Smoothie or juice?

Do you know the difference?

IS there a difference?

 

Recently I’ve been having smoothie conversations with a number of different folks. That may seem odd, yet given my own six day/week breakfast smoothie habit and the popularity of smoothies EVERYWHERE, it’s not, really.

Last week I took a short vacation with family, where seven of us shared a condo relatively well-stocked with kitchen appliances. Spying the blender on the counter, my sister and I commented on how we could make smoothies, and my cousin (who hadn’t heard our smoothie convo) later said, “I thought you’d be making smoothies while we’re here.”

During the time I was out of town, an online friend sent me a smoothie recipe, asking my opinion of the ingredient line-up, and just a couple of weeks prior to that, another online breast cancer group I’m part of asked if I had a smoothie recipe using beets (of course!).

So all of this smoothie talk got me thinking about the ubiquitous smoothie and juice bars sprouting up everywhere, and how more people are experimenting by making their own at home. It was the perfect platform for an overview of the difference between the two, plus a highlight of some of the ingredients commonly used. Boom. I had this week’s blog topic.

JUICING VS BLENDING. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

 

Juicing separates juice from the pulp.

The pulp = fiber, which gets discarded when making juice. Since there’s no fiber (or only a minimal amount) to take up extra room, juices pack a lot of vitamins, minerals and nutrients into a serving. There’s also a host of nutrients found just beneath the skin of fruits and veggies, some of which are lost by separating the pulp from the juice.

Most adults don’t get enough fiber; the average daily intake for Americans over the age of two is between 15-18 grams. (1) The recommended amount is ~25 grams/day, depending on age and calorie intake.

Increasing fiber wherever you can throughout your day helps inch that number closer to the target. Fiber also slows down the absorption of carbohydrate from fruits used in those juices, which helps stabilize energy and blood sugar levels – but you may experience the opposite effect due to the fact that the fiber can only do that if it remains IN the juice. And finally, fiber fills you up and helps you stay that way; given that the fiber is missing from that tall glass of green juice, you may be left feeling less full.

Blending pulverizes everything in one container, nothing is separated or removed, so you get ALL the fiber, nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Smoothies are also the perfect vehicle for adding nuts, seeds, protein powders, nut butters, spices and herbs, tea or coffee (yes, mocha banana and matcha green tea smoothies are a THING!).

You can get really, really full on a smoothie (hello, fiber!), while at the same time ingesting plenty of nutrition. You can also take in a blenderful of calories and added sugar if you’re not careful. That’s the thing to watch when purchasing vs making your own smoothie. Natural sugar from fresh and dried fruits is fine, but some smoothie shops add ingredients like juice drinks and/or sweetened plant-based milks as the blending liquid, and/or additional sweetener from honey, agave or maple syrup, so be sure to ask. 

MAKING YOUR OWN

If you want to try your hand at making smoothies at home, I recommend investing in a good quality, high-powered blender. You want your smoothie to be SMOOTH! Chunky smoothies are not in any way appealing; they end up being more like a dip or a soup – and who wants to drink THAT for breakfast?

Good blenders run ~$40 and up. Save yourself the trouble and go get the good one if you can swing it. I make my daily smoothie in a NutriBullet, but I also have a Vitamix for those rare times when I make them for a crowd.

Want to try juicing at home? A home juicer is an appliance I don’t own and don’t want. I don’t love juice, personally, but if I wanted to whip some up I’d use my NutriBullet or Vitamix and a handheld strainer. If you’ve got a hankering to own one, by all means go for it; there are plenty on the market. Juicers run anywhere from $40 – $200 and again, go for the best quality you can afford.

INGREDIENT LIST – DESCRIPTIONS & NUTRIENT OVERVIEWS

If you’ve decided to try home juicing or blending, it will help to know more about the ingredients you’ll be whipping together. Here’s a list of descriptions and nutrient overviews of some of the most common ingredients. Have fun!

Agave nectar

  •        Agave juice comes from the heart of the agave plant, of which there are over three hundred species. Blue agave is the most widely known and available.  Agave syrup (or nectar) is about ninety percent fructose, a form of natural sugar found in fruit. Fructose does not impact blood glucose levels as dramatically as other sweeteners such a s cane sugar. Because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed.

