This is one of my favorite questions to answer because many people are walking around with misconception about both. People in my gym often discuss the merits of one over the other, and nine times out of ten, I want to stop them and say, “no, you’re wrong because…” I don’t do it though!
With blending, whole fruits and vegetables are finely chopped until smooth. You drink everything you put in your blender–the leaves, stems, skin, flesh, seeds, etc. A blended drink provides water, water-soluble vitamins and minerals, and fiber. I’ll refer to blended fruit and vegetable drinks as smoothies.
Juicing separates the water from the pulp and other solid parts of the fruits and vegetables. You only drink the water and nutrients that dissolve in water. I’m referring to those as juices.
There are two main types of juicers; centrifugal or masticating. Centrifugal juicers spin at a high speed to chop whatever you feed into the juicer. The spinning motion pushes the pulp to the side to separate the juice. Masticating juicers work like your teeth. They grind the vegetables and fruits to squeeze out the juice in a slower but more efficient process. Masticating juicers are expensive. I own neither, and from researching both, masticating juicers seem to be quieter and better for juicing leaves like spinach and kale. Because they spin at a slower speed and generate less heat, some claim that masticating juicers don’t cause nutrient damage. I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to support that.
To Juice or to Blend? It All Comes Down to Fiber
There’s fiber in smoothies and no fiber in juices. That’s when people often go astray.
The argument I hear from clients, friends, and gym fellas in favor of juices is that “they have no fiber so your body absorbs the nutrients better.” Poor fiber getting vilified! I’m sorry folks, but that’s good marketing to sell juicers and juices. We need fiber, and most people are not getting enough fiber as is. Here are some fiber facts:
- Fiber is the single most important piece of detoxing. We ingest toxins and chemicals with food like pesticides and accrylimides from charred meats, and our bodies create toxic by-products during metabolism. Fiber binds with these toxins to push them out of your body as waste. When you don’t have enough fiber, you won’t eliminate as often, and the waste will sit in your digestive tract (colon) longer. This means toxins have more time to infiltrate into your body. Adequate insoluble fiber has been linked to a lower risk of developing digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease and colon cancer.
- Fiber slows down the release of glucose into your blood stream, preventing blood sugar (glucose) spikes. While people with pre-diabetes and diabetes should be especially cautious if they opt for juice over a smoothie, everyone would benefit from a slow steady raise in blood glucose. Too much natural sugars from fruits without fiber to slow the digestion and absorption down will cause a spike in blood glucose. Your pancreas will secrete insulin to push glucose into your cells, and when the pancreas overcompensates as a result of a glucose spike, your blood sugar will drop causing a ‘crash’ and mood swings. Overtime, if your pancreas secrets too much insulin often, your cells will stop responding, leading to a condition known as insulin resistance. Fruit juices alone won’t cause insulin resistance, but considering that most Americans eat more sugar and refined carbs than they should and not enough fiber, you want to get as much fiber as you can at every opportunity.
- Fiber lowers total cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). Soluble fiber forms a gel in your intestines that binds with cholesterol preventing its absorption. Diets high in soluble fiber (10-25 g a day) are recommended are part of nutrition therapy to lower cholesterol.
- Fiber fills you up and helps you lose weight. Fiber slows down gastric emptying, the process of food leaving your stomach to travel to the intestines. With fiber, your meal stays in your stomach longer so it takes more time for you to feel hungry again. Who wouldn’t want that! Slow gastric emptying also prevents quick glucose absorption and sugar spikes.
Proponents of juicing claim that you’ll get more fruit and vegetable servings in a cup of juice because when the pulp (fiber) is removed, you’ll use more produce to make the juice creating a more nutrient-dense drink. While this may be true for some vitamins and minerals, you’re still missing the fiber. And it’s as important.
Smoothies (blending) Have More Anti-oxidants
If you assume that all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are in the flesh of vegetables and fruits that get squeezed out with water when juicing, you’re wrong. Often, these healthy components are in skins, seeds, or piths that are completely lost with juicing. One study on grapefruits compared flavanoid antioxidants content in grapefruit juice after blending, juicing, and hand squeezing. Blending yielded the highest flavanoid content. In another study on blackberries, there was a 70 to 82 % loss in antioxidants (ellagitannin) when blackberry seeds were removed in juicing.
Juicing for Certain Diseases
The only situation I would recommend juicing over blending is for people with conditions that result in malabsorption. This includes surgical removal of part of the digestive system, like the stomach in cancers and bariatric surgeries or parts of the intestines due to cancers and inflammatory bowel conditions (known as short bowel syndrome). Damage of the intestinal lining, such as in celiac disease, Crohn’s, bacterial and viral infections, and alcohol abuse causes malabsoprtion. In these situations, a juice is recommended. But also in these situation, complete nutrition healing is needed. Juice alone is not therapy.
Is Drinking Better than Eating Vegtables and Fruits?
Read the answer in the second part of this series.