Originally Published November 08, 2011
I would like to describe in a bit of detail what the differences are between smoothies and juicing. There is sometimes confusion between the two, though they are two different ways of liquefying and consuming your food. Both are extremely healthy and have some similar benefits as well as some different ones. Based on your goals, one may be better for you than another. If you are just starting out with efforts to incorporate healthier food, however, the details will not be too important yet. The important thing is to get started, and if you are doing either of these, then that is great!
Firstly, I feel it is important to get some liquefied greens in our bodies. Leafy greens are so nutritionally dense, they are simply some of the healthiest foods we can be eating. They are chock full of minerals, some of which are otherwise hard to come by. By liquefying our leafy greens, we can more easily absorb them. Although we may do our best to chew our food thoroughly, in reality, it doesn’t always happen. Food passes through us unabsorbed, and un-used all the time. Using the blender to chew our greens is a great way to break down that food and get as much nutrition from it as possible. By making a delicious drink with our greens, we have a tasty alternative to other vegetable dishes, such as salad, that we may not always be in the mood for. Starting the day off with such a drink for breakfast is a super-healthy, energizing way to start the day. Making such a drink daily is one of the best possible habits we can get into!
Smoothie and Juice: What’s the difference?
A smoothie is made with a blender. The blender cuts and mashes the food into a liquid.
A juicer is more of an extractor. A juicer takes a food and extracts the liquid from it, separating out the pulp. You can put in an organge and get fresh, liquid orange juice with no pulp. Same for kale, watermelon, ginger, and any fruit or vegetable you can think of.
Pros and Cons to Juicing vs. Smoothies
There are many health enthusiasts who insist that juicing is THE way to go. When you liquefy fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, you absorb more nutrition in them than if you chewed the food. On top of that, by separating the pulp out of the food, you make absorption even higher. With the pulp out of the way, the juice (read, nutrition) can make the most direct contact with the intestinal walls, where the nutrition is absorbed. This optimal absorption is what juicing is so famous for. It also makes otherwise bitter and tough greens palatable and easy to consume when mixed with a little fruit juice.
Some say juicing is not ideal because you are no longer consuming the whole food. You have extracted parts of it out for consumption while tossing the rest. This is unnatural. My response to this is to say that I think of juicing as being a way to take supplements, but 100% fresh. Vitamin supplements and other supplements, including fish oil, for instance, are not whole foods. They extract the nutrition or a particular nutritional component from the food as a way to supplement our diet. We don’t further process the food when we juice. We just remove the pulp for optimal absorption.
When we juice, we can also take in an enormous plate or bowl of fruits and vegetables–many servings–in a simple glass of juice in just minutes. It would be extremely difficult to eat this quantity of food in a day, and it would be too filling because of the pulp.
Some people argue juicing is not “natural” and that we are refining or processing the whole food by taking parts of it out. This does make sense, but in our nutritionally-deficient society, sometimes this type of “processing” is necessary to get all the nutrition we need. We have depleted our soils and destroyed our environment to the extent that not only does the soil have a mere fraction of the minerals and nutrients it did 100 years ago but due to our polluted and stressful world, we need more nutrition than ever to stay healthy. Eating only a whole foods, organic diet is, unfortunatley, still usually not enough.
One concern that is mentioned about juicing is in the case of fruit or higher-sugar vegetables such as carrots and beets. By removing the fiber, the juice will dump sugar into the bloodstream much faster than it otherwise wouuld. Often times, I feel this concern is much larger than warranted. If a person is doing a juice fast for a limited period, I think including fruit juice is perfectly healthy. Frankly, if this person is coming off of soda, burgers, and junk food, some fruit juice is the least of their worries. An exception might be a situation of type II diabetes. However, if a person starts integrating large amounts of straight fruit juice or carrot juice in excess, it definitely could cause their blood sugar to get out of balance. As with ANY dietary change, it is critical that you closely observe how you feel when you eat or drink something. No amount of books or blogs can tell you what a dietary regime will do to YOUR body. If you feel fantastic with some fruit juice, then great. If you feel sugar highs and crashes, then it’s time to cut back.
The pulp, which is the “downside” of juicing is also the plus side of smoothies. I plan on getting a juicer in the future, but I am personally still doing green smoothies (more about those below). The reason I still do smoothies is for the fantastic fiber which we get from the pulp. Yes, it’s a little less pleasant to drink than the smooth, sweeter juice, but it is still plenty sweet and very helpful in getting our daily fiber intake taken care of. The fiber also lets it be very filling. On mornings when I drink my green smoothie, I can usually wait to eat lunch until 1:00 or 2:00. Even by dinner, I’m usually not terribly hungry, but just a little. This simple drink is so nutritious and filling, it significantly reduces the amount of food I eat the whole rest of the day.
So Where Do You Start?
Let’s say you want to get more nutrient-dense, leafy-greens into your body? Do you go with juicing or green smoothies? It depends.
I recommend green smoothies for the average person or for a “beginner” health foodie. First of all, almost all of us has a blender. High-speed blenders are best, as they break down the tough cell walls of the plant cells better, helping absorption, but anything will do to start. They are super easy to make and delicious to drink. They are filling. I feel that green smoothies are the perfect “bridge” between a regular traditional American cooked/whole foods diet and the world of raw food. It’s a way to experience the energy and higher nutrition content of a raw foods diet without committing to something too life-altering. You can have your morning smoothie and eat whatever you are used to the rest of the day.
Juicing can also be done by anyone, but I would particularly recommend it to someone who has been doing lots of health food for a while and wants to take it to the next level. Good juicers are quite expensive and usually cost at least a few hundred dollars for a good quality one. Juicing is best done in the morning for best absorption (when the stomach and digestive tract are most empty). However, you might easily find yourself hungry in another hour. You may not be able to rely on morning juice for an actual meal but, again, for more of a supplement. This may not be true for everyone, as there is a huge amount of nutrition packed into a single glass of juice, and when we are satiated nutritionally, the body turns our hunger signals off. It will depend on the individual.
Another great use for juicing is fasting and cleansing. Green juice fasts are absolutely fantastic for your health and for ridding the body rapidly of toxins. They are great for weight loss as well (as long as you go to a modified, healthy diet after the fast). Check with your naturopathic doctor before beginning a fast or cleanse.
What is a Green Smoothie?
Green smoothies were more or less created by Victoria Boutenko, author of several books, including The Raw Family and Green For Life. She came up with the idea in an effort to get more leafy greens into her diet when she could see they were really lacking. A green smoothie consists of approximately 60% fruit and 40% leafy greens. The greens can be anything from kale, swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, to spinach. The fruit can be anything you like. For the green smoothie or any smoothie, you use a blender and thoroughly blend your combination of greens and fruit. Adjust the fruit until it tastes palatable. This is not meant to taste like liquid salad. Green smoothies have grown exponentially in popularity, thanks to Boutenko, as people who have integrated them into their routine have noticed increased mental clarity, more energy, weight loss, better sleep, and many many other benefits. It’s so easy to add this smoothie into your day as a way to start a healthier diet. You don’t need to change anything else at first. But as you start enjoying how you feel, you probably will!