When it comes to drinking to your health, which is the healthier option?…
By Karen Kwan
If you’ve been indulging in quarantine snacks a little too often, have set a goal to lose weight this year, or simply want to consume more fruits and veggies, you may be toying with the idea of incorporating smoothies or juices into your diet. Is one better for you than the other? It turns out there’s no cut-and-dried answer.
“We hear so much about the benefits of juicing daily or about the daily morning smoothie, especially when it comes to plant-based diets,” says Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver. The way she looks at it, a well-crafted smoothie is a meal replacement, whereas a juice is not. “In a smoothie, you get the whole foods with their fibre. You can also add in healthy fats, slow-burning carbs and the protein you need to keep your blood sugars on an even keel,” she says. “Juice has had all of those fibrous cell walls stripped out of it, so what you get is pure energy that will digest very quickly and hit the bloodstream very quickly.”
But even with smoothies, you have to be careful with what you (or the restaurant) are putting in them. If you’re picking one up at a counter, ask about the ingredients before ordering. You may find it’s composed of juice concentrate and sherbet, she says, so it’s definitely something to be wary of.
“The word ‘smoothie’ has been co-opted now for ‘milkshake,’” says Nielsen, but adds that when done well, it is a great vehicle for what you need to consume in a meal. Realistically, most of us won’t prepare and cook an entire balanced meal every morning – with all of the proteins, vegetables and grains you should have – and a smoothie simplifies this step. An easy way to approach how to make your smoothie? “Think of your meal plate: fruits and vegetables; some healthy fat like almond butter or hemp hearts; and a protein, because a smoothie without protein is just a snack,” she says.
As for juice, is there no place for juice in your diet? Since it hits your bloodstream quickly, says Nielsen, a juice in the morning could give you the same jolt a cup of coffee might; however, that burst of energy won’t stick with you very long. Juices can work well when they’re enjoyed as part of a meal, though. Given that smoothies are nutrient-dense, having one on top of a meal will be too much for most people.
To sneak more fruits and vegetables into your diet, you can try juicing. Add a small green juice to your breakfast, or enjoy one as a snack to give yourself a boost. One benefit of juices is that while they do concentrate the natural sugars of the fruits and veggies, you’re also concentrating the vitamins and minerals. “This can be helpful if you’re trying to heal from something or if you’re lacking energy,” says Nielsen. “It’s a way to get those phytochemicals into your body in a way you couldn’t do by eating cup after cup of broccoli and carrots.”
To better manage the natural sugars when crafting a juice, dietitian Desiree Nielsen recommends this rule of thumb: stick to a ratio of three veggies to one fruit. “If you’re new to green juices and need to ease into it, you can start with 50/50, but work towards three to one,” she says.
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.