fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium (which helps your body generate energy). Important: the greatest concentration of phytonutrients in a citrus fruit is in its pith or albedo, the spongy white tissue beneath the skin. The albedo is rich in pectin and flavanones, so when eating citrus fruits, make sure you eat the membranes and the pith! If you dislike its bitter flavor, mix it with other fruits and add it to your smoothies. Finally, choose the most colorful citrus fruits, such as pink and red grapefruit and Cara Caras, Valencia and blood oranges. To avoid the growth of mold, store your citrus fruits in the fridge and never keep them in a plastic bag, since this could promote mold.
Strawberries→ cultivated worldwide, strawberries are famous for their sweet aroma and taste, strong red color and juicy meat. They are a great source of potassium, folate (which plays a key role in DNA formation and cell division), fiber, vitamin C and manganese. They are also very effective antioxidants and they can improve your blood sugar regulation. Unlike other fruits, strawberries do not get any riper after harvested. In order to get the sweetest and most nutritious strawberries, buy them when they look completely red and fully ripe (avoid strawberries with yellow tops). During strawberry season, try to buy organically grown local strawberries from farmers markets and ”you pick” berry farms, these will be the ripest, freshest, sweetest, and most nutritious strawberries you can buy!
Avocado→ also called “alligator pear” avocados are a tropical fruit native to central Mexico. They are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and K, and folate. Avocados help with the absorption of carotenoid antioxidants (especially the darkest part of the fruit, which is the closest to its skin). Although avocado is a high-fat fruit, its unusual fat provides many health benefits (for example, it acts as an anti-inflammatory), and its oleic acids help our digestive tract absorb fat-soluble nutrients. Avocados are also high in soluble fiber, which is a gel-type fiber that is creamy and smooth.
Grapes→ the domesticated cultivation of these berries started around 6000 to 8000 years ago. They are a very good source of vitamin C and K, and its nutrients are believed to play a role in longevity. Grapes also help your body balance your blood sugar and they improve insulin regulation (a hormone that is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat in the metabolism of the body).
Pineapple→ is a tropical plant indigenous to South America. Pineapples are super juicy and sweet, and a great source of vitamin B6 and C, thiamin (or vitamin B1, used by the body to break down sugars), manganese and copper. They also have potential anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits, they are good source of antioxidants and they help support your immune system.
Carrots→ this sweet and crispy root vegetable provides vitamin A, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene (a type of vitamin A), which is vital for the healthy growth of the skin, nails and hair; carotene also converts into retinol, which is essential for the human vision system. If possible, buy organic carrots with their green tops still attached and eat them with the skin (which contains 1/3 of the vegetable’s nutrients). Avoid baby carrots (which are mature carrots cut and peeled into the shape of ‘baby carrots’), they are convenient but they have lost all of their outer part. Purple, yellow or red carrots are the most nutritious varieties, so give them a try whenever you find them at the store or farmers market!
Beets & beet greens→ this root, and its tops, are one of the healthiest and most nutritious vegetables you can eat. Beets are high in folic acids, vitamins, and minerals (iron, calcium and potassium), and help prevent medical conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. The strong and beautiful color of the vegetable comes from betalain, a phytonutrient high in antioxidants (which might also turn our urine or feces a harmless pink color). Beet greens are even higher in nutrients than the roots, add them to your smoothies and juices! Finally, beets can boost your endurance and enhance your performance; the nitrate found in beets can reduce your blood pressure, which increases blood flow to your muscles and reduces the amount of oxygen required by your muscles during exercise! Buy fresh: the freshest beets in the store are those with their greens still attached, so always try to buy bunch beets and eat the greens shortly after being purchased. Note: canned beets are also a great choice; they can be less flavorful but are usually higher in antioxidants!
COCONUT OIL is the new trendy super food. It’s a great source of lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid, which are anti-bacterial and anti-microbial saturated fats. It is also rich in triglycerides, proteins, antioxidants and vitamin E. Extra virgin coconut oil protects and heals the skin and can be ingested orally and/or applied topically. It is easily absorbed by the skin and it has a wonderful scent and flavor. Use coconut oil as a natural beauty product, add it to your smoothies and meals and enjoy of the many benefits that this miracle oil has to offer (for acne, infection, aging, dry skin and more)!
Orange juice→ made by extracting the juice of the fresh fruit, orange juice is a great mixer for any juice or smoothie combination. Freshly squeezed orange juice has more vitamins and nutrients than the concentrated boxed version, but they are both a great source of potassium, folate, vitamin C and thiamin.
How to choose the most nutritious OJ at the store: “Deep orange-colored orange juice with pulp offers more nutrition than paler juices without pulp. Some inexpensive juices, including those made from concentrate, can have more phytonutrients than premium brands. Organic, flash-pasteurized orange juice is the most flavorful. Juice made from Valencia oranges is more nutritious than juice made from naval oranges” (Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, Jo Robinson, 2013).
You can also use cranberry juice, apple juice, grapefruit juice, or any other juice you like, but make sure the juice you buy is 100% natural and has no sugar or corn syrup added. If you don’t have juice, use water.
Almond Milk→ although prepackage almond milk does not provide the same benefits and nutrients than the fruit itself, it is a great complementary mixer for raw fruits/vegetables smoothies and shakes. Almond milk is made from ground almonds and is cholesterol and lactose free. It can be used as a substitute for animal milk in all kinds of recipes. It is a good source of vitamin A, D, E and B12, as well as zinc, copper, riboflavin and calcium.
Soy Milk→ made from soybeans; it is typically used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It contains the same levels of protein than cow milk and is lactose free. Soy milk is also a great source of vitamin D and B12, copper, riboflavin, and calcium.
Coconut Milk→ made from the meat of the coconut. It is white in color and rich in taste. It is very low in cholesterol and sodium and it’s a great source of manganese. Coconuts are high in saturated fat, but they are rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which actually promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels.
Rice milk is also a good mixer alternative!
You can also try hemp, flax or chia seed in your smoothies, they are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein!
Combine ingredients and find your favorite smoothie recipe! Herbs, such as mint or basil, spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, and flavorful beans, such as cocoa and vanilla, can also be added to your smoothies. Be creative and never stop drinking your smoothies!
Don’t forget to use up all your fruits and veggies before they go bad. A fruit smoothie can be a filling, complete, and nutritious meal by itself or act as an energy boost in the morning or after a good workout. Make it a habit!
For more nutritional information about raw fruits visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food page.