You know that you should be eating more vegetables, but you just can’t bring yourself to choke them down whole. So what about drinking them? And in that case, what’s best: juicing or blending?
If you were one of those children who hid vegetables underneath their dinner plate to avoid eating them, there’s a good chance you’re still not a big fan of that food group as an adult. While you’ve probably outgrown the need to hide your carrots and peas, if you still can’t bring yourself to eat vegetables regularly, you may be missing out on important dietary nutrients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as much as 87% of the population in the United States does not eat the recommended 2.5-3 cups of vegetables daily. This means the majority of people in the country run the risk of not getting enough dietary fiber, or important minerals such as folate, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Are there benefits to drinking vegetables?
Despite the popularity of the juicing and blending trend, it may be surprising to learn that drinking your veggies is not better than eating whole vegetables. In fact, depending on the juicer you buy, juicing vegetables can sometimes remove too much fiber, an important dietary nutrient that helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, promotes digestive health, and controls the sensation of hunger.
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What juicing or blending does do, however, is allow you to get a larger volume of vegetables in your diet by condensing them into an easy-to-drink form. Juicing or blending also allows you to add vegetables into your diet you might otherwise never try.
Why is it so important to get more veggies in your diet? Aside from gaining concentrated minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients (plant-derived compounds associated with beneficial health effects), there is a growing body of research showing a diet rich in vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, degenerative brain disease, and the health consequences of obesity.
The difference between juicing and blending vegetables and fruits
Confused about the difference between juicing and blending? Look no further.
Juicing is a process of separating the liquid part of a vegetable from the pulp/fiber. It is not the same as blending, which liquefies the entire vegetable, fiber and all. Think of juicing as just that– creating a watery consistency drink from vegetables. Blending will provide you with something closer to a smoothie.
Juicing requires a special machine, which takes large quantities of vegetables to produce a concentrated juice filled with plenty of nutrients. The amount of fiber removed during the process can be entirely dependent on the juicing machine being used, but the very nature of juicing means there will be minimal fiber content no matter what.
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Without fiber, you may find you remain hungry while juicing, and for this reason, juicing is primarily recommended as a way to supplement regular meals, not replace them. (You can always add pulp back into juice after it’s been made to improve the fiber content, though it may still not be sufficient.)
“Juices lack a variety of nutrients such as proteins and fat that help you feel fuller longer,” Marina Chaparro, RDN,CDE,MPH, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told saludmovil™. “Most successful weight loss plans involve a variety of foods in combination with lifestyle changes over time. It’s very hard for those who want to lose weight to live by juices alone. At one point, you will become hungry and that will lead you to overeat at the next meal.”
So dieters, put those juices down. While vegetable juices may be lower in calories than most meals, they are also missing protein and fat, in addition to fiber. This can actually slow down your metabolism and cause you to gain weight.
“Diets rich in fiber set associated with a lower risk of obesity and other chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” Chaparro said. “Because fiber or roughage is not digested or absorbed in the body, it play a key role in decreasing the glucose spikes at meals. An important benefit for people with diabetes at high risk of developing it.”
If you’re looking for a weight-loss option, blending is the more reasonable choice. Smoothies made in a blender have plenty of fiber to control hunger, and can act as meal replacement options if other ingredients like protein powder, yogurt, or seeds are added.
Should you add fruit to your juices and smoothies?
Okay, so vegetable juices or blender drinks still aren’t tempting your taste buds. Should you add fruit to boost the flavor?
Fruit can be juiced or made into a smoothie just as easily as vegetables, but there is an important consideration when using fruit: sugar.
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Fruits are higher in sugar and calories than vegetables, and juicing or blending them concentrates their contents. Adding too much fruit to your vegetable drinks can counteract any weight-loss plans you might have, and it may also cause significant spikes in blood sugar which can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
“Juices or smoothies can be very misleading and although most people think they are healthy, I tend to caution my clients in drinking highly concentrated smoothies,” added Chaparro. “ Research shows, the body does not register liquid calories the same way as it does from solid calories or those from meals. Think about how many fruits it takes [to make a single glass of juice].”
If you need to add fruit for flavor, do so in small quantities, and remember, you can mix and match vegetables to your heart’s content in order to find a recipe that tastes best to you.
Tips for successful juicing
Here are some tips for a successful first go at juicing or blending:
- Use coconut water to thin the consistency of smoothies
- Limit fruit to 1/2 cup per juice/smoothie
- Kale, spinach, parsley, and cabbage have a mild flavor when juiced, so add as much as you want without fear of a potent flavor
- A small amount of lime or lemon can cut the bitter flavor of vegetables without adding too much sugar
- Pick vegetables with high water content, like cucumbers, to add fluid to your juice or smoothie without heavy flavor
As for recipes — it’s up to you! The beauty of juicing or blending is that you can design your own drinks with as few or as many vegetables as you want. Just remember, it can take a lot of vegetables to make a small beverage, especially when juicing.
Are there reasons not to juice or blend?
Juicing or blending is not for everyone. Condensing vegetables into drink form means you have to buy large volumes of produce, and this can get expensive.
There are also medical considerations for people looking to juice or blend. As mentioned before, juicing or blending concentrates the ingredients of vegetables and fruits. While high amounts of sugar are one of the most common concerns for juicing or blending, an excess of specific nutrients can be a problem for some individuals as well.
Dark, green vegetables are high in vitamin K, for example, and vitamin K can interfere with anti-clotting blood medication.
Before you make the decision to add juice or smoothies into your diet, consult with your doctor to ensure you do not compromise any existing medical conditions or treatment programs.