I’ve been hearing about green juices and smoothies constantly, and since I finally have a blender to call my own (yipee!), it’s time to talk about them. The way that some articles tout the benefits of juicing, you’d think it was the fountain of youth, the giver of energy, and saver of puppies. But do the veggie, fruit, and protein packed drinks really stack up?
Let’s look into the science and the psychology of juices and smoothies, so you can integrate them with your diet in the most optimal way. And, I’ll share some of my favorite smoothie recipes!
First the basics: what’s the difference between a juice and a smoothie? Does it matter which I choose?
There is a big difference between juices and smoothies. Juices extract the liquids from the fruits and vegetables you add, so it separate the fibrous parts (the pulp) of the veggie/fruit and leaves you with pure juice. Smoothies mix everything up together, chewing the pulp up into realllly teensy pieces, but it’s all there.
I personally am a fan of smoothies over juices, because it preserves the natural fiber in the plant, so you have slower absorption of the fruit and veggie sugars in your blood stream. Juices are awesome, though, because by removing the fibrous part of the plants, you get tons of plant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in a much smaller package, and you’re able to pack in more ingredients (and thus more nutrients!). For home use, I choose smoothies over juicing because blenders tend to be cheaper than juicers and because clean up is easier! I’ll talk more below about how the fiber in smoothies can be important if you’re looking to lose weight or replace a snack or meal with your smoothie.
Buying juices at the grocery story: why some bottled juices are not all they’re cracked up to be.
The main perk of juicing is that you consume raw, fresh veggie and fruit matter so the vitamins and minerals are intact and whole. If you leave your juice hanging around for too long, the vitamins and minerals will start to break down, and you won’t get the same nutrient punch as you would if you were consuming a fresh juice. Some of the juices on the grocery store shelves need to add preservatives and other things to keep the juice shelf-stable. Without those stabilizers, juices should be drunk within 4 days of pressing.
When you buy bottled juices, look for local companies selling cold-pressed juices so there’s the shortest time possible between juice-pressing and your belly.
Why drinking juices and smoothies is not guaranteed weight loss:
In our society, we often equate “health” with “weight loss”, but juices/smoothies are not a guaranteed weight loss pill. First off, many smoothie recipes are pretty high in calories, sugar, and even fat, depending on how much fruit, added sugars, and add-ins you choose to use. Just because it’s a liquid does not mean it’s low calorie!
There’s another reason why drinking your calories is not necessarily optimal if you’re trying to lose weight: our brains and bellies are not able to register liquid calories the same as solid calories. We find liquid calories less satiating than food caloires, and thus are more more likely to get hungrier or want to eat more. It’s important to be aware that even though you may not feel full after drinking your juice, you did consume some calories in your drink! This fact about satiety is one benefit of drinking smoothies over juices – by having fiber and protein in your drink, you will send some signals to your brain that you are consuming food and that these calories count. Fiberless juices won’t trigger the same signals.
One more point about the juicing for weight loss: when you’re drinking juices and smoothies, you’re using your blender as a substitute for a lot of the work that your teeth and stomach usually have to do. It’s a fast track to digestion and absorption, which is great from a vitamin and mineral stand point, but not great in terms of a calories standpoint. ,When drinking juices or smoothies, your body has to use less energy to actually digest your food. Now this difference may not equal to 500 calories per day, but it’s important to realize that you’re body isn’t working as hard to get the nutrients out of food as it would usually.
Even with these caveats, there is a really good reason to start drinking juices and smoothies:
Juices and smoothies pack a nutrient punch that cannot be denied.
The stats are there: only 23% of Americans eat 3 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. And a lot of those servings are from potatoes (i.e., french fries). Ideally, we should be getting more like 6-11 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. That’s a big difference.
Juices and smoothies are lots of fruits and veggies in a tasty and convenient package. No added fat, all raw, all fresh and real. That is pretty darn cool.
I think of smoothies as a way to pump up my nutrient intake, not a way to decrease my caloric intake. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an important one, and it leads to much less frustration if you are trying to lose weight.
My tips for healthy smoothie consumption:
Make them green:
Add more vegetables than fruit to your smoothies so they’re not super high in sugar. Kale, spinach, celery, cucumbers, parsley are all great options. When you’re making a smoothie, a great metric to go for is the 60/40 ratio of greens to “other stuff”. Click here for a great simple green smoothie recipe!
Afraid of it not tasting so good? Make sure to have flavor-boosting additions like cinnamon, ginger, or lemon juice to add flavor without the calories.
Add some protein/fat for slower absorption, or drink them around meal time:
Drink your juice or smoothies soon before or after a meal or snack to make sure you’re not getting a crazy sugar rush to your system. Alternatively, you can turn your smoothie into a complete snack or meal by adding some peanut butter, chia seeds, or even avocado!
When doing breakfast smoothies, make sure there’s enough to keep you satiated:
Many people make the big mistake of switching to a smoothie or juice in the morning and then feel frustrated when they are hungry again at 10am. If you are going to replace a meal with a smoothie or juice, make sure there’s enough calories, protein, and fat to sustain you until your next meal. Plain yogurt, nut butters or milks, and avocados are great additions. People are even making oatmeal smoothies! Simply soak your oats overnight in nut milk or plain yogurt, and blend it into your smoothie in the morning.
Here are some of my fave smoothie recipes from around the web:
- Oh She Glows has built an amazing resource of smoothies, including her famous “green monster” smoothie.
- If you’re looking for a good meal, check out this morning milkshake in a bowl or blueberry almond butter smoothie from Vidya Cleanse.
- For less greens, but tons of protein and good fats, check out Green Kitchen Stories’ Blueberry Coconut Super Smoothie.
- To add grains to your beverage, try this blueberry oatmeal smoothie from Best Cleanse Recipes.
- Ready to detox? One last recipe from Vidya Cleanse – it’s her creamy detox smoothie recipe, and it’s worth checking out.
So there you have it.
While smoothies and juices are not a silver bullet to better health, when the ingredients are chosen with care, juices and smoothies can be a very beneficial addition to your healthy lifestyle.
I’d love to hear from you – are you a smoothie or juice fanatic? What is your favorite recipe and why do you drink them? Share in the comments below!