Whether you need an extra plant-based, gluten-free side or two, or want someone to make your whole meal, we have you covered. Be sure to place your order (in store, online or by emailing email@example.com) by Sunday, November 19 at noon. If you order by email, please let us know whether you will be picking up in Boston or Wellesley!
Since our inception, one of our main goals as a company has been to encourage people – our customers and community – to eat more plants.
We want this for the people around us because we believe eating plants is healthy, and that it’s nearly impossible to eat too many vegetables. We want this for for our community because we believe supporting local farmers is a social good, and the world could always use a little more good. And we want this for the environment, because global warming is real and animal agriculture is a major contributor to the problem.
The primary way that we encourage people to eat plants is by serving exclusively plant-based food and drink. But we also know that you can’t eat every meal at Thirst!
The period that runs from Thanksgiving (or Halloween, for many with a serious sweet tooth) to New Year’s can be one of the most challenging times to eat healthfully – and many people eat fewer vegetables during that time than they would like to.
To help you stay healthy this holiday season, we’ve put together a downloadable guide of 25 Simple Ways To Eat More Veggies. Eating plants doesn’t have to be challenging – but sometimes in the chaos of the holiday season, it feels that way. That’s where this guide comes in. Print it out and stick it to your refrigerator for easy reference for days when eating vegetables feels like a chore.
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Acai, pronounced ah-sigh-ee, is a berry that grows on acai palm trees. Acai is known for its high antioxidant content and has become popular in the U.S. as the essential ingredient in acai bowls (frozen blends that typically include acai, banana, and other fruits, and are topped with various toppings like fresh fruit, coconut flakes, and granola).
History of the Acai Bowl
Acai grows in Central and South America, and has been eaten for centuries. Historically, many in the Amazon ate acai daily, often alongside other foods, including as a part of savory meals. It wasn’t until travelers brought Acai from Northern Brazil to the cities of Southern Brazil in the 1970’s that acai bowls came into existence. Some say the bowls were first popularized by Carlos Grazie, founder of Brazilian Jiujitsu, as a way to fuel his trainees. Others say the bowls first became popular among surfers, who would eat the cold bowls as a way to gain energy and cool down in the hot Brazilian sun. Either way, the bowls began as a delicious way for athletes to fuel their workouts, or to recover from them. Acai bowls later started appearing in other warm areas with surfing communities, like Hawaii and California; you can now find acai bowls at juice bars and health focused restaurants in many cities throughout the U.S. We’re proud to have four different types of acai bowl on the Thirst Menu!
Acai, which is often referred to as a “superfood” is high in antioxidants and contains fiber and healthful fats. Some studies also suggest that consumption of acai may help boost immunity, help control blood sugar, and support heart health.
Questions You’ve Been Asking:
- Are acai bowls vegan?
- Great question! The answer is, it depends. Like everything at Thirst, our acai bowls are vegan (and gluten-free), and it’s easy to make a vegan acai bowl. However, some restaurants and cafes (including traditional Brazilian ones) blend the acai with dairy (milk or yogurt), pour cream on top of the blend, or include honey as a sweetener. Keep in mind that even if the base is vegan, not all cafes use vegan granola. If you aren’t sure about the ingredients and follow a vegan diet, always be sure to ask!
- Are acai bowls healthy?
- Yes! Acai bowls are packed with beneficial nutrients, and make a great snack or meal. If you are concerned about limiting your calories, make sure your bowl is made with an unsweetened nut milk as a base, and that you don’t overdo it on the toppings.
- What does acai look like?
- Acai berries are small, blue berries that grow in clusters on acai palm trees. You won’t see fresh acai in the U.S. It grows primarily subtropical regions of Central and South America and must be eaten or frozen within 24 hours of harvest. If you are looking for acai in your grocery store, look in the frozen fruits section. You’ll likely find acai in single-serve frozen packs.
- Does powdered acai contain the same benefits as frozen acai? What about acai juice?
