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juicing vs. blendingThe following is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain.

Last week, we discussed quick and healthy breakfasts on the go! We’re going to continue that train pf thought and talk some more about portable nutrition: the fresh juice or smoothie!

Let’s say you want to add a little extra nutrition to your diet. Sometimes, getting “healthy” overwhelms me, because (fortunately) there are so many different ways to improve your health. Where to start? Today, we’re going to talk about one of those health-boosting options: juicing and blending! Have you tried either?

I researched both juicing and blending about a year ago before investing in a new appliance. The juicing vs. smoothies debate is confusing, because many health experts feel very strongly in favor of one or the other. Is one better than the other?

Juicing

The Equipment: you need a juicer. Not that simple, though. There are several different types of juicers: centrifugal, masticating, upright masticating, triturating juicers, wheatgrass juicers, citrus juicers, and presses. Each one handles the produce differently, has different benefits, and different price points. For example, centrifugal juicers use blades to cut up produce and then spin it around at high speeds to extract the water and nutrients. These are usually more economical (under $100), but you can’t juice greens and lose a lot of nutrients and enzymes due to oxidation. [Oxidation of nutrients means that oxygen in the air hits the nutrients and starts depleting them. This happens any time you cut or damage a fruit/vegetable. The method of damage will affect the rate of oxidation and how many nutrients stay in tact.] In contrast, masticating juicers will crush the produce slowly, removing the bulky fiber and leaving a smooth juice. The slow, gentle action retains more nutrients and enzymes, giving you a better juice. Masticating juicers can juice greens and cost around $300-400.

The Product: When you make fresh juice, you use a juicer and fresh produce. No need to peel the fruits (even pineapple), just run it through. The juicer extracts most of the water and nutrients, leaving behind a dry heap of insoluble fiber. The finished juice will vary in appearance and texture based on the fruits/veg you used and the type of juicer you have.

The Benefits: Fresh juice lets your body absorb the nutrients very easily and quickly, since it doesn’t have to digest a whole plant just to get to the nutrients. These vitamins and minerals hit the ground running, rushing easily digestible, highly available nutrients straight to your cells. The lack of fiber is easy on the digestive system, giving it a break and a chance to heal/cleanse. One glass of juice can contain 3x-5x the amount of fruit and veg as one glass of smoothie and probably more produce than you would normally eat in a whole day. Juicers can handle some veggies that blenders cannot (like greens and carrots). Juicing will protect more of the enzymes and nutrients in your produce than blending, especially the low-speed juicers.

The Drawbacks: You may be able to fit more produce per glass, but that also means you buy 3x-5x more produce for juicing than blending. Since you’re losing most of the insoluble fiber, high-sugar fruits and veggies can spike your blood sugar without their helpful fiber to slow the process. Juicers generally only make juice, whereas blenders are more multipurpose. Some juicers can be fairly fidgety to clean.

Blending

The Equipment: you need a blender, which you probably already have. A high-power blender, like the Vitamix or Blendtec (about $400), can blend whole fruits, liquify greens and will give you better, smoother results. Do you need an expensive blender to make a good smoothie? Absolutely not. My advice? Use what you have, and if you find yourself wanting a better texture, shop around and try one out. You can find demos at most Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, or Costco stores.

The Product: To make a smoothie, you use a blender, fresh or frozen produce, some kind of liquid (water, milk, coconut water, nut milk), and ice. The blender mixes everything together, pulverizing and liquefying the produce until it’s one smooth beverage that includes the whole fruit/veg with all its fiber.

The Benefits: Blending lets you consume the whole fruit or vegetable, and not just the nutrients. Consuming all that fiber can be more filling, an advantage if meal-replacement is your goal. You will use less produce to make each smoothie, making the cost per glass cheaper. You can also add in “extras” like yogurt, nut butter, avocado, or protein powder to help turn your smoothie into more of a meal than just a drink. In addition, the blender is generally cheaper than a juicer, easier to clean, and can be used for more kitchen tasks.

The Drawbacks: Due to the higher insoluble fiber, smoothies have a lower concentration of nutrients than juices. Blenders generate a fair amount of heat as they break up food. Heat kills enzymes and speeds up the oxidation of nutrients. (Adding ice to your smoothie helps keep the temp lower.)

Why juice or blend?

