Smoothies or Juice: What’s better?

With the popularity of new and improved blenders and juices exploding onto the market in recent years, many of you have been left confused about whether you should be juicing your fruit and veg or blending them into smoothies.  There are a few major differences between juicing and blending, and I’m going to summarise them here in this blog post for you.

Firstly, let’s talk about fibre.  Fibre can be described as the rough, fibrous part of fruits and vegetables, and as most of us know it is really important for our digestive health.  A diet high in fibre will usually improve your bowel regularity, reduce constipation and bloating, and has been linked to a lowered risk of bowel cancer.  Sounds pretty important, right?  When it comes to smoothies and juices, the main difference between the two is this:

Smoothies contain the fibre goodness from your fruit and veg – juices do not.

So when it comes to regular fibre intake and improving bowel regularity, smoothies are king.  You can also add extra fibre such as prunes or psyllium husks to your smoothies to really get those bowels moving.  

But sometimes when I have a vegetable juice I am running off to the toilet right away!  How does that work?  This is an important point.  When looking at fibre content only, smoothies come out on top.  But fresh juices can also help your bowels get moving by a few different mechanisms.  Usually, this effect on the bowels will be during a juice fast or cleanse, where your digestive system isn’t being bombarded with food and can focus on functioning the way it should.  Juice fasts are kind of like a ‘reset’ button for your digestive tract.  Juices are also pure fluids, which can help to soften the stool in the large bowel and allow it to move through the digestive tract to be eliminated.  

If you’ve been suffering from constipation for quite a while, juicing may actually be the best place to start for you.  

Ironically, too much fibre when you’re constipated can actually do more harm than good, by drying out and firming up the stool in your bowel (as if it wasn’t hard enough in the first place!).  So be careful of dosing up on heavy fibres when you’re needing to get your bowels moving – juices may be enough to gently nudge your digestion into action.

What about sugar content?  Well in terms of sugar content alone, if you were to juice and blend the exact same kind and amount of fruits and veg, you’d end up with the same sugar content (or close enough).  The thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to juice, you’re basically drinking sugar, water and vitamins and minerals.  In smoothies, you have fibre, which slows the absorption of sugars.  You can also add proteins and fats which also help to slow absorption of sugars.  So rather than just absorbing the sugars straight away (like you would from a juice) your body will slowly absorb the sugars.  This has a few effects:

  • it is much easier for your pancreas to keep up with the intake of sugars, so in this way it could be said to be “healthier”
  • slow absorption of sugars may help you avoid the ‘sugar crash’ or ‘sugar low’ later in the day, which can mean less cravings
  • when sugars are absorbed quickly, your body usually starts to store some of them as fat as a way of processing the influx of sugar; a slower absorption of sugar can help to reduce the amount of sugar your body chooses to store as body fat (to simplify, smoothies may be better for your waistline, depending on your metabolism and blood sugar levels)

So, which one is better for me? Juicing or blending?  There is no easy way to answer this question, to be honest.  Taking everything into account, my personal recommendation would be to have smoothies as a meal on their own, and use juices as a complement to a light meal where you are having some amount of protein, fibre and healthy fats.  And if you’re doing a detox, a combination of smoothies and juices is a great way to go – you’re getting the best of both worlds!

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