When we talk about healthy living, the word(s) juice, juice cleanse, and smoothies will usually make an appearance. There are many different types of smoothies and juices, and so the words themselves can seem overwhelming for many, and of course more information is key in making the right choice for you, as well as in terms of your actual health goals.
You can often hear people going on juice cleanses or diets, usually with the goal of attaining better health in some regard. Many people opt for short term juice cleanses to end some bloating or lose a couple of quick pounds, and others may opt for long term juice cleanses in order to ‘detoxify’ (this can be a very vague term) their bodies or ‘cleanse’ themselves. There are juice cleanses focused on weight loss, removing toxins from your body, and ones that have specific elimination targets such as yeasts like candida. The general idea during a juice cleanse is to only consume the juice as well as water, with no other foods. Smoothies, on the other hand, are usually incorporated into one’s diet with the idea of having it more often, even once a day, as a meal replacement or a way to get in nutrients or vegetable servings in quicker and in a more convenient manner. There are of course different types of smoothies, some created simply as a dessert, some focused on protein (usually in powder forms), and some focused on simply incorporating more vegetables in a diet (most commonly called a ‘green smoothie’, or can include pre-made mix powders).
See also: Homemade Banana Ice Cream Recipe
Juices are when you use a juicer (there are many different kinds available) to separate the pulp from the liquid by putting the vegetables and fruits in the juicer, and then consuming the liquid itself, which can be diluted with water. A smoothie, on the other hand, is when you put a mix of vegetables and fruits, or just fruits or vegetables, into the blender with some liquid and blend it all together, pulp included, and consume the entire drink—which is of course much thicker, as well as much more filling, than what a juice would be.
While there are pros to both options on a regular basis, the overall benefit is still dependent on what the end goal is and it all depends on what the actual ingredients going inside either one are. Many smoothies, especially when bought out in stands or even in restaurants, can just be meant as a type of dessert, filled with a bunch of fruits, blended with sugar and milk, and could even include some extra syrups as sweeteners! So of course saying you would like a smoothie can mean very different things, depending on where you are or who is actually making it. It is especially important to be conscious of this during the summer months, when smoothie stands are seemingly on every corner, boasting about their health benefits, and can really be made up of sweet fruits with sugar and milk, which can serve as a refreshing treat in the summer, but it is not the kind of smoothie we want to focus on. There are also many protein-based smoothie mixes available, and it is important to carefully read and research the ingredients, as they can do more harm than good, and in many cases, have sugar or flour as the main ingredients if they are not a quality brand! In the same sense, a juice may also simply be a bunch of fruit, again sweetened. And we of course are not including commercially made juices in this regard, as they are usually full of sugar and the processing methods can actually strip the fruit of any nutrients it did actually contain.
However, when done correctly, both smoothies and juices can actually be very beneficial and healthy. When we talk about juices, they are usually for a full day (and often much more), and meant as some sort of cleanse. When going for a long period of time (there are some that can be over a week or 10 days), it is important to make sure you are doing it correctly to avoid any potential problems, and it is a good idea to check with your doctor, nutritionist and/or naturpath beforehand. The idea behind juices is that they are essentially a direct ‘shots’ of vitamins and minerals, filled with anti-oxidants, which help your body to cleanse or ‘detox’ itself. Our bodies spend so much of their energy focusing on breaking down what we eat, and as many people eat processed and heavy foods and eat late into the night, it can send our livers on overdrive, overworking them and not allowing them to focus on breaking down toxins. When we therefore choose to be on a juice cleanse, our bodies can then have the focus of breaking down toxins, and are being fueled by the juice’s beneficial nutrients itself. This is why it is extremely important to make sure what you are consuming as a juice is actually good for you, as this is the only form of sustenance on a juice cleanse. When doing any type of juice cleanse, they all also recommend a similar process of easing into the cleanse, as well as easing out of the cleanse. What this means is simply in order to avoid ‘shocking’ your body, and going abruptly from eating heavy or processed foods straight to consuming only liquids, there should be an easing in process, which includes eating light meals that are mostly vegetarian for a few days before beginning. After the juice cleanse, and depending of course on how long it has been done, many people have cravings and want to eat heavy or processed foods that they miss. Just as with the beginning, it is important to then ease out of the juice cleanse as to not ‘shock’ your body, by eating soups or solid foods that are still light.
