Open any health food recipe book, and you’ll find a section on one of these. Smoothies and juices are popular ways of boosting the nutrients in your diet, but which is better for health? We’ve laid out the pros and cons of each, so you can decide.
When you juice vegetables, you’re extracting all the water and nutrients out, leaving the fibrous, indigestible solid mass behind. The benefit of this is that you use a lot more vegetables to do it, and concentrate all those delicious vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and so on into one big hard-hitting wallop of nutrition-saturated goodness.
Nutrients are held in the structure of the vegetable, so stripping the juice out of the fiber makes the good stuff more accessible, and the digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard to break down and absorb those valuable nutrients.
This makes juicing great for healing - when you’re sick, your digestive system is often compromised and weaker. Letting your juicer do the hard work leaves you more energy to direct to healing. Modern lifestyle illnesses are caused in part by chronic deficiency (especially these days, where vegetables themselves are deficient as our soils are so deteriorated). The high concentration of nutrients in vegetable juice can help to remedy the underlying causes of disease, restore at the cellular level and get you on track to recovery.
The drawback of juicing, though, is that because it is so concentrated, and you’re stripping out filling fiber, you can consume more than you would normally. Great for nutrients – but when you’re juicing fruit and starchy vegetables, you could end up with a juice that’s very concentrated in sugar or simple carbohydrates. This causes blood sugar spikes – leading to energy loss and mood swings, and even the development of insulin resistance if other risk factors are there.
The solution? You can include a little fruit or root vegetables, but make sure you base your juice on non-starchy nutritional powerhouses such as leafy greens, cucumber, celery and so on.
Smoothies keep the fiber that whole vegetables have, though the blending action does help to break it up and make nutrients more accessible. Since most of the population is deficient in fiber, this has multiple benefits.
First and foremost, the indigestible fiber acts as a giant broom, sweeping waste through the digestive system to keep everything, erm, moving along nicely. This helps to prevent the build-up of various toxins, themselves a big risk factor for chronic diseases.
The second benefit of fiber is that it keeps you full – whereas after a juice you’ll feel hungry again quickly, a smoothie has a bit more substance to it. This means that you digest it more slowly, ensuring a more even release of nutrients and, importantly, sugars into the bloodstream – avoiding spikes and crashes. As the fiber keeps the smoothie in your system for longer, you can pull lots of nutrients out of it.
In addition to this, in a smoothie you can add other foods, like seeds, spices, beans, nuts and nut butters (organic, one-ingredient types please!), avocados and so on. These can boost the amounts of nutrients, and macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates - that are available.
The drawback to this, though, is that it is quite easy to overshoot what you’re putting in, and end up with too much fat, sugar, or just too much food, especially if you’re consuming a smoothie alongside a meal. Also, many people make smoothies with dairy, fruit and not a lot else – make sure your smoothie is vegetable based, with water, kefir or a little nut milk as the liquid and just enough fruit to sweeten it up. A good guide is 2 cups of leafy greens, ½ - 1 cup of fruits and 1-2 cups of healthy liquids (No fruit juice!). Play around with quantities and flavors until you find some recipes you love.
SO WHICH SHOULD I HAVE?
When made with the right balance of ingredients, both smoothies and juices can be great tools to improve your health. We recommend smoothies as a way to top up all-round nutritional intake daily, and juicing for getting extra vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. If you’re poorly, juicing is easier on digestion and a quick way to power up with maximum nutrients to fight the illness, but if you’re healthy, smoothies can be a way to consume an entire meal when you’re on the go and too busy to cook. Both have their place and both are great for getting in extra greens, and a healthy combination of both will ensure you’re supplying your body with a steady stream of awesome nutrients.
So, you’re ready to blend/press/whip up some magic – but where do you start?
Juicers and blenders aren’t cheap, but we strongly recommend investing in your health and splashing out for a quality machine. Choose a masticating (cold-press) juicer – the cheaper centrifugal juicers tend to heat up, and introduce oxygen, which destroys precious nutrients and enzymes. The same goes for blenders - choose a quality, high-speed variety that doesn’t heat up or mix in a ton of oxygen.
It might cost a bit more, but you’ll need far less vegetables for the same nutritional benefit, saving you money in the long run. Finally, make sure you drink your smoothie or juice right away, as light and air destroy nutrients over time. If you have to save some, store it in a dark, airtight container and enjoy it as soon as you can!
What are your favourite juice or smoothie recipes? Let us know in the comments!