- The most healthful form of acai that you’ll find in the U.S. is the frozen form. Powdered acai contains antioxidants, but lacks the fiber and healthful fats of frozen acai. And any acai juice you’ll find here has been pasteurized (heated at extremely high temperatures); this process kills bacteria, but also destroys many of the healthful enzymes in the juice.
Make Your Own Acai Bowl!
Want to make your own acai bowl? These bowls are easy and fun to make in your home blender. A basic recipe follows, but feel free to experiment!
- ¾ Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
- ½ Frozen Banana
- 1 Frozen Pack Acai (you can purchase Sambazon brand at many Whole Food markets)
- ½ Cup Blueberries
- Top With:
- Coconut Flakes
- Cacao Nibs
- Fresh Strawberries
Curious about acai? Come try a Peanut Butter Acai Bowl at Thirst today or stay tuned for our next Smoothie Bowl Social!
We often hear that certain foods are good for us because they are “high in antioxidants.” But what are antioxidants? And how do they help us?
Antioxidants are natural (or man-made) substances that may slow and even prevent cell damage. The term “antioxidant” refers to a property – the ability to inhibit oxidation – not any particular compound. Vitamins A, C and E, for example, beta-carotene and other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin, phenols and polyphenols (such as the resveratrol found in red wine and the catechins found in green tea and cacao) all are antioxidants. Our bodies manufacture some antioxidants, but we rely on fruits, vegetables, and other dietary sources for many others.
Free Radicals & Oxidative Stress
To understand how antioxidants help our bodies it is necessary to first understand free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms (many of which contain oxygen and are called Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS) that have at least one unpaired electron in their outer orbits, making them generally unstable and highly reactive. They can be created as a result of normal bodily functions such as digestion, or as a result of exercise, or by exposure to pollutants or the sun. A free radical seeks to pair its lone electron by “stealing” one from a surrounding molecule, such as from a cell wall or DNA or protein, turning the molecule whose electron was stolen into another free radical and starting a chain reaction that can damage a cell.
Radicals are not all bad – some are generated by the body to aid the immune system in destroying pathogens and some trigger the body’s production of beneficial antioxidants. But when there are more radicals present than the body can effectively counteract through antioxidants, a state of imbalance called oxidative stress can result. Oxidative stress is believed to play a significant role in many diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and eye disease such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Antioxidants help neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals. How they do so depends on the particular antioxidant and radical. Some prevent radical formation, others scavenge radicals, some donate an electron to the radical without themselves becoming dangerously unstable, others interact with radicals alone or in conjunction with other antioxidants to turn radicals into harmless compounds.
Eat Food, Not Pills
Laboratory and animal studies show that antioxidants can help prevent damage from free radicals, and many studies show that people who have antioxidant-rich diets have a lower risk of certain diseases. Yet results from clinical studies of single or several combined antioxidants in supplement form have been mixed, and generally have not substantiated a benefit in the studied diseases. Moreover, high doses of single supplements may even be harmful in certain populations – for example, several studies have linked high doses of beta-carotene with an increased risk of lung cancer among heavy smokers. There are many possible explanations for the lackluster results in clinical studies of antioxidant supplements apart from inefficacy, including study duration, dose, chemical composition of the studied supplement, the focus on only one or several supplements, or that the health benefits perceived in antioxidant-rich diets are due to the combination of antioxidants, minerals and other substances in foods acting together, something lacking in supplements. Whatever the reason, there’s presently little support for the notion that taking antioxidant supplements will make you healthier. Instead, choose a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables and other foods that are naturally good sources of vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants.
The goji berry, also known as the wolfberry, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to promote skin health, support the liver and kidneys, boost the immune system, improve eye function, and for perceived anti-aging properties. Chinese herbalist Li Ching-Yuen supposedly lived to age 197 (or 256, depending on the source) and attributed his longevity in part to his daily consumption of goji berries. Such dramatic examples of the benefits of goji berries may appropriately be relegated to legend, but there is no doubt that the goji berry is a versatile, nutrient-packed superfood with lots to offer.
