Category Archives: Nutrition

On Eating More Plants


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.

Join our mailing list and get this free guide immediately by entering your email below.

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Top Wellness Experts’ Tips for a Healthy Summer

With July Fourth behind us, summer is in full swing.  It’s the time of year many New Englanders live for.  The sun is bright, the days are long, and weekends mean time spent outdoors with friends and family, eating, playing, and generally enjoying each others’ company.  Summer is a really great time to feel great.  So we asked a few of the top Boston based wellness experts for their favorite summer health and wellness tips to keep you feeling your best all season long.

Kerri Axelrod

Photo Credit: Patrick Sporleder Photography

Photo Credit: Patrick Sporleder Photography

Who She Is:

Kerri Axelrod (www.KerriAxelrod.com) is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach specializing in helping women live healthy, passionate and purpose-driven lives. Kerri is an established authority in the health and wellness industry and frequently provides expert commentary for national and local media publications, speaks regularly at events and partners with top consumer brands.

Her Top Tip:

My number one wellness tip for summer is to get in tune with nature and eat as seasonally as possible. This tip is really something that I recommend to my clients all year long, as each season produces the unique harvest our bodies need, but it’s typically easiest to synch your eating patterns with nature during the summers. For example, in the summer months, fruits such as watermelon, vegetables such as cucumbers and herbs such as mint are abundant. All are naturally refreshing and help keep you cool. Fruit is also is high in certain vitamins like vitamin C, and minerals like magnesium, which strengthen your immune system and help your body to cope with the heat of summer. It’s typically also more cost effective to eat seasonally  so skip the supermarket and visit your local farmer’s market while you can!

Where to Find Her:

Aileen Axtmayer

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Who She Is:

Ten years of career coaching thousands of people has lead Aileen to believe that happiness in our careers can make us healthier and that being healthier can enable us to thrive at our jobs and in our lives. As a result, she completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and became a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach to supplement her master’s in counseling. Aileen brings these skills and her passion to her holistic wellness practice which has three main offerings: career counseling, health coaching, and yoga workshops combining the two.

Her Top Tip:

Other than opting for non-toxic sunscreen and adding in hydrating foods, my favorite summer wellness tip is a bit bigger in picture. New Englanders wait all year for summer and when it finally arrives, we tend to cram our schedules full to the brim without taking much time to rest and restore our bodies and minds.

Before we know it, summer is over and our energy is depleted before the busy fall season (then you blink and it’s the holidays!). If we don’t take the time to re-charge, our best laid plans to get that new job, or to start that new workout routine, often lose priority. I encourage people to use the change in routine that comes with this season to think about their intentions and opt for plans that align with them. If life gets in the way of that, setting goals to include little daily de-stressing activities can make a world of a difference in restoring energy levels before fall sneaks up on us!

Where to Find Her:

Gianne Doherty

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Who She Is:

Gianne is founder of The W.E.L.L. Summit and Organic Bath Co. and is a wellness thought leader, national speaker, and clean beauty expert. Named Boston’s Best Wellness Guru, and a woman changing the face of wellness, she is a passionate advocate for living WELL.

Her Top Tip:

Get outside as much as possible! New England Summers are fleeting especially so I try to rearrange my routine to be outside and extend the feeling of summer. I choose to walk more places, eat outside, picnics in the park, meetings and phone calls on the patio. I do whatever I can to make summer feel as long as possible.  Take advantage of all of the free outdoor fitness classes! A lot of these classes are typically valued at $20 or more so you are saving money, getting a great workout in and enjoying the sun on your face.   Additionally,  Summer is a much easier time of year to eat locally and seasonally. I take advantage of all the fresh produce available at the farmers markets, grill a ton and experiment with plant heavy recipes.

Where to Find Her:

Sarah Dussault

Who She Is:

Sarah Dussault (Sarah Fit) is one of YouTube’s most viewed fitness gurus of all time, with over 26 million views and 220K subscribers to date. Through her online workouts, healthy recipes, parenting journey and honest weight loss advice, Dussault built a community that has followed her since she began in 2008. Her inspirational videos and blog posts have made her YouTube’s most relatable fitness guru, or as SELF magazine editors claimed, “the perfect friend.” Dussault is a published author, ACSM certified personal trainer, holistic health coach and mom. She currently lives in the South End with her family.

