Juicy Details: the Lowdown on Juices, Smoothies & Solids

When you think about juicing and smoothies, what comes to mind? You likely thought: wholesome, healthy, detox, fresh, cleansing, natural, or something along those lines. But are juices and smoothies the answer for better health and/or weight loss? Let’s see…

I’ve always appreciated a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (OJ). When the oranges are perfectly ripe, it can feel like you’re sipping on the nectar of the gods. Nothing is more refreshing than a tall glass of OJ at brunch on a warm, sunny morning.

Did you know that orange juice contains vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, folate, flavonoids, hesperidin, potassium, copper, magnesium, in addition to other trace vitamins and minerals? For example, a serving of OJ contains over 200% of the body’s daily vitamin C requirements. What a power punch!

Oh sugar!
OJ sure sounds like the perfect drink, but is it too good to be true? Well, sorta. Oranges have a high glycemic load which means that they quickly increase blood glucose levels based on the quantity and quality of their carbohydrates. This can cause massive fluctuations in blood sugar levels. For those who are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or who have insulin resistance, this is especially important to keep in mind.

Tastes so good you forget the fiber
One thing missing from that heavenly described glass of OJ above is fiber. This goes for all other juices as well. Fiber is the part that gets discarded as pulp when fruits are juiced. Dietary fiber is also known as roughage or bulk and our bodies can neither digest or absorb it. If it sounds like fiber is kind of useless, then think again! Fiber has many important roles. It helps us to:

  • normalize our bowel movements and maintain bowel health,
  • lower cholesterol levels,
  • control high blood sugar levels,
  • help to achieve a healthy weight,
  • and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Getting real
It takes about 2-4 medium oranges to make about 8 oz of orange juice. That’s not a lot of juice and kind of a tease if you ask me 😉 And even though that’s not that many oranges, you probably wouldn’t eat that many in any one sitting. In essence, you get fuller more quickly on less oranges due to their fiber content. That ultimately equates to less calories, which will also mean less sugar.

Smooth operator
So are smoothies superior to juices then? Well, the main advantage of a smoothie is that you retain the pulp. Everything that gets put in a blender stays in it, so fiber is retained. Therefore, the same amount of fruits and vegetables produces a greater yield when making smoothies compared to juices. Naturally then, smoothies would fill you up more than a juice of the same exact ingredients. As long as you’re careful about what you’re adding to your smoothie (since you can add yogurt, protein powders, nut butters, etc.), it’s a better way to enjoy fruits and vegetables with the fiber in a convenient, drinkable form.

Additionally, you can drink about 2 cups of a smoothie per minute, which is about 10 times faster than if you ate what’s in your smoothie! Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that it’s full, it can be easy to “overeat.” Be sure to sip slowly!

Smooth sailing?
However you slice it, research shows that whether you’re having a juice or smoothie, the same amount (calorie per calorie) won’t satisfy your appetite as much as if you ate those same fruits and vegetables in their solid forms. So while a smoothie might be preferable to having juice, eating your food is ultimately better than drinking it. If you’re struggling with your weight, then this is an important thing to consider since you may be hungrier later even if you would’ve consumed the same amount of calories.

Are juices and smoothies a bad idea then? I wouldn’t go that far. They can be a great way to get nutrients from fruits and vegetables that you might otherwise not get. Juices and smoothies can pack a lot of nutrients in one, convenient shot. Choose your beverage wisely and opt for a smoothie over a juice whenever possible. Think of juices and smoothies as an exception or treat, rather than the rule, and strive to eat solid food instead.