Fruit and vegetables are good for you. No one would argue with that! But which one is better for your health – and specifically for losing weight? Both are currently very fashionable and there’s a huge debate as to their various merits. Some people swear by weight loss smoothies and others claim juicing for weight loss is best.
There has been a great deal of research in recent years to support the claim that eating more fruit and vegetables may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, while also helping to manage your weight. However, it can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each and every day, even if you love vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions, not 5, is what we need to stay healthy, youthful and dynamic. Most people don’t come anywhere near to eating that amount, and I bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to manage 10 portions!
So, if you’ve been wanting to try a weight loss smoothie for breakfast but you’re also hearing you should consider juicing, I’m going to give you the lowdown on both so that you can get the hard facts from a professional nutritional consultant and make an informed choice.
The benefits of weight loss smoothies
When you make a smoothie, the whole lot is whizzed up in a blender, both juice and pulp. This means that smoothies contain plenty of fibre. And fibre is good for you for so many reasons! It’s great for the digestive tract, helping to bulk out stools and making you more regular – and when it comes to weight loss, fibre is super helpful because it slows down the absorption of sugar into the body, meaning that fruit and sugar-rich vegetables like beetroot and carrots are less likely to give you a blood sugar spike – albeit a natural one.
Dietary fibre also activates a few hormones which are really helpful in weight loss (PYY, CKK and GLP-1 if you are interested!). These are appetite suppressors, meaning that the more vegetables you consume, the less you’ll want to eat naturally overall. Fibre also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases another hormone called leptin, which tells your body you’re full. So all in all, fruit and vegetables are true allies when it comes to weight loss.
Fibre isn’t the only good thing in a smoothie. In a 2012 study in which scientists blended and juiced grapefruit, researchers found that the blended fruit had a higher concentration of the beneficial phytochemicals than juices because that compound is primarily found in the fibrous membranes of the fruit.
Given that a smoothie can be packed with fibre, it can actually serve as a meal replacement if you’re smart about what you add to it (breakfast would be the perfect example).
If you combine fruit and vegetables with a healthy source of protein, such as natural coconut yoghurt or a handful of nuts and seeds, you will have a healthy, nutritious and filling meal to take with you on-the-go. You could even add a protein powder of your choice.
However, if your idea of the perfect smoothie is nothing but fruit and some liquid, you’re on the wrong track, because that kind of smoothie is a sugar bomb waiting to happen and is likely to upset your blood sugar balance. Furthermore, if consumed too frequently, this kind of smoothie will start piling on the pounds in all the wrong places.
The benefits of weight loss juices
When you juice*, the juicer extracts the water and nutrients from the ingredients, leaving the pulp behind. Many juicers also have a filter attachment which remove even more ‘bits’ from the juice. Juices, therefore, contain virtually no fibre.
There are pros and cons. Given the lack of fibre, juices provide an almost immediate energy boost. The bulk of the vitamins and minerals found within a fruit are typically in the juice itself rather than the fibrous pulp. And without the fibre, the nutrients are absorbed into the body quickly and more efficiently. Additionally, the digestive system doesn’t have to work hard at all to process what you’re consuming. The cherry on top is that juicing allows you to get a far greater range of nutrients from leafy greens and vegetables which you wouldn’t normally eat in such quantities or even blend – cabbage and wheatgrass for instance! Juices (rather than smoothies) are therefore a great way to cleanse and detox.
However, some commercial fresh juices contain as much, or even more, sugar than fizzy drinks. A study in 2014 found that, on average, fruit juices contain 45.5 grams of fructose per litre, not far off the average of 50 grams per litre in fizzy drinks!
* By juicing I am referring to using a juicer to extract the juice from fruit and vegetables. The makers of Vitamix and Thermomix machines claim their blenders can make juices. To be clear, these are effectively very well blended ‘smoothies’ with extra, added water to compensate for the fact that the fibre thickens the mixture. If you were to ‘juice’ with both a juicer and one of these, the juicer would win for flavour, while the fibre included in the ‘juice’ from a Vitamix or Thermomix would help balance blood sugar levels which a standard juice wouldn’t. Plus it would contain the additional benefits (listed above) which fibre provides.
Which one is best depends very much on what your health goal is. Juicing offers the possibility of piling in a greater concentration of nutrients, increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, and possibly making it easier on your tummy if you have a hard time digesting the fibre in vegetables.
On the other hand, fibre IS super important in your diet, and in juices you are missing out – plus you could also be losing other important elements like antioxidants.
For weight loss, the added fibre is a huge bonus for balancing your blood sugar levels. Smoothies provide this. They also bring the possibility of adding other beneficial ingredients, like collagen (for arthritis suffers), protein powders, prebiotics and nuts or seeds.
Ultimately, you need to consume more fruit and vegetables than you are currently doing. Both smoothies and juices give you options so both have a place in your diet. Personally, my vote goes to smoothies, unless I am doing a juice cleanse!
Be sure to wash all the ingredients for a juice or smoothie very well and shake out any excess water.
WEIGHT LOSS JUICES
5 handfuls spinach
1 orange, peeled
½ lemon, peeled
3 apples, cut in half or into quarters
4 stalks celery
½ thumb fresh ginger root
Start with the spinach. A good tip is to roll it into a ball in your hands before feeding it through the juicer. Then juice the orange and lemon followed by the rest of the ingredients.
3 cups spinach
½ cup parsley
½ lemon, peeled
6 stalks celery
Start with the spinach and parsley, rolling them into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Then juice the lemon, followed by the celery and pears.
½ thumb ginger root
1 stalk celery
3 beet leaves or a small handful of spinach
½ small pineapple
1 orange, peeled
Cut the apple and beetroot in half or into quarters and juice, followed by the ginger and celery. Roll the beet leaves into a ball and juice. Cut the skin from the pineapple (but leave in the core – it has extra enzymes) and juice along with the orange.
WEIGHT LOSS SMOOTHIES
Put all the ingredients into the blender with about a cup of liquid such as water or plant-based milk to start with and blend. Add more liquid to reach the desired consistency.
½ avocado, peeled
75 g fresh or frozen blueberries or mixed berries
1 tbsp chia seeds
½ tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ banana (ideally frozen)
Water, as desired
25g vanilla protein powder
1 kiwi – no need to peel
Handful of strawberries
Handful of kale
Handful of watercress
1 tbsp cashew nut butter
2 tbsp broccoli sprouts - available from good health shops
Water as desired
Blueberry and kale
Handful of blueberries
Handful of kale
1 small banana
1 tsp cashew or almond nut butter
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
250ml coconut or almond milk