Her Top Tip:

As a city girl, I love my studios but in the summer I don’t have any near  my family’s beach house so I create my own workouts that I can do outside with just a set of dumbbells. I either go for runs with my son in his jogging stroller first thing in the morning or I do HIIT workouts during nap time. In addition to creating my own (you can get them by following my Instagram stories SarahFit), I also love trying other trainers programs like the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide. As a former personal trainer and current group exercise instructor, I really love trying other trainer’s programs to learn new moves, get out of my comfort zone and keep from getting bored! I find that 30 minutes of HIIT workouts help me feel confident in a bathing suit while indulging in ice cream and lobster rolls. I try to get in 2 runs and 3 strength based workouts a week to balance my summer “diet.”

Where to Find Her:

Youtube: @sarahfit
Instagram: @sarahfit

Jenny Hanway

Who She Is:

Jenny is a Holistic Nutritionist, Level 2 Bio Signature Modulation Practitioner and Certified Personal Trainer.  Having worked in the wellness arena for over 11 years, she has worked at the celebrity favorite retreat, Amansala’s Bikini Bootcamp in Tulum, Mexico, was part of the founding team and Master Trainer at London’s first barre studio (barrecore) and has worked as a personal trainer to the British Royal family and the Hollywood A List.  Jenny has proven track record in transforming the health and physiques of her clients using her four key elements of wellness: Nutrition, Training, Lifestyle and Self-Care. She currently works with clients both in person in Back Bay, Boston and international online, and is an established speaker and workshop leader in the wellness industry.

Her Top Tip:

Supplement with sunshine. In the summer months I recommend my clients slim down their supplement regime – a great multi vitamin and a probiotic is really all that is needed if they are eating seasonally.  My one caveat to this is to get outside and get some sunshine! Vitamin D is one of our most important micronutrients (it actually works more like a hormone in the body), and at this time of year it is wonderful for both our physical and mental health to get it straight from the source!  Adequate levels of Vitamin D are vital for bone density, muscle mass, lean muscle development, blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity, and mental health and happiness.  Additionally, it might just be me, but I have a way more active social life in the summer! In the midst of winter (especially a Boston winter) I like to be snuggled up at home as much as possible, but in the summer you will find me joining my friends and family for dinner, drinks, hiking, and even SUP! Connecting with loved ones releases the hormone oxytocin, which decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and has amazing positive effects on our mental health and general wellbeing.

Where to Find Her:

Instagram: @jenniferhanway

Rachel Kaczynski

Rachel Kaczynski

Who She Is:

Rachel Kaczynski is a MA-based Certified Health Coach, freelance writer, and creator of “Spark Your Bliss” Affirmation Card Deck. She’s the founder of Healthy Chicks (www.healthy-chicks.com), a wellness blog inspiring women to live happier, healthier, more vibrant lives (without dieting).  When Rachel’s not writing you can find her in search of the perfect cup of coffee, sipping on a green smoothie, teaching wellness workshops or taking a moment to herself on the yoga mat.

Her Top Tip:

My top summertime tip is to be a little easier on yourself, and take time to indulge in life’s simple pleasures. After all, summer is a season of buzzing energy, self-expression and having fun! Often times we think about the things that nourish and fuel or body, but we ignore the things that fuel our soul. This may mean quitting your diet that’s making you miserable, hosting a seasonal dinner party with your best friends featuring vibrant produce from the Farmers Market, hoola-hooping or taking a mini vacation. I think we take ourselves too seriously far too often, so summer is the perfect time to let loose and do the things that make you feel juicy inside. To get started, ask yourself this question: “What makes me feel nourished, free and alive?” and then think about how you can incorporate these things into the beautiful season ahead.   Oh and by the way, you already DO have a “Bikini Body,” whatever that means any way. Rock it!

