Kale Is The New Black… Or Green.

Kale. Where did it come from? It’s like it appeared out of thin air and onto everyone’s dinner plates. Well, in reality, kale has been around forever. If you haven’t tried kale, you are kind of missing out on life. Don’t be scared; it’s really not that bad. So what stirred up this big boom in the demand for kale? Celebrities, hipsters and vegetarians may be to thank for bringing attention to this hearty cuisine, but who really knows?

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A woman putting kale into her blender by Jamie Grill.

About two years ago, the owner of the juice bar I work at told us we were going to start putting kale in a new drink. It wasn’t a juice drink (which would have been a little more understandable), it was a smoothie. Needless to say, all of us employees were disgusted at the thought of putting “lettuce” in someones smoothie. Well, it turns out the smoothie was actually DELICIOUS. Kale had been gaining popularity, and customers were more than willing to give it a try. It is now a permanent fixture on our menu and, dare I say, the most popular smoothie we sell? Surprisingly enough, if you put a modest amount of kale into your smoothies, you really can’t taste it.

Although it looks like a form of lettuce, kale is actually part of the cabbage family. It comes in several different forms, but “curly kale” is the most common. It is considered a super food because the health benefits it contains and the variety of ways you can consume it. It is low in calories yet rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Kale has more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk and more iron than beef.

Consuming kale is an excellent way to get fiber into your diet. However, it is best that you eat kale raw, blended or cooked rather than juiced because juicing takes the insoluble fiber out of fruits and vegetables. With that being said, kale still has other amazing benefits, when juiced, to boast about.

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A close up of curly kale by Charles Imsteph.

Like all foods, kale should be consumed in moderation. Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Kale has been linked to thyroid problems because it is a cruciferous vegetable. These types of vegetables may prevent the absorption of iodine, leading to thyroid issues. These issues mainly arise when kale is consumed raw, so in this case, cooking it would be best.

Whether its raw, cooked or juiced, there are several ways to incorporate kale into your diet. I have seen kale chips, sautéed kale, blended in smoothies, juiced, in soup, and on pizza. You get the point. You can basically put kale in anything! Now that you know the amazing benefits of kale and how simple it is to get it into your diet, what are you waiting for?!

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)

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The Wonderful World of Seeds

There are four types of seeds that have taken the health foods world by storm. With so many options out there, it’s hard to figure out when you should be consuming each one and what they each do for your health. Well, that’s why I’m here.

Embed from Getty Images Spoons full of chia, sesame, flax and quinoa seeds by fotografiabasica.

1. Chia – These seeds are often used as an energy booster and appetite suppressant because they contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, calcium and antioxidants. They are best consumed sprinkled on yogurt or blended in smoothies.

2. Quinoa – I know it’s silly, but it’s actually pronounced “Keen-wah.” I just saved you from some embarrassment. You’re welcome. Quinoa is often confused as a grain, however, what we actually consume is the seed. This food is extremely versatile and is often used as a substitute for wheat products, like pasta, because it is a complete protein.

3. Flax – Such a tiny, yet powerful seed. New studies suggest that it may help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

4. Sesame – This seed has become more of a seasoning added to Asian foods like stir fry. It contains essential minerals like zinc and magnesium.

Consuming about one ounce, or two tablespoons, a day is the best way to reap the benefits of these amazing seeds.

Until next time,

The Jucie Bar(ista)

Protein: What’s The Scoop?

We carry two types of protein powders at my store: whey and soy. Being that there is a gym just feet away, customers frequently ask for protein in their smoothies and juices. I proceed to ask, “whey or soy?” This is often followed with looks of blankness. So what’s the big difference between the two?

Whey protein by the scoop by Brian Balster.

Whey Protein:

  • Made from dairy
  • Muscle builder
  • Contains essential amino acids

Soy Protein:

  • Vegan
  • Extracted from soybean plants
  • Contains phytoestrogens

Embed from Getty ImagesSoybeans in a bowl by Glow Cuisine.

