Soy milk vs. almond milk.
Yoga vs. Pilates.
Low-fat vs. low-carb.
Debates like these are not uncommon in discussions of healthy living. A commonly heard example today is juicing vs. smoothies. Which is better?
As with most dichotomies such as this, the answer largely depends on personal preference. If you’re not certain which one you prefer, here are some pros, cons, and things to consider for each option.
What Are Smoothies?
Smoothies are probably the most familiar to you, regardless of your level of knowledge in healthy eating, and can be found everywhere from the snack bar at your gym to many fast-food establishments.
For our purposes, we’ll take a look at smoothies as prepared at home, giving you the most control over what goes into your blended beverage - and into you!
Naturally, any good smoothie begins with a blender. While you can certainly use a standard blender available at any home merchandise retailer, those lower-end blenders are infamous for leaving you with chunks of ice or frozen food and resulting in a gritty end product. Not tasty, and not likely to be a healthy habit you’d like to continue!
If it fits in your budget, you should have a look at the two most popular higher-end machines, the BlendTec and the Vitamix.
Either one will cost in the neighborhood of $300+, depending on the features you choose (e.g. more than one blender jar, designer colors, accessories), but savvy shoppers with a membership to club like Amazon Prime might find those blenders at a promotional price at some point during the year.
Refurbished blenders are frequently available as well, so keep an eye out if you’re in the market for one of the higher-end options.
Once you’ve run the blender gauntlet and brought one home (or dusted off the one in the back of your cabinet), what’s next? Smoothie recipes abound, but certain basic principles apply to virtually every mixture. You need:
- A liquid. Water is an easy choice, but you can also use milk (skim, 2%, or whole), fruit or vegetable juice, or non-dairy milk (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, cashew). Kefir, a fermented milk drink, is gaining popularity and can usually be found in the yogurt or dairy aisle at your grocery store; similar to yogurt, kefir has a large quantity of bacteria beneficial to the digestive system and studies have shown it to be high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Basic ingredients. This is where your personal tastes, dietary needs, and budget come in. Green smoothies have the spotlight at the moment, popping up on TV shows and in magazines almost daily. There are even whole blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to the green smoothie!. Raw spinach is what gives many green smoothies their color; the mild flavor mixes easily with other ingredients and doesn’t leave your drink tasting overly leafy. Other greens you can add are kale, chard, bok choy, and even lettuce! Start with a small amount first; you can always add more, but if you pass the tastiness threshold with too many greens you may wind up adding unwanted extra ingredients to try and cover the flavor!
The sky really is the limit when it comes to other basics. Particularly if you are using one of the more powerful blenders, you can add almost anything in its entirety. Apples, core and all? No problem. Carrots? Absolutely. If you can handle the tartness, you can even put in a whole lime.
- Optional boosts. If you prefer a thicker smoothie, you can add ice, frozen fruits or vegetables, yogurt, avocado, nut butter, protein powder, or tofu. Some smoothie fans like to add chia, flax, or wheat germ to increase the fiber content, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Wheatgrass is another ingredient you may consider adding to your smoothie, though it adds many of the same benefits as the greens you might already have used.
So, what are the pros and cons of smoothies?
- Smoothies are familiar, relatively uncomplicated to make at home, and you likely have both the equipment and many basic ingredients on hand already. They take little time to prepare and are easy to make-and-take on those days that you just don’t have time to sit down for a bowl of oatmeal or poach an egg.
- Smoothies are a terrific way to sneak potentially less-appealing, nutrition-packed foods into your diet (or that of any picky eaters in your household). A plate of spinach leaves or a raw carrot might not be part of your average meal, but they may tiptoe past your palate when blended into your smoothie.
- Smoothies preserve nutrients that are not part of the juicing process (and you’ll learn more about that later in this article). Because you can often use the entire fruit or vegetable - peel, core, rind - you get more of the fiber and other good-for-you components of those foods.
- Smoothies can have a high sugar content if you aren’t mindful of your ingredients. Especially when using bananas, milk or milk-based products, or sweeteners, be careful not to overdo it.
- Smoothies can also be high in calories as you add nut butters, avocados, or other foods; even the tablespoon of chia here or the scoop of protein powder there adds a not-insignificant number of calories to the mix, so keep an eye on what you blend. Otherwise, you may wind up with a smoothie that is just as high in calories as one from a fast-food restaurant!
- Smoothies are rarely quiet to make; good luck if you’re trying to put one together for breakfast without disturbing others in the morning!
What about juicing?
Juicing is also making its appearance in the media and in everyday conversation. What is it? As you can guess from the name, juicing involves extracting the liquid from fruits and vegetables, leaving you with...a glass of juice! Juicers do this by one of two methods: chopping and spinning, centrifuge-style, or grinding the ingredients and pressing the resultant pulp to remove the liquid.
As with blenders, juicers run the gamut in terms of price and capability. Another consideration is clean-up; unlike a blender jar, the components of your juicer will require more than just a rinse and scrub or a run through the dishwasher.
Where juicing has smoothies beat is in the simplicity of the drinks themselves: all you need are fruits and/or vegetables. There’s no need for additional liquids or thickeners; just grab your ingredients and juice away! The most commonly juiced foods follow the same pattern as with smoothies: greens and other vegetables, apples, berries, and so on.
What, then, are the pros and cons of juicing?
- Juicing doesn’t require fillers - yogurt, frozen bananas, etc. - that can often lead to higher-calorie drinks. You may have an easier time keeping track with juicing.
- Juicing provides nutrients in a more accessible, digestible format than in smoothies. The juicing process leaves the digestion-slowing fiber behind, and you are left with the nutrient-dense juice.
- Juicing also gives you a means of incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your diet.
- Juicing is usually a quieter process than blending a smoothie.
- Juicing likely requires equipment you don’t already have on hand. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $30-$600 to add this gadget to your inventory.
- Juicing does remove the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, so if you struggle with getting enough fiber in your food, you may need to get it elsewhere. Also, it can take over a pound of fruits/vegetables to get one glass of juice; if you’re budget-conscious, you would likely get more bang for your buck - and feel satisfied longer - eating the raw ingredients or using them in a smoothie.
- Juicing can also be problematic when considering sugar consumption, especially if you use a large amount of fruit. As with smoothies, awareness of your ingredients is key to healthy juicing.
In the end, there is no right or wrong answer in the smoothie vs. juicing debate. You may even choose to do a little of both! Whichever route you go, you’re likely to find that it opens up new opportunities to increase your consumption of those nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that we all need.