Smoothies and Juicing

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Laura (Palazzolo) Kraus MS, RDN Clinical Dietitian

I usually get a lot of questions surrounding making smoothies and juicing.  Clients are often wondering whether they should do one or the other or both.  My answer is usually, “it depends on your goals”.  Let’s take a look at both options to determine the best time to utilize these nutrient packed beverages.

Juicing:

  • Removes the solid components of the food from the liquid components, but still contains small amounts of soluble fiber
  • Can consume a large amount of vegetables and fruits at one time
  • Makes the nutrients found in these foods more available for digestion
  • Should be consumed with a snack/meal that contains some fat for the most benefit/absorption of phytochemicals
  • May be useful for individuals with gastrointestinal issues (ie- malabsorption) or individuals looking for ways to increase their phytonutrient content significantly (ie- cancer)
  • Need to be careful if using for weight loss or diabetes (are you getting the right kind of juices in?)
  • Juices should be made primarily from non-starchy vegetables (ie –spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery) with limited amounts of higher carbohydrate foods (ie – carrots, beets, fruits)

Smoothies:

  • Blends whole fruits, vegetables and other foods, contains both soluble and insoluble fiber
  • Can be used as a meal replacement
  • Can also be useful for individuals with gastrointestinal issues (ie- malabsorption) or individuals looking for ways to increase their phytonutrient content significantly, as it does alter the food to make it more available for digestion
  • Possibly helpful tool for weight loss or diabetes management
  • High carbohydrate foods should also be limited when designing smoothies

Remember, in general, breaking down or altering a food from its original state often can increase the time in which the food is digested, raising insulin and blood sugar levels higher than if you were to consume the food in its whole form.  Liquid foods also empty from the stomach faster than solids, so juice will be digested rather quickly, smoothies will digest next readily and a whole foods meal will digest the slowest.  Some clients tell me that smoothies are not filling enough, while others are satisfied using them as meal replacements.  The individual components of the smoothie (amount of fat, protein and carb) will also influence the stomach emptying time, along with the satiety.

Either way, it is important to remember WHAT you are making your beverage out of.  Your “healthy” drink can easily become a sugar bomb.  For example, a 16 oz strawberry smoothie from Jamba Juice will run you 321 calories and 66 grams of sugar.  That is equivalent to 16 ½ teaspoons of sugar!  Their 16 oz Peanut Butter Mood is 636 calories and 95 g sugar = 23 ¾ teaspoons sugar.

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Here are some basic templates for designing a BETTER juice or smoothie:

Basic Veggie Juice

  • Base vegetable that is watery (ie – celery, cucumbers)
  • Dark leafy greens in smaller amounts (ie – kale, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard)
  • Sweet component (ie – 1/4 beet, small carrot, ½ apple)
  • Sour component if desired(1/2 lemon or lime)

Basic Smoothie

  • 1 cup berries or ½ cup other fruit
  • Handful of dark leafy greens
  • Milk of choice, unsweetened (almond, cow, coconut, hemp)
  • Some kind of fat: coconut, avocado, nuts/seeds (whole or in butter form)
  • Protein powder (optional, if you feel you are not feeling satisfied from your smoothie or you don’t have any nuts/seeds)
  • Other add ins: any other type of non-starchy vegetable, gelatin, unsweetened cocoa powder, stevia if you like additional sweetness
Do you have a favorite smoothie or juice recipe?

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