Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Juicing vs. Smoothies: Which is Best for Your Heart?
Juicing vs. smoothies, which is best for your heart? This is a question my cardiac patients ask all the time. In this article, I’ll cover the pros and cons of each approach and then share my practical tips on how to do it right.
What is Juicing?
Juicing uses a fancy machine to strip the fiber from vegetables and fruits. It pulls out the juice while leaving the fiber, and those nutrients attached to the fiber, behind.
What is Blending (Smoothies)?
In contrast, blending just combines all the ingredients you place in your blender. You are eating the entire fruit or vegetable including the pulp and fiber. Nothing is pulled out or thrown away.
Is There Any Science to Support Juicing vs. Smoothies?
Given how popular juicing and smoothies are, you would think there would be a lot of scientific studies. Sadly, this is just not the case. Here is what the science does tell us.
1. Juicing and Smoothies May Help You to Absorb Some Nutrients
Some nutrients are better absorbed when juiced or mixed into a smoothie. For example, one study showed that lycopene from tomatoes is much better absorbed in a liquid form. Lycopene is vital because many studies show that it may prevent cancer, heart disease, and even hair loss.
2. Don’t Wait to Drink Your Juice or Smoothie
To maximize any potential nutrient boost from juicing or smoothies, you need to drink them quickly. Studies show that grinding up fruits and vegetables may quickly cause nutrient and enzyme degradation. Thus, for the the best nutritional boost, drink them within 15 minutes.
3. Juicing and Smoothies May Help Your Arteries
In addition to boosting some nutrients, studies show that fruit and vegetable drinks boost antioxidants and make your arteries act younger (better vasoreactivity). However, before using this as your reason to start juicing or blending, none of these studies compared juicing or smoothies to eating whole fruits or vegetables.
4. Smoothies May Be Better at Preventing Weight Gain, Diabetes, and High Cholesterol
If you like fruit, then smoothies hold the advantage in the juicing vs. smoothies debate. Contrary to popular belief, fruit juice is not a health drink.
For example, eating berries, apples, pears, and citrus are all linked to weight loss. In contrast, fruit juice is associated with weight gain in studies.
Likewise, studies show that eating whole fruit decreases your risk of diabetes whereas fruit juice increases your risk. And if weight gain and diabetes isn’t bad enough with fruit juice, studies also show that cholesterol drops with whole fruit but may increase with fruit juice.
What Are the Benefits of Smoothies?
As smoothies blend whole foods, this means you’re keeping all the nutrients intact. Another benefit is that you can add in extra ingredients like nuts, seeds, or spices. Even better is that you can blend in other fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t otherwise eat…especially those fruits and veggies that you may not like the taste of alone.
For people with hectic schedules, smoothies are a great way to get the fruit and vegetables your body needs. Also, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment to make a smoothie. Just throw everything into an ordinary blender to make a light and nutritious meal.
What Are the Risks of Smoothies?
The two most significant risks I see with smoothies are that you might be eating too many calories and too much sugar. A smoothie is a meal, not a drink. If you merely add a smoothie to what you are already eating for breakfast, then you could quickly boost your daily caloric intake by 400 or more calories!
In addition to potentially overloading your breakfast with calories, you may also be overdosing on sugar. For example, if you add fruit juice, almond milk, yogurt, or honey you could easily be turning your entire smoothie into one big desert. You don’t need sugar to make your smoothie taste great.
If you like almond milk or yogurt in your smoothie, then make sure they are unsweetened. Likewise, you don’t need honey or fruit juice in your smoothie. Honey and fruit juice are just sugar. If you want your smoothie sweeter, try using unsweetened berries instead.
What Are the Benefits of Juicing?
As with smoothies, juicing may allow you to quickly pack in many more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Also, for fruit and vegetables that you have no idea how to eat or prepare, juicing or blending may be your answer. If you are that rare person who just can’t force yourself to eat vegetables, juicing may be your “gateway drug” into the world of nutritious eating.
While Internet and health book gurus will tell you that juicing helps with toxin removal and weight loss, scientific studies don’t support this. Likewise, the problem with a juice-only diet is that you are not getting enough fiber and protein to make you feel full so any attempt at weight loss this way is doomed to backfire. Indeed, when it comes to any purported health benefits of juicing, I could find no credible studies showing that juicing offered any benefits over eating whole fruits and vegetables.
What Are the Risks of Juicing?
In my mind, the three biggest risks of juicing are that you are leaving behind the fiber, you are throwing away many nutrients, and you may be increasing your sugars and calories. Fiber is one of the most important nutrients when it comes to staying thin, longevity, and preventing heart disease and cancer.
Second, while juicing concentrates some nutrients, it also throws many away. For example, studies show that many nutrients are bound to the fiber. If you strip the fiber, you also strip these nutrients.
Third, as mentioned previously, juicing fruit is a recipe for weight gain and diabetes. This is because juicing concentrates the sugars and gets rid of the fiber.
One final consideration applies to those on prescription medications. Juicing, or for that matter smoothies, may interfere with the drugs your doctor has prescribed.
For example, grapefruit juice may interfere with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and the heart medicine diltiazem. In addition, a big boost of vitamin K from juicing or blending green leafy vegetables may completely negate the blood-thinning effects of Coumadin.
When it comes to the juicing vs. smoothies debate, here are my practical tips:
1. For juicers, juice vegetables, not fruit to prevent weight gain and diabetes.
2. If juicing or smoothies helps you to boost your daily produce intake then I am all for it.
3. Don’t turn juicing or smoothies into a sugar desert.
4. Try to drink your juice or smoothie within 15 minutes to prevent nutrient degradation.
5. If you are on prescription medications, check with your doctor first before juicing or blending. Some juices and blends may interfere with drug levels.
What are your thoughts on the juicing vs. smoothies debate? Please leave your thoughts and questions below. The comment period will be open for 30 days, and I’ll be sure to answer every question posted.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.