Blending up a juice or a smoothie is a great way to reach your daily fruit and veg intake as well as clean the fridge of any leftover bits and pieces. Not only are smoothies and juices a concentrated source of nutrition, but they are also an easy way to ingest a large amount of vitamins and minerals in a relatively small volume, making them a perfect addition to your daily eating routine. But it's important not to go overboard. So if you like to juice, or often substitute in a smoothie for a meal, here are the ways to strike the perfect nutritional balance with each.
Juicing has been associated with positive health outcomes for many years with a number of health programs and regimes completely dedicated to juicing. While juice can be a concentrated source of vitamins, living off juice alone is not healthy long term nor recommended. Rather, juice can be a nutrient-rich addition to the diet when you get in the right mix of fruits and vegies, and work to keep your overall intake of sugars controlled.
Many people do not realise that fruit juice contains a lot of sugars. These sugars are naturally occurring, but it takes at least three to four pieces of fruit to make a decent-sized juice serve, which translates into a drink with up to 80g of sugars per large serve. This is a concentrated source of energy that few of us really need.
Vegetable-based juices on the other hand offer numerous health benefits for far fewer kilojoules, along with plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Unlike the average fruit juice which contains 30-40g of sugars per 300ml serve, a mixed vegetable juice contains roughly half of this with 20g of sugars and 400-500 kilojoules per serve.
Pack your juices with vegies to give you a healthier nutrient lift. Photo: Steven Siewert
Brightly coloured vegies such as carrots, kale, spinach and beetroot are particularly good additions as they are packed full of phytonutrients which are known to play key roles in keeping the body's cells healthy. These vegies are also rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A which acts as an antioxidant and further protects cells from damage.
As vegie juices can be a little tart, adding a mix of one piece of fruit with three to four other vegetables (such as orange, beetroot, celery and carrot) can strike a good balance between taste and nutrition. Where possible it is of benefit to leave as much of the skin and fibre bulk from vegies in the juice.
Another way to boost the overall nutritional profile of the juice is to add herbs and spices such as ginger, mint, turmeric, garlic and parsley. Herbs and spices have no kilojoules, add extra vitamins and minerals to juices and some, including ginger and turmeric, have a growing evidence base to support their use for medicinal purposes.
Blueberries add antioxidants and just a small amount of sugar.
Unlike juices, smoothies contain more kilojoules, and in some cases more kilojoules than an entire meal thanks to the mix of high-kilojoule ingredients including yoghurt, fruits, syrups, avocado, nuts and seeds. While these are all healthy foods, it is the combination consumed within a single drink that can equate to as many as 2000-2500 kilojoules per serve.
In saying that, it is entirely possible to create a nutrient-rich, kilojoule-controlled smoothie, all you need to do is pay attention to the mix of ingredients you are combining. Firstly start with a milk base and keep in mind that oat milk, rice milk and almond milks can all contain added sugars, so make sure you are seeking out unsweetened varieties.
Next, add fruit to help sweeten the smoothie: half a banana, a handful of berries, kiwi fruit or cubes of mango are all vitamin C-rich fruits to boost the nutrient-profile of your smoothie. It is also very easy to slip some extra vegies into the drink, with kale, celery, spinach or cucumber mixing well with the fruits to again add extra vitamins and minerals to the drink.
To thicken the smoothie there are a number of options. Greek yoghurt can add protein and also probiotics, while avocado or nut spread will add essential fats and vitamin E. To keep fats controlled, choosing just one of these options is your best bet.
To finish, some people will add some extra honey or coconut water to further sweeten the smoothie. The issue is that this tends to add more sugars and bump up the overall kilojoule load of the drink. Better options include using cinnamon or vanilla to sweeten the drink, or add lemon in a fruit and vegie smoothie to improve the flavour of the mix. The other trick is to always blend your smoothie with lots of ice to achieve a frothy consistency and create a refreshing yet kilojoule-controlled mix of your favourite fresh ingredients.
Susie Burrell is one of Australia's leading dietitians known for her practical, easy-to-understand approach to diet, nutrition and wellbeing.