According to studies cited by a Harvard School of Public Health article, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day—and a wide variety of them to get the many nutrients we need—offers numerous health benefits. Doing so can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, improve our gastrointestinal health, and even protect our vision from conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
I’ve read in several places that the Harvard School of Public Health used to suggest eating from five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. They have now developed the “Healthy Eating Plate,” a visual guide to how much of each type of food we should consume each day. You’ll see that half of what you eat should be fruits and vegetables, leaning more toward vegetables than fruit.
Unfortunately, and perhaps no big surprise to most of us, in the U.S. we eat far fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than is recommended. HealthDay summarizes a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that revealed that only 24 percent and 13 percent of us meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, respectively.
Why are we such poor fruit and veggie eaters?
Is it because we don’t like the taste of these nutrient-filled foods. In most cases probably not—what’s not to love about fruits and vegetables? We’ve either never learned how to prepare them well, or many of us simply lack the time to prepare them in our jam-packed days of raising kids, going to work, walking dogs, exercising, and all the other things we fit into our daily lives?
Regardless of the reason, something has to change. In part, this is why I started Saladmenu.com. I needed to improve my diet in this way, too.
As I was making this change, I noticed that many people had begun juicing and blending both fruits and vegetables. They were trying to get in those recommended servings and the nutrients they packed by drinking what they believed to be nutrient-dense beverages. In particular, I noticed a huge trend toward consuming juices and smoothies that involve green vegetables such as kale, cucumber, spinach and others.
This made me wonder, is one preparation method better than the other from a nutrition and health standpoint?
What’s the difference between juicing and blending?
With juicing, as the name implies, you’re simply pressing the juice out of whatever fruit or vegetable you’re preparing. In blending, you’re throwing in the whole fruit or vegetable, skin included in many cases, and simply pulverizing it into a consistent, somewhat thicker drink.
A 2012 study by Texas A&M looked at the nutritional value of the resulting beverage from processing grapefruits by either hand-squeezing and juicing versus blending. In general, the blended beverage had much higher levels of phytochemicals—seven times higher levels of naringin, a phytochemical believed to have anti-oxidant and other healthful benefits.
While the higher levels of phytochemicals offered by blending win me over pretty quickly to blending, I think it’s equally important that you’re getting the additional fiber that remains present in the blended smoothies. Plus, if you’re juicing fruit, you’re getting a lot more sugar for the volume that you prepare. With blending, that sugar is spread out over a lot more volume due to the extra fiber.
For a great rundown on the benefits of blending over juicing, read Green Smoothies Vs. Green Juices – Which Is Better? I thought it hit on the key reasons for choosing blended smoothies over juices—it certainly convinced me.
Choosing a Blender to Make Smoothies
If like me, you believe that smoothies help solve the problem of getting the nutrients you may be missing, then you may find yourself on the market for a blender. I know that I want a blender that can make a great fruit smoothie, but that’s also capable of breaking down tougher and more fibrous greens like kale. From the same site that discussed why green smoothies are superior to green juices, I found this excellent, fairly recent review of blenders by price point.
Superfood Salad or Smoothie?
Here’s a thought: Buy all the ingredients to make my latest Superfood Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing recipe, and then prepare and enjoy this exquisite salad. Then mix it up a bit, using those same green vegetables in some of the many recipes for green smoothies available through a simple online search. Be sure to let me know what you think of the salad, and share your favorite smoothie recipe in the comments area.