Apple

  •        Apples are a member of the rose family, and there are over 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world. About a hundred different varieties are grown commercially in the United States. Americans consume, on average, about twenty pounds of apples per year. Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin, so eat all of the apple except the core. Apples are rich in fiber and phytochemicals, carotenoids and flavonoids, which may play a role in fighting cancer and heart disease.

Beet

  •        Beets have gone from a peasant food staple to gourmet fare. Beets come in many colors from ruby red, pink, golden, white and striped. Beets are packed with unique antioxidants called beta-cyanins, an antioxidant compound that has shown promise in cancer prevention. Beets are a low-calorie, heart-healthy food, with a fair amount of folate and potassium.

Carrot

  •        Carrots belong to a group of vegetables called “taproot.” They are unique as they grow downward into the soil rather than upward toward the sun. Carrots come in many different shapes and sizes, but the most popular color is orange. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene. They also provide vitamins A and C, fiber, manganese, niacin, potassium and vitamin B6.

Coconut water

  •        Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside the hollow of a coconut. It is not to be confused with coconut milk or cream, which is a liquid puree of the coconut meat itself. Coconut water is extracted from young, green coconuts, when the proportion of water to meat is highest. Nutritionally, coconut water can be considered a juice. It has a small amount of natural sugars and other nutrients. Depending on the brand, a 1 cup serving of coconut water has ~45 calories, 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, no fat, and 500 mg of potassium (similar to a banana).

Cucumber

  •        Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as melons, squash and pumpkins, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors (including orange!). A cucumber is > 95% water, and ½ cup has 8 calories and > 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.

Ginger (fresh)

  •        Ginger is often referred to as a root, but is actually a reedlike herb that has rough, knotty rhizomes (underground stems). The origins of ginger can be traced back to southeastern Asia, China, and India, where its use a s a culinary spice dates back at least 4,4,00 years. Ginger is a rich source of powerful antioxidants such as gingerols (which gives ginger its flavor), shogaols, and zingerones. Ginger has blood-thinning qualities and may be contraindicated if you are on blood thinners.

Honey

  •        The benefits of honey can be traced as far back as the ancient writings of Babylonians, when it was used to bless buildings and homes and was so highly valued that it was common to use it as a form of tribute or payment. In ancient Greece, honey was offered to the gods and to the spirits of the dead. Honey is composed of fructose, glucose and water. It also contains trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. Honey contains flavonoids and phenolic acids; the darker the honey, the higher the level of antioxidants. Honey also acts as a prebiotic and aids in the growth of friendly bifidobacteria, thus improving gut health.

Lemon and lime juice

  •        Limes can be sour or sweet but usually possess a greater sugar and citric acid content than lemons. The lemon is actually a hybrid citrus tree developed as a cross between a lime and a citron. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C. They also contain vitamin A, folate, calcium, and potassium. Limonene is a compound present in lemons that has been shown to have anticancer properties in laboratory animals. Limes contain powerful phytochemicals known as flavonol glycosides, strong antioxidants that help prevent oxidative damage of cells, lipids and DNA.

Mango

  •        Mango is one of a family of seventy-two flowering plants that includes the cashew and pistachio. The mango is native to southern and southeastern Asia, particularly eastern India, Burma, and the Andaman Islands. Buddhist monks consider the mango a sacred fruit because they believe that Buddha often meditated under a mango tree. Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and beta-carotene.

Pineapple

  •        The pineapple is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay, and the name came from European explorers who thought the fruit resembled a cross between a pinecone and an apple. Pineapples are a good source of vitamins C and B6, manganese, and copper. They also contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Spinach

  •        Spinach belongs to the same family as beets and chard, and is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin K. It is a rich source of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese. It is also rich in folate, a water-soluble B vitamin which is important for good cognitive function. Spinach is especially high in vitamin A and related compounds (lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene) that act as protection for the eye.
List adapted from and compiled with the help of “101 Foods That Could Save Your Life” by Dave Grotto, RD, LD

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(1) NATIONAL CENTER FOR HEALTH STATISTICS Fact Sheet