Kale has become one of the most popular superfoods in recent years. This leafy green is packed with vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. Kale provides a wide range of health benefits, including improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and better digestive health. With the rise in popularity of juicing and blending, many people are turning to kale smoothies and juices to increase their intake of this nutritional powerhouse.
But should you juice or blend kale? Is one preparation method better than the other? Here is an in-depth look at the pros and cons of juicing versus blending kale.
Nutrient Differences Between Juicing and Blending Kale
The biggest difference between juicing and blending kale is the amount of fiber retained. Juicing extracts the liquid and leaves behind the fiber. Blending pulverizes everything, including the fiber, into a smoothie-like beverage.
Fiber is an important part of kale’s nutritional profile. It helps regulate digestion and promotes feelings of fullness. Fiber may also help lower cholesterol levels and control blood sugar spikes. By removing the fiber, juicing eliminates many of these benefits.
However, the juicing process does make the nutrients in kale more bioavailable. The plant cell walls are broken down, allowing for better absorption of vitamins and minerals. Blended kale retains the fiber, but the nutrients may not be as readily absorbed.
Here is a comparison of the nutrient content in a 1-cup serving of raw kale versus kale juice and blended kale:
|Nutrient||Raw Kale||Kale Juice||Blended Kale|
|Vitamin A||10,302 IU||12,366 IU||10,302 IU|
As you can see, juicing does increase some vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C. But it lacks the important fiber content of blended kale.
Health Benefits of Juicing vs. Blending Kale
The biggest health advantage of juicing kale is the increased absorption of carotenoids like lutein and beta-carotene. These antioxidants are associated with better eye health and reduced risk of certain cancers. Removing the fiber makes it easier for the body to access these nutrients.
However, the fiber in blended kale smoothies comes with its own set of health benefits. The fiber promotes fullness and helps feed the good bacteria in your gut microbiome. It also slows down the absorption of sugars from the kale and other ingredients in a smoothie. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Fiber is also important for regular bowel movements and good digestive health. The insoluble fiber in kale can help move material through your digestive tract to prevent constipation.
Both juicing and blending kale provide vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, iron and a wide range of antioxidants. These nutrients support immune function, lower inflammation, improve heart health, build strong bones and provide other benefits.
Taste Differences Between Kale Juice and Smoothies
Taste is another consideration when deciding whether to blend or juice kale. Kale has a bitter, earthy, almost medicinal flavor. Juicing kale concentrates these strong tastes.
Blending kale dilutes the unpleasant flavors while still providing the nutrition. Adding ingredients like bananas, mangos, pineapple, avocado, coconut water, almond milk and dates can make kale smoothies quite tasty.
Juicing kale requires extra ingredients to mask the bitterness. Lemon, ginger, apples and carrots help balance out the earthy tones. But kale juice still retains a pretty potent medicinal taste.
Here is a comparison of a basic green juice versus green smoothie:
|Ingredients||Kale Juice||Kale Smoothie|
|Kale||2 cups||1 cup|
|Cucumber||1 medium||1/2 medium|
|Lemon||1/2 lemon juiced||No lemon|
|Ginger||1-inch knob, peeled||No ginger|
|Apple||1 medium||No apple|
|Banana||No banana||1 medium|
|Medjool dates||No dates||2 pitted|
|Water||1 cup||1 cup|
As you can see, the green juice uses lemon, ginger and apple to mask the strong kale taste. The smoothie relies on banana and dates to provide sweetness and a creamy texture that makes the kale more palatable.
Preparation and Storage
Preparation and storage also differ between kale juices and smoothies. Juices require a high-powered juicer machine to extract the liquid from the fibrous greens. These appliances can be expensive, ranging from $100 to $400 for a quality juicer.
Blending simply requires a standard blender, which most people already own. You also have to prep and store the leftover fibrous pulp from juicing kale and other ingredients. This pulp should be used right away in soups, broths or baked goods to avoid wasting nutrients.
In terms of storage, both kale smoothies and juices need to be consumed pretty quickly. The nutrients start oxidizing and degrading within a few hours. For maximum freshness and nutritional value, juice or blend kale right before drinking.
Juices may separate and need to be shaken or stirred before consumption. Blending the kale leaves the fiber in, so smoothies retain a more consistent thick texture.
Cost Comparison of Juicing vs. Blending
Dollar for dollar, blending kale is more affordable than juicing. Producing kale juice requires a more expensive appliance. And since you aren’t retaining the fiber, you need more kale to get an equivalent amount of nutrition.
|Item||Juicing Cost||Blending Cost|
|Appliance||$150 juicer||$50 blender|
|Kale (per cup)||$0.50||$0.25|
As you can see, the equipment cost plus extra kale makes juicing more expensive per serving compared to blending. Over time, these costs can add up, making blended kale smoothies the more budget-friendly option.
The Bottom Line
So should you be juicing or blending your kale? Here are some key takeaways when deciding between these two preparation methods:
- Juicing maximizes absorption of carotenoids and vitamins, but removes healthy fiber.
- Blending retains the fiber for gut health, but the nutrients may not be as bioavailable.
- Juices tend to be much more bitter and potent tasting than smoothies.
- Blending is quicker, easier, and more affordable than juicing.
- Both juices and smoothies need to be consumed shortly after preparing.
In the end, blending kale into smoothies is likely the better choice for most people. You retain the important fiber content while still getting a concentrated dose of vitamins and minerals. The fiber also helps smooth out the strong bitter taste of kale.
However, juicing does have some advantages for absorption of specific antioxidants. Using both preparation methods can ensure you get a range of health benefits from kale. Try making kale juices occasionally for a potent nutritional boost, while relying on smoothies for more frequent antioxidant-rich drinks.
Experiment with green juice and smoothie recipes to find ingredient combinations you enjoy. Add other superfoods like spinach, swiss chard, parsley, celery and cucumber to boost nutrition. Use lemon, ginger, berries and other fruits to add flavor. Creating tasty, vibrant kale juices and smoothies lets you reap the many benefits of this incredible leafy green.