By Trevor Justice and Vesanto Melina, RD
At the bottom of this post, you’ll discover the pros and cons of juicing vs. smoothies. But let’s start with the benefits of juicing…
To help prevent cancers and other chronic diseases, updated national food guides such as the American “ChooseMyPlate” now recommend approximately 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.[3, 4]
This includes 5 servings of vegetables (about 2½ to 3 cups) and 4 servings of fruits (about 2 cups), with special emphasis on dark-green and orange vegetables and legumes.[3, 4]
If 5 servings of vegetables daily seems daunting, then read on to discover the wonderful benefits of juicing…
Note that cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, and broccoli are known to be particularly potent cancer-fighters.[1, 2] There is no evidence that the popular white potato, despite being a root vegetable, protects against cancer. Also, it is wise to choose organic foods.
Benefit #1: Get More Vegetables Into Your Diet.
Juicing is a great way to get these extra vegetables into your diet. After all, it’s much easier to down a pint of vegetable juice than to thoroughly chew an enormous salad. (That’s an awful lot of chewing!)
If you eat out often, it can be hard to eat 5 or more servings of vegetables per day. The vegetable portion at most restaurants is barely a single serving.
Suppose you currently eat a conventional “side salad” with both lunch and dinner, and a side dish of steamed vegetables. You can roughly double your daily intake of vegetables by adding a pint of fresh vegetable juice.
For example, 16 ounces of juice might include most of the vitamins and protective phytochemicals from six stalks of celery, two carrots, two leaves of chard, and two leaves of kale.
The end result: you get six servings of vegetables instead of three.
In lesson 28 of The Mastery Program
– “12 Ways to Enjoy Greens Without Drenching Them In Oil” – you’ll learn some other ways to sneak more vegetables into your diet.
For example, you can serve dips and patés with celery, carrot, sweet pepper, and cucumber sticks instead of bread, bagels, crackers, or pita bread.
Likewise, you can make wraps using collard greens, chard, Napa Cabbage, lettuce, or bok choy leaves instead of flat breads like tortillas or pita bread.
Benefit #2:Breaks the Cell Walls and Frees the Minerals.
Phytate (phytic acid) is a substance in plants that binds with minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc).
Phytate is the storage form of phosphorus in plants, and the phytate-mineral complex is a structural material in plants. These phytate-mineral complexes can be broken down and the minerals released when cell walls are broken.[6, 7]
This process of breaking plant cell walls occurs when foods are juiced, blended, chopped or chewed. Enzymes called phytases split the phytate-mineral complexes, releasing minerals, which are then available to us for absorption.
Soaking foods (such as seeds or nuts) also supports this enzyme action and leads to the release of the minerals present.[6, 7]
You can unbind the minerals by breaking the cell walls with your teeth — if you chew your food well. However, as is the case with many people, unless you chew your raw plant foods extremely well, many cells are not broken and the mineral-releasing action of phytases is limited.
Juicing is a great way to break the cell walls. So is blending. Cooking has a lesser effect, varying greatly with the time and cooking method. Fermenting foods (as in making kimchi or miso) and leavening foods (as in bread making) also break down phytate and release minerals.
Even when you are enjoying a glass of juice, it’s still important to “chew” your juice, and not just guzzle it down. That’s because the enzymes in your saliva help pre-digest the juice.
Benefit #3: Vegetable Juice Doesn’t Need Oil or Fat.
Dressing your veggies with salad dressings, or even dipping them in hummus or guacamole dramatically increases the percentage of fat in your diet. Pure juices taste refreshing, and can be enjoyed without adding oil or salt.
Benefit #4: Easier To Digest.
A juicer does much of the work your digestive system normally does. It separates the nutrients from the indigestible fiber and releases bound minerals, for increased absorption. This reduces the work required by your digestive system, and can keep you from feeling tired after meals.
Don’t You Need Fiber?
People who eat the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) are rightfully obsessed with fiber. After all, animal products and white flour products have zero fiber!
If white flour products, white rice, and dairy foods, or soy cheese are the staples of your diet, then your diet could be deficient in fiber too. But if whole grains, beans, seeds, salads, and whole fruit are the staples of your diet, you’re already getting plenty of fiber.
Benefit #5: Heightened Absorption of Carotenoids and other Protective Antioxidants.
A Finnish study assessed the antioxidant intakes and status of 20 women and 1 man who had been following an entirely raw vegan “living food” diet for an average of five years.
These findings were compared with antioxidant intakes and status of non-vegetarians with similar caloric intakes, gender, age, social status, and residence.
The vegans had significantly higher blood concentrations of the protective antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They also had higher erythrocyte superoxide dismutase activity in the blood (an indicator of the antioxidant selenium).
Those on the “living foods” diets consumed wheatgrass juice and carrot juice on a daily basis. Wheatgrass juice and carrot juice are high in the carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene.
The vegans also consumed twice as much fruit. Their intakes of antioxidant vitamins were approximately double that of the nonvegetarians.
