Wellness

Juice and Smoothies: What's the Difference? What's the Big Deal?

10/19/2015 09:30pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017

I used to be incredibly confused about the difference between juice and smoothies. Was one better than the other? If it was thick was it a smoothie? Could you make juice in a blender?

Throughout my many years in the health field, I've discovered that almost everyone is confused before they start. For some people, their confusion becomes an obstacle to ever giving these nourishing habits a try.

Let's clear things up here, shall we?

What's the difference between smoothies and juice (blending and juicing)?

There's a big difference!

When you blend something, although the food gets pulverized, you still end up consuming the food in its entirety. So, if you blend up a pear and a cup of spinach, your body digests an entire pear and a whole cup of spinach.

When you juice something, on the other hand, the fibrous portion of the fruit or vegetable is removed. And, what you're left with are the micronutrients (and the sugars), in a liquid form.

For example, juicing four apples, a bunch of kale and three cucumbers is not the same as eating or blending four apples, a bunch of kale and three cucumbers. You will get the micronutrients from those fruits and veggies, but you won't get full the way you would if you blended those fruits and veggies into a smoothie or tried to sit down and eat them all.

Check out the pictures below.

You'll see that the blender (on the left) consists of just one container; if something goes in there, it stays in there, just changes form.

The juicer (on the right) has multiple vessels. The middle part of the juicer processes the fruit or vegetables, the left side of mine is where the fibrous "leftovers" go and the right side is where the (micronutrient-concentrated) liquid goes.

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I'm confused. Is my Ninja a juicer?

You're not alone... I was confused too!

There are many blenders (such as Ninjas) that market themselves as juicers. These blenders may be powerful enough to process dense foods and you can even make the consistency of what you blend seem like juice by adding water.

However, because you're consuming the entire food (what went in, stayed in... it just changed form), it is still an act of blending, not juicing.

Which one's better?

In my opinion, one is not better than the other. In other words, I not only juice, but I also blend... I not only blend, but I also juice. The two simply have different intentions.

When you consume a smoothie, you'll get full. When you drink a glass of juice, you won't get full the way you do when you consume a smoothie, but you'll be giving your body a concentrated burst of micronutrients... it's like a supplement in a glass!

My rule of thumb: if I'm going to use a lot of fruit in something, I blend it. I save my juicer, primarily, for vegetables. The following example will illustrate why.

To get one cup of orange juice, it takes about four oranges. The good news about that is you're getting all the micronutrients from four oranges. The bad news is you're also getting all the sugar from those oranges. Juicing fruit, on a regular basis, can really mess with your blood sugar levels.

If I'm going to juice fruit, it's typically only within a vegetable juice. I use the fruit to sweeten the vegetable juice up a bit. In that case, I usually use Granny Smith apples because of their relatively low rating on the glycemic index and glycemic load scales. In other words, they have a lower impact on blood sugar levels compared to other fruit.

Do I have to juice and blend in order to be healthy?

No. However, I do feel that juicing and blending open doors to many fun recipes and powerful ways to nourish yourself.

What's so great about blending and juicing?

When you blend a food, you've already started the digestive process, in a powerful way. Your body doesn't have to work nearly as hard to assimilate the micronutrients available. Additionally, you can "hide" foods, such as dark, leafy greens, really easily within a smoothie.

When you juice, suddenly you have the micronutrients from a large volume of fruits and veggies ready for you to consume in one glass. The micronutrients available in one glass of vegetable juice typically come from a volume of vegetables you would not be able to sit down and eat all at once because you'd get full or bored. Additionally, not only are there concentrated micronutrients available to you, but they're available in a way that's extremely easy for your body to assimilate.

Isn't it expensive to start juicing or making smoothies?

Yes, high quality juicers and blenders are definitely an investment that will typically run you anywhere from $300 to $500. Of course, you can get ones that aren't quite that spendy, however, the more expensive ones typically work better, last longer and are easier to use and clean. (I went through three not-so-great blenders in one year before getting my Vitamix.)

Additionally, you have to purchase a large volume of produce every time you juice.
With all this being said, though, I believe you pay for your health one way or another. You can choose to invest your time and money now in high quality foods, exercise and other self-care rituals. Or, you can pay later in sick days, medications and procedures.

Isn't juicing wasteful?

I think this depends on your definition of "wasteful." Yes, some people would definitely attest that juicing is a wasteful practice (because of all the fibrous "leftovers"). I have a different opinion, though.

Most Americans are not starving on a macronutrient (caloric) level, but we are starving on a micronutrient level... our bodies are not getting the micronutrients they need in order to work functionally, let alone optimally.

There are two reasons for this. The first is we're not eating enough fruits and veggies. The second is that the fruits and veggies that we are eating now are not as nutrient-dense as they used to be. In other words, a carrot consumed today does not give you the same amount micronutrients as a carrot consumed 50 years ago.

Juicing is one way to get the micronutrients in your system that you need. And, I don't view giving your body what it needs to function well as "wasteful."

Furthermore, there are many ways to get creative with your juicing "leftovers." You can compost them, feed them to your guinea pigs, save them to make natural dyes, so on and so forth!

Is there any way to make juicing and blending easier/more convenient?

Yes, my rule of thumb, whether I'm juicing, blending or cooking is...

"Cook once, eat twice."
-- Joshua Rosenthal

I will often make multiple batches of juice or smoothies, all at once, and then freeze the extra.

Also, I make a point to clean up right away, before the food gets stuck to the equipment.

I haven't liked the smoothies or the juices I've tried in the past. Any ideas?

Absolutely! There are thousands of different juicing and blending recipes out there, I'd encourage you to keep trying until you find a few you love!

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