In my last post, I answered the question; which one is healthier: blending or juicing? In this second post on the topic, I’m answering the question; Why drink? Is drinking juice or smoothie better than eating fruits and vegetables?
Is drinking juice or a smoothie better than eating whole fruits and vegetables?
The short answer: not necessarily. The long answer: maybe, it depends.
The pros of eating:
It’s healthier for your waistline to sit down and eat your meals than drinking them up. Drinking calories doesn’t register in your brain the same way eating your calories does. It’s easy to drink up 400 calories from juices, but it’s far more challenging to eat 400 calories worth of fruits and vegetables.
Chewing is an important, yet overlooked, step in the eating experience. When people are given food to chew and spit, their desire to eat is decreased even without swallowing the food or ingesting any calories. Chewing slows you down and helps you feel full, usually on less food.
And even when you eat the same amount of food, chewing and slowing down helps you get that satisfaction from your meal. That’s because of two main reasons:
Your taste buds are in your mouth, not your stomach
When you chew, you allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy the taste. You give yourself the opportunity to be mindful and satisfied. When you drink, it’s difficult to slow down. It’s not easy to leave juice in your mouth for 10 seconds!
Your satiation signals need time to kick in
Nerve signals are sent from your gut to your brain through a nerve called the vagus nerve. These signals are a result of your stomach stretching and the satiation hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) being released from the small intestines. These signals reach your brain 20 minutes into your meal. When you drink, however, you can easily chug down your juice in less before you reach the 20-minute mark. Juice-promoters claim that ‘eating vegetables takes so much time’ to convince you of the merits of juicing, but spending that time chewing and eating is time well spent. It’s more convenient to drink, but sitting down and eating a meal that takes time from your day is wise investment in your health.
Food safety can be an issue with juicing and blending. When exposed to oxygen, the processed fruits and vegetables oxidize and can be susceptible to bacterial growth. You want to drink the juices you make immediately. If you must, store leftovers in the fridge and drink them within a day.
The pros of drinking
In an ideal world, I’d love to see people sit down and take 30 minutes to eat their meals. It’s not impossible; that’s the way it is in Europe. Our lifestyle in the US is packed, packed, packed. And why drinking seems appealing to many.
It’s not impossible to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables (4.5 cups) a day. But I admit that drinking helps. I see it as a supplement to eating, not the only way to go. Juices don’t have protein or fat (unless you add yogurt, nut butters, or seeds to your blended drinks), so they aren’t complete meals. Go ahead and juice for more, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to bypass eating fruits and vegetables altogether.
Another widely-marketed benefit to juicing is that nutrients are better absorbed. I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to support or debunk this claim. However, two things I know for facts are: too much fiber can interfere with absorption of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and too much fiber can cause constipation and slow down gut motility to the point of leading to gastrointestinal disturbances. If you’re health without a digestive or malnutrition condition, will your body absorb nutrients better in a liquid form? I can’t tell for sure.
Juicing and Detoxing
Detoxing, if done right, is a good thing. However, you have to rid your body from junk before you add a juice. Getting rid of the obvious–fried foods, packaged snacks, sugary drinks, hydrogenated fats, etc–is the first step. Eliminating and detoxing from foods and chemicals that trigger food sensitivities and immune system reactions is the second step. Remember; eliminate then add. If you’re planning to ride the detoxing train, do it right and create your own individualized detox plan.
Key points to take home from these Juicing vs Blending posts:
- Juicing and blending can supplement your diet and help you eat more vegetables and fruits. They’re not meant to replace eating
- Blending helps you keep more fiber that you will be lost with juicing. That’s especially important if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables in your meals
- If you eat wholesome fruits and vegetables and get enough fiber, juicing won’t hurt. It’s a boost of nutrients. Just don’t overdo the fruits and the portions
- You don’t have to choose between juicing and blending. Both can be part of your healthy diet
- Be conscious of your satiety signals and track the calories your juices pack (especially when they are fruit-based)
- When you juice and blend, choose more vegetables than fruits
- Drink juices and smoothies fresh. If you must store for later, place them in a tight jar with the least amount of air possible and store in the fridge immediately. Drink within 24 hours
- If you have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance, I wouldn’t recommend juicing. Blending would be the better option, and eating is the best.