To juice or not to juice, that is the question…

To juice or not to juice, that is the question

There is no getting away from the current juicing trend but is it really good for us? Well, the answer is not a simple one, as it all depends on what you put in, how you make your juices and even how and when you drink them.

Juice vs Smoothie: Fibre is the key ingredient.

Let’s start with the difference between juice and smoothie. A juice, made with a juicer or press, typically does not include fibre from the fruit or vegetables, which means that the sugar in your apples, oranges and even carrots is rapidly absorbed in the gut leading to a spike in your blood sugar (which in turn requires a rapid rise in insulin, a process that in the long run increases the risk of type 2 diabetes).

Juices still contain nutrients though, especially if they are freshly pressed, but those long-life cartons from the supermarket are unlikely to contain any natural nutrients although some are added during processing.

PurpleCarrot TIP: if you are having a juice, hopefully fresh, have it as part of a balanced meal including good protein, fat and plenty of fibre to dampen the sugar rush from the juice. And don’t have juice with every meal, water is best.

Smoothies made in a blender or processor rather than a juicer still contain the fibre, both soluble and insoluble that we find in fruit and vegetables. Soluble fibre, found in apples, carrots, berries, celery, cucumber, oat bran, seeds and nuts, slows down sugar absorption and improves insulin sensitivity which helps prevent type 2 diabetes. Another benefit of soluble fibre is that it makes you feel fuller and therefore helps control your weight.

Insoluble fibre, found in green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and the skin of most fruits and root vegetables, helps prevent constipation. Some authors believe that blenders destroy the fruit and vegetable fibre to the point that it will not help reduce the impact of the fruit sugar on our blood but we need more research on this area.

PurpleCarrot TIP: Choose a high-fibre smoothie (made in a blender or processor) over a juice and always try to make them fresh or drink them within a few hours to preserve nutrients. Avoid anything long-life, pasteurised, and of course, with added sugar or made from concentrate.

Ingredients…the fresher the better

Since any juice or smoothie will only be as nutritious as the ingredients you put in it, go for seasonal, as fresh as possible and if available organic produce. Some good-quality frozen fruits such as berries are a good option when they are out of season.

Some vitamins and antioxidants such as vitamin C and chlorophyll [1] found in fruit and vegetables maybe damaged during cooking so it can be beneficial to have some raw fruit and vegetables everyday – such as salads, crudités or in smoothies.

Fruit versus vegetables – go for green!

Vegetables contain much less sugar than fruit and therefore do not raise blood sugar levels as quickly. Some fruits are also higher in sugar than others: mangos bananas and grapes are rather high in sugar while kiwi fruit, apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and citrus fruits have low to moderate levels of sugar.

Also, according to research studies, large amounts of fructose, found in fruit juices and other sweetened drinks, can be rapidly converted by the liver into fat, which contributes to weight gain, and can also lead to liver disease [2].

PurpleCarrot TIP: When juicing and blending choose lower-sugar fruits and combine them with vegetables such as spinach, kale, cucumbers and celery. Try a ratio of 70% veggies – 30% fruit.


Juices, even the green ones contain calories, so they are not a substitute for drinking water. One a day, as part of a balanced diet, can be a good source of nutrients, especially if you find it hard to eat at least 5 portions of veg a day.

When to have them

There is no ideal time to have a juice, it depends on when you have time to make them. Breakfast appears to be a popular time to get the blender out which is a great idea as part of a balanced breakfast including good protein and fats such as eggs, yogurt or avocado.

Another good o​​ption is as a pre-workout snack as they are high in carbohydrates to give you short-term energy to hit the gym fully powered. After a work-out, add some protein (nuts, seeds, yogurt) to aid mu​​scle recovery.

An now that summer is finally upon us, how about making your favourite smoothies into ice-lollies?

Can we turn a smoothie into a meal?

It is possible, if you are in a rush in the mornings, to whip up a nutritious smoothie to drink on your way to work. However, you would need to add protein and fat to your smoothie to turn it into a balanced meal to keep you going until lunchtime.

You can make a green smoothie and add ground seeds (flax and chia are great as they are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats) or nuts, probiotic yogurt, good quality protein powder if you don’t mind the texture or flavour to add protein and fat. You can also add some oat bran to increase fibre, especially if you are adding any juice to blend your smoothie. A little coconut oil or extra-virgin olive or rapeseed oil can help round up your breakfast by adding healthy fats.

I would not advice anyone to substitute meals with smoothies/juices on a regular basis. It is important to chew and enjoy your food and some research shows that “liquid” meals may not satiate our appetite and end up making us eat more later. Additionally, juices and smoothies do not provide all the nutrients we need on an on-going basis and relying on them could lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Here are some recipes and a list of recommended ingredients for you to get creative. Let em know what you think and share your fav recipes!!

The Minty – 3 handfuls baby spinach, 1 kiwi fruit, juice of 1/2 lemon, ¼ cucumber, ½ apple and 10 mint leaves (or more if you like). Water or coconut water to blen​​d.

Ginger snap – a handful of blueberries, celery, ¼ cucumber, and 2cms peeled ginger piece, a little water to loosen it up a bit

The protein punch – 1 whole avocado, ½ cucumber, ½ lemon juice, 2 handfuls baby spinach, ½ papaya. Water to blend.


[1] Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli

J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2009 Aug; 10(8): 580–588. Gao-feng Yuan Bo Sun Jing Yuan and Qiao-mei Wang

[2] Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr. 2015 Apr; 4(2): 109–116. Metin Basaranoglu Gokcen Basaranoglu, Elisabetta Bugianesi