Welcome back to Vegan MoFo! So far we've had Tomato Tuesday and What-a-salad Wednesday, which brings us to THIRSTY THURSDAY! Thirsty Thursday is going to be themed around beverages, specifically juices and smoothies, and today I'd like to share my favorite vegetables to drink.

(Before you dig into this post you should head over to my new My Healthy Chef YouTube channel and watch my video on how to make my Vitamix Tortilla Soup! I want to start doing frequent videos so if you have ideas for topics, let me know!)

Everybody knows that vegetables are good for you. It doesn't matter what diet philosophy you subscribe to -- the Standard American Diet (SAD), Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Low Carb, Raw, 80/10/10 -- one thing that everyone agrees on is that vegetables are good for you.

Eating more vegetables helps to lower your risk of heart disease and lowers your blood pressure, reduces risk of stroke, helps fight some forms of cancer, and even helps combat intestinal disorders and digestive issues. I always tell people to try and eat the rainbow to ensure you get a broad range of vitamins and minerals.

It's not always easy to eat your veggies though, especially if you weren't raised doing so and/or you're just beginning your healthy eating journey. Ten years ago you couldn't get me to eat half of what's on the list below and now these are foods that I'm eating every week.

One easy way to incorporate more vegetables in your diet is to drink them! I've already written a blog post about how I feel about smoothies and juicing (spoiler: I think they're good for you) and I've even given you a formula for how to build your own smoothie at home. Now I want to talk a little bit more about some of my favorite vegetables to include in smoothies and juices and why. Let's begin.

kool-kale1. Leafy Greens

I think this one is the most important to mention because dark leafy greens pack more nutritional punch than any other vegetable out there. They're high in lutein and chlorophyll, which boost immunity and support healthy tissues, skin, and blood, help build red blood cells, and boost energy.

Kale, specifically, helps strengthen bones, balance excess estrogen, and contains omega-3 fatty acids. It's calcium and iron are highly bioavailable (easily absorbed).

Did you know that lettuce has natural sedative properties which can relax nerves, reduce palpitations, and induce sleep? It also helps ease bloating and discomfort. Mustard greens contain beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin K, which help remove toxins from the body.

I personally like to add leafy greens to my smoothies more than I like to juice them simply because they don't yield a lot juice when they're sent through the juicer. It's easy to toss in a handful or two (or three) of greens when adding ingredients to your blender and your taste buds aren't any wiser for it.

If you do want to juice greens, I recommend buying greens that are still attached to their thick stem as you'll get more juice out of them that way. I would also send them through the juicer first and very slowly, as this helps to get the most bang for your greens (dollar and vegetable).

If you're new to adding greens to your smoothie I would start with spinach or lettuce, as they have a milder flavor, then work your way up to kale, collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, beet greens, etc.


2. Carrots

Carrots are great because the carotenes (alpha-, beta-, and delta-carotene) in carrots are excellent for eye health and have anti-cancer and cardiovascular benefits. They also go well in both juices and smoothies. I usually add 2-3 whole carrots to my blend every time I juice, and 1-2 whole carrots to my smoothie, because they've got a sweet, mild taste, they're full of juice, and they're low in calories. They're a win all around, no matter how you want to drink them.


3. Beets

Beets are good for cleansing the liver and purifying your blood, plus they're an anti-inflammatory and a good source of iron. A combination of iron and antioxidants help feed and purify the blood while improving its oxygen uptake. Their leaves are edible too and aid in digestion, so sometimes I add those to my juice blends.

It is no secret that I love beets! They've got a great earthy taste to them while still being really sweet. Plus, beets are just beautiful once they're peeled and sliced! Similar to carrots, they're really great in both juices and smoothies. Be careful though, they will turn your fingers, counter tops, and urine bright pink!


4. Cucumber

Cucumbers contain phytoestrogens that help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer, including breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate. They also contain electrolytes and help maintain you water balance.

Cucumbers are great in both smoothies and juices because of their incredibly high water content (higher than anything else on this list) which yields a good amount of juice whether blended or juiced, and they have a nice, mild flavor. They're also really cheap, which is a nice added bonus. If I'm adding a 1/2 a cucumber to my smoothie then I usually don't need to add in any extra liquid.


5. Zucchini

Zucchinis are a light, cleansing food that contain a high volume of water, are low in calories, and can ease prostate conditions in men. They contain high levels of vitamin C and potassium, help balance blood sugar levels, and metabolize protein and carbohydrates. They also assist in the digestion of fat, contribute to sex hormone production, and lower blood pressure.

When juiced, zucchinis produce a good amount of juice and seem to add almost no flavor to the juice, which is kind of a good thing when working with vegetables. They also give your smoothie a bit of a creamy texture without adding as many calories as a banana or avocado.


6. Ginger

Ginger contains anthoxanthins, which help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Ginger is one of my favorite things to add to smoothies and juices because it gives them a little zing. Be warned that a little bit goes a long way and you definitely don't want to over do it! I usually cut off a chunk that's about the size of one garlic clove.


7. Fennel

Fennel contains a phytonutrient called anethole, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent the occurrence of cancer. It is also high in vitamin C, which is what the body uses to neutralize free radicals. Fennel is a good source of folate, which is great for pregnant women, and potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure.

Fennel has a texture that is similar to celery, which lends itself really well to juicing. It's got a uniquely sweet flavor that I can't really describe but definitely love. You can juice both the fronds and the bulb, and a little bit goes a long way. I usually use 2 fronds or 1/3 of the bulb when juicing. I don't know that I've ever added fennel to my smoothies but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a nice addition.


8. Broccoli

Broccoli is high in indoles, which appear to block the growth of cancer cells and support healthy hormone balance. The high levels of vitamin C aid in the formation of collagen and help repair damaged tissue. Broccoli also has a useful amount of lutein, which is an antioxidant that promotes eye health and may also benefit the heart and circulation.

I love adding broccoli to my smoothies and my juices. I like to buy the broccoli that has nice, long stalks on it. The stalks are perfect for juicing and have a sweeter flavor than the florets do, and the florets are great for tossing in a smoothie. Don't go too crazy with the florets, though, or they'll overpower your smoothie. I do a handful for a whole blender.


9. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a natural anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, rich in beta-carotene, and have been shown to improve blood sugar regulation, even in people with type 2 diabetes. The combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C all contribute to a healthy, glowing complexion and vibrant hair.

The first time I came across a juice recipe that called for sweet potatoes I wasn't really sure what to think of it. Was it a typo? Nope, it turned out to be one of the best juices I've had! I was surprised at the amount of juice that came out of the sweet potato, and it lived up to it's name in being sweet. I haven't added sweet potatoes to a smoothie yet, so if you do, let me know how it tastes!

Next week for Thirsty Thursday I will share some of my favorite recipes for these veggies so you've got a starting point on how to use them!

[Sources for nutritional information: Healing Foods by DK Publishing and The World's Healthiest Foods]