Where to Find Her:

Twitter: @healthy_chicks
Instagram: @healthychicks

Amanda Nurse

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Who She Is:

Amanda is a Boston-based elite marathoner runner, fitness coach and yoga instructor. She ran in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials with a personal best of 2:40. With her multiple New England race victories she is one of Boston’s most visible runners. In 2016, Amanda made a career change into the fitness world; she opened Boston’s first Yoga for Athletes Studio at Wellness in Motion Boston and also teaches at Coolidge Corner Yoga. She is the co-captain of Boston’s well-known running club, The Heartbreakers and coaches runners at Heartbreak Hill Running Company’s treadmill studio and as a personal coach. She loves to inspire her athletes to find their best session after session. Outside of the studio, you’ll find Amanda working on her newest endeavor, RunBabyRun.co, a fit pregnancy blog (because, yes, she is expecting her first child in October!), creating healthy meals, or training for her next race!

Her Top Tip:

As an endurance athlete, lover of the outdoors, and also being 6 months pregnant, staying hydrated is KEY. Drinking water throughout the day is important, but there are others ways to ensure you’re staying hydrated while you eat, as well! My favorite hydrating foods are: watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, salad greens and, surprisingly, yogurt (regular plain yogurt is comprised of 85-88% water! I love greek yogurt brands like as Fage or Chobani). Then, to mix it up, I love to drink coconut water post-workout. It gives me the potassium, vitamin B, electrolytes and good sugars I need to keep me going throughout the day!

Where to Find Her:

Instagram: @amandarunsboston

Cara Scinto
Cara
Who She Is:

Cara Scinto is a certified online personal trainer nutritionist. She is passionate about spreading joy and enthusiasm for better health and well being, for everybody and her positive vibe is contagious!  Cara offers individualized health coaching to those in need of mindfulness, balanced eating, and maintaining physical fitness.

Her Top Tip:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Summer months are hot and we need even more water than cooler months. Drinking plenty of water will help you feel your best! If you’re bored of plain old water, add variety with fresh herbs like mint and fruit such as lemon.

Where to Find Her:

 

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Featured Food: Acai

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).

Acai Bowl

photo credit: Tori Kendrew, kitchen + kraft

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!

Health Benefits

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.

Coconut Acai Bowl 1

Coconut Acai Bowl

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!

  • Blend:
    • 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:
    • Granola
    • 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!

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Smoothie Bowl Social: Recap

This past Sunday, March 20, Thirst Juice Co., along with kitchen + kraft, and Mia from the popular instagram account @sweeteststrawberries, hosted a Smoothie Bowl Social: Make, Munch + Brunch.  The event blended nutrition education with the opportunity to learn and practice food styling and food photography skills, and provided participants with the chance to style, photograph, and eat their own unique bowls.

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photo credit: Tori Kendrew, kitchen + kraft

Upon arrival, participants were greeted with Barrington’s French Roast coffee while they mixed and mingled.

Next, Thirst Founder Heather Stevenson explained some of the characteristics that make smoothie bowls more than just great Instagram subjects.  For example, smoothie bowls, like smoothies, are a great opportunity to eat nutrient dense “superfoods” that might otherwise be difficult to incorporate in your diet.  One such food, spirulina (a blue-green algae that is a complete plant-based protein, high in antioxidants, and highly alkalizing) has a flavor that many people don’t enjoy; however, it’s easy to mask the flavor of spirulina in a bowl with a combination of sweet fruits and greens or with a nut butter.  Similarly, because maca (a peruvian root that supports adrenal function and has energizing properties) comes in powdered form, it is conveniently blended into a smoothie or smoothie bowl.

Heather also provided some tips for making a healthful bowl, including:

  • For a liquid in your base, choose an unsweetened nut mylk, water, or coconut water. Since you’ll be adding fruit, which is sweet, the sugar in a sweetened nut mylk is not necessary.
  • Consider incorporating some leafy greens into your base for added fiber and nutrients. There is no “healthiest” green; the key is variety.  Eat a kale salad for dinner every day?  Try spinach or chard in your bowl.
  • Try to choose different fruits to blend than you’ll top your bowl with. Definitely want banana slices?  Consider leaving the banana out of the base and substituting a different frozen fruit.  Have some fresh blueberries for a topping?  Choose frozen strawberries as a base.

Participants also received a handout that included specific health benefits of many popular smoothie bowl toppings.  You can read about some of those toppings on our blog, including: maca, chia seeds, goji berries, and cacao.

