Recently, blending and juicing have been very popular with many believing that the pulverizing or extraction processes better ‘release’ the micronutrients from your fruits, vegetables or nuts to allow more efficient absorption. Others believe that such liquids – especially when green and containing expensive ‘superfood’ powders or herbs – become magical concoctions which can ‘detox’ you and aid in weight loss.
However, what is the truth in all this and if you are keen to give it a try – is blending or juicing better?
Firstly, allow me to deal with the ‘detox’ claims as that’s fairly straightforward and our recent article To detox or not to detox? deals with this question in depth. However, in summary – no, there is no scientific basis or clinical evidence that nutritional ‘detoxing’ is required or effective. The best way to maximise the function of your natural detoxification system, is to provide your body with optimal nutrition in the long-term. Most detox diets are low in proteins or amino acids, fibre, probiotics and ‘good fats’ – unfortunately, some of the key nutrients that our main ‘detoxing’ organs need to be fully functional. This can lead to impaired organ function and actually allow more toxins to accumulate.
So, assuming you don’t intend to use blending or juicing as a ‘detox’ approach – why else might you want to occasionally blend or juice?
Such drinks are easy to consume ‘on the go’ – much quicker than sitting down to eat a salad or dealing with the mess of trying to peel a mandarin on the way into a work conference! Many people report that they don’t like consuming solids first thing in the morning, but on the other hand, they don’t want to leave for their day with nothing in their systems – a nutritious liquid that ticks off a few fruit and vegetable serves early in the day could be a good compromise. Kids who turn their noses up at fruits or vegetables may be convinced to drink some ‘monster juice’ – my little one went through a fussy patch at around 3 years old, and green blends were a very effective way at upping her fruit and vegetable intake. And some may simply like the taste – though I’ve seen some horrendous green goop recipes doing the rounds!
At Life Nutrition, we strongly believe that if you do not enjoy what you’re eating and drinking – then aside from not being sustainable from a dietary perspective – you are not truly enjoying life in the meantime. We can’t have that!
One of the key concerns when dietary intake is restricted – either to lose weight, or due to poor eating habits, is the possible development of micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. Synthetic vitamins/supplements have been shown to be generally acceptable in raising vitamin status in cases of deficiency, but they are not the best way to ensure safe, adequate intake as your body doesn’t fully absorb them and they’re often present in different forms to that occurring naturally in food. Excess in one supplemented vitamin or mineral can have unintended, unpleasant and at times dangerous side-effects or have detrimental interactions with medications. So unless totally necessary, I highly recommend that you refrain from taking supplements and instead work on obtaining adequate micronutrients from real, whole foods.
For me, juicing – where only the liquid of the fruit and vegetables is kept, just doesn’t cut it and doesn’t meet the definition of consuming ‘whole foods’. Lack of fibre is the main reason for my opinion. Insoluble fibre from the plant’s stucture – eg from the skins or stalks, is great for bowel health and soluble fibre slows the rate of gastric emptying of all these nutrients/energy. This is excellent for blood cholesterol levels, blood glucose control (reduces sugar ‘spikes’), satiation, better nutrient absorption and is strongly associated with reduced cancer and heart disease risk. However, sadly all of this beautiful fibre is thrown out in juicing!
Negligible fibre in juice means that all the sugars will be absorbed far quicker with low satiation which can lead to over-consumption of energy and weight gain. If you juice too often and your fruit content is very high, your liver may not be able to keep up with fructose metabolism, leading to fat being stored around your organs and in the liver itself. It is this fat is the main contributor to metabolic dysfunction. Additionally, often antioxidants found in the skins, pulp and seeds of fruits and vegetables are left behind in the juicing process.
However, doing a blend occasionally (maximally one/day), where whole fruits and vegetables get both annihilated and consumed, does fit in with our ethos and can certainly be a handy top up to your micronutrient and fibre intake. So long as you don’t use too much fruit, you can get a really good nutrient intake for your ‘calorific buck’. Note though: unless you like drinking gritty salad purees, you’ll definitely need a high speed quality blender!
With blending, one lesser-known thing to watch out for though is that the acidity, natural sugars and colours in these blends can be very detrimental to your dental health and can cause staining if you blend too much over a long period of time, so minimise contact of the liquid with the teeth by using a straw, drinking your blend within a short time and then rinse your mouth and teeth with water after finishing.
So, if you are interested in blending, please see our Recipe page for some of my favourite recipes and blending tips – please give them a try and let me know if they hit the spot for you too – otherwise I’d love to hear yours!