Juice drinks, smoothies, and shakes all have a place in a healthy diet, especially if you are nutrient depleted, struggle with digestive issues or just need some convenience. There is definitely both a right and a wrong way to include these in your regime. Do it the wrong way, and your meals-in-a-glass might be doing you more harm than good.
What exactly is the difference between juice drinks, smoothies, and shakes, and which one is best?
Juicing and Juice Drinks
When you juice fruits and vegetables, you remove the fiber, winding up with just the liquid, the juice. This has both its pros and cons:
On the plus side, juice is rich in nutrients that reach your cells quickly. If you are not a big fan of vegetables, especially the green kind, or you simply do not have time to cook or prepare them, juicing can be a great way to get a plentiful supply of phytonutrients. Juice can also be easier to digest than a smoothie if large amounts of fiber give you trouble.
The downside however is if you are tossing lots of fruits or starchy vegetables like beets and carrots into your juice, you are giving your body a huge hit of sugar while cutting out the insoluble fiber that helps to slow down the absorption of this sugar. (It also cuts out the nutrients in that fiber.) Juicing is also expensive because you throw out a large percentage of your ingredients. Going overboard on juices can also lead to nutritional imbalances including an imbalanced sodium-potassium ratio.
Moreover, juice does not replace a meal. It contains no protein or healthy fats, and does not leave you satisfied for long.
I am not erven going to address my thoughts on most of those commercial juices you get at the mall or at a restaurant! They are loaded with sugar, and I do not recommend them at all!!!
Smoothies and Blended Drinks
A smoothie, or blended drink, contains every bit of the fruits and vegetables you put into the blender. When you drink it, you supply your gut with all the beneficial fiber that comes along with the nutrients in the juice.
You may also be getting more nutrition from a smoothie than you would get from juice. Blending provides far higher levels of several key phytochemicals than juicing. You use whole plants, the entire vegetable or piece of fruit in blending, rather than tossing large amounts of them in the trash. Furthermore, the fiber in a smoothie keeps you satisfied longer than plain juice does.
On the down side, some people simply do not enjoy the taste or texture of smoothies, which can be very thick. Others discover that the fiber in them causes digestive upsets. Just as with juice you are also not getting a full, balanced meal complete with healthy protein and fats unless you choose to add them to your drink, which brings me to our next section…
If you want to get the benefit of a healthy meal, keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism humming along, shakes that start with a base of protein powder are your best bet.
A shake made with a high-quality protein supplies your body with the amino acids it needs. Adding in a little coconut or avocado, gives you a good dose of healthy fats that will keep you satisfied for hours. Add some vegetables, and you have everything your body needs and it could be considered a ‘meal in a glass’.
A well-made shake can also help to keep your blood sugar level stable because they balance a small amount of sugar with a rich supply of protein (and fat, if you add it). This makes them a far better choice than juice drinks or fruit-laden smoothies if you have blood sugar issues.
The only caution I have about shakes is not to overdo the amount of fruit you add to them. Limit your fruit to a single serving (for instance, a handful of berries, or half an apple or banana) and you will reap all the benefits with little, if any, downside.
A few cautions when blending or making a shake:
1. Overdoing the fruit or starchy veggies.
If blood sugar stabilization and weight loss are you goals, your best bet is to stick to one serving of fruit per drink. This translates into half an individual piece (for instance, half an apple or half a banana) or half a cup of berries, grapes, or tropical fruits—about a closed fistful. Similarly, limit starchy vegetables like beets and carrots to one baseball-sized serving at most.
2. Skipping the fat.
Fat satisfies your cravings, keeps your skin smooth, and helps you burn fat more quickly. Toss in a little avocado, some coconut oil, or some nuts to ‘fatten it up.’
3. Getting too little protein.
If you are replacing lots of your meals with drinks that protein becomes necessary to heal and repair your body, optimize your metabolism, and keep cravings from sabotaging your diet.
4. Using an inferior protein powder.
To be blunt, there is a ton of inexpensive, inferior quality protein powder out there. Grocery and health-food stores are loaded with protein powders made from low-quality ingredients like soy, whey, or factory-farmed animals. Quality matters when it comes to your health. Simply reaching for the cheapest protein powder you can buy will not support your health goals. Instead, look for high-quality products, organic, cold processed, made from pastured beef and with minimal ingredients. In addition to being better for you, a high-quality protein powder tastes a whole lot better.
5. Lack of Variety.
There are thousands of phytonutrients, and the more of them you feed your body, the better. While it is unlikely that you will get too high a dose of potentially problematic plant ingredients like alkaloids, oxalates, and goitrogens if you use the same veggies each day, why take a chance?
Instead, rotate your greens—kale, spinach, chard, Romaine, and arugula are fun choices—and change up your fruits on a regular basis. Buy fresh produce in season whenever you can.
So who is the winner?
People can get pretty passionate about whether it is better to reach for juice, a smoothie, or a shake. As far as I am concerned, all three have their place in a healthy diet.
Both juice drinks and smoothies help you take off pounds and provide you with those all-important phytonutrients. Shakes offer these same benefits as well as supplying you with the protein and healthy fats you need to keep your metabolism on track.
In general, I recommend shakes as a meal replacement. The trick, no matter which drink you choose, is to use the right ingredients in the right amounts and to avoid common missteps that can make any drink less healthy.