The great debate in juicing

Juicing is not without controversy.

Juices or smoothies? Natural or organic?

Juicing versus smoothies

If you are bored someday and want to stir up some trouble, walk up to a juicing friend and tell him that you bought a new blender so you can make juices, too. Then look out!

Die-hard juicers are adamant that “juicing” refers only to creating juices in a juice extractor appliance. In fact, juicers who favor the centrifugal machine (lowest priced and most common) will even take sides with owners of pricier “auger” machines when they have to defend against the blender/smoothie/Vitamix™ crowd.

Smoothie aficionados seem to have more of an open-door policy. They are often amused at the strict juicing rules and have two questions for juicers:

Why are you wasting all of that good fibrous pulp?

What do you do about getting enough protein?

So what distinguishes a juice from a smoothie? Asked another way: what is the difference between juicing and blending?

The ingredients

Smoothies and juices are both made from raw vegetables, leafy greens, or fruit.

  • Organic fruit and vegetables are washed and added to the machine for both methods.
  • Non-organic produce must be peeled first.
  • Frozen ingredients are acceptable.
  • Certain soft seeds (melon, tomato, papaya) are allowed into a juicer, which would pulverize them.
  • Seeds are normally not included in smoothies.
  • Liquids such as milk, water or yogurt are added to smoothies.
  • Very rarely, coconut water is added to juice, after extraction.
  • Supplements like protein powder or chia seeds are put into the smoothie mix.
  • Juicerians would never allow this.

The machine

Manual citrus squeezers exist, as do electric blending wands, but most juicing and blending takes place in electrical counter-top appliances.

  • Blenders can be bought for as little $19 at discount stores.
  • Juicers start at around $150 and can go for an much as $1500.
  • Deluxe blenders that can even blend soup start around $400.
  • Blenders are simple to clean after use. The base of the carafe unscrews so the blades can be washed.
  • Juicers take a little more work to clean. The stainless steel mesh screen must be scrubbed, the pulp catcher needs to be rinsed or cleaned, and the feeder chute and main bowl and pitcher need to be washed.

The method

  • For smoothies, everything can be added all at once to the blender.
  • The operator can choose between settings (puree, whip, mix).
  • Liquid can be trickled in through an opening in the top to better control consistency.
  • For juices, the produce must be fed through the top and pushed down into the machine.
  • This can be a slow process.
  • All output from the blender is consumable immediately.
  • The juicer separates water and nutrients (juice) from fibrous pulp. The pulp can be discarded or used for baking or frozen for future smoothies.

Do some households own both types of machines, a juicer as well as a blender? Absolutely! In fact, there are some recipes that call for extracting juice and then continuing by adding the juice with ingredients in a blender.

Go experiment if you have two machines. But for goodness’s sake, just don’t call a smoothie a juice!

The dirty dozen: Why organic matters for juicing

Juicing provides us with so many wonderful nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Ironically though, because of the heavy use of pesticides in our conventional food supply, we need to remove peels and skins that harbor the most exciting, concentrated micronutrients.

One solution to this wasted opportunity is to buy organic produce for your juicing. Organic fruits and vegetables still need to be carefully washed, of course, but unless their skins are too thick for your juicer, you can throw them in as you juice.

Organic produce can cost as much as twice the cost of its conventional counterparts! But until organic food is more prevalent in our stores, spurred on by consumers’ demands, the prices will remain high.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a watchdog group in Washington focusing on the food and pesticide industry. They publish the infamous “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. (Think: Mr. Blackwell’s list of the 10 Worst-Dressed Academy Award Attendees.)

Sadly, with the exception of potatoes, all of the items on the list are very popular for juicing.

The bottom line for consumers, according to the EWG, is that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” (Reference: Executive Summary, 2013: ) They continue by stating that eating conventionally-grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

Just be careful to follow peeling advice for non-organic members of the list, before juicing them.

The Dirty Dozen

Here’s the Dirty Dozen™ … but wait, there’s more! They now have an expanded list, the Dirty Dozen™ Plus …

See how many of these you have in your refrigerator, waiting to be fed to young children or to be juiced.

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines – imported (from where??)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Kale/collard greens+
  14. Summer squash/zucchini +

Notice the + symbol? No, those are not quite runners-up; they are vegetables and leafy greens that did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but they “were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.” Exceptionally.

(It can be enough to make you want to crawl under the covers with a bowl of ice cream, eh?)

The Clean Fifteen

There is some good news. The Environmental Working Group concurrently released a list of their “Clean Fifteen™”

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet corn (not field corn, which is genetically modified/GMO)
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangos
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas (most Hawaiian papaya is GMO)
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas – frozen (On their website, they had a photo of sweet peas in the shell)
  15. Sweet potatoes

It is reassuring to know that someone is looking out for us in this realm. And it is also good to know that there is a variety of good, tasty, and colorful choices on the good list.

(If you have not tried sweet potatoes in your juicer, you are in for an amazing taste sensation. Just be aware that the texture may feel a bit chalky in your mouth. Try cutting it with orange or grapefruit juice for a very refreshing treat!)