Juicing vs. Smoothie-ing

Sooo it's been a minute since I've posted anything on the blog, but that's because I've been busy... I promise!  Lame excuse, I know.  But seriously, things have been a little chaotic (in a good way).  

The worst part is that I have had so many ideas for blog posts based on common questions I get from clients, but I haven't had the chance to sit down and write in what seems like forever.  Well, today's the day, my friends.  Today I'm dishing on all things juicing and smoothie-ing because this is by far the most frequently brought up topic in my practice. Ok, let's get to it.

01. Juicing

Juicing is the act of the squeezing/grinding/smooshing/mashing/pressing/crushing the juice out of whole, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Now, what most people think of when they think of "juice" these days is the formidable cold-pressed style of juice.  Cold-pressed juicing refers to a process that "uses a hydraulic press to extract juice from fruit and vegetables, as opposed to other methods such as centrifugal or single auger" (1). Put simply, this is a "cold" process, which arguably helps to preserve the nutrients found in the the fruit as compared to other juicing methods; however, please know, this claim is currently backed by little evidence... just sayin’.

Ok, so should you drink juice?  Maybe not.  Put simply, whole fruits and vegetables are always better. Period.

Why?  Fiber.  

Dietary fiber (i.e., roughage or bulk) includes the part of plants (fruits and veggies) that the body is physically unable to digest or absorb. Instead, fiber passes almost completely intact through the stomach, small intestine, and colon and out of the body.  Because of this, fiber helps to slow down how quickly carbs (sugars) are absorbed into the bloodstream, thus preventing large spikes in blood sugar and insulin.  Fiber-containing foods are also more filling, take longer to eat, and are usually less energy-dense (lower in Calories) — a beautiful combination for weight loss or weight maintenance. 

Now, if you understand the whole “fruits and veggies are better” thing, but still want to sip on juice every once and awhile, there are three main things to keep in mind.

  1. Watch the added sugars. Always choose 100% juice, cold-pressed or otherwise.  Because fruit is naturally high in sugar, it's a good idea to limit additional sugars and sweeteners to help keep things from getting a little too carbalicious.
  2. Watch your portion size. This is a big one (pun intended).  If you’re going to drink juice (again, 100%, cold-pressed or not), aim to drink no more than 4-6 ounces per day.  Yep, that's it. In general, this will contain anywhere between 50-100 Calories and around 8-16 grams of sugar.  Although this is still quite a bit for a beverage with no bulk in my opinion, if you absolutely must have it, please drink responsibly (lol).
  3. Pair it with a protein-, fat-, and/or fiber-containing food.  This is sooooo important.  Because juice only contains carbs (again, sugar), in order to avoid a nasty blood sugar spike (and a potential sugar headache followed by an energy crash), it is best to pair your 4 ounces of juice with a source of protein, fat, or fiber.  These food components help to buffer how quickly the sugar is digested / absorbed, thus preventing large changes in blood sugar.  Also, fiber, protein, and fat help to keep us feeling full, thus preventing us from being hungry again in a few minutes. 

I would also like to share that juice (cold-pressed or not) is not recommended as a substitute for whole, real food as means to lose weight or to "detoxify" the body.  Although juice seems "light" and "clean", don’t be fooled — it is densely packed with sugar and Calories, which can negatively affect your waistline and cause nasty spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels when consumed independently (as mentioned above). Natural sugar or not, the body digests simple sugars in the absence of fiber, protein, or fat in relatively the same way. 

Regarding juice being a "detoxifier": In general, we do not need juice or any external substance in order to rid our bodies of toxins. Our bodies are wonderfully designed to detoxify themselves independently via the kidneys and the liver.  The kidneys filter out toxins from the blood and the liver filters pretty much everything else.  Glad we cleared that up.

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02. Smoothie-ing

Love it!!!!  Smoothies contain whole, real foods that have simply been ground into a drinkable form, thus preserving the fiber naturally present in the fruits and veggies. Weeeee, fiber.

There are three things I recommend keeping in mind though when it comes to making / drinking smoothies:

  1. Watch your portion size.  Even though smoothies usually contain all of the necessary food components to make a balanced meal (protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber), they are often a bit higher is sugar and overdoing anything is no good. I recommend sticking to a 12-ounce portion for all homemade smoothies.
  2. Add a protein and a veggie.  In order to prevent your smoothie from becoming a big sugary heap, be sure to add at least one source of protein (nuts, seeds, nut butter, protein powder) and a veggie (spinach, kale, carrots, beets). Grind these guys up with frozen fruit and you won’t even know they’re there.
  3. Pair it with a little something that requires chewing.  Even though a smoothie may contain all the food components mentioned above, for some people, drinking meals does not provide a sense of fullness or satisfaction. If this is the case, make a smaller smoothie and alternate sips (don’t chug!) with something to chew (i.e., nuts, roasted turkey breast, carrots and dip, a scoop of nut butter, a hard boiled egg, etc.). The act of chewing can sometimes help the brain to register “Hey, I just ate something” so you feel content and satisfied when finished.

My go-to smoothie recipe is as follows: 

  • 1 scant cup unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk
  • 1 huge handful baby spinach or kale
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup combination of yellow fruits (pineapple, mango, peaches, pear)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon unsalted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with a little water to thicken before adding to the smoothie)
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 pitted Medjool date OR 1-2 tsp(s) honey OR stevia, to taste

Add all ingredients to your high-speed blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy! Recipe serves one and makes about 12 ounces. 

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There you have it — the most concise way (seriously, I tried to cut it down) I can explain my take on juicing versus smoothie-ing.  Let me know what you guys think!  What's your fav smoothie recipe?

Drink responsibly,