As we continue on our nutritional journey, we know that consuming as many raw vegetables and fruits as possible is key to optimum health. Juicing has become a very popular means of eating raw veggies and fruits, however, so has blending. What’s the difference? Juicing removes the fibrous parts of the plant (peeling, seeds, pulp, etc.), leaving only the juice behind, typically executed with some sort of juicing machine. This process extracts the liquid nutrition from vegetables and fruits in a means that once consumed, does not thoroughly activate digestion. The many raw, unaltered micronutrients are very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Blending (as in a smoothie or soup) is a great way to get solid nutrition in “pre-masticated” form, making it especially suitable for those with sensitive bellies to get their meals, as well as to consume larger quantities of vegetables and fruits more easily. Blending retains the fiber from the plant which actually makes for a meal versus a quick shot of vitamins as compared with juicing. In reality, both methods have merit. However, the single most important factor to consider in weighing both options is the effect on blood sugar.
As mentioned many times over in this blog, our goal is to, through proper nutrition, ensure that blood sugar remains level…minimizing peeks and valleys. We also know that consumption of sugar will increase blood sugar levels (spike) causing the pancreas to release insulin, the hormone which helps the various cells within the body effectively absorb the sugar (glucose). This process brings the blood sugar levels back to normal. However, when we consume too much sugar throughout the day, not only do we exhaust this process but we end up in a consistent state of hyperglycemia (can we say diabetes 2). So, our goal is to avoid the spikes. That said, juicing warrants some caution.
Vegetables and fruits contain sugars, albeit natural, that trigger the blood glucose regulation process in the body. Fiber, as we’ve discussed in previous posts, steps up in the beginning of this process through digestion and slows down the rate in which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, minimizing the “spike”. This is why I’ve always, ALWAYS advocated eating the whole fruit instead of simply the juice. Sure, juice contains vitamins and nutrients, but it is missing the fiber which means upon consumption, blood sugar levels will suddenly rise. So, if you are going to juice, I highly recommend using mostly green vegetables (kale, cucumber, celery, spinach, etc.) versus a bunch of fruit. If you want your juice a little sweeter, throw in a few (note: few) low-glycemic fruits such as strawberries, 1 small apple, or cantaloupe. Another option, throw in a root vegetable such as a carrot. If you juice the right vegetables and fruits, you can come up with a powerfully nutritious beverage. However, most folks don’t like the taste of juiced veggies, especially the green kind as they can taste a bit bitter…definitely an acquired taste.
Blending, on the other hand, provides an amazing means of intaking all of the micronutrients, inclusive of fiber, which means that the rate in which the sugar is absorbed into the blood stream is much slower. Given this, you can include more fruits, making a blended beverage sweeter and therefore a lot more palatable. When blending, however, it’s still important to incorporate vegetables, even the green kind, such as kale. Why do I love kale so much? Well, for starters, kale has an extremely significant anti-inflammatory effect and balances wonderfully with other veggies and fruits. Kale’s nutrient profile far outweighs that of many other veggies and fruits with mega doses of naturally occurring Vitamin K, A, C, E and all of the B’s. Kale also contains manganese, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Kale contains glucosinolates which have been shown to provide anti-cancer benefits and also works wonders in helping maintain cardiovascular health.
So, which do I advocate…juicing or blending? Both, as long as you are mindful of the specific fruits and vegetables you use and their relative impact on blood sugar. When juicing include a minimal amount of low-glycemic fruit or root vegetable, focusing mostly on green veggies. If blending, you can use more fruit but nonetheless, should still include vegetables, to which I suggest throwing in a few kale leaves. If not kale, include cucumber, celery or a handful of spinach.
Another word of caution…pre-packaged, processed juices, as found in the grocery store, are not healthy. Most commercially processed juices are manufactured in a means that literally destroys the micronutrient value and more often than not, includes additional sugars above and beyond those naturally found in the fruit. Calling all parents…please do not give your kids store-bought juices! Not only does this type of juice have a seriously detrimental impact on blood sugar levels (which can further impact behavior, thinking and emotion), but store-bought juice can damage teeth (as a result of the high sugar content) and again, provides very little to no nutritional value. Keep in mind that high quantities of sugar not only cause blood sugar spikes, but also interfere with the means in which the body otherwise absorbs nutrients and vitamins. Also, sugar is fodder for bacterial, viral and fungal infections. The concern here is many parents give their sickly kids juice, mistakingly thinking that the juice is some sort of healing elixir when in fact, it’s the opposite. Don’t fall for the marketing trap, either…organic does not automatically equate to healthy! Have I mentioned that sugar is bad?
To get started, check out my green smoothie recipe! Although not super sweet, it is tasty and a great way to kick-start your day and nourish your bod from the inside out!