Cold-Pressed Juice or Blended Smoothie?

by / April 3, 2015 Health No Comments

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Healthy drink, vegetable juice, red and green Homemade smoothies can be boosted with protein, but blended juices tend to have more nutrients per milliliter. There are technically about 270,000 known plant species on our joyful planet and of these, between 1,000 and 2,000 are actually edible by humans in the form of fruits and vegetables. Leaving aside the exotic varieties, we’re left with a few dozen commonly available options. How these fruits and vegetables are best consumed often comes down to convenience and perceived health benefits. Over the last few years, some health gurus have shifted their endorsements from traditional drinkable formats like blended smoothies to new-age cold-pressed juices. Let’s explore the merits of each drink type. Blended Smoothies Smoothies’ nutritional benefits vary greatly, and some store-bought varieties may include hip-expanding sugars and tongue-delighting artificial flavors, as well as numerous too-hard-to-pronounce chemical preservatives. Alternatively, fresh, homemade smoothies tend to be healthier, since we are more conscious of their ingredients. While I might enjoy the store-bought variety more, I find it especially difficult to add 12 spoons of sugar or two scoops of ice cream to my blended smoothie after spending a grueling 45 minutes on the treadmill. (Admittedly, I do sometimes add an extra piece of dark chocolate or a small scoop of cocoa to my banana peanut butter chocolate smoothie, but the cardiac benefits of flavanols are well-documented. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.) In any case, when we think about the freshly made, natural-ingredients-only type of smoothie, perhaps the single greatest benefit from a medical standpoint is that they contain all of the “perks” of raw fruits and vegetables. Most notably, on a molecular level, these benefits are the antioxidants, live enzymes, fiber, natural sugars, and vitamins and minerals. There is considerable debate and a paucity of credible research about whether the heat from the blender distorts any of these benefits. In my medical opinion, these effects are negligible. Finding a convenient way to consume more fruits and vegetables outweighs the potential downfalls of blender heat. Cold-Pressed Juices By contrast, cold-pressed juices are a newer phenomenon with proponents often claiming that they’re made with a superior processing method resulting in healthier, more nutritious drinks. A common misconception is that cold-pressed juices do not require blending. In fact, many commercially available options do first blend their ingredients and then process them through a mechanism that “presses” out the juice through a permeable metal sheet. This process leaves behind the pulp (which contains fiber) while concentrating the other nutrients. Clinically, the main advantage of cold-pressed juices might be that there are more nutrients per milliliter since the space typically occupied by the fiber – as well as the overall bulk of the fruits and vegetables – is now filled with more antioxidants, live enzymes, and vitamins and minerals. For this reason, making a 16-ounce serving of cold-pressed juice would require more fruits and vegetables than making a similarly-sized smoothie. As with smoothies, we need to be careful about what might be added to a cold-pressed juice. No matter how organic the apples and oranges may be, too much natural fruit juice without the customary health benefits of the fiber results in added calories and an arguably less nutritious drink. It is also less typical for cold-pressed juices to contain protein supplements – another consideration when deciding which drink to pursue post-workout. And the Winner Is… In the spirit of full disclosure, and as a physician committed to evidence-based medicine, there is limited scientific research to support the logic of choosing one drink versus the other. Personally, however, I tend to gravitate toward protein-packed smoothies after a workout and cold-pressed juices in the morning. I have also observed that I tend to skip my morning cup of coffee when I choose a cold-pressed juice, which gives me more energy from nutrients to tackle my day. But what about you? When deciding which drink to consume, I advise my patients and family to think about the choice mainly in relation to their metabolism and time of day. If you are the type of person who prefers to skip breakfast because you feel heavier, try a cold-pressed juice and a banana or side of berries. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who typically wakes up hungry and subscribes to the philosophy that a full breakfast helps you jump-start your day, you may want to consider an afternoon smoothie or juice so you can still enjoy the health benefits. Whichever drink you choose, the single most important guiding principle is to keep an eye out for deceptively high-calorie drinks with preservatives or flavors. In my opinion, the health benefits of both drinks are quickly diminished when we fail to account for unnecessary sugar, fat or inorganic contents. Essentially, those additives are nothing more than toxins – the same type of toxins the drinks’ antioxidants and other nutrients aim to combat.

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