Juicing vs. Smoothies: The Experts Weigh In

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

It’s morning. You’re ready to start your day off right. You’ve heard all about promises of clear skin, a happy colon and the deluge of toxins rushing out of your body and it’s all awaiting you at the other end of that magnificent machine. You want to be like Jack LaLanne, a fit body flexing your way into your senior years in a tasteful track suit. You’re ready to juice.

But does juicing live up to the hype? Juicing can be a great way to get in vegetables if you hate eating them while in solid form, but what about missing fiber and added sugars? Are smoothies a better option?

Let’s explore the juicing vs. smoothies debate:

Fill up with Fiber!
Juicing is the process of extracting juice from a food while leaving the pulp behind. It can make quite the tasty method for getting in your vegetables, but what about that lonely lump of pulp? You could add it to muffin batter or other recipes, but… will you? Are you making muffins in the morning as you sip your juice? That poor pulp will most likely take up space in your refrigerator until it grows into a moldy science project and you toss it.

There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble. “The easiest way to tell them apart: Soluble fiber absorbs water, turning into a mushy gel (think of what happens when you add water to oatmeal) while insoluble fiber doesn’t (think of what happens when you add water to celery),” said Mandi Knowles, a product development manager at Nutrisystem and a registered dietitian.

Soluble fiber is great for weight loss because it can keep you feeling full without stuffing you full of calories, Knowles said. “Soluble fibers also contain prebiotics that can help promote a healthy gut and reduce inflammation,” she added. “Some research has shown that chronic inflammation is a key driver of obesity and disease.

“Insoluble fiber is found in the seeds and skins of fruit as well as whole-wheat bread and brown rice. Like soluble fiber, insoluble fiber can play a key role in controlling weight by staving off hunger pangs.”

Juicing strips away insoluble fiber, so that sad pile of goop going in the trash is your appetite suppressant.

And for those who are on a Nutrisystem program, non-starchy vegetable are free and fruit is a SmartCarb, but according to Courtney McCormick, a registered dietitian at Nutrisystem, “If there is no fiber left in the juice than it would not be a SmartCarb.”

If we were making a list of pros and cons to juicing, missing out on pulp (fiber) is a big check in the “con” column.

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Free Your Body from Toxins?
There have been claims that juicing can cure diseases like Lupus or cancer or perform other miracles. Unfortunately, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. According to McCormick, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. “While fruit juice can provide vitamins and minerals, which can boost overall health and wellness, so too can the whole fruit,” she said. “Even better, the whole fruit not only provides the vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients and fiber found in the skins and pulp.”

Besides, nature has us covered! “Our body is designed to automatically detoxify itself through the liver, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys, so there really is little need to use plans like juice cleanses to detox your body,” McCormick added.

Fruit Makes it Taste Way Better!
If you’re extracting the juice from kale, garlic or other vegetables that might not taste fantastic when liquefied, adding fruit is a smart way to get some sweet in your glass. Just be careful not to add too much fruit while in the midst of your juicing frenzy, drunk with the power to turn solid vegetables into liquid. Think about it: You wouldn’t eat four apples in one sitting; drinking four apples doesn’t make the idea any less ridiculous. Calories from fruit sugars aren’t your enemies, but remember: A calorie is still a calorie.

That’s where that magic/evil word comes in: Moderation.

“Enjoy all the vegetables you want,” Knowles said. “If you are concerned about controlling sugar, I would limit fruit to one serving in a drink (i.e. one cup of fruit, one medium banana/apple, etc.). Remember, that sugar from fruit is natural sugar, not added sugar. Added sugar is the type that nutritional guidelines recommend you limit.”

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Juicing for Weight Loss?
“When it comes to weight loss, it boils down to calories in versus calories out,” Knowles said. “So if you are juicing and expending more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. It’s not due to the juicing though. It’s due to the calories you consume in a day. The majority of juices don’t contain fiber, which could leave you feeling unsatisfied and can result in more cravings later. These can lead to unplanned eating and calorie creep.”

On-The-Go Nutrition
If juicing is the only way you’ll consume leafy greens and stubby roots, it might be the way to go for you, but keep your eyes open when buying a juice in the store. Check the Ingredient List to make sure fruit is the source of the sugar and not white sugar, fructose, corn syrup, honey or other sticky substances.

A 12-ounce Jamba Juice Tropical Green uses the goodness of greens, fruit and chia. Sounds like a pretty good list! Just be aware that you might need to get a second straw for sharing. According to the product’s website, a 12-ounce cup of Tropical Green has 160 calories and 29 natural sugars, which aren’t necessarily the issue. If you’re on Nutrisystem, take note that one 12-ounce cup is worth two SmartCarbs.

Juice from the Raw’s Sweet Greens juice has a pretty simple Ingredient List: Apple, celery, cucumber, green kale, spinach, Swiss chard, romaine, lemon and ginger. According to the product’s website, the drink contains 14 grams of sugar and 80 calories. One 16-ounce bottle is considered two servings. Without added sugars and watching your portion size, this might not be such a bad option. Eight ounces would count as approximately two Extras on Nutrisystem.

The Experts Weigh In
“Since the majority of juices don’t contain fiber, I would recommend smoothies over juices,” Knowles said. “Smoothies typically contain whole fruits and vegetables so you will get the beneficial fiber to help keep you feeling fuller compared to juices. Also, many times smoothies contain other healthy ingredients like dairy, nuts/nut butter, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats. All of these provide more nutritional bang for the buck and help keep you fuller longer. Just be careful to watch portion sizes of what’s added to smoothies.”

Unless juicing is the only way you’ll get your full day’s worth of vegetables, when it comes to juicing vs. smoothies, smoothies win the bout by a knock out.