Juicing or smoothie?

Healthful smoothies (clockwise from left) are Icy Carrot Cooler, It's Easy Bein' Green, Mixed Berry and Beet, and Green 'n Lean. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Combined ShapeCaption
Healthful smoothies (clockwise from left) are Icy Carrot Cooler, It's Easy Bein' Green, Mixed Berry and Beet, and Green 'n Lean. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

We need 5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That's a banana, 8 large strawberries, 12 baby carrots, 10 broccoli florets and 1 large sweet potato. Sound like a lot? Most of us don't come close.

So can we drink or fruits and veggies and get the same effect?

In the end, Tufts University says yes, juicing and blending are viable ways to include more fruit and vegetables in your diet. Ideally, eat them as whole foods, says Alice Lichtenstein, executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. "But juicing or blending could be the next best alternative if that's what works for you."

The downside is liquid calories are not as filling as whole foods, and it's possible to overdo it, calorie-wise. It's much easier to eat 3 cups of fruit in a smoothie or by juicing than eating 3 cups of fruit alone. You can consume a lot of calories and sugars in a short time, because the juicing machine does the initial steps of digestion for you. As a result, blood sugar may rise more quickly without the delay from chewing and the buffering of the fiber.

With smoothies -- grinding up fruits and vegetables with a high-speed blender rather than simply extracting the juice -- you can get more of the phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which is a good thing.

If the choice is between juicing and smoothies, go with the smoothies, writes Diane McKay, assistant professor at Tufts. "Include the skin if it's edible, so that you get the benefit of its fiber and other valuable nutrients."

Blending also allows the addition of other healthy options such as Greek yogurt, chia, flax and leafy greens, which can add calcium, protein, omega 3s and other vitamins.

The bottom line is you need fruits and vegetables in your diet. If juicing or a smoothie, helps you do that, all the better. Just be sure to include the calories in your overall count for the day. Use them as replacements for other things in your diet, particularly, foods high in refined carbohydrates.

Q and A 

Q: Are there any benefits to taking maca root? 

A: Maca is a plant that is a relative of the cruciferous family, and is native to South America. Its root has been consumed for centuries to boost endurance and energy, enhance fertility and as an aphrodisiac. Traditionally, the root has been cooked and added to soups, turned into porridge or prepared as a beverage. Today maca root is frequently found in pill form, or as a powder supplement that is commonly added to oatmeal, smoothies or juice. Consumers still use maca root to increase energy, endurance and fertility. It is also being used to help with anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, memory, hormonal imbalances and additional ailments, including osteoporosis, certain cancers, HIG/AIDS and tuberculosis, among others. Although there is preliminary evidence suggesting possible of maca root in enhancing fertility and regulating hormones, there is insufficient research supporting health claims in general. While maca root is believed to be safe, pregnant or lactation women, and people taking medications, should consult their physician before consuming. In addition, individuals allergic to related vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, should not consume it. -- Environmental Nutrition.

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