Category Archives: Recipes

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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!

Energizing Vegan & Gluten-Free Granola Recipe (with dark chocolate espresso beans and dried fruit)

Energizing Vegan & Gluten-Free Granola Recipe

Energizing Vegan & Gluten-Free Granola Recipeyields about 8 servings
Bake time: 40 mins

INGREDIENTS
2 cups gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans
½ cup flax meal
¼ cup agave
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried apricots and cherries

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and flax meal onto a half-sheet pan and toast for 15 minutes. If you have flax seeds instead of flax meal, grind flax seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder to make flax meal. In a medium saucepan, combine the agave, brown sugar, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and salt and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Once the oats are toasted, reduce oven temperature to 300 F, pour the oat mixture in a mixing bowl, and add the liquid mixture, the dried fruit, and the dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Mix until the dry mixture is fully combined with the liquid mixture. Lightly grease the half-sheet pan, or use a vegan non-stick spray, and spread the granola mixture on the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, then let cool. Place in the refrigerator for up to a week, or place in the freezer for a cool treat that will last a few months. Add fresh chopped strawberries on top when served (optional).

Notes about the recipe:
– Feel free to adjust the amount of agave to your taste! If you don’t have agave on hand, 1/2 cup of honey can be substituted for the ¼ cup of agave, but this substitution will of course make the recipe no longer vegan.

– We chose dried apricots and cherries because they are lower in sugar than other dried fruits, but if you have other dried fruits on hand or in mind you can substitute the apricots and cherries with any other chopped dried fruit.

Understanding the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

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.

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Glycemic Index

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.

Glycemic Load

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
Glucose 100 50 grams
Baked potato, no skin 98 medium (~5 oz) 26
Rice, white 89 ¾ cup 43
Bagel, white 72 small (3”) 25
Watermelon 72 ¾ cup 4
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.

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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.

WHY HELLO THERE…

Thirst Juice Co. | Thirst. For Life.

Welcome to our blog! We hope that you’ll visit us at 44 School Street in Downtown Boston when we open (very soon!), but thanks for stopping by our virtual home in the meantime.

Thirst Juice Co. serves delicious and healthy juices, smoothies, and soups, but we want to satisfy more than your appetite for good food and drink. There’s so much to learn about the benefits of eating and drinking lots of fresh produce and we want to be a resource for you to do that learning.

On our blog, you’ll find posts about a wide variety of topics, including the latest news about Thirst and our community, recipes that you can try at home, and information about the fantastic health benefits and little known facts about some of our favorite juice, smoothie and soup ingredients.

Check back soon for updates on what’s in store for Thirst, including information about our official opening.