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photo credit: Tori Kendrew, kitchen + kraft

After the nutrition portion of the event, participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better while the Thirst Team prepared bases for the bowls.  The choices were: Peanut Butter Acai (peanut butter, acai, blueberries, raw cacao powder, banana, almond milk), Vitamin “G”reen (kale, spinach, pineapple, mango, banana, coconut water), and Strawberry Coconut (strawberry, coconut flakes, mango, banana, coconut milk).

Once everyone had their bowls, Mia and Tori provided tips on making beautiful bowls.  They encouraged everyone to be creative, and decorate their bowls in whatever way they thought of as beautiful.  They also discussed focus points for bowls, how best to cut fruit, and how to incorporate props.

Tori provided a variety of fun and functional props, and people also had the opportunity to purchase some of her mindfully created, hand-crafted goods.  If you missed out, she also has an online shop that you can visit here.

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Participants started decorating.

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And the results were stunning! Here are a few of the images captured by participants during the event:

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photo credit: Jeff Boyd, @boydj

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photo credit: Mia Krabbendam, @sweeteststrawberries

photo credit: Alex Mosco, @alexjmosco

photo credit: Alex Mosco

photo credit: Jon Latessa, @jonlatessa

photo credit: Jon Latessa, @jonlatessa

photo credit: Lotus Le, @fitnatic_lotus

photo credit: Lotus Le, @fitnatic_lotus

It was a great event and we can’t wait for the next one! We’re especially thankful to kitchen + kraft for cohosting, and to the many participants who made this event fun (and who let us share their photos).

Want to learn more about juices, smoothies, or plant-based foods?  Join us for our Sip & Learn series.  The next Sip & Learn Event, “Superfoods,” is coming up on Thursday, March 31.  We hope you’ll join us! (Purchase your tickets online here: https://thirstsuperfoodsipandlearn.eventbrite.com or in the store.

Smoothie Bowl Social: Make, Munch + Brunch

Join us this Sunday, March 20 for the kind of brunch that stands out from the rest!

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Along with kitchen + kraft, we’re hosting a Smoothie Bowl Social.  You’ll learn the nutritional benefits of your favorite smoothie bowl toppings and how to take beautiful pictures of your creations.  Then you’ll make your own smoothie bowl to enjoy and (if you have the patience to hold off on eating it for a few minutes) practice your picture taking skills! Mia from the popular Instagram account @sweeteststrawberries will also be there to guide you in taking the perfect picture, and kitchen + kraft will provide beautiful props for you to use in your photos.  Use #whatsinyourbowl to share your works of art on Instagram, and to easily connect with your fellow brunchers after the event. You’ll also have the chance to shop a selection of kitchen + kraft’s naturally dyed accessories. Get ready for a morning full of fun, food and new friends!

Get your tickets now: https://smoothiebowlsocial.eventbrite.com

Sip & Learn Series Kick-Off

Our First Two Sip & Learn Events of The Year are In The Books

January Sip & Learn

This January, we kicked off our Sip & Learn series, an ongoing educational series covering health and wellness topics relevant to our community, with Juices and Smoothies – The Highlights.  During the event, participants tried 10 of the most popular drinks on the Thirst menu and learned about the health benefits of each one.  Founder Heather Stevenson covered some of the most important topics related to juices and smoothies, including key reasons to incorporate them into your diet, what types of drink to consume in different situations (e.g., post-workout, breakfast, snack, etc.), and how to craft a delicious and healthful juice or smoothie at home.

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In case you didn’t make it to the event, we’re sharing a few of the important takeaways below:

