There is a whole ongoing debate on the internet on juicing vs. blending, with people advocating for one or the other. This conflicting information makes it almost impossible to come to an educated conclusion.
Today, however, we’ll be looking at the two, learning about their differences.
But before we jump into the nutritional aspects of juices and smoothies, let’s first have a look at the most obvious distinctions.
Let’s start with juicing.
To make juice at home, you need a juicer. There are different types of juicers, and their juice quality may vary slightly, but the principle remains the same. They all work by extracting the liquid from fruits and vegetables while discarding almost all of the fibrous flesh. The result is a liquid, which usually includes some fine pulp, depending on the juicer used.
Making fresh homemade juice using a juicer
Now let’s look at blending.
To make smoothies, on the other hand, you need a food blender. The whole fruits and vegetables are liquidized to form a thick drink, which still includes the solid fiber. Usually, water, almond milk, or some other kind of liquid is added to make the smoothie less dense and also help with the blending process.
Top blenders include the Vitamix 5200, Cuisinart Hurricane, Nutri Ninja Duo, Dash Chef, and Kitchenaid Diamond, among others.
Using a blender to make a smoothie
Let’s look at the ingredients for juicing first.
The ingredients you can use in juicing may vary slightly depending on the type of juicer you have. Still, in general, you can use most fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Fruits commonly used in juicing are citrus, berries, apples and fruits of a similar consistency, and anything with water content.
Popular vegetables include cucumber, celery, carrots, beetroot, zucchini, broccoli, etc. You can, and should, add nutrient-and-antioxidant-packed leafy greens when juicing. These include spinach, kale, collard greens, wheatgrass, chard, and parsley.
Mushy fruits like avocados and bananas do not juice well, and these should be blended instead.
What about the ingredients for making smoothies?
Smoothie recipes can include almost any fruit or vegetable, as blenders are quite good at liquidizing practically any ingredient, except very hard ones. You can include softer ingredients like avocados and bananas, which are not suitable for juicing. You can even add coconut and seeds like flax or chia — which again you can’t do with juicing.
Not eating enough leafy green vegetables is considered one of the unhealthy lifestyle behaviors which increase the risk of premature death (together with smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and being overweight).
Most people have a problem eating enough leafy greens, and the same goes for vegetables and fruit. One way of including more of these into your diet is by adding them to homemade smoothies and juices. Adding some fruit will make up for the bitterness of the greens, turning it into an enjoyable drink.
Juicing and blending break down the cell walls to release phytonutrients
Besides helping with the quantity of consumed fruit and vegetables, both juicing and blending help increase nutrient absorption. In essence, they both break down the cell walls to release carotenoid phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene trapped within the cell walls.
So juicing and blending maximize the nutrient release from food to a level that is unachievable through normal chewing.
When drinking a smoothie, you’re essentially consuming the ingredients as a whole, with all the pulp and fiber, but in a liquid form. So if you use, say, one pound (450g) of fruit and vegetables to make your smoothie, what you end up drinking is a pound of smoothie. We are putting aside, for now, the added liquids like water, almond milk, etc.
On the other hand, when drinking fresh juice, you are not consuming the pulp or solid fiber, but only the liquid and its nutrients. What this means essentially is that it takes more produce to make a glass of juice compared to the amount needed to make the same glass of smoothie.
So glass for glass, juice has an inherently higher concentration of nutrients compared to a glass of smoothie. There are a couple of exceptions to this which we’ll look at later.
Comparison by weight of ingredients
So what if you drink the same amount of ingredients? Would smoothies be more nutritious since they contain the whole fruit and vegetable? Well, the answer is a surprising “No”.
When testing juices and smoothies made of oranges, apples, spinach, and carrots separately, overall, juice came out as the winner when vitamins and minerals were measured. Except for calcium, which interestingly was higher in smoothies.
Have a look at this chart for details:
But how could juice, being rid of the pulp, have more nutrients? Is it because of the heat that blenders produce during their fast spinning action? Is it due to oxidation? Or perhaps the time the cells of the ingredients stay in contact with the appliance?
It seems that although blenders produced a bit more heat than juicers, this wasn’t enough to be the culprit for the decreased nutrients.
So what is oxidation? Oxidation occurs when the cells of fruit and vegetables are exposed to air. An example of this is when you chop an apple, and it starts turning brown if you don’t eat it immediately.
But, if it was oxidation, why would this be more prominent when blending? The fact is that both juicers and blenders incorporate air during the process. The difference is that juicers, both slow and fast, push air into the liquid for a shorter duration. Blenders, however, aerate the liquid during the whole blending process, incorporating more air, thus exposing the cells to more oxidation.
It’s important to note the difference in how our bodies digest the two.
With juice, the juicer does all the hard work for you as it extracts the nutrient-packed liquid from the solids, giving your digestive system a break. This process is particularly beneficial to people with digestive problems.
Our bodies digest juice very quickly, resulting in an almost immediate flood of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients to your blood and cells.
When it comes to smoothies, your body still needs to digest the liquefied solid fiber. The solid fiber, however, is essential, as it feeds the bacteria in our guts, which in turn transform it into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids can help fight harmful bacteria and support mineral absorption like calcium and enhance bone density.
Furthermore, when you remove fiber, you’re also removing some non-extractable nutrients, such as polyphenolic compounds, which are bound to the fiber. Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugars and can make you feel full for longer.
It’s best to drink your smoothies immediately, due to their fast oxidation process. However, do not gulp down smoothies, but rather sip them over some time, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. By doing so, you will give your body time to realize when you have consumed enough calories. You will feel more satiated and will feel hungry less sooner.
Adding flaxseeds to your smoothies can also help you feel more satiated for a longer period. Again, the fatty acids in flaxseeds help with the absorption of minerals in the smoothie.
From what we saw, it’s quite clear that both are good for you, and both come with their advantages. Therefore, including both in a healthy and balanced diet is an excellent first step towards improved health.
A healthy and balanced diet should be rich in whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, including plenty of leafy greens, beans, nuts, whole grains and seeds, and plenty of water. Go for organic whenever possible. Avoid added sugars, processed food, fast food, sugary drinks, too much coffee, and black tea, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Avoid meats, eggs, dairy, and oils or at least keep them to a very minimum.
I enjoy a nice smoothie every once in a while. But juicing is what I do every day because it gives me a boost of nutrients and antioxidants. Glass per glass, juicing, is also lower in calories when compared to smoothies.
It features some of my favorite health-boosting juice recipes, complete with their nutritional values and health benefits of each ingredient. If you haven’t done so already, get it now.