If you’ve ever felt like a superior version of yourself just for walking into a juice bar, you know firsthand how juicing basically owns the whole health halo thing. A homemade smoothie can’t possibly compare to all that green plant blood pulsing through your veins, right?
Except, wait! It can. While juicing’s marketing team has done a bang-up job of making fruit and veg juices seem like the healthiest thing you could possibly consume, from a nutritional perspective, basic blending might actually be better.
If you were thinking about investing in a juicer or just drop tons of dough each week at your local juice shop in the name of just being peak, read on. The answer to the whole juicing vs. blending debate might not be what you expect.
Juicing and blending both involve turning fruits and veggies into something drinkable. But that’s pretty much where their similarities end.
Juicing involves extracting the liquids from fruits and veggies while separating out the solids to make, well, juice. The extraction process gets rid of all the skin, seeds, and pulp, which is conveniently spit out the back of the juicing machine. (But not so conveniently, you’re leftover with a bunch of plant matter that you have to find a use for.)
Blending — OK, you know what this is. But to recap, it’s putting whole fruits or veggies (or whatever other ingredients you want in the blender) to make them smooth. None of the skin, seeds, or pulp are extracted (unless you remove them ahead of time). So everything that goes IN the blender comes out of the blender and into your drink.
Juicing seems max healthy because you’re loading yourself up with fruits and vegetables. And you are, and it’s great, because the juice is packed with goodness in the form of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Plus all that liquid is helping you stay hydrated, which is always important.
And of course, sometimes a juice is just really tasty and refreshing! If you love eating (or drinking) something, you should always make room for it in your diet, for that reason alone.
But! Stripping out all of the skin, seeds, and pulp means you’re getting rid of all of the fiber that you’d get from a whole piece of fruit or veg. Some juicing fanatics say this is a good thing — the argument is basically that juicing gives your digestive system a “break” and allows you to “cleanse” or “detox” and maybe even lose weight.
But here’s the thing: Your body doesn’t need help with cleansing or detoxing. All that stuff is taken care of on the reg by your liver and kidneys. And while a juice fast might help you drop a few pounds, there’s no evidence showing that juicing actually supports sustainable, long-term weight loss.
Let’s also talk more about the fact that juicing takes all the fiber out of your fresh produce. Obvi, the occasional glass of fresh-squeezed juice is delicious and awesome. But fiber is what makes things filling and helps keep your blood sugar steady so you don’t get hangry. When you take it out of the equation, you tend to get hungry again faster, especially if you’re relying on a juice as a snack or even a meal.
Another thing? Plain old fruits and veg are pretty low in calories, carbs, and protein — and that’s even more true for juice. So you can’t really count on it to give you energy for the long-haul, especially if you’re planning to be active or work out.
Last, even though all that fiber and skin has been taken out of your juice, it still has to go somewhere. Juicing tends to leave behind a gigantic pile of pulp, which you then have to figure out what to do with. You’ve got options (composting? juice pulp cookies?) but it takes some extra planning.
- good way to get lots of fruits and veggies into your diet
- loads you up with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients
- tastes good and can be super refreshing
- lots of liquid helps you stay hydrated
- strips out fiber, so it’s not very filling
- not a lasting source of energy
- doesn’t live up to detox or weight loss claims
- leaves behind a lot of pulp, which can = food waste
- can be expensive, whether you’re buying a juicer or going to a juice shop
Like juicing, blending up a smoothie with fruits or veggies is a delish way to pack more produce into your diet. But in addition to getting loads of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and hydration, you’re also getting fiber. That’s because blending pulverizes the whole fruit and veggie into a smooth, drinkable concoction instead of removing the pulp, seeds, or skin.
The addition of fiber is major, because it’ll help you stay fuller longer and promotes healthy digestion. And speaking of staying satisfied, with blending, you can also add additional ingredients to your smoothie to make it even more filling and energizing. Think protein sources like milk or yogurt or protein powder, or healthy fats like nuts or seeds, nut butters, coconut oil, or avocado.
By the time you’ve thrown in a little of this and a little of that, you’ve definitely got the makings of a snack — or even a meal — that’ll sustain you for the long haul.
None of this is to say that smoothies are perfect or that you should be using them to replace solid food. Smoothies can definitely veer into unhealthy territory when they start getting loaded up with ingredients like sugary fruit juice, flavored yogurt, chocolate, or even ice cream or sherbet.
You might not necessarily throw this stuff into your blender at home, but plenty of cafes and smoothie shops do. So if you’re ordering one when you’re out, definitely ask about the ingredients before assuming your drink is actually healthy. (And if you just feel like having a smoothie that really qualifies as a milkshake, that’s totally fine. As long as you know what you’re going for!)
Also? While smoothies are def more filling than juices, some research shows that liquid fare in general isn’t as filling as solid food. So if you consistently find yourself just not all that satisfied when you have a smoothie for breakfast, even if you’re adding filling ingredients like protein and healthy fat, you might just do better with whole fruits and veg combined with other foods like eggs, toast, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. Experiment to see what works for you!
Blending baby, yeah!
- more filling, because fiber
- can add other filling ingredients like proteins and healthy fats
- gives you more energy that lasts longer
- no waste from pulp
It’s not perfect
- Can be tricked out with sugary or not-so-wholesome ingredients, esp. when you order them out
- might not be as filling as solid food
OK, so, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A healthy, satisfying diet is one that makes room for everything you love, so there’s no need to commit 100 percent to juicing or blending if deep down, you really dig both.
That said, from the perspective of what’ll do the best for your body, blending up a smoothie is a better choice. Getting the fiber from your fruits and veg plus having the opp to add proteins and healthy fats will ultimately give you a drink that’ll keep you fueled and fuller for longer. So if you’re needing something for a snack or a meal, blending is definitely the way to go. Just make sure to keep the sugary add-ins in check, especially if you’re ordering a smoothie instead of making it at home.
What’s more, you don’t need to steer clear of juices entirely if you love them. But because they’re super low in calories and devoid of fiber, protein, and fat, you’re better off treating them as an accompaniment to a meal or snack rather than the main event. When you’re in the mood for the juice, have it with a sandwich or a salad or some crackers with cheese or hummus instead of drinking it straight. That way you’ll get the goodness and flavor of your juice, but also some staying power so you’re not hungry again in an hour.
Oh, and figure out what to do with all that pulp so you don’t get stuck with masses of beet and carrot shreds in your freezer.