  • Why to Drink Juices and Smoothies: Incorporating juices and smoothies into your diet is a great way to fortify your diet with elements that might otherwise be missing. Most people don’t eat nearly enough fruit, vegetables, or fiber.  We eat less than two cups of fruits and vegetables combined, while we should consume closer to four or five cups in order to meet the USDA recommendation of two to four servings of fruits and three to five servings of vegetables per day. One juice or smoothie can easily contain two or three servings of fruits and/or vegetables.  Similarly, we eat on average only 15 grams of fiber a day, though women should eat more than 20 grams and men should eat over 30 grams.  Smoothies, particularly those with greens blended in, are great sources of fiber – and though most of the insoluble fiber is removed from juices, much of the gut health-supporting soluble fiber remains.
  • How to Pick Between a Juice and Smoothie: Juice is an ideal way to consume lots of micronutrients quickly and efficiently. Without the insoluble fiber, your body will more easily absorb the nutrients in the juice.  Some sugar in juice is fine (even good for you), but if you are sensitive to sugar, keep the fruit to a minimum because without fiber, your body will absorb it rapidly.  Juice is a great way to start the day because when you haven’t consumed any other food in a few hours, your body will absorb nutrients even more efficiently.  Smoothies are excellent snacks or meals.  They contain fiber which will help fill you up, plus you can add protein (hemp seeds, nut butters, etc.), superfoods, and good fats.  It’s best not to mix the two by using a juice as a base for a smoothie – this is because you lose the benefit of juice (easy absorption of nutrients by the body) by adding fiber, but still get the extra sugar and calories from the juice.
  • Tailor Your Drink Based On Your Needs at the Time: There is no one “healthiest” or “best” drink for all people in all circumstances. For example, if you just went for a long run, make sure to rehydrate and choose a drink that contains some protein and ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties.  You might choose the Vitamin Green smoothie, which contains coconut water, kale, spinach, mango, banana, and pineapple (consider adding some protein in the form of vegan protein powder or hemp seeds).  First thing in the morning, try a nutrient-dense juice such as a Buddhabeet (beet, carrot, pear, pineapple, ginger).  Your body will efficiently absorb the nutrients when the juice is the first thing you consume, and you’ll get a natural energy boost from the nutrients.

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February Sip & Learn

This February, we continued our Sip & Learn series with Drinking Your Greens, an event that centered around green juices, smoothies, and bowls.  Though incorporating enough leafy greens in your diet can seem like a daunting task, this event focused on adding greens to juices, smoothies, and bowls as one simple way to add a serving or more of greens a day to one’s diet.  Participants learned how to make juices, smoothies and bowls that incorporate lots of greens and still taste delicious, plus participants sipped two green juices and two green smoothies, tried two green bowls, and took home recipes for each one.  Finally, Heather reviewed some of the reasons why it’s essential to your health that you make the effort to eat (and drink!) enough greens.

In case you didn’t make it to the event, we’re sharing a few of the important takeaways below:

  • There are Numerous Benefits to Incorporating Additional Greens In Your Diet. Greens are rich in vitamins (like vitamins A, C, and K) and minerals (like Calcium and Manganese).  But they also have health benefits with which many people are less familiar.  They are highly alkalizing, which means that they assist your body in maintaining an appropriate pH level.  Leafy greens are also a great source of fiber, an essential dietary component in which many of our diets are deficient.  Consuming adequate amounts of fiber is important for many reasons, including the role fiber plays in digestion, blood sugar control, and feelings of satiety.  Increased fiber consumption has also been tied in some studies to reduced rates of disease, including certain cancers.
  • Juicing Order Matters. When you’re making a green juice at home, alternate your various ingredients to get the most juice and flavor out of each. Start with something hard and juicy, followed immediately by any small but powerfully flavored ingredients (think ginger, jalapeno, mint, and turmeric).  Return to hard juicy items, and alternate between those and greens until you have finished juicing.  By juicing the small sized but powerfully flavored ingredients near the beginning, residual amounts of those ingredients will continue to be washed through the juicer by the later ingredients.  By alternating between leafy greens and hard, juicy ingredients, you can obtain more juice from the greens.
  • You Can Make a Great Tasting Green Drink With Little Sugar. To create a low sugar drink, incorporate juicy and nutritious low-sugar vegetables like cucumber and celery.  But don’t let your drink taste flat – add lemon, ginger, or jalapeno for zing.  And if you’re using some fruit, green apples are a great choice because they are low sugar. For smoothies, use water or unsweetened nut milks as a base (avoid using fruit juices as a base for smoothies).  Finally, try using Maple Water as a substitute for coconut water – it is nutrient rich, tastes great, and is lower in sugar than coconut water.

Stay tuned for information about our upcoming March Sip & Learn!

