Best Juicers and Blenders – A Complete Guide For Beginners
Hey! I’m Paige, thanks for visiting my blog! I’m a yoga, healthy eating and smoothie/juicer enthusiast! On my blog you’ll find everything you need to know about smoothies, juices, blenders and all the rest that comes with it! I may even write a little bit about yoga!
Anyway, I’ve written a beginner’s guide to making the journey of churning out your own smoothies! This all started because a few months ago I had a chat with a couple of my guy mates and I told them I was blending my own smoothies in the morning. Firstly they were like ‘Huh?’ because they didn’t really think about chucking everything in together and mashing it all up! Secondly, even if they did, they said they wouldn’t even know where to start! So, chatting to them formed the basis of this post. They’ve read it, they understand it, and hopefully the novices amongst you will also find it easy to understand! If not, drop me a line! 🙂
Juicing Vs Blending
Plenty of people use the terms “juicing” and “blending” interchangeably, but they are actually very different processes, resulting in very different drinks. The clue is in the name, as blending literally blends everything in the machine together: skin, pulp, juice, it all becomes a thick smoothie. Juicing, however, takes chunks of fruit and vegetables and extracts the juice from them, leaving the dry, fibrous pulp behind as a by-product and separating the thin juice out for drinking.
Whether you decide to blend smoothies or become a fan of juicing – or a little bit of both, like me – will depend on a lot of things, like your health goals, your tastes and your resources. I’ve whizzed up this guide (forgive the blending pun; I’ve got beverage on the brain!) to explain what the pros and cons are of both juicing and blending, and to walk you through which gadgets are the best for each, how to look after them properly, and why it’s a really great thing to be able to make smoothies and juices yourself at home.
I’ve already confessed that I don’t take sides when it comes to choosing between juices and smoothies. I like them both for different health reasons (check out: why we should drink smoothies), and they are both delicious, so I’m going to give you the low-down of the good and the bad on both sides. A lot of people out there in the blogosphere are ardent supporters of one or the other, and make a lot of one-sided claims about their benefits, so hopefully this balanced take on things will help you feel truly informed about the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Juicing A Juice
Juicing is great because you get a really refreshing, thirst-quenching and light drink. A juice’s high liquid content makes it so hydrating, which is great for your body. Juices are perfect in the summer, or for between meals when you don’t want to fill up too much but you do want a boost of vitamins and minerals.
They pack an incredible nutritional punch because of how concentrated the goodness is: by removing the bulky fibre, there’s much more room in the glass – and your stomach – for the vitamin-rich juices. This means that you could get triple the vitamin C from 200ml of juice than from 200ml of smoothie, which dilutes the juices alongside the fibre content and any added liquids like almond milk, cows’ milk, or coconut water. It has also been claimed that the insoluble fibre content of fruits and veggies makes it harder for your body to absorb the full nutrients of the produce (with about 70% being used), while removing the insoluble fibre in juices allows the body to use up to 100% of the available nutrients from the drink. Because your body doesn’t have to work as hard to process the heavy, fibrous smoothie, the nutrients from juices are absorbed super fast to give an almost-instant boost when feeling unwell, or perhaps exhausted from an intensive exercise session. They are also particularly suitable for anyone who has to follow a low fibre diet (e.g. if you have IBS) but still wants to have a good intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.
However, you may not want to follow a purely juice-based diet, or even make more than one a day because the highly concentrated fructose (natural fruit sugars) are absorbed so fast – due to the lack of fibre which normally slows things down – that it can actually present some health problems if you overdo it. From headaches to dizziness to insulin imbalance for diabetic people, juices are best drunk in moderation. Not only that, but while it really is the best feeling to guzzle that zingy, cold, hydrating juice after a work-out, everyone needs adequate amounts of fibre in their diet for proper digestion, so juice should not replace meals, but simply be a delicious dietary supplement.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Juices sound incredible; why would I make smoothies?!”, but hold tight, my friend. Keep on reading, because while smoothies can’t offer the same levels of hydration, the same speed of absorption, and the same mega-boost of vitamins, they do have their own fantastic and numerous benefits.
Blending A Smoothie
Smoothies are fab because they are more filling (REALLY filling, in fact!) which means you won’t be so tempted to snack or eat junk food through hunger. This can make them an excellent part of a weight-loss diet, or just a really handy and fast meal replacement when you’re in a rush or on the go. Their high fibre content is a health benefit: did you know it doesn’t just keep you “regular”, but also helps fight against heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer?! That’s why doctors keep talking about the health benefits of whole foods, because you shouldn’t cut out the fibre from your diet. The fibre also slows down the fruit’s sugar release, making it less problematic for blood sugar levels when drunk on a regular basis, or by diabetics. Another healthy benefit of smoothies is how well they hold onto their nutrients; smoothies are much less likely to oxidise and lose their nutrients, so it’s no problem to blend one up and pop it in the fridge to enjoy in a few hours’ time. They are also less acidic than juices, so they are kinder to the enamel on your teeth, and they are fast and cheap to make (requiring a fair amount less fruit and vegetables than juices).
