The Great Juice-Off with Oon Shu An

Shu An’s Low-sugar, Dairy-free Smoothie recipe:

– 3/4 cup frozen kale

– 1/4 cup blueberries

– 1/4 cup blackberries

– 1 cup macademia nut milk

– 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

– 1 tbsp chia seeds 

Young’s Three Green Healthy Juice

  • 1 cucumber (with skin)
  • 2 green apples
  • 2 stalks celery
  • half lemon
  • ½ cup coconut juice
  • honey (optional)
  • 1 knob of ginger (optional)

DETAILED NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS

(courtesy of Bonnie Lau from Holmusk)

Which one is better in terms of macronutrients?

Comparing the unsweetened macadamia milk smoothie vs the strained juice in terms of calories and macronutrients: 

  • Overall, the smoothie is slightly higher calories, double the protein, higher in fat (although poly and monounsaturated fat, not saturated), and only half of the carbohydrate content, and 5 times less sugar than the juice (6g = ~1 tsp, vs juice 30g ~6 tsp sugar). Even if you skip the honey in the juice, it will still have 5 tsp sugar.
  • Since the juice is strained, almost all the fibre would be gone in the pulp, and so the fibre content of the smoothie is actually higher. The smoothie contributes about 40% of the minimum 20g fibre/day to prevent cancer/diabetes/heart disease! Whereas the juice provides close to zero.
  • However, if the juice was made using Nutribullet / blender type of juicer where the pulp is retained, the fibre of the juice is higher (providing 73% of the minimum fibre requirements). It should be noted, that in both the smoothie and blended juice, the fibre is broken up, which means it can spike the blood sugar levels higher, compared to eating the whole piece of fruit/vegetable where it is digested and absorbed slower (especially if you have diabetes).

Macronutrient juice-off: Smoothie is the winner.

What about micronutrients?

Bear in mind this nutritional analysis of the micronutrients is based on the assumption that all the micronutrients are still in the juice after the processing (there are few databases that provide the nutrition information of the fresh juice of each individual fruit/vegetable in the exact portion stated). However, it should be noted that the straining away of pulp may mean the vitamins/minerals/phytochemicals are reduced because they might be stuck on the fibre that is thrown away.

Also, there is missing information on certain vitamins/minerals for macadamia milk, and they are assumed as 0. Hence, the smoothie analysis may have underestimated the amount of these.

Tie:

  • Iron, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6 are quite similar among the two.

Juice wins in:

  • The juice, containing so much fruit and vegetable, does contain more potassium, supplying 19% of the total daily Adequate Intake (AI) (of 3800mg), compared to smoothie which provides 11% of the AI.
  • The sodium content of the juice is also slightly lower, at 72mg rather than 188mg (out of a daily maximum intake of 2000mg sodium per day for optimal blood pressure), because of the salt added to the macadamia milk for flavouring.
  • The juice also beats the smoothie in terms of its higher amount of magnesium and phosphorus (coming from the large cucumber mainly), and it also has more than double the amount of folate with the combined forces of the cucumber and celery (even though traditionally green leafy veg like kale is high in folate levels, the ¾ cup kale pales in comparison to the large cucumber and 2 stalks celery).

Smoothie wins in:

  • Smoothie provides around half your total day’s requirements for vitamin C, mainly provided by kale and berries; while the juice gives only about a quarter of our requirements (105mg for men, 85mg for women).
  • The smoothie reigns supreme in terms of the calcium content, providing 92% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of calcium for strong bones and good health, thanks to the fortification of calcium in the macadamia milk (and some from kale); whereas the juice provides only ~11% RDA. 
  • Being higher in fat, the smoothie is a better source of the fat-soluble vitamins like A and D. The smoothie is a better source of vitamin A (for good vision, growth and immune health), coming mainly from the kale and some in the macadamia milk.
  • The smoothie is also higher in vitamin D important for bone and overall health, from the fortified macadamia milk, while the juice provides none. But sunlight provides ~90% of our vitamin D requirements so this is not a very important point.

Micronutrient juice-off: Tie; but smoothie is likely a winner in that all the micronutrients are retained in the drink rather than possibly being strained off in the pulp.

So which is best?

All things considered, the smoothie is a better option than the juice. Mainly because of its higher fibre content, lower sugar content, and higher protein content. Although it is higher in fat and slightly higher in calories than the juice, it should be noted that it is the heart-healthy fats (as macadamia is a rich source of monounsaturated fats, and chia seeds for polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids). The higher fibre, protein and fat content of the smoothie also helps you keep fuller which can prevent overeating at the next meal. Even if the juice were made using a blended juice with all the pulp, it is still a bit too high in sugar to be considered a healthy choice, and lacking other important nutrients like protein and healthy fats, to keep you well-nourished and feeling full. In terms of the micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content, both have their pros and cons, and you can get plenty of the vitamins and minerals that each one lacks, from other meals you have the rest of the day.

If you have diabetes, are trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, have high blood cholesterol, or would like to just prevent chronic disease, the smoothie recipe would be a healthier choice in general. If you’d like to have juice, consider getting a juicer that blends and retains the pulp and skipping any sweeteners like honey or sugar. Whether it’s honey, raw sugar, or sugar, it still contributes to your calories and sugar intake without much extra nutrients.

These recipes are suitable as a drink paired with a high-protein, high-fibre small breakfast like boiled eggs or some wholemeal bread, or as a breakfast or snack on its own. It’s not recommended to be drinking this as a drink together with heavy main meals because the calorie and carbohydrate content of each recipe can already almost considered half to one full meal!

For most people, eating the whole piece of fruit and vegetable is always recommended over drinking smoothies/juice, because it’s easy to overeat when taking it in a liquid form (all the fibres broken up and won’t have a satiating effect). It’s fine to enjoy it once in a while for variety, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a super healthy drink, because nothing beats whole fruit and vegetables! However, if you are malnourished, having difficulty putting on weight, are experiencing a hypermetabolic (high metabolism) medical condition like cancer treatment or lung disease, or have a poor appetite, liquid smoothies/juices can be a great way to get nutrition in your body without feeling too full.

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