Is there a topic you’d particularly like to learn about during a future Sip & Learn?  Let us know! You can email us at info@thirstjuiceco.com, tweet us (@thirstjuiceco) or let us know on Facebook!

Gut Health: The Basics

Gut Supporting Food

Recently, terms like probiotic, prebiotic, microbiome, and gut health have become increasingly prevalent everywhere from on health blogs to in casual conversation.  But while many people heed the advice to drink kombucha or eat kimchi, they don’t always know why.

Let’s start with the basics.

Your microbiome is an ecosystem of over 100 trillion microorganisms living on your skin, mouth, other mucosal surfaces, and in your gut.  This means that as humans, we are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells.  While the idea of being covered in (and full of) bacteria may sound scary in a world where antibacterial hand sanitizer and antibiotics have literally been life savers, the organisms in our microbiome are here to stay.  And if we treat them right, they’ll help us out.  Neglected, they can have negative consequences on our physical and mental well-being.

Your “Good Bacteria” Matters

The so called “good bacteria” in our intestines play many important roles in maintaining our good health, including:

  • Aiding in our digestion of food, and producing nutrients such as B and K vitamins
  • Supporting our immune systems
  • Helping to maintain healthy hormonal balances
  • Helping the body to rid itself of toxic matter, particularly in the liver and colon

Having insufficient “good bacteria” has been tied to:

  • Weakened immune systems
  • Lessened ability to process and absorb nutrients consumed in our food
  • Irregular bowl movements, gas, constipation, etc.
  • Hormonal imbalance

In order for the good bacteria that makes up our microbiome to flourish, we must treat it right.   We can do this by (i) making sure that we have a healthy supply of good bacteria, (ii) providing nourishment to keep the bacteria living inside of us healthy, and (iii) avoiding, when possible, actions that harm our microbiome.

Establishing Your Good Bacteria

In order to make sure we have a health supply of good bacteria, we can consume probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms – mostly bacteria – that we can eat or drink and that help replenish our supply of good bacteria.  While probiotics come in pill form, you can and should consume probiotic foods including fermented foods (kimchi, sour pickles), sourdough bread, miso soup, and (dairy or non-dairy) yogurt or kefir.  The live cultures in some probiotic capsules do not survive the acidic environment of the stomach, through which they must pass in order to reach the gut where they will implant themselves.  In order to increase the chances of the good bacteria surviving to reach the gut, one can eat a diet high in alkalizing foods, raw foods, and by consuming the probiotic capsule along with probiotic food and drink.

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Nourishing Your Good Bacteria

To nourish the good bacteria you’re already hosting, you should consume prebiotics.  Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not live organisms; instead, prebiotics are a type of fiber that we cannot digest, that feeds the bacteria in our gut.  Prebiotics include fibrous vegetables like asparagus, apple skin, bananas, and beans.   Soluble fiber from fruits and vegetables is largely retained during the juicing process, and constitutes a gut-health supporting prebiotic – so your daily Green Dream habit also supports your gut health!

Avoiding Harm to Your Good Bacteria

For optimal health, it’s not enough to grow and nourish our colony of good bacteria – we must also limit stressors on the good bacteria.  The following are some lifestyle factors that can negatively impact the health of our microbiome:

  • Consumption of processed and refined sugars
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Stress
  • The use of antibiotics
  • Drinking water that has been treated with chlorine

Some of these factors, like being under stress, are sometimes out of our control.  Others, like the use of antibiotics, have benefits that often outweigh the negative.  However, when these stressors are present, making an extra effort to consume both probiotics and prebiotics makes a lot of sense.

So Now What

If you’ve never thought about gut health before, or even if you have, the above may seem overwhelming.  Start small.  Here are a few ideas you might try as a first step (pick just one to start!).

  • Incorporate one more servings of a fibrous fruit or vegetable to your diet each day.
  • Replace one cup of coffee or soda per week with kombucha (the benefits to this go way beyond gut health).
  • Make a new recipe that includes kimchi.
  • Experiment with a new-to-you prebiotic food. Consider dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, or chicory root.

4 Powerful Tips to Help You Thrive This Holiday Season

holiday smoothieThe weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be some of the busiest of the year.  From holiday parties, to holiday shopping, to end of calendar-year work related obligations, surviving the season can seem like a nearly insurmountable challenge.  Today we’re sharing four simple but powerful tips to help you not just survive, but thrive, this December.

