GREEN SMOOTHIES vs. JUICING: GOOD OR BAD?

It seems like lately there’s a lot of talk about green smoothies and juicing and whether or not they’re good for you. I was lucky enough to receive a Vitamix and a juicer for Christmas this past year and I use them both on a regular basis. Once I started getting more into juicing and smoothies I started to look around for more information to figure out why people would think they might be bad for you.  Here’s my two cents on the subject.

Smoothies

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I love to make green smoothies for many reasons:

1. They are delicious

2. They include real fruits and veggies so I’m getting lots of vitamins and fiber without having to eat a giant salad

3. They're incrediblly quick and easy. 

I’ve read a few different articles over the last few months discussing whether or not green smoothies are really good for you. Some of the arguments against them are that it’s better for your body to actually chew your food (you digest it better) and that smoothies pack in a lot of sugar, and potentially a lot of calories as well.

Yes, all of this can be true. However, I try to think about it like this: Eating all of the vegetables and fruit that I put in a smoothie may be better for me if I eat them individually rather than blending them all up, but how likely am I to have kale for breakfast? I’m still getting all the vitamins and the fiber this way, and by getting in some of my veggies at breakfast time I end up worrying less throughout the day about whether or not I’m eating enough veggies (which I'm usually not).

I don't worry too much about the sugar aspect of it. I don't add any extra sweeteners to my smoothie and I use water as my liquid (if needed) rather than juice or sweetened non-dairy milks. The sugar that comes from the fresh fruit is actually good for you (read more about that here and here) so I don't stress about that either. So far, smoothies = good!

The other morning I weighed everything before I put it into my smoothie so I could share the nutritional breakdown with you: 

Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups of water cold water
  • 1 huge rainbow chard leaf with stem (91g)
  • 3 curly kale leaves with stems (75g)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups frozen mixed berries (235g)
  • 1 banana (125g)
  • 1 tbsp flax seed (8g)
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend untils smooth. 

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If you stick to something close to this recipe then your smoothie is going to come in around 250-350 calories of pure goodness! I try to have a green smoothie at least five days a week, usually as an on-the-go breakfast option or as a sweet afternoon pick me up.

Of course you can use whatever kind of greens that you want, as well as whatever fruit you want.  I always use frozen fruit so that my smoothie is cold, but I like to mix it up with what I use (peaches, blueberries, mangoes  pineapple, strawberries, kale, spinach, swiss chard, rainbow chard, collard greens, etc.). 

Another super simple favorite of mine is to blend 3 peeled oranges, 2 huge handfuls of spinach, and 1.5 cups of frozen pineapple. The oragnes are so juicy that no extra liquid is needed! 

Juicing

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I can’t decide which I love more: juicing or green smoothies. I love juicing because:

1.  I can easily put things in my juice that I wouldn’t be excited to put in my smoothie (sweet potato, broccoli, tomato, celery, parsnips, etc.)

2. Juicing allows me to get a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into my diet in a way that tastes good and is refreshing

3. Pure fruit and vegetable juice allows for a gentler digestive process and the nutrients are more quickly absorbed by your body

Some will argue that juicing isn’t as good for you because you’re removing all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, which you are. However, removing the fiber does not remove any of the nutrients. As long as you're getting fiber in other meals throughout the day then having one fresh juice a day is not going to disrupt your elimnation process, if you know what I mean. 

The other down side to juicing is that removing the fiber from the fruits and vegetables does not remove the calories. Drinking juices gives you lots of nutrients but the calories can add up quickly so you need to be aware of that. Even so, I still make a fresh fruit and vegetable juice several times a week. I just try to remember this is not a beverage to be enjoyed alongside a full meal, rather one to take the place of a meal or a snack.

When I juice I usually make about 24 oz at a time because that’s how much my juicing container holds. Sometimes I’ll have the juice as breakfast alongside a piece of toast, or sometimes I’ll have a smoothie for breakfast, half of my juice as a morning snack, a regular lunch, and then the other half of my juice as my afternoon snack.

I also try to include more vegetables than fruits in my juice, or at least an even mix, as this helps to keep the calories in check. If I’m going to make a mostly fruit juice then I try and drink it earlier in the day and have juices that are mainly vegetables later in the day (natural sugar gives you energy for your day, and I don't need lots of evergy late in the day or before bed).

Here’s what I had in my most recent juice:

  • 1 large stalk of celery
  • 2 beets, rough end cut off
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • about 3 cups of broccoli (stems are preferable when juicing)
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 orange, cut into quarters and peeled
  • 4 medium carrots
Send the ingredients through your juicer in the order listed. The slower you push them through the more juice each piece yeilds. 
 
Beet Juice Blend
 
The only thing to ignore from this nutrition facts chart is the fiber. Like I said earlier, with juicing you keep all the goodness of the fruits and vegetables but you loose the fiber (that's what's being spit out the other end). I always enjoy my juice over ice or after it’s been in the fridge for several hours because it tastes better cold. You should also stir your juice well before drinking it to ensure that it’s well mixed.
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So there you have it. I still feel that there are more benefits to drinking green smoothies and juicing than there are drawbacks. You just have to be careful and make sure that you’re being aware of your calorie intake, especially when juicing, if that's something that you're concerned about. 

With that said, I do feel that it’s best for you to eat meals and snacks that are made up of primarily fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether or not your juicing and making smoothies. The more fruits and vegetables you include in your diet then the less room you have for other junk!


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