One of the things that a lot of people do when they try to get healthy is that they start drinking juices and smoothies. And this is not just people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Most of the public thinks that juices and smoothies are healthy. But are they really?
First, let’s talk about juices. By juices I mean separating the juices of a fruit or vegetable from the fiber (or pulp) in that fruit or vegetable. This applies to the 100% all natural juices that you can buy at the grocery store and the juices you can make at home with a juicing machine. Or even by just squeezing the juice out of an orange for example (as in fresh squeezed orange juice). What you have in a glass of juice is a bunch of vitamins and minerals but also a load of sugar. And that sugar has no pulp or fiber to slow down its absorption once it hits your stomach. So, you are taking in a sugar bomb that is slightly more nutritious than a soda. Unfortunately, it has the same impact on insulin release as a soda.
For a refresher on why a sugar bomb releasing insulin is a bad thing, please refer back to my post on sugar and cancer. But the short story is that high levels of insulin lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, both of which are significant risk factors for breast cancer recurrence and the development of many chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables in their whole forms have enough fiber that they release their sugars slowly without a huge spike in insulin. But not the juices. Since they have no fiber to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, they cause a big insulin spike.
Next, let’s address the healthiness of smoothies. By smoothies, I mean taking a whole fruit or veggie and putting it in a blender and blending until it is drinkable. Now in this case, you have preserved the fiber in the fruit or vegetable, but you have pulverized it. Pulverized fiber does not slow down the absorption of sugar as much as intact fiber. Is it better than no fiber at all as in a juice? Yes, probably. But it is still not the same as eating the whole fruit or veggie with fiber intact.
The other benefit of eating a whole fruit or veggie is that you will eat it more slowly, may get full sooner, and actually consume fewer calories. Whereas when you are drinking down that smoothie, you can consume a lot of calories before you get close to feeling full.
Finally, commercially available smoothies frequently have added sugars. It doesn’t matter if those sugars are “natural,” they are still added sugars that you don’t need. They also may have other artificial ingredients to improve their shelf lives. If you are trying to avoid processed foods, commercially produced smoothies should be avoided as well.
So, juices and smoothies are not ever going to be as good for you as eating the whole fruit or vegetable. Put the blender away and grab a piece of fruit.
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