I was sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's office today, watching rubbish daytime television (lucky me!) which included a stream of infomercials for juicers, blenders and shakes in packets. Many diet sites and nutrition books talk about juices and smoothies, and everywhere you look lately someone is carrying a glass jar with something green in it (what is it with jars?) Movies like "Fat sick and nearly dead" promote juicing for weight loss and many magazines promote juice "cleanses". Boost juice and other juice franchises are booming and fancy appliances are for sale in every shopping centre. You may feel that if you're not making juices or smoothies then you must be doing it wrong. So what's the lowdown on juices and smoothies and are there any health benefits over and above just eating fruit and vegetables? Let's have a look.
Smoothies use blenders rather than juice extractors (cheaper to buy and easier to clean) and are therefore a bit more versatile. If you use your smoothie as a base to add some protein (such as Greek yoghurt, egg or nut butters) and some low GI carbohydrates (oats, quinoa, low GI fruit) you can have a balanced home made meal replacement if you wish. Some people add protein powders, which is probably quite unnecessary but is an option. Some recipes have 4-5 pieces of fruit on board - just be careful if you start adding those commercial supplements, plus fruit, yoghurt, honey etc you can end up with a high calorie option. Be very careful of commercially made smoothies as some have up to 30g sugar (that's 6 teaspoons full).
So what's the bottom line?
Eating fruit and vegetables is very good for you - in fact is an essential part of a healthy diet. There is no scientific evidence that blending them and keeping the fibre has any nutritional or health benefit over eating them whole. Juicing them without the fibre can have significant health impacts (especially if you have bowel problems or diabetes).
1. If you are meeting your daily requirements of 2 serves of fruit and 5+ serves of vegetables and are happy with what you are doing, there is no health reason for you to start making smoothies. You're already doing it right!
2. If you are struggling to get all your serves of fruit and veg in a day and need another way, or if you are bored and you think a blended smoothie might be a nice change for you, then go right ahead. There are some great smoothie recipes online, but here's some basic principles. Treat it like a proper balanced meal, not just a drink with extra calories. Add dairy or alternatives, natural lean protein, low GI carbohydrates and keep the ingredients simple with one or two serves of vegetable or fruit. Remember the calories add up. It can make a great breakfast on the run and is certainly far superior to eating a processed breakfast bar, a fatty take away or skipping breakfast altogether. I believe there is no need to add a processed protein powder to your meal unless it has been recommended by a doctor or dietitian - there is very little evidence they are of benefit to most people with a healthy balanced diet.
3. I wouldn't recommend anybody take part in a "juice fast" or a "juice cleanse" at all. If you are going to drink juices, then stick to mainly vegetable juices, have them occasionally, and keep fruit juice as a drink for special occasions only. Treat all extracted juices with caution and monitor regularly if you have diabetes.
For me, I think I'll just stick with eating my fruit and vegetables and drinking my water :)
Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy
Related posts you may wish to read:
Stop dieting now. Please!
What to eat for a healthier you
The beauty of breakfast
When it comes to diets, one-size-doesn't-fit-all