Practice mindfulness.

It’s easy to get so caught up in all that you need to accomplish during the holidays that you forget about the holiday spirit.  If you have a regular meditation practice, don’t neglect it.  If you’re interested in starting meditation, consider a guided meditation (there are some great ones available for free online).  And if you don’t meditate, consider simple options like writing down three things you’re thankful for each day or slowing down your morning by journaling or enjoying a seated breakfast with a loved one.  Remember that while happy people are often grateful, their gratitude may be one cause of their happiness.

Shop at companies you believe in.

You could buy your gifts at a large department store, big box store, or even Amazon.  But when you spend your money this way, it’s much more difficult to ascertain where it’s actually going or whether the products you purchased were responsibly produced.  Consider shopping at local businesses, ethically responsible online retailers, or even buying directly from artisans.  When you shop small, you’re doing more than supporting your local store owner – you’re supporting all of the people and companies from whom he or she buys, and you’re also nourishing your community.  And when you purchase items from retailers you know only engage with wholesalers whose workers are paid a living wage, who respect the environment, and who build a product to last, you can feel good about where your hard earned cash is going.  Added benefit: you can avoid the stress of shopping in a crowded department store or mall.

Make exercise a priority.

Regular exercise is especially important in December for several reasons.  First, we tend to eat more calories during holidays meals and at holiday parties.  If we don’t increase the number of calories we burn, we’ll gain weight.  Except for those of us who need to gain weight, holiday weight gain can be unpleasant and uncomfortable – exercise helps keep weight off.   Second, and perhaps more importantly, December is the first month of cold weather in Boston (this year).  Winter in New England is long.  It’s important to establish your cold-weather exercise habits early in the winter so that you have a system in place to get in your exercise until the warm weather returns in April.  If you exercised outside during the summer and fall (whether swimming at the beach, or running or biking along the Charles), ask yourself whether you can realistically consider the same exercise into the winter.  If so, great – but if not, come up with an alternative now, before you are out of shape, and before you’re in the habit of not exercising.  Join a gym or Classpass, identify a youtuber whose exercise program you’ll follow all winter, or stock up on some spin classes.  Finally, exercise is good for your mental health – it can help fight the winter blues and stress.

Drink more (non-alcoholic, limited caffeine) liquid.

As the temperature drops outside, we turn up the heat inside.  This means dryer air, which can lead to dry skin and dehydration.  Alcohol, which runs freely at many holiday parties, also has a dehydrating effect.  Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and myriad other unpleasant symptoms.  To avoid dehydration, drink more water.  Even better, consider adding lemon to your water for flavor and an alkalizing effect.  Other drinks to consider with health benefits beyond hydration include fresh or cold-pressed juice, herbal teas, and kombucha (don’t neglect your microbiome this holiday season – its health is key to your immune system!).

 

Which is Healthier – Juices or Smoothies?

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Earlier this month, Thirst was a sponsor of the first ever W.E.L.L. Summit, a curated event for the wellness community that took place right here in Boston.  We joined other local and national wellness focused brands, as well as individuals committed to all aspects of wellness, to learn and share about how we can all make decisions that help us live more healthful lives.  It was a pleasure and privilege to be part of this event, and we can’t wait for the next one!

At the W.E.L.L. Summit, our founder Heather lead two breakout sessions entitled Drink Your Greens: Using Juices and Smoothies to Become Your Healthiest Self.  During her sessions, Heather covered topics including the differences between juice and smoothies from a nutritional perspective – and when to incorporate each type of drink, how to craft a healthful juice or smoothie, and pitfalls to avoid when choosing a juice or smoothie from a juice bar or restaurant menu.  Here is one of the takeaways from Heather’s presentation.

People often ask whether juices or smoothies are healthier; the answer is that it depends on what you are looking for, because each has unique benefits.

Choose juice if you’re looking to quickly and efficiently benefit from many of the micronutrients in fruits or vegetables.

