The Lowdown on Juices & Smoothies
Smoothies have been all the rage the past few years, with most towns having at least one smoothie joint around. Juices, and the illustrious juice bar, however, have failed to break into the mainstream. Both of these wonder beverages have their benefits, though, so I figured I’d talk a little about smoothies, a lot about juices, and a bit about what makes them different.
First, let me make it clear that when I talk about juices, I’m talking about freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juices – not the kind you get in bottles at the market. Most juices in the supermarket are laden with sugar and usually have some type of preservative so that they will stay shelf-stable for months on end. A few of these have vegetables, but the star of most of these juice beverages is the sugariest of fruits, or worse – corn syrup (Don’t let those “it’s just a vegetable” corn syrup commercials fool you – that stuff’s no good!).
The process of juicing (see juicer review here) removes the fibers of the fruit/veg. When the fibers are gone, this reduces the amount of time and energy the body has to spend digesting, thus enabling you to quickly assimilate all of the nutrients you're trying to get. There is even evidence to suggest that juicing is especially beneficial if you are trying to heal from disease. There are a lot of juicing books on the market; if you're seriously interested in juicing, you should definitely check some out. One of the first such books I ever owned is "Juicing For Life," by Calbom & Keane. It's great because they detail specific nutrients said to aid in the healing of scores of ailments (from Allergies to Water Retention); and they also provide a list of the foods and some juice recipes which contain the target, healing nutrients.
Why is fresh better than bottled? First, fresh juice tastes so much better. Second, the moment you extract juice from a plant’s fibers, they begin to oxidize; oxidation causes many of the vital nutrients to be lost. That’s why it’s best to drink fruit and vegetable juices right away – and if you can’t, it’s best to store your juice in an air-tight glass container in the fridge (mason jars are awesome for prolonging the life of your juice).
Why do I drink Juice? Like many people out there, I don't really care for taking vitamins (or most pills for that matter). What's more, when I do need to take some sort of pill - I usually forget. So, juicing makes me feel A-OK about not taking my multi-vites, because Fruit and Vegetable Juices contain concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes - and are basically like taking a power-house of a liquid supplement.
Unlike juices, smoothies contain the fibers of the plant matter; and as we all have heard, fiber makes you feel full, which is why many people successfully use smoothies as a meal replacement! Since the fiber is present, the body has to spend more time and energy digesting. This makes smoothies a good go-to beverage when you require more and longer-lasting energy. Plus, if you are someone who likes a lot of fruit in your smoothies, the fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, fending off sugar crashes later.
What about smoothie-chain smoothies? I must admit, I have had my fair share of these drinks in the past. Most of them, however, are not very healthy and are basically dessert in a cup – high in fat, too much dairy, and a sinful amount of sugar. While I’m not 100% opposed to these (we have to live a little, right?), there are so many more healthful smoothies to be had. Most of us are used to really creamy smoothies with some type of dairy, but there are some really amazing-tasting smoothies made with just fruit, vegetables and water. Though, if you must have a milky, dessert-type smoothie, there are lots of ways to make them a little better for you. For instance, you can add greens (such as in a chocolate and spinach smoothie– sounds odd, but tastes delicious); you can add flax, hemp, or coconut oils, for healthy omega fats; you can add Superfoods, such as spirulina, bee pollen, or maca; and you can try replacing mucus-forming cow’s milk with rice milk, soy milk, almond milk or oat milk.
The Long and Short of my Juices vs. Smoothies rant. When possible, I like to have one juice and one smoothie everyday. I like juice because I can cram in more vegetable matter (and thus vitamins!) than I can possibly eat on a plate or blend in a smoothie. My juices generally have very little sweetness to them because I do not want to jar my system with a jolt of liquid, fiber-less sugar. On the other hand, I generally like to have my smoothies somewhat sweet because they have fiber, are filling, and they usually satisfy my need to have cake (mmm, cake) or other bad-for-me desserts.
So, if you’re looking for something sweet and filling, smoothies are a great choice. However, if you are looking to acquire high concentrations of nutrients from a particular plant, then juices are the way to go.
If you decide to keep buying your juices and smoothies over-the-counter style, I hope you will at least consider making a few of the healthier versions at home. If you need inspiration, stay tuned, I’ll be offering up a new smoothie or juice recipe every week on the Diary of a Smart Black Woman!