The Berry’s Benefits
Goji berries grow on thorny perennial bushes that can reach roughly nine feet in height and width. The bush is very adaptable and grows in a variety of climates in China, Europe and North America. The berry is small, bright organge-red when ripe and oblong in shape.
Goji berries are rich in vitamins A and C and a good source of vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B6. They’re an excellent source of iron and antioxidants, including phenols, polysaccharides, beta carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A, promoting eye and skin health), lutein, and lycopene. Goji berries are a complete protein; they contain eighteen amino acids, including all of the essential amino acids. They contain 11 essential minerals and 21 trace minerals, including (in addition to iron) calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, and zinc.
Get Your Goji Mojo Going
Goji berries are most commonly available in the United States in their dried form, although the berry may be found in other forms, including as a fresh berry, as juice, and as a powder or tablet.
Goji berries are a versatile fruit and there are many ways to incorporate them into your diet. They have a mild sweet-tart flavor that is often likened to the flavor of dried cranberries. They work well in both sweet and savory preparations. In China, for example, the berry is often added to soups or porridges, steeped in hot water alone or with other herbs and served as a tea, or soaked in wine. They work well in cookies (try them in lieu of raisins in your favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe), breads and other baked dishes, and as an addition to salads. Like any dried fruit, they can be snacked on alone or with other fruits and nuts as part of a tasty and healthful trail mix. And, of course, they work well in smoothies. At Thirst, for example, we used goji berries in our Goji Mojo smoothie–a delicious blend of goji berries, raspberries, banana, almond milk, filtered water, ice and cinnamon.
One of Thirst’s “greenest” juices – and one of our favorites – is the Field of Greens. It’s a vegetable-packed juice with just a little bit of sweetness and a spicy kick: it contains escarole, cucumber, apple and jalapeno. We get a lot of questions and confused looks when it comes to the first ingredient. So if your reaction to the Field of Greens is “esca-what?,” this post is for you.
Escarole, a leafy green, is a variety of endive that looks like a cross between wrinkled romaine and swiss chard. It has a mild flavor, crisp texture, and adds a gentle greenness to juice. The relatively light green color of escarole leads some people to assume that escarole is not nutrient dense, but this assumption is wrong.
One cup of escarole contains more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K (which is essential for blood clotting, and some studies suggest may help osteoporosis), is a good source of folate (which is also known as folic acid or Vitamin B9, and helps with the formation of red and white blood cells), and a good source of manganese (which is important for bone health). Like other leafy greens, escarole also contains dietary fiber, and other vitamins including A and C.
Another good reason to incorporate escarole into your diet from time to time is that it provides variety. We love kale and spinach, too, but by varying your greens you can make sure you get the full range of different available nutrients. Plus, the different flavor provides a great change of pace!
Whether you choose to drink escarole in a juice, make a salad out of it, or cook an escarole and bean soup , your body will thank you for incorporating this leafy green into your diet.
Rooted in History
The maca plant, also known as Peruvian ginseng, has been cultivated for thousands of years as a food and medicine crop. It grows primarily in the harsh climate found at high altitudes in the Andes in Bolivia and Peru. Maca is related to the turnip and radish and is similar in shape. The plant produces leaves that grow close to the ground and a small white flower, but people principally use the plant’s root, which can be a variety of colors including cream, red, purple and black.
Benefits & Attributes
Maca has been used for centuries to treat a variety of disorders, including anemia and adrenal fatigue, as a natural source of energy and endurance (it was consumed by Incan warriors before they went into battle), and to improve sexual function and fertility. Maca is an adaptogen–it is believed to stabilize the body’s physiological processes, particularly in response to harmful stressors, and promote homeostasis. Among other things, it is thought to help balance hormones, elevate and help stabilize mood, and improve memory.
