10 Frequently Asked Questions about Juicing and Smoothies

By Pat Crocker

Here are the ten most frequently asked questions about juicing and smoothies. The answers to these questions help to shorten your learning curve about the why and the how of all the exciting ways to increase health by incorporating these life-enhancing drinks into your diet.

  • What are the benefits of juices and smoothies? You probably hear a lot about numbers of servings of fruits and vegetables. Why are so many health professionals adamant that you get a certain number of them every day? And what is that number anyway?

    According to the University of Michigan’s Healing Foods Pyramid, overall, you should eat more than seven servings of fruits and vegetables — two to four fruits and at least five vegetables — daily because a high consumption “helps reduce risk of various diseases such as cancer, obesity, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, macular degeneration and diverticulosis.” In addition, “increasing fruit and vegetable intake decreases risk of unhealthy weight gain.”

    One 8-ounce glass of vegetable juice contains three to four servings of vegetables. One 8-ounce glass of vegetable smoothie contains two to three servings of vegetable.

  • What’s the difference between juicing and smoothies? Fruits and vegetables are made up of more than 50 percent water, with fiber, carbohydrate, and nutrients making up the other components. When you juice, you separate the water, which contains a large proportion (but not all) of the nutrients from the fiber and carbohydrate. You pass the vegetables through a feed tube in the juicer and by the force of spinning blades within a basket, juice is extracted and a pile of dry pulp is collected separately. Juice is easier for your body to digest because it doesn’t contain fiber or carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent drink for cleansing and detoxing.

    Smoothies are made with a liquid — usually fruit or vegetable juice — and the whole fruit or vegetable (water, fiber, carbohydrate, and nutrients intact). This means that when you drink a smoothie, you’re drinking the total nutrients found in the juice and the pulp along with the fiber, which gives you a “full” feeling and satisfies your hunger longer.

  • Can you get the same health benefits with smoothies as you get from juices? Both smoothies and juices are healthy and beneficial to your body, but in slightly different ways. Generally, juices and smoothies made from natural fruits and vegetables help replace lost energy and feed the body vital nutrients including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and protein. Vegetable drinks restore the pH balance and satisfy longer than soft drinks or empty-calorie snacks.

    Smoothies provide all the essential nutrients and phytonutrients along with the cleansing and cholesterol-reducing fiber because they’re made from the whole fruit or vegetable. Soluble fiber slows down digestion (making you feel full longer), removes dangerous bacteria and toxins, and helps build the immune system. Insoluble fiber provides bulk in the stool and is important to the prevention of colon cancer.

    All the fiber and carbohydrate and some (relatively little) of the essential nutrients and phytonutrients are removed from fruits and vegetables when the juice is pressed out of them. What remains in the juice is a concentration of pure vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, and protein in water. The nutrients are concentrated because so many more fruits and/or vegetables are needed to make the same volume of juice as are used in a smoothie, which includes all the pulp.

    Ideally, you would drink at least one smoothie and one juice per day.

  • Are juicing and smoothies only for health nuts? It used to be that anyone who shopped at a health food store was considered a health nut, someone who held extreme views about food and supplements. These people were different from the mainstream, often sporting beards and sandals and talking about the environment.

    Today, things are different:

    • Healthy, whole foods are found in mainstream supermarkets, and some natural food stores have become popular chain stores with a wide range of mainstream customers.

    • Science has proven the benefits of eating organic, sustainable foods that are whole, unprocessed, and as close to their natural state as possible, and these ideas have reached a large proportion of the population.

    • It’s cool to know about what vitamins and other nutrients do for you.

    • Juicing and smoothies are the new buzzwords of people in every age group, in every walk of life. Some of these people would be proud to claim that they are health nuts, and some of them are just happy to be doing something healthy for their bodies.

  • Will you feel different if you start juicing regularly? Yes! Right away, you’ll feel your digestive system responding, especially if you’ve been eating mostly refined, processed foods. It’s recommended that you take juicing slowly at first so that your body has time to get used to the raw power of fruits and vegetables.

    Within two weeks, especially if you adopt a healthy diet, you’ll start to notice the following effects:

    • More energy

    • Desire to eat fresh, whole foods and to eliminate fast, refined, junk foods

    • Glowing skin

    • Regular bowel movements

    • Lightness and less bloat

    Long-term effects of juicing (along with a healthy diet) include the following effects:

    • Healthier skin, hair, and nails

    • Weight loss

    • Increased immune function

    • Improved memory

  • How much will it cost me to get started? If you already own a blender, it won’t cost you a dime, so get blending! You’ll also find that as you increase the fruits and vegetables, both on your plate and in your glass, you’ll actually save money because you’ll be buying less meat and you won’t be buying junk snacks, soft drinks, and processed foods.

    If you want to juice (and who wouldn’t?) but don’t own a juice machine, you’ll need to invest $150 to $600, depending on the make and model of the one that suits your needs. Think of it as an investment in your health and future well-being.

  • Isn’t cleaning a juicer a pain in the neck? Yes and no. If you get into the habit and train everyone who uses both the blender and the juice machine to clean it immediately after using it, cleanup is easy. The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables cause them to be sticky, and the tiny pieces of pulp and juice that collect on the blades and other parts of the machine will dry and harden into a mess if left for more than a few minutes.

    Washing the juice machine parts with a scrub brush in hot soapy water takes less than five minutes and it’s really not a big deal.

  • What’s the big deal about organic? Quite simply, organic foods are better for you, better for the soil, better for the water, better for the air, and better for all the other animals that inhabit this planet.

    When you include smoothies and juices into your daily routine, you’re consuming a lot more fruits and vegetables, and you’re doing that because you believe in the health benefits (and the taste!). So, when you make a smoothie or juice, you don’t want to be adding toxic chemicals from herbicide and pesticide sprays, especially because you’ll be consuming more of them than you used to.

    Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals and growth hormones because their nervous systems aren’t fully developed.

  • Will your skin turn yellow if you juice carrots? It can, but only if you eat a lot of carrots. The yellowness is temporary, with no other side effects. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in your body and has all sorts of benefits. Beta-carotene is one of a number of pigments belonging to the carotenoid group, which are responsible for the orange/yellow color of carrots and other foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, and mangoes.

  • Aren’t smoothies filled with calories? Smoothies can be very low or very high in calories, depending on the ingredients you use to make them. Many of the commercial smoothies contain super-high-calorie ingredients that can push the total count higher than a light lunch. The same goes for smoothies you make at home. Compare the following smoothies made with all-natural, healthy ingredients:

    • Low calorie: 1 cup carrot juice, 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt, 1 apple, 1 cup fresh raspberries (322 calories)

    • Medium calorie: 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup low-fat milk, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 2 tablespoons whey protein (441 calories)

    • High calorie: 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt, 1 cup whole milk, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 2 tablespoons whey protein, 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil (757 calories)

    Bottom line: Stick to all-fruit or all-vegetable smoothies, and the calories will stay low.