There have been conflicting reports on the health benefits of soy. It has been a hot topic lately because it contains phytoestrogens, or plant-produced estrogens. Society has associated excess estrogen with hormone-related cancers, such as breast cancer. However, the levels of estrogen that are found in soy products are not scientifically proven to have a cancer-causing impact. Breast cancer is a global problem, with white women being most at risk. Among all ethnicities, Asian women are least likely to get breast cancer. Asians incorporate soy products heavily into their diets, and this has been the suggested reason why they may be more protected from cancer than other ethnicities are. Soy protein has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease because of its ability to maintain cholesterol.

Whey protein is a marvelous aid in building and maintaing muscle strength. Of course, if you are not exerting your muscles, then you will not miraculously gain muscles by drinking whey protein. This protein can also help with weight-loss because of the fullness sensation you develop after consuming it, and its ability to accelerate your metabolism at the same time. Whey is easily digestible, however, it’s not a good choice of protein for those who are lactose-intolerant because it’s derived from dairy.

Both whey and soy protein have their benefits. They are both complete proteins and can compliment each other very well if you alternate them in your diet. Like all other foods, it is important to consume protein in moderation. Ultimately, I recommend whey protein for pre or post workout, and I recommend soy protein for the average customer walking in who just needs a little pick-me-up.

With all that being said, the best way to get protein in your diet is through natural foods like fish, eggs, and poultry.

 Natural is best when it comes to protein. Photo by Image Source.

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)

Pumpkin: The Spice of Life

With Halloween just days away, it seems as though the pumpkin high we have as Americans is only starting to intensify, and it’s not leaving any time soon. Starting around mid September, up until late November, you can find just about anything in the flavor of pumpkin. Whether it be lattes, beer or beef jerky, Americans can’t get enough pumpkin.

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Getty Images Pumpkin Patch by Zoran Milich

Recently, Starbucks came under fire after a blogger exposed that pumpkin wasn’t actually an ingredient in the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte. So what does this really say about our fascination with pumpkin, if pumpkin isn’t even an ingredient?

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Getty Images Pumpkin Latte by Jamie Grill

Yes, even my juice store carries our own version of a pumpkin flavored smoothie. Lucky for me, our drink contains all natural ingredients like organic soy milk, canned pumpkin and yogurt. Lucky because I don’t have to explain to customers why we are poisoning them with petroleum and sulfites, like FoodBabe claims about Starbucks. We also sell pumpkin cookies and muffins all year long, but it seems as though people only notice them in the display case in the cooler months. So, this begs the question: Why does pumpkin taste so much better in the fall?

Now only if I could figure out a way to put pumpkin into a juicer..

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Drinking Wheatgrass

Step into any local smoothie store and you’ll probably see a fresh tray of grass sitting on a display shelf. That little patch is more than just grass – it’s wheatgrass. Wheatgrass contains an array of benefits you can’t even imagine, and that is why we all should be consuming it on a regular basis.

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Getty Images Wheatgrass by Image Source

1. One ounce of juice, in vitamin and mineral content, is equilivant to eating two pounds of vegetables. Many people find it difficult to get in their suggested daily intake of vegetables. With just one shot of ‘grass you can have that taken care of. It is a nutritionally complete food.

2. Wheatgrass is extremely rich in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is an important blood builder, detoxifier, and rejuvenator. It is said to be an arthritis healer and cancer fighter, particularly colon. There is also evidence that chlorophyll stimulates and regenerates the liver.

3. It can be applied externally to heal skin conditions. Wheatgrass can be used to treat psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff. It can also heal sunburns, poison ivy, and athletes foot. Applied to the face, it can be used as a beauty aid to tighten loose skin.

4. Wheatgrass can combat illness. Gargle wheatgrass to soothe a sore throat. When ingested, it can minimize the effects of the common cold, a cough, fever and infections by strengthening internal defenses.