Maca is a good source of plant protein–the root is about 10% protein and 60% carbohydrates. It is rich in B vitamins, contains linoleic acid (an omega-6 essential fatty acid), and nearly all amino acids. It also contains calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as a number of trace minerals, including copper, iodine, iron, manganese, and selenium. Maca is also a good source of sterols, which may help lower bad cholesterol.
In the United States, maca root is most commonly available as a powder, gelatinized powder or capsule, though in South America fresh root is still used in a number of traditional preparations, such as watia (maca roasted with coals in a pit in the ground). As a powder, maca has a relatively mild, slightly sweet malty flavor. It’s great blended in a smoothie or added to your favorite baked recipe, and it pairs particularly well with sweet, nutty flavors. As with any supplement, start with a small amount (around a teaspoon) and only increase it after you have ascertained its affect on your body. Consult a physician with any questions and before using if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Is Frozen Inferior to Fresh?
With few exceptions, the taste, texture and nutritional content of fruits are best when fruits are allowed to ripen to maturity on the plant and consumed immediately after harvesting. However, seasonality, geography and other factors mean that many of us often do not have access to truly fresh-pickedfruits. So how do frozen fruits stack up to the “fresh” fruits most consumers purchase at the supermarket? Although “frozen” still evokes negative connotations among many consumers, in terms of quality and nutritional content, frozen fruits often are as good as, if not better than, conventional fresh fruit.
Harvested at Peak Ripeness
Impact of Processing
This Valentine’s day week, our featured food is cacao – the key ingredient in chocolate. On its own, raw cacao is a sugar-free and nutrient packed addition to a healthy diet.
Cacao beans are the seeds of the tropical Theobrama cacao tree. Theobrama means “food of the gods” in Greek, and Aztec legend holds that cacao was the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. In addition to consuming cacao (most famously in a frothy drink) the Mayas used cacao beans as currency.
Theobrama cacao trees grow many pods, each containing thirty to forty beans surrounded by a protective white pulpy coating. Cacao nibs are made by opening a cacao pod and allowing the contained beans to ferment. When the protective covering is removed after fermentation, the seeds break into pieces; the bean shell is then removed, and the remaining pieces are known as “nibs.” In some countries, the white pulp is used in smoothies, juices and jellies. The fermented seeds can also be ground up to form cacao powder. Cacao nibs and powder have a slightly bitter, dark chocolate flavor with hints of coffee.
Cacao contains flavanoids, antioxidants also found in foods like berries and tea. Antioxidants are important because they help destroy free radicals, which can contribute to disease development and speed aging. Cacao is an excellent source of magnesium, which is important for muscle and nerve function, and iron, which is necessary for red blood cell production. Cacao has been reported to help control blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and to help decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Cacao v. Cocoa
While cacao and cocoa sound alike, there are some important differences between the two. Cacao is pure bean in raw form and it is high in antioxidants. Cocoa is what you get when you heat the bean to high temperatures. Many cocoa powders found in the grocery store also contain additives like milk and sugar to add richness and sweetness – premixed hot cocoa almost always contains both of these things. While the science is unclear on whether heating the cacao bean impacts the antioxidants or other minerals, research shows that the consumption of dairy with cacao inhibits the absorption of the antioxidants in cacao. So if you’re going to choose cocoa, choose one without added dairy for maximum nutritional benefit.
Where they are in Thirst drinks
Cacao nibs and cacao powder are star ingredients in the Bad Monkey and Cherry Blawesome smoothies and the Peanut Butter Acai Bowl.
How you can use cacao nibs and powder at home
Cacao products have become increasingly popular in recent years, and are frequently found in larger grocery stores; you can also purchase them at health stores and online.
Some ways that you might use cacao at home include:
- In smoothies: Cacao powder and nibs have a slightly bitter, chocolate flavor that is a nice addition to almost any smoothie. Just remember that cacao is not the same as cocoa; on it’s own, cacao is not sweet, so be sure you add another source of sweetness if you like your smoothies sweet (consider dates, bananas, or even a little bit of agave).