The benefit of either juicing or blending, is that you can consume a variety and quantity of extra fruit/veggies that you wouldn’t normally eat in a day. For example, it would not be possible for my 8 year old to sit down and eat: 3 cups of raw kale, 1 cucumber, 1 granny smith apple, 1 sprig of mint, 1” of raw ginger, and ½ of a lime. Give me 5 minutes and a juicer, and he will gladly consume all that with a smile. My 4 year old loves fresh fruit and veggies, but does not like eating protein. For him, a strawberry smoothie with extra protein powder is a great solution.

The good news? Either juicing or blending is fabulous for your health! The goal in making smoothies or fresh juice is to get extra minerals and nutrients into your body that you wouldn’t normally eat in one sitting. I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to eat the recommended servings of veg and fruits every day. Especially greens. Sure, I’ll get on salad kicks every now and then and get a healthy dose of greens, but it’s not as consistent as I’d like. That’s where smoothies or juices really shine. This “fast track” to health works. It helps the body absorb more nutrients, which helps your cells to heal and restore your body, and the extra fiber helps remove toxins.

Which is better for you? That’s a good question. It depends on your needs.

I like to think of juices as supplements. They’ll give you a serious nutritional boost and get a huge amount of goodness into your system quickly and efficiently. There are holistic cancer and disease treatment regimens built around the high nutrient density of juicing…obviously juicing packs a wallop of nutritional benefits. If you have a sensitive or healing digestive system, the relief from high-fiber will be very welcome. But…juices are not a replacement for meals.

Smoothies can deliver extra nutrition and (when prepared properly) double as a meal. The higher fiber content is more filling and can cushion the blood sugar spike from high glycemic fruits. By adding extras like protein powder, greek yogurt, avocados, nut milks, etc. you can turn your fruits and veggies into a well-rounded meal or simply guard your blood sugar from the spike caused by the naturally occurring fructose in fruits.

My Experience

Last year, my husband and I watched a few documentaries that kick-started our journey towards health. We watched: Food Inc.; Food Matters; Supersize Me; Hungry for Change; and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Personally, my favorites were Food Matters and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I found both really encouraging; they left me feeling motivated, not scared to death. We decided to start juicing to make up for all those vegetables we should be eating but weren’t. After extensive research, I decided on a vertical masticating juicer. I liked the idea of keeping as many nutrients as possible, I wanted the option to juice greens (including wheatgrass), and the model I bought had the easiest cleaning process available. Win! A year later, it’s still getting regular use, and the kids love the green juice.

What are your thoughts about juicing or blending? Have you tried it before? Any cost-saving tips to share?

Next week…

We’re going to talk about drinking your greens! During my research, I came across more than one mention about how you shouldn’t mix fruits and vegetables in the same juice or smoothie. I’m going to look deeper into the science behind this and share some awesome juice recipes that will help you love drinking your nutrient-rich greens!

    • Laur

      My husband was out of work recently, and watched all of those shows, from which we started to juice. We only have a blender, but it works (not so sure about the nutrient contet now…) and we feel better. Thank you for such a great article, can you pease share what you ended up purchasing?

    • amysanders

      Such a helpful post!!! Thanks! One question, how is fresh juice different than what I buy at the store?

      • Heather

        Fresh juice is raw and full of vitamins and nutrients. Juices from grocery stores are cooked, therefore reducing the vitamins, etc. I think the standards are lower as far as the quality of the produce, as well. They juice fruits and veggies that we would probably throw out. There may be other differences (and I know that some store-bought juices are better than others) but that’s what I know and I hope it helps!

    • Sasha

      I had a juicer, but there was more in the pulp bin than in the glass so I felt it was wasteful. I bought a refurbished Vitamix and I love it! It replaced my blender, food processor, wheat grinder, baby bullet, and juicer (all of which I’m selling to offset the cost). My son, who is two, won’t eat any leafy vegetables but loves green smoothies.

    • Leah

      We have a Vitamix and just love it. I make green smoothies for the whole family about 4 times a week. My 3-year old loves them and it’s a great way to get kale, spinach, carrots and other veggies in him that he wouldn’t normally eat. I also use our Vitamix to make things like soups, salad dressings, and sorbets, plus I have the dry container so I can grind my own wheat to make bread and muffins. We also have a juicer, a centrifugal. It doesn’t get as much use. I don’t like the all the waste, although I have read (but haven’t tried yet) that you can use some of the fiber waste in things like muffins and sauces to bulk them up (especially things like carrots and apples). I also don’t like how much sugar I get at one go (because my juicer doesn’t do greens), so when I juice, I try to only make a few ounces, drink it slowly, and eat a handful of almonds or walnuts with it.