Kaleidoscope and Buddhabeet

Because the majority of insoluble fiber is removed from juice, juicing is a wonderful way to consume lots of micronutrients in a form that your body can efficiently absorb.  Several pounds of produce go into most juices (whether they are cold-pressed or made in a centrifugal juicer); it would be impractical to try to eat this much produce whole, yet much of the nutrition from the juiced produce makes its way into the juice, and then into the blood stream and into the rest of the body.  Further, our bodies don’t absorb all of the nutrition in the food that we eat, but when we remove the insoluble fiber, we make it easier to absorb more of the beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables.  Note that a frequent misconception is that juice is totally free of fiber; in fact, soluble fiber remains in juice (as does some insoluble fiber).  Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar and helps you feel full.

Choose a smoothie if you are looking for a more filling meal replacement, or if you want a simple way to incorporate many superfoods that are not otherwise easily consumed.  

Vitamin Green

Smoothies are more filling than juice because they contain more fiber (like juice, they contain soluble fiber, unlike juice, the insoluble fiber is preserved in a smoothie), and may also contain protein and fat (juice consists primarily of carbohydrates).  Smoothies can contain naturally occurring protein from ingredients like nuts and nut butters, seeds, or even oats; they can also contain protein from protein powder.  Smoothies can also contain good fats from ingredients that are not easily incorporated in a juice, including some of the same ingredients that provide protein (e.g. nuts and seeds), as well as other ingredients like coconut oil and avocado.  In addition, many nutritional powerhouse foods- often referred to as superfoods – are easily consumed in smoothies.  Among these are algaes like spirulina and chlorella, which come in powdered form and have strong flavors that may be masked in smoothies, and  maca, which comes in powdered form and has a malty flavor that nicely complements other flavors frequently included in smoothies.

Alkaline Foods – Demystifying the Hype

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You’ve probably heard that you should eat more alkaline-forming food.  But do you know what that means?  Or why you should care?  Eating alkaline-forming food can be helpful to your health in ways that may surprise you.

Acidity and Alkalinity Levels

Generally, the level of alkalinity or acidity in your body (its pH level) will remain in the same range regardless of what you eat.  Whether you eat a diet high in acid forming foods (such as meat, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol) or alkaline forming foods (like vegetables and most fruits),  your blood will maintain a slightly alkaline pH level in the range of 7.3 to 7.45 (pH levels over 7 are considered alkaline, pH levels of below 7 are acidic).  However, the foods that you eat will impact where in that range your pH levels fall – and may make it more difficult for your body to stay at a healthy pH level, placing unnecessary stress on your body.

Maintaining a Healthy pH Level

Your body has various protective mechanisms that help keep your blood at a healthy pH, including the lungs’ and the kidneys’ removal of acidic compounds, and various buffering systems.  When the body is repeatedly made acidic by the consumption of acid forming foods, these systems may become overworked.  This can lead to a situation in which the body is constantly more acidic than is ideal.  Athletes, especially, should make sure that they take steps to maintain an appropriately alkaline diet for a number of reasons, including that acid-forming foods can trigger inflammation, which reduces muscular functionality and performance, and because lactic acid buildup is a natural product of working out, which the body must combat in order to recover.

Vitamin G

Dangers of an acidic state:

Numerous negative consequences have been associated with an acidic body:

  • An acidic body has a harder time absorbing nutrients and minerals that you consume.  
  • An acidic body has a harder time repairing itself.  This is particularly damaging for athletes, who will not be able to train to their full potential if their bodies don’t adequately recover between workouts.
  • Chronically low pH may lead to increased free radical production and as a result, premature aging.  

What you can do:

Eating alkaline forming foods makes it easy for your body to avoid an acidic state.  Here are four easy ways to help keep your body at an appropriate pH level.

  • Add some lemon to your water.  This is a somewhat counterintuitive idea because citrus fruits like lemons are acidic.  However, once lemon is metabolized in the body, the alkalinity brought on by its high mineral content outweighs the acid forming impact of the citric acid.
  • Avoid consuming excess alcohol, caffeine, or sweeteners (sugar and artificial sweeteners).  All can contribute to an acidic state.
  • Eat and drink leafy greens.  High in minerals and chlorophyll, leafy greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard have a highly alkalizing effect.  For even more benefit, try including superfoods like wheatgrass or spirulina in your diet.