To juice, or to blend – that is the question. If you’ve ever watched an early morning infomercial for a juicing machine, you’ve probably been tempted to make a purchase. Too bad the next infomercial for a smoothie-making blender confuses the situation.
When you want to increase your fruit and veggie intake in the form of a drink, which is better – a smoothie or a juice? The good news is that both options are healthy, but there are a few pros and cons of each that you should consider before diving in.
Pros and Cons of Juicing
Juicers extract juice from fresh fruits and vegetables in one of two ways: by chopping and spinning the produce at a high rate of speed (centrifugal juicers), or by grinding the produce, pushing the juice through a grate at a slower rate of speed, separating out the juice pulp (masticating juicers). Masticating juicers tend to be more efficient and better at extracting juice from leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, but they do come at a steeper price.
It doesn’t really matter which type of juicer you choose, since both provide you with nutrient-rich juice. That said, juice from a centrifugal juicer should be consumed immediately because the nutrient content breaks down more quickly, while juice from a masticating juicer can be stored for up to a day.
Also, take note of the cleaning requirements, size, and weight of any juicer you’re thinking about purchasing. Juicers must be thoroughly cleaned after each use, so if it’s a hassle to use and clean, chances are it’ll end up sitting on a shelf somewhere, rather than being put to work.
Pros of Juicing
- Juices Are Quickly and Easily Digested and Assimilated. When you juice, the fibrous content of the fruits and vegetables is stripped away, leaving just the water and nutrient content that’s found in the flesh of the fruit. Since fiber slows down digestion, it slows the rate of nutrient absorption. Fresh juices deliver vitamin and mineral content quickly and efficiently.
- You Can “Hide” Vegetables in Fruit Juices. Juicing is an easy way to add veggies to your diet. By combining apples or other fruits with spinach, kale, cucumber, or carrots, you end up with a sweet drink that offers the health benefits of veggies.
- You Can Pack Lots of Fruits and Veggies Into a Single Juice. Because the fiber is removed from the produce you use, a single glass of juice actually requires about one to two pounds of produce. That gives you a lot of room to mix-and-match fruits and veggies to maximize your nutrient intake.
- Juices Are Calorie-Controlled. Since fresh juices are made only of fruits and vegetables, the calorie content is fairly well controlled. You won’t be adding “fillers” such as milk or yogurt to the recipe to add flavor or smoothness like you do with smoothies.
Cons of Juicing
- The Expense. In addition to the expense of the juicer itself, which can range from $50 to well over $400, juicing requires a large amount of produce. While fresh produce is fairly inexpensive, the quantity needed could put a dent in your grocery bill – not to mention the expense incurred if you don’t use the produce and it goes bad.
- The Hassle and Time Required. Between the actual juicing and the cleaning of the juicer, the process takes time. If you want to juice but are time-conscious, look for dishwasher-safe juicers.
- The Removal of Fiber. While it’s true that removing the fiber from your produce does make the nutrients quickly accessible, it’s a benefit that might be over-hyped. The truth is, you’ll absorb the nutrients from fruits and veggies whether you juice them, blend them, or eat them whole. Plus, fiber’s what keeps your digestive system moving, sweeping toxins out of your body in a timely manner.
- They’re a Poor Meal Replacement. Because juices are essentially just water, sugar (naturally occurring in the form of fructose), and nutrients, there’s nothing in them to keep you full. If you’re hoping to drink a juice in the morning instead of your normal breakfast, you’re likely to feel hungry before long.
Pros and Cons of Blending Smoothies
When you make a smoothie, anything you put in the blender ends up in your body. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your ingredient list. Generally speaking, smoothies that combine fruits and vegetables deliver the same nutrients as a juice, but with the added fiber content of the produce used, as well as the nutrient content of any additional ingredients such as milk, yogurt, or nut butters.
Pros of Blending Smoothies
- It’s Relatively Inexpensive. You probably already have a blender on hand, but if you don’t, you can probably pick one up from the store for less than $50. However, before spending the money, ask around to see if any of your friends have an extra. You’d be surprised how many people get multiple blenders for wedding presents.
