The squeeze: to juice or to smoothie, that is the question. Photo: jeff giniewicz
Juices and smoothies are equally fashionable within the cleanse culture, yet each has distinct advantages and drawbacks.
What’s the difference?
Juicing is a process that extracts water and most of the vitamins and minerals from whole pieces of fruits or vegetables, but leaves the fibre (aka pulp) behind.
Unlike juicing, smoothies include the whole fruit/veg, including the fibre.
What’s the deal?
Proponents say that you can achieve the maximum nutritional benefit from juicing because the body can absorb the nutrients better and it provides much needed rest to the digestive system. Some also claim that juices can reduce the risk of cancer, but there is no scientifically supported evidence for this.
The notion that our digestion needs a break from fibre is nonsense.
In reality, fibre helps with digestion and is the major reason that fruits and vegetables are good for the body. And, if you’re like most Australians, chances are you don’t know how much fibre you need each day – that’s 30g just in case you’re wondering. Yet most folks only eat about two thirds of the fibre they need. There is strong evidence that fibre is associated with a reduced risk of some of our most widespread chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
If you’re considering a juice cleanse to bust the kilos fast, listen up.
As juice is void of most of the fibre found in fruir, it means the body absorbs the fructose (fruit sugar) more rapidly. This can wreak havoc blood sugar levels.
Rapid fluctuations of blood sugar involved in juice fast can result in fatigue, rapid weight loss (most likely from water and muscle) and blurry vision. Juicing is certainly not recommended for people with diabetes.
Aside from this, eating fibre contributes to a feeling of fullness that helps prevent people from overeating – a common culprit for weight gain. You’re simply not going to be satisfied if you drink your meals instead of chewing them.
Besides, the idea that your body needs help ridding itself of toxins is false. The liver and kidneys are perfectly good filters to get rid of toxins – this is exactly what they are designed to do after all.
Smoothie-lovers should also beware. Sure, smoothies provide the fibre, but when you combine whole fruit, dairy, yoghurt, chia seeds, muesli and protein powders (the list may go on), it can equate to a complete calorie overload rather than a quick healthy drink on the run. What’s more, some store-bought or commercially made smoothies can include “hidden sugars” found in fruit juice concentrates, frozen yoghurt and sweetened juice, rather than whole fruit which can add up to 29 and 31 teaspoons of sugars and be close to 2000kj (478 calories) per regular serve – about the same as a full meal.
It’s not all doom and gloom for smoothies and fresh juices. Fresh juices and smoothies can be great, largely because they are an efficient way to consume much needed fruits and vegies. This is provided they’re integrated as part of a balanced diet of lean protein and whole grains.
But when they’re taken to the extreme and at the exclusion of all else for extended periods – they not only fail to be the magic cure they’re cracked up to be; they can also do more harm than good.
Whilst it’s always preferable to chew whole fruit and vegetables, if you do decide to try a juice cleanse, (perhaps to break unhealthy eating habits), choosing a vegetable-based one is a sure-fire way to reduce the calorie and sugar content. As for smoothies, it all depends on how they are made. Stick to three key ingredients, for example fresh/frozen fruit, yoghurt/milk and flaxseed. Choose the smallest serving size and, if you’re buying ready-made, remember to read the label carefully.
Kathleen Alleaume is a nutritionist and author of What’s Eating You? Find Balance with Food and Lose Weight.