Smoothies can of course be very nutritious for you as well, when made right. The general idea is to consume a ‘green’ smoothie, which generally means that the majority, or at least half of what you put into the blender and smoothie, are vegetables or specifically greens. Green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients, so they are always a great option to include. Some, for example, can be spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, beet greens (leaves), and so on. Some of these options can of course be bitter, so the idea is to include some sweet fruits in order to change the taste, but still keeping it mostly vegetable based. Smoothies are also excellent ways to include beneficial ‘add-ons’ you want to incorporate into your diet. Many people enjoy the benefits of flax seed powder, spirulina, or maca root powder, for example, but remembering to consume all three can be difficult or inconvenient. However, when you make a smoothie, you can easily add these (or other) options and also mask any potential undesirable flavours from them.
So while both of these options can be nutritious and healthy when done correctly, when comparing them, you can see which one is better for you, as well as which, in the long-term is a better option. While you can skip ideas of juice cleanses, and simply make juices to add to your daily or weekly diet, there are reasons smoothies are more common or desirable on a long-term basis. The two reasons include that they are better in terms of waste, and the most important one, they are filled with fibre.
When you make juices, as your are separating the pulp from the fruits and vegetables, that pulp goes into a separate area in the juicer, which many people toss out. There are some ways to reduce this waste, including juicing vegetables first, and then removing the pulp before adding fruits and freezing it to use in vegetable based broth or simply adding to a homemade soup, or when juicing fruits, again keeping it separate and removing it, and using the pulp as an ingredient in baked or raw desserts. Of course some of the flavour will be removed, but it can still serve as a good base in either option. An important note with juices, however, can be keeping stems or vegetable or fruit peels you remove for recipes (or even for smoothies), and juicing them. This can eliminate other forms of waste, and the stems and peels of vegetables and fruits you may otherwise not want to consume still contain nutrients, so this can be a great use for them!
The second reason that makes smoothies a more desirable option in terms of long-term or consistent use is the main component in them: fibre. As the fibre is found in the pulp when you juice, you are not consuming it, whereas with a smoothie, you are technically consuming the entire fruit or vegetable—just as a liquid form, and therefore getting the fibre as well. Why is fibre so important? It promotes regularity, removes toxins from our bodies, and keeps our small intestine empty and clean, allowing nutrients to be absorbed. On top of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes found in fresh fruits and vegetables that are essential to our well-being, fibre is also key in this regard, and with its many health benefits, it is easy to understand why eating fibre-rich foods is so important in our daily diet.
For many people, eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables can be difficult, especially for those who are accustomed to cooking or who, with busy schedules, have trouble finding time. For days, weeks, or even months like this, getting one smoothie in a day can at least guarantee some fresh vegetable and fruit consumption for the entire day. Especially on days you know you will be busy, or working late, or going out to dinner or to a celebration, drinking a smoothie in the morning can at least guarantee a good amount of vegetables and fruits, even if you are not able to get any in afterwards! It is also very convenient and easy, and you simply need a blender and fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.
While a smoothie is beneficial any time of day, mornings are best as you never know what the day can bring and you may not come home in time to make one in the late afternoon or evening, and as it is blended, it is easy to digest so this makes it an ideal breakfast option.
Simply choose, for example, two types of greens (kale and parsley is one pair idea), and then you can pair it with a cucumber or carrot, and one very sweet fruit, like an orange or apple. Oranges work well since you can use the amount you want, depending on the taste you would like, and the vitamin C content helps absorb the iron found in the dark leafy greens. Simply wash and chop the greens and vegetables and fruits, add them to your blender with enough water depending on the consistency you would like, add on any extra nutritious add-ons, and blend until there are no large pieces left, and everything is smooth. It will depend on the type of blender you have, but this can take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Aim to drink it as fresh as possible, as the nutrient content will begin to lessen as the ‘exposed’ fruits and vegetables will now be affected by oxidation.
Make sure to change the recipe up, incorporating different greens, vegetables, and fruits in order to keep them interesting and to avoid boredom in terms of taste. Just make sure to keep them ‘green’ in the sense of having mostly vegetables in them!
So while juices are of course beneficial, and they do have a time and a place—notably in juice cleanses, when wanting a health-kick on a long-term and consistent basis, that also does not create waste and is a very convenient way of getting in some much needed nutrients—including fibre, green smoothies are a much better choice!
Photos courtesy of Kayture