- Smoothies Are High in Fiber and Nutrients. The rinds, peels, cores, and stems of the fruits and veggies you put in your blender all have fiber content that ends up in your drink and, ultimately, in your body. This fiber content keeps your digestive system working properly, sweeping toxins from your body in the form of waste. Plus, you still have all the good-for-you nutrients you’d get in a juice. While it may take a little longer for them to be absorbed, it’s only a matter of time.
- You Can Get Creative With Healthy Ingredients. In addition to fruits and veggies, you can add calcium- and protein-rich ingredients such as Greek yogurt, soy milk, or almond milk. You can also add more bulk to your smoothie by throwing in whole oats or a scoop of peanut butter. These ingredients turn your smoothie into a filling meal replacement that will keep you full all morning.
- Smoothies Have More Antioxidants. Much of the nutrient content found in fruits and veggies is actually located in the peel, core, and other fibrous portions of the produce. These portions are stripped out of juices, but remain in smoothies. This means that smoothies actually deliver a powerful punch of nutrients and antioxidants, more significant than that found in juices. That said, they do take longer to absorb than the nutrients found in juices, simply because your body has to work harder to break down and assimilate the food into compounds it can use.
Cons of Blending Smoothies
- Risk of Calorie Overload. Most fruits and vegetables don’t have a lot of calories, but when you start adding Greek yogurt, peanut butter, oats, vanilla-flavored soy milk, and half an avocado to your smoothie, the total calorie count escalates quickly. If you’re concerned about calorie intake, be careful about what you add to your smoothie, and watch portion sizes closely.
- Risk of Sugar Overload. Like calorie-overload, sugar-overload is easy to come by when whipping up a smoothie. Added ingredients like yogurt and flavored milks may have a high sugar content. When combined with the sugars found in fruits and veggies, it’s easy for the sugar in a smoothie to skyrocket. Always check the sugar content in your added ingredients to make sure your intake remains low.
Comparing Blending Smoothies vs. Juicing
Personally, I both blend and juice, depending on what I’m in the mood for. That said, if I had to choose, I would opt for smoothies. Here’s why: Most Americans fail to receive the recommended daily levels of fiber intake each day. Smoothies provide you with the opportunity to increase fruit and veggie intake while also increasing fiber intake. As long as you’re being mindful of the extra ingredients you add to your smoothies, you end up with a delicious, portable, healthy meal replacement that actually keeps you full.
That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with juicing, and if you don’t like smoothies, or if you have a medical condition that results in nutrient malabsorption, juicing is an excellent way to increase fruit and veggie intake and improve nutrient absorption.
Understanding Nutrient Absorption
The nutrient content and absorption of vitamins and minerals from smoothies and juices may seem a little confusing. Think about it this way:
When you eat an apple, you’re eating the peel and the flesh of the fruit, taking in vitamins, minerals, and fiber as you eat. Because you have to chew the fruit, and because your body has to break down, digest, and assimilate the food, it takes awhile for the apple’s nutrients to become available to you.
When you blend an apple, you’re drinking the peel, flesh, core, and seeds of the apple, consuming even more nutrients and fiber. You skip the step of chewing up the apple, and your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down, digest, and assimilate the food. But, because you’re drinking the fibrous portions of the fruit, it will take your body time to extract the nutrients in a form your body can use.
When you juice an apple, the water and nutrients are separated from the fibrous portion of the fruit, providing you with a drink that’s very easy to digest and assimilate. In fact, juices move right through your stomach to your small intestine, where they’re absorbed and nutrients are delivered to your bloodstream. This fast delivery system is great, but some of the micronutrients found in the peel and fibrous portions of fruits and veggies, such as carotenoids and flavenoids, are lost in the juicing process. So while still extremely healthy and nutrient-rich, fresh juices may have lower total nutrient content than whole foods or smoothies, but their nutrients are absorbed more quickly.
Before investing in a new juicer or spending a lot of money on fresh produce, think about your juicing or smoothie plan. Recognize that blenders and juicers require cleaning and maintenance, so you have to be willing to take the time to clean your machine after each use. You also don’t want a lot of produce sitting in your fridge going bad because you didn’t have the time to make a drink. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to commit to a daily smoothie or juice, skip the fresh produce and opt for frozen fruits and veggies. These are easy to incorporate into a smoothie (less so in a juice), allowing you flexibility in your drink routine.
Which do you prefer, smoothies or juices?