What you need to know about juices, smoothies and plant-based diets
Image: Greenhouse Juice Co.
What you need to know about juices, smoothies and plant-based diets
We catch up with Emma Knight, author and co-founder of the beloved Toronto-based juicery Greenhouse Juice Co. to get her advice on plant-based diets and the art of juicing.
An array of rainbow-coloured cold-pressed juices is a welcome greeting when you walk through the doors of Greenhouse Juice Co. The company, famous for its organic juices and feel-good cleanses, is expanding into a new, exciting direction. The Greenhouse Juice Co. team has released their first cookbook: The Greenhouse Cookbook, an ode to the company's belief in a nutritious (and delicious!) plant-based diet and lifestyle. The book is filled with healthy recipes for juices, smoothies, dinners, snacks and desserts.
Author and co-founder Emma Knight answered all of our burning questions about a plant-based diet: from how to get the most nutrition out of cold-press juices to making the best nut milks at home.
Jennifer Bartoli: Tell us a little bit about the cold-press juicing method you use in your stores. How does it differ from other methods and what benefits does it impart to the final product?
Emma Knight: Cold pressing is the healthiest way we know of to make juice. Cold presses use hydraulic pressure to extract liquid from plants while minimizing exposure to heat and oxygen to preserve the nutritional integrity of the ingredients. By contrast, the more common centrifugal method of extracting juice uses a rapidly spinning blade against a mesh filter, introducing a great deal of heat (from friction) and oxygen into the juice, which hastens deterioration. Cold pressing at home is not very practical, however, because the machines are pricey and it’s quite labour intensive. Masticating or slow juicers are great alternatives if you’re pretty serious about juicing at home. If you’re making your juice with a centrifugal juicer or blender, just be sure to drink it right away to ensure that you’re getting the most nutrition out of it.
JB: Is there a nutritional difference between cold-pressed juices and smoothies?
EK: Indeed there is! The primary difference is that a juice is not usually, in and of itself, a satisfying meal. A smoothie, on the other hand, most certainly can be. While a juicer’s job is to separate nutrient-dense plant liquid from pulp or insoluble fibre, a smoothie, whipped up in a blender, contains both. By bypassing the insoluble fibre (and thus eliminating the digestive work that your body would normally need to do to access the nutrients contained in plants), drinking cold-pressed juice offers an efficient way to absorb a serious dose of high quality nutrients. Smoothies, on the other hand, are more filling, and are a great way to sneak lots of green vegetables into something that tastes like a milkshake.
JB: How long can you wait to drink a juice before it starts losing its nutritional value?
EK: The answer to this question depends on how the juice is extracted, and on its ingredients. Cold pressing, because it minimizes heat and oxygen, gives you the longest-lasting juice; generally you can keep cold-pressed juice in an airtight container in the fridge for around three days, and sometimes longer, depending on the ingredients. Centrifugal juice, because it brings a lot of heat and oxygen into the equation, deteriorates quickly, and should ideally be consumed within a few hours. Ingredients also play a role: generally speaking juices with a lower pH last longer. Lemon juice, which is quite acidic (even though it is alkalizing in the body), is a great natural shelf life extender.
JB: What are some of your best tips and tricks when it comes to making nut milks at home?
EK: Firstly, I’d recommend buying your raw nuts and seeds from the bulk section of a grocery store or health food store with a good turnover, to ensure that they’re as fresh as possible. When you get home, sort through them and eliminate any suspicious-looking nuts or seeds, as one rotten nut can wreck your whole batch. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to make your nut milk, soak the nuts or seeds at room temperature or in the fridge (our recommended soaking times for various types of nuts and seeds are outlined in our cookbook); this makes them more digestible, and makes your blender’s job a bit easier. When it comes to flavour, for a classic vanilla nut or seed milk, we love adding a date or two, some vanilla bean (slice it lengthwise and scrape out the seeds), and a pinch of sea salt.
JB: What are the nutritional benefits of nut milks? Is there a recommended daily amount?
EK: Whether you’re sensitive to dairy or are simply looking for a plant-based milk alternative, homemade nut milks are a healthy way to go. Nuts and seeds are high in fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, and good fats, all of which contribute to a healthy diet (your heart, skin, and hair will thank you), and by going the homemade route you’re avoiding the preservatives and stabilizers that are found in most grocery store varieties. Depending on how they’re made (their ingredients, their nut to water ratio, and the amount of fibre that remains in the milk after the straining process), nut milks vary greatly in terms of both richness and nutrient content. We like to go lighter on the nuts and leave out dates if we’re making nut milk for use in smoothies or in cooking, but if we’re aiming to create something a bit more satiating and nutrient-dense, as a snack or as a more substantial part of breakfast, we’ll use more nuts, and possibly include another boost like fibre- and antioxidant-rich cacao powder.
JB: Nut milks are a delicious treat just as they are, but can you share some of your favourite ways to cook with them and use them in recipes?
EK: Absolutely! You can use nut milks in recipes in the same way that you’d use dairy milk. We love using nut milks in chia pudding, overnight oats, pancakes, cookies, smoothies, smoothie bowls, and even in savoury recipes like plant-based mac and cheese--just make sure to make your nut milk without any sweeteners if you’re going down that path. Also, always save the fibre! You can freeze it in an airtight bag or container if you’re not ready to use it right away. “Double Cacao Protein Bites” and “Spiced Grain-Free Granola with Brazil Nut Fibre” (both recipes are in the book) are two of our favourite ways to avoid wasting the delicious aftermath of homemade nut milk. You can also toss it into a smoothie or stir it into oatmeal for a great fibre boost.
JB: Are there any out-of-the-box ingredients you might not think of adding to juices or smoothies that you’ve discovered and absolutely love?
EK: Cauliflower smoothies are having a moment, largely because their neutral colour and taste give you a blank canvas for “unicorn” smoothies and smoothie bowls. I haven’t tried it yet, but I must say I’m curious! I have tried putting black sesame paste in a smoothie in an attempt to recreate black sesame ice cream… it was pretty delicious.
JB: There are many ingredients you can substitute for granulated sugar in snacks and desserts. Can you give us a quick overview of some of your favourite ones?
EK: I like using dates because they’re a naturally sweet whole food, with fibre intact. Dark maple syrup is another favourite, for patriotic reasons.
JB: When it comes to fruit, vegetables and spices for smoothies, what are some great combinations you’re currently enjoying?
EK: My current go-to smoothie includes a frozen banana, one to two cups of loosely packed baby spinach, a tablespoon of either ground golden flax seeds or hemp seeds, a cup (or slightly more) of unsweetened almond milk, a pinch of cinnamon, and a teaspoon (or more, depending on my mood) of natural almond butter or peanut butter. Simple, but highly satisfying.
JB: What are your thoughts with regards to juice cleanses? What's the best way to incorporate them into a healthful lifestyle?
EK: Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a quick fix in the nutrition world; day-to- day habits are the most important determinant of long-term results. If you enter a cleanse with the mindset that it’s a quick, isolated event that will result in long-term magic, it may well prove disappointing. Instead of viewing a cleanse as a quick fix, we recommend looking at it as a way to instigate positive changes that will result in long-term benefits. Cleansing allows us to take stock of what we put into our bodies and how it makes us feel. This can lead to conquering cravings and making wiser nutritional choices, which can help us look and feel our best in the long term.
Our friends at Greenhouse Juice shared with us a couple of their favourite recipes from the cookbook — try their Cashew Milk or their Pistachio, Cardamom and Rose Water Lassi.