A California study compared the effect on serum carotenoids (the protective antioxidants alpha carotene and lutein) in women who consumed either carrot juice or raw carrots and cooked carrots.
In those consuming juices, serum levels of alpha carotene were triple and serum levels of lutein were double those consuming raw and cooked carrots. The women in this study had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last four years and were hoping to reduce their risk of recurrence.[9, 10]
Why Limit Sweet Fruits And Vegetables in Juices?
Apples, carrots, and beets are popular ingredients at juice bars. But when you extract and drink their juices without the fiber, you get a rush of sugar along with the nutrients. That can create blood sugar spikes, with the subsequent release of insulin and crash in blood sugar.
The fiber in these sugary foods has a very important function. It helps slow down the absorption of sugar into your blood.
So we recommend using just enough of these sweet fruits and vegetables to offset the bitterness of mineral-rich leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and chard. We discourage juices made up predominantly of sweet fruits.
If you want to drink your fruit, make a smoothie instead of a juice. Then you’ll still get the fiber and protect yourself from sugar rushes.
Note that low sugar fruits like grapefruits are not an issue. You could safely mix one part fresh orange juice with one part fresh grapefruit juice.
Recommended Formulas For Juice:
1. Use celery or cucumber as the “main” ingredient for your juice; they are both high in water, and low in sugar.
2. Add a leafy green like kale, spinach, chard, or collard greens. These generate less juice than celery and cucumbers. But the juice they do generate will be ultra-rich in vitamins and minerals. The bitterness of these greens is an acquired taste. So if you’re new, start with just one leaf. If you’re not yet accustomed to their bitter taste, you may also start with Romaine lettuce.
3. Add just enough apples, carrots, or beets to offset the bitterness of the leafy greens. If you’re new, you might start with a 50/50 ratio (half greens, half sweet fruits or vegetables). Once you get started, gradually increase the ratio in favor of the greens.
4. Do not include buckwheat greens in your juices. Sprouted buckwheat is fine to eat. However, once the sprouts grow for more than about a day, especially in light, and start to become green, they develop a toxic component called fagopyrin. People, especially those with light skin, can develop sensitivity to light, skin irritation, and itching when juice made from buckwheat greens is produced on a regular basis.[11, 12]
5. Alfalfa sprouts contain a substance called l-canavanine, which can take the place of the amino acid L-arginine in proteins, making the proteins non-functional. While it is fine to consume small amounts of alfalfa sprouts (our bodies can handle a little), it is not advisable to consume large amounts (such as 2 cups a day) or to use similar quantities in juicing. Those with lupus should not consume alfalfa sprouts at all.[12-17]
Why Is Fresh Better?
You’ve seen how an apple turns brown once you slice it, right? In the same way, fresh juice will oxidize quickly. We recommend drinking it within 20 minutes.
Packaged juices contain lower amounts of vitamins and protective antioxidants. Not only are they days or weeks old, they’re almost always pasteurized (i.e. heated) for purposes of food safety.
This destroys significant amounts of the heat-sensitive vitamins that were present in the original raw juice. However, commercial pasteurized juices and smoothies are a better choice than soda pop, any day!
Don’t Have Time To Juice Every Day?
Note: this is personal advice from Trevor (not Vesanto)… I don’t have time either. That’s why I bought two airtight stainless steel thermoses. When I make juice, I make enough to fill three 16 ounce containers. After filling the two thermoses and putting them in the fridge, I drink what’s left. Here’s the model I own: 16 oz. Thermos
I fill each one to the very top. Then as I tighten the lid, I make sure a small amount of juice comes dripping over the sides. That’s how I know there’s no air left in the thermos, and minimal effects of oxidizing.
There are slight losses of vitamins, antioxidants, and protective phytochemicals in this process though. Even in a spill proof container that is airtight, some losses occur. So drink your juice soon after making it whenever you can.
Types of Juicers[18, 19]
Centrifugal Juicer: This type of juicer masticates or chops the fruit or vegetable and spins it in a stainless steel or plastic basket at a high speed, separating the juice from the pulp. Centrifugal juicers are least expensive, however they wear out quickly and produce low quality juice; are loud; and are often difficult to clean. However, any juicer is better than no juicer!
Centrifugal Juicer with Pulp Ejector: This type of juicer operates the same as the centrifugal and additionally ejects the pulp through a side opening.
Blender plus a juice bag. A blender plus a juice bag can be used to make juices. A blender or food processor purees or liquefies the produce but does not separate the juice from the pulp. A juice bag (a mesh bag) can then be used to extract the juice from the pulp. Use a blender to masticate the fruit or vegetable then pour the liquid into the bag and squeeze over a container to catch the juice.
Masticating Juicer: These juicers masticate, or grind, the fruit or vegetable into a paste and then squeeze the juice through a fine screen at the bottom. The most popular example is the Champion line of juicer. This multipurpose unit also can form nut butters and frozen fruit-based vegan ice cream.
Twin Screw Press: This more expensive but popular line of juicers presses out the juice between twin screws without significant temperature increase. The Green Star line of juicers has more parts to clean than some others, but the latest Elite model has been simplified. These multipurpose units also can form nut butters and frozen fruit-based vegan ice cream.
