There's alot of hype these days about juicing or drinking smoothies. There are juice bars popping up left and right and even mainstream commercial brands are offering instant smoothies. What's the deal with them? Is one better than the other and what should they contain? Let's break it down...
The Difference Between Juicing and Smoothies
Juicing is simply extracting the juice from a fruit or vegetable. Most juicers separate the pulp from the juice so you get a smooth, bit-free juice. While the juices can be delicious, when you toss the pulp, you're tossing the fiber, too. What you get are vitamins and sugars. These aren't processed or refined sugars, but they are metabolized in your body as sugar and thus spike your blood sugar (hard on your pancreas). When eaten with fiber, however, these juices are metabolized slower and your blood sugar doesn't take such a hit.The more fruit you juice, the more sugar. The more vegetables you juice, the less sugar. Either way, you're not getting the WHOLE food. And if you've been reading this blog, you know the WHOLE food is always best.
Making smoothies is preferable because they are made in a blender, which retains all of the pulp and fiber - ensuring you are digesting the entire fruit/veggie, not just the juice. The pulverization process makes it much easier on your body to digest because you have done much of the breakdown legwork prior to consuming. Because you have all of the fiber intact, your body can slowly metabolize the sugars, fiber and vitamins together, causing very little blood sugar increase - if you focus on the ingredients. Smoothies are an easy and fast way to get a daily serving or two of veggies into your diet.
The Ugly Truth about Fruit Smoothies
Whether you are juicing or smoothy-ing, you should aim for a vegetable-to-fruit ratio of 3 to 1 (three parts vegetables to one part fruit). All fruits contain a hefty amount of natural sugars, so these need to be limited and used mainly to slightly sweeten the drink. You can start gradually so you can get used to more vegetables, but if you're making a banana, strawberry and apple smoothie, you've just consumed at least 34 grams of sugar (not including whatever liquid base you choose). That's the equivalent of 8 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. Yes, the smoothie is natural sugar, but your body still metabolizes it the same.
Making Smoothies Work for You
My favorite smoothie uses a base of 2 ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 large leaves of kale, 1/2 a lime, an unpeeled carrot, an M&M-sized piece of ginger, and 1 tsp of spirulina (a seaweed powder found in health food stores) and ice. I drink this almost every morning. It contains 8 grams of natural sugar, or 2 tsp of sugar. Much better than the all fruit smoothie.
Experiment with different vegetables and Google some green smoothie recipes (check out my Recipes page for one). There are hundreds of them - just make sure you are limiting the amount of fruit. And make sure you are using a good blender. You'll know you need a better blender if your smoothies have noticeable chunks and pieces of produce. The smoother your smoothie, the more pleasant the experience. I highly recommend VitaMix blenders. They are pricey, but worth every penny. There's a reason why they are so coveted. They are the best on the market and will give you a completely smooth smoothie every time.
Be sure to see the Recipes page for some newly-added recipes! Eat - or drink - those veggies!