- In trail mix: Cacao nibs are a delicious addition to home-made trail mix. Be sure your mix also includes nuts for protein and healthy fat, and dried fruit for sweetness.
- In oatmeal: Adding cacao powder, and maybe some nut butter to oatmeal, makes for a decadent but healthy breakfast.
The glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are tools originally developed to help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels. The GI and GL are related but different measurements, and both numbers rank foods according to how glycemic they are – how quickly they raise blood sugar.
You may already know that eating foods that contain carbohydrates – such as grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and dairy products – will naturally raise blood sugar. But did you know that not all carbohydrate foods have the same impact? For example, eating a serving of white rice will cause a faster rise in blood sugar than eating brown rice, even though both foods contain the same amount of carbohydrate.
The Glycemic Index (GI) for a food is measured by how quickly blood sugar rises after a person eats a serving that contains 50 grams of carbohydrate, such as a cup of rice, or one medium bagel. (Pure glucose has a GI of 100 and is the reference point for other foods.)
High glycemic foods (GI >70) will raise blood sugar higher and more quickly than low glycemic foods (GI <55). A food’s GI depends on many factors, including how much protein, fat, or fiber the food contains, how ripe it is or how long it has been stored, and how the food has been cooked or processed. (See the table below for some examples.)
For example, a baked potato has a much lower GI when eaten with its skin, because the fiber in the potato skin slows down digestion. Similarly, carrots that have been cooked or juiced are more quickly absorbed and therefore have a higher GI than raw carrots do.
It’s important to remember that the GI should not be used to judge the overall nutritional value of a food. For example, chocolate covered peanuts have a low GI of 32, but would not be considered healthy additions to your daily diet. Similarly, there are many nutritious foods that have high GIs, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
How much you eat of a given food also affects your blood sugar response. You might easily eat a cup of rice or a bagel, but how likely are you to eat the 4½ cups of diced watermelon it would take to equal 50 grams of carbohydrate?
The Glycemic Load (GL) was designed to account for portion size. It includes the GI and the overall carbohydrate content of a serving of a given food:
Glycemic Load = (Glycemic Index * net carbohydrate content of the serving)/100
For example, a typical serving of watermelon might be ¾ of a cup, which has about 6 grams of carbohydrate. The GL for that serving of watermelon is 4:
Glycemic Load = (72 * 6)/100 = 4
Eating a serving of a low GL food (GL <10) will have less impact on blood sugar than a serving of a high GL food (GL >20). Watermelon may be a high GI food, but when eaten in a reasonable serving size, it is low glycemic load.
You can look up the GI and GL for different foods here.
|Food||Glycemic Index||Portion Size||Glycemic Load|
|Baked potato, no skin||98||medium (~5 oz)||26|
|Rice, white||89||¾ cup||43|
|Bagel, white||72||small (3”)||25|
|Sweet potato||70||medium (~5 oz)||22|
|Baked potato, w/ skin||69||medium (~5 oz)||19|
|Rice, brown||50||¾ cup||16|
|Carrots, diced & boiled||49||½ cup||2|
|Carrot juice||43||1 cup||10|
|Carrots, raw||16||2/3 cup||1|
Using the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
Though not all nutrition experts agree, there is general consensus that research suggests that eating a low GI/GL diet may help with weight management and may prevent diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
If blood sugar levels are a concern for you, choosing low GI/GL foods can help. Other ways to support a healthy blood sugar include exercising, eating a balance of protein, fiber, and fat along with carbohydrate at each meal, and being mindful of portion sizes, particularly with high GI/GL foods.
Thirsty for “Low GI Juices”?
Fruits and higher GI vegetables such as beets, carrots and sweet potato add flavor and nutrients to your juice, but their glycemic impact can add up when juiced in large amounts. If you’re looking for a low GI juice, try balancing them with lower GI ingredients. Look for fresh juices that emphasize vegetables with low (or no) glycemic impact: cucumbers, peppers, celery, and leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, escarole or romaine.
Cassandra Johnson, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian in Boston, MA.