5. It protects and improves your oral health. Swishing around an ounce or two of wheatgrass for a few minutes can improve the overall health of your gums, prevent tooth decay and take away tooth ache pain.

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Getty Images Wheatgrass Shot by Dana Hoff 

For general wellness, it is recommended that you consume one to two ounces a day. For best results, it should be taken on an empty stomach. Chasing wheatgrass with citrus drinks can negate the effects, so, if necessary, chase with water. Due to the rising popularity of wheatgrass, it can be found in the produce section at some grocery store chains, and you can grow it at home. Pill and cream forms of wheatgrass are also available, however, direct ingestion allows for faster absorption. So, drink up!

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)

*Barista Blurb: It’s important to note that there is little scientific evidence to support the effects of wheatgrass.

To Tip or Not to Tip?

If you’ve ever been to a smoothie bar or a coffee place, like Starbucks, you see their shiny tip jar staring you in the face. You think, do I really need to tip them for making me this already expensive drink? Feeling guilty, you usually walk away leaving them only loose change.

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Getty Images Tip Jar by Walter B. McKenzie

Because I work at a smoothie/juice bar, I constantly ponder why it is that we are required to tip a bartender, but not your juice tender. I can safely say that 95 percent of customers at my store do not tip. I will make someone’s fresh squeezed juice, which requires several minutes of time, and requires me to cut up all of your vegetables right in front of you and send them through the machine. Bartenders generally are just pouring drinks and popping bottles, so who in society decided that they deserve more?

After experiencing my own frustrations with not tipping, I make sure to tip at least one dollar at every food establishment I go, whether it be Subway or Yogurtland. I know that behind the scenes there is a lot of effort put in that the customer may not see, and that should be appreciated.

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)

The Great Debate: Juicing vs. Blending

Okay, well maybe it’s not that great of a debate. But if you are someone involved with having a healthy lifestyle, then this is a big deal for you. To start, let’s figure out what the main differences between the two are.

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Getty Images Fruit by David Malan

Juicing requires a high powered machine which you stick all of your preferred vegetables and fruits into, resulting in a cup of healthy deliciousness. Part of the vegetables and fruits go down into the trash bin, (making for great garden compost), while the rest goes into your cup. This can be a major turn off for people. If half of your spinach is going into the trash bin, then what’s the point in juicing it, right? Well, the nice thing about juicers is that you can stick a whole carrot into it and you will only be served carrot juice, while the tops go into the trash bin. This is a fairly easy way to get vegetables into your diet. A lot of people find it easier to throw together a juice rather than cook up a meal. However, cleaning up a juicer can be a lot of work and must be done after each time you juice. There are several parts to a juicer and most people don’t want to fuss with all that cleaning up.

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Getty Images Juicing by Lisa Thornberg

Blending is another term for “making a smoothie.” When you are blending, you throw all of your favorites into the blender and hit start. This can include fruits, vegetables, yogurts, and juices. With a blender, a huge incentive is that there are minimal parts to wash afterwards. Blending also allows you to use frozen ingredients that will last many months in your freezer. And unlike using a juicer, you are going to consume everything you put inside the blender, resulting in more consumption of nutrients. However, adding ingredients that contain too much sugar, such as sherbets or concentrated fruit juices, will result in a not-so-healthy snack.

Getty Images Blender by Nicole S. Young

From my experience with both products, I would say that blending seems to be the all-around better choice. With smoothies you can add ingredients like honey, chia seeds, and proteins without changing the consistency of your drink. The clean up is much easier, and when you add ingredients like kale or spinach, you will get all the nutrients, rather than just parts of it like you would in a fresh squeezed juice. Juices tend to separate and lose their nutritional value rather quickly, while a smoothie can last much longer or even be put in the freezer and consumed later. Also, many people who are consuming green drinks are looking for a meal replacement, and a smoothie will keep you fuller much longer than a juice would. The best part is, if you do it right, you won’t even be able to taste those raw greens.

Until next time,

The Juice Bar(ista)