Which Juicer Do We Recommend?
The Champion Juicer — which runs between $219 and $295 — was once the most popular model. However, the gears spin very fast, heating both the gears and the juice. The heat created takes a toll on some of the heat-sensitive vitamins in the juice.
For this reason, Tribest’s Green Life juicer was an instant hit when it was introduced to the market in the late 90’s. We (Trevor and Vesanto) both use Green Star juicers.
Today’s updated model, Tribest’s line of “Green Star” juicers have two gears that spin at a low speed, and do not create heat. They run around $400 and up. You can use a “Green Star” to juice fruit, greens, or even wheatgrass. (Although, the wheatgrass juice produced is a little foamy.)
What Are The Pros & Cons Of Juicing Versus Smoothies?
High speed blenders such as Vitamixes do a great job with blending; however they do tend to incorporate air. To minimize the amount of air, turn the blender to its lowest setting and then increase the setting slowly until the top of the liquid just starts to circulate (usually around speed 4 or 5 on a Vitamix).
Some slower blenders, such as Oster blenders, have less tendency to incorporate air. Other blenders, such as Blendtec blenders, may have more tendency to incorporate air. Some people like the frothy smoothies they get from this machine.
One possible disadvantage of swallowing the incorporated air is a little belching or intestinal gas. However people continually swallow air when they eat or drink. Many people do not notice these normal effects. (It is normal to pass gas an average of 15 times a day).
However, for others, results such as belching or farting are excessive and unwelcome. Intestinal gas also can result from the fiber consumed in a smoothie, which can be in the range of 8 grams of fiber per cup of fruit. Greens have less fiber; kale has 2.4 grams per cup; spinach 0.7 grams per cup.
The incorporation of air does mean that air can contact and oxidize some of the vitamins. There is some vitamin loss with blending vegetables and fruits to make a smoothie. However the losses are relatively small and plenty of extremely valuable nutrition remains.
People who say most of the nutrition is lost (in blending) are expressing a personal bias. There is no data to back up such statements. These people also may be inconsistent in selling dehydrated food which obviously receives much more exposure to air over hours.
It is true that you will get somewhat greater vitamin retention by using a twin gear juicer such as a Green Star. At the same time, if you compare juicing and blending, you will have higher mineral losses with juice since some minerals are discarded with the pulp, along with plenty of fiber.
A British study assessed the effects of drinking 200 ml (5/6 cup) of fruit and vegetable-based smoothies for puree-based drinks daily for six weeks. The smoothies contained carrot, pumpkin, apple, and grape.
The control group received barley water-citrus “drinks”. Those consuming the smoothies on a regular basis had improved (higher) plasma levels of the protective antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene and vitamin C, and showed beneficial effects on vasodilation (enlargement of blood vessels), plasma oxidative stability and antioxidant status.
Bottom line. Comparing juicing and blending, the vitamin and phytochemical retention are slightly higher in juices (though plenty is retained in blending) whereas the mineral and fiber retention is higher in blended soups and smoothies.
On a practical note, if you find it far easier to blend vegetables and fruits to make smoothies on a regular basis, you will get much valuable vitamin and phytochemical intake by using smoothies because you actually do it.
Rare Opportunity: Get Your Questions Answered By Vesanto on June 16
On 6/16/2015 at 8pm EDT (5pm PDT), Trevor Justice will host a Q&A call with Vesanto Melina, RD, who authored lessons like this one from our Mastery Program. For the first hour, Vesanto will answer your nutrition questions. Then Trevor will stay on to answer your questions about our Mastery Program, since we re-open enrollment on June 18.
Go here now to submit your questions for Vesanto… http://events.instantteleseminar.com/?eventid=71031144 …and then return to that page when the Q&A call starts.
Whether or not you participate on the call, we’ll share the replay link with you and our other email subscribers afterwards.
2. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research expert report. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington DC. AICR. 2007
3. U.S Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov
. How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily?
5. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trend Progress Report. Pesticides
6. Davis, B et al. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Company, 2010.
7. Davis, B et al. Becoming Vegan: Express Edition. The Book Publishing Company, 2013.
8. Rauma AL et al. Antioxidant status in long-term adherents to a strict uncooked vegan diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Dec;62(6):1221-27.
9. McEligot AJ et al. Comparison of serum carotenoid responses between women consuming vegetable juice and women consuming raw or cooked vegetables. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1999;8:227-31.
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11. Arbour G. Are buckwheat greens toxic? Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. June 2004.
12. Davis, B et al. Becoming Raw. The Book Publishing Company, 2010.
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17. Petri Met al. BALES: the Baltimore Lupus Environmental Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44:S331.
18. Soria C et al. Raw Food Revolution Diet. The Book Publishing Company, 2008.
19. Juicer Comparison Charts, one
20. George TW et al. Effects of chronic consumption of fruit and vegetable puree-based drinks on vasodilation, plasma oxidative stability and antioxidant status. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2012 Oct;25(5):477-87