Raw fruits and vegetables contain a lot of phytonutrients that aid the body’s metabolism, regulate hormones and control appetite. They also contain many disease-averting compounds and antioxidants that promote overall good health in the body. When food is cooked at more than 130 degrees, many of the nutrients are destroyed so the body doesn’t benefit to the same extent. Smoothies and juices made from raw fruits and vegetables are two totally different ways of getting a diverse range of nutrients that we may not get otherwise. Also these methods allow us to consume a larger variety of produce in a more mouth-watering way. Creating juices and smoothies requires different techniques hence different types of machines. While both methods are excellent ways of attaining optimal health, they each come with their own set of specific benefits.
Juices are the liquid portion of a plant and considered to be the perfect drink for people with digestive problems, or other related issues where the body has difficulty processing fibre. When produce is juiced, most of the fibre is removed and nutrients are extracted in the juice in a concentrated form. This means that the body can gain nutrition in greater amounts than it would get from consuming whole fruit or vegetables.
For example, if you were to juice one pear, a cucumber, a celery sprig and a kiwi fruit you would get one small glass of juice. It’s easier to consume one small glass of juice than eat all of those fruit and vegetables that went into the juice. By juicing, we can consume much higher quantities of nutrients than eating the whole product would allow. When you bear in mind that most people are nutrient deficient, juicing offers a lifeline to recover health and vitality. But the benefits of juicing don’t stop there.
When juices are consumed, the body does not have to do any digestive work, and the nutrients are absorbed easily into the blood stream. Juices are ideal for cleansing the body, because when not tied up digesting the food, it can concentrate on removing excessive waste and toxins from the body. Vegetable juices are always a vital part of any detoxification program since they nourish and restore the body at the level of cells. While almost any plant may be juiced, it is most common to juice herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Juice from citrus fruits can be squeezed by hand without any machines, but harder fruits and vegetables require juice extractors. There are two basic types of juice extractors – centrifugal and masticating juicers. Masticating juicers tend to be the more efficient of the two, but are also more expensive. They have the ability of extracting juice even from things like wheatgrass, parsley and other leafy herbs and grasses. Also they extract a greater quantity from the same amount of produce. This means that the removed pulp will be drier. An added benefit of these juicers is that they operate at a slow speed, thus producing less heat. This means less foam and the nutrients are not destroyed by the excessive heat, resulting in a juice that is more nutritious.
The centrifugal juicers extract juice by first grating the produce and then spinning it at high speeds. Centrifugal forces push the pulp against a strainer, which allows the juice through, but not the pulp. While this type of a juicer is more affordable, it is not as efficient at extracting the juice. The pulp coming out will hold more moisture, meaning not all the juice has been extracted. It’s also not very effective at extracting juice from the softer leaves like lettuce, and various types of grasses.
Making a smoothie requires the use of the whole fruit or vegetable. Where applicable, this includes the blending of flesh, seeds and skin. Smoothies make use of a blender to puree the produce, and if desired liquids like almond or coconut milk, and broth may be added to adjust thickness, boost nutrition and enhance flavour. Smoothies are a thicker consistency than juices because the fibre is not removed like it is in juices.
The act of blending tears the fibre apart, hence making digestion easier than just eating the raw vegetables or fruit. Furthermore, the consumption of fibre allows for a slow, systematic dispersal of nutrients into the bloodstream. The slow release is beneficial for diabetics as it eliminates the sugar spikes one would get from a juice made from the same fruit. Due to the fibre content in a smoothie, they tend to be more filling so they can be substituted for a healthy breakfast or a mid-day snack.
While fibre is the non-digestible part of food, it is an essential nutrient none the less. Soluble fibres and insoluble fibres are the two basic types of fibre found in fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibres combine with fatty acids to cut down on the speed of digestion, thus allowing sugars to be released into the body at a more drawn-out pace. This type of fibre is also accredited with lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood and is used as a source of food for the bacteria in the large intestine. The bacteria residing in the large intestines carry out a number of healthy functions like enhancing the body’s ability to absorb important nutrients including calcium, producing appetite and anxiety controlling hormones and making vitamin B12. It helps to maintain the overall health of the intestines. Insoluble fibre provides no nourishment to the intestinal bacteria, nor is it broken down in any way. It does however hold plenty of moisture making your bowel movement softer and more regular. In other words, fibre helps to prevent constipation.
Fibre also helps to maintain the body’s pH levels. An alkaline environment in the body is a healthy state, while an acidic body cannot function at the optimum level. Many of the body’s enzymes are pH sensitive and cannot do their jobs in an acidic environment. Diseased cells prefer an acidic environment as they cannot thrive in alkaline surroundings. Also transport of oxygen becomes difficult in an acidic environment. Some typical symptoms of an acidic body include fatigue, depression, arthritis, irritability, acid reflux and muscle stiffness to name a few.
When making a juice or smoothie, it is easy to go overboard with the number of fruits and vegetables being used. The typical thinking being that greater numbers of ingredients translate to more nutrition. It is better to limit the number of ingredients from two to six in a single smoothie. Mixing too many ingredients can make it difficult for the body to digest them even in the blended form. It is best to consume the juice or smoothie within fifteen minutes of making it, or reactions with the air will deplete many of the nutrients. If you can’t drink it immediately, store it in a dark coloured, airtight container in the fridge.
In their enthusiasm for healthy food, many people forget about the sugar content of fruit. Fruits contain a lot of sugar and their excessive use in smoothies or juice can lead to weight increase. Vegetables on the other hand contain hardly any sugar and more enzymes and nutrients, but they simply don’t taste as nice as fruit. It’s always better to load up your juices and smoothies with vegetables, and use fruit sparingly to change the flavour into something more palatable. This is particularly true of dark green smoothies, often considered superfoods by health fanatics.
Regardless of whether one drinks juices or smoothies, it is an indisputable fact that both offer numerous health benefits. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals, antioxidants as well as immune building minerals and vitamins, which many people don’t get enough of due to the modern lifestyles. Both types of drinks have their place in any lifestyle or diet plan, each offering a great way to provide the body with nourishment, and speed recovery from sickness or an exhaustive workout.