Aha! So now you’re confused, right? Well, I really think they are both brilliant in their own ways, so try a balance of the two, or pick one which speaks to you more with its health benefits, flavour and texture. Personally, I love a juice when I get back from a run, or an hour before lunch when I need a pick-me-up but don’t want to fill up too much. I love a juice when I’m tired and flagging and want a strong vitamin boost. But smoothies are perfect when I’m pacing around the kitchen, ravenous, opening and closing cupboard doors to look for snacks. And they are perfect as a fast breakfast, because they almost always include a good hit of fibre, carbs and protein to start your day right.
Why Should I Get My Own Blender?
When you want to start making smoothies and juices a part of your diet, there’s only one sensible option, which is to buy the equipment to make them yourself at home. Here’s why:
…Money, Money, Money
Have you seen the price of smoothies and fresh juices in coffee shops and juice bars?! If you wanted a juice AND a smoothie each day, it’d cost you around $15/£9 a day in the shops, which adds up to a shocking (assuming you have 3 smoothies a week for a year) $2,340/£1,404 over the course of a year! Much better to invest in a decent machine to use at home, and then buy the ingredients you need for your daily drinks. That’s not to say I never, ever buy one, or that you shouldn’t, but it makes a lot more sense for that to be the occasional quick fix rather than part of your daily routine.
Blenders, especially, can be bought very cheaply, so the initial investment doesn’t have to be a splurge anyway. Later on, I’ll talk you through some of the products available, and which ones are worth buying.
… The Health Perks
Not only is it much cheaper to make your own drinks at home, but smoothies and blenders whizzed up in your kitchen are likely to be even healthier than those you can buy out and about.
Firstly, you can be 100% certain about the contents of your drink. You don’t need to worry that there might be hidden preservatives, colours or any such nonsense. If you have allergies or intolerances, you can be completely in control of them.
Secondly, you can add any ingredients you want to tailor your drink to your health goals. When I first started juicing, I took the opportunity to add extra green leafy veg to my fruit juices, because I had been feeling a little run down and tired. I thought the extra iron couldn’t hurt, and when I did it every day, I really felt the benefit. Kale, spinach, even herbs like basil (which tastes divine with strawberries, by the way), it all adds up. If you tend to get hunger cravings, you can up the protein content of your smoothie by including a scoop of all-natural nut butter (you can get some delicious varieties, with no sugar or salt added. Hazelnut is my favourite, with cashew a close second!) If you’re staving off a cold, add cinnamon, Manuka honey (it has antibacterial properties) and a good dose of vitamin C from oranges and kiwis. Whatever your need, you can make a smoothie specifically to help.
Thirdly, if you’re using a juicer, you will have all that fibre left over when the juice is separated from the pulp. In the shop, you wouldn’t have this happy extra. While not particularly appetising as it stands, the pulp can be added to other things to increase the fibre content (think soups, smoothies, muffins, veggie burgers, or even give it to your dog or chickens!)
Fourthly (is that even a word?), you will be able to pick up and guzzle your drink the instant it is made – especially important with juicing because of the fast oxidisation process.
Fifthly (OK, I’m really doubting whether these are words now) the fact that they are so much cheaper to make at home means you can afford to have them on a daily basis, and get the regular nutritional benefit. If I had to buy all my juices and smoothies pre-made, I would only be drinking a fraction of the amount.
And finally, it’s just about the easiest way in the world to sneak veg into your diet. I have literally ticked the “5 a day” box as soon as I’ve finished breakfast, which means all the other good stuff I eat later on is just a bonus (and any not-so-good-stuff isn’t such a guilt-fest). People who manage to have the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day have healthier hearts, reduce their risk of having a stroke by 26%, and might even be reducing the chance of getting Alzheimer’s (or at least, delaying it).
What type of machine should I use?
So I think I’ve argued my case for blending and juicing at home, but it can be hard to know where to begin; people are always asking me which blender or juicer to buy, so I thought I would try and give a full answer here. As with the ingredients and the process, it will depend a bit on you: your health goals, budget, time constraints, cooking habits, kitchen space etc. All will become clear, I promise!
Food processors are the cook’s all-rounder, as they can slice and dice veg for a casserole, grate cheese for pasta sauce, and whizz up a batch of humous. They particularly appeal to people who cook a lot of different things and want just one tool to manage all jobs. Food processors may not be the best gadget for smoothies, though, as they are much more likely to leak than a blender. As well as that, they typically have a wider bowl, so your produce might escape the blade and have to be stirred by hand intermittently, to ensure it all gets mixed together.
Designed specifically to combine and liquify food, blenders are the ideal tool for making smoothies. Tall and narrow bowls ensure that everything gets blitzed and the drink is mixed evenly. They cope well with tricky items like frozen bananas, nuts and leaves, and they can make and hold large quantities of smoothie. The lid ensures there is no splatter around the kitchen, although the bowl and blade can be fiddly to clear up because of all the nooks and crannies.
THE PRO-OPTION: Nutribullet Pro 900w 15 Piece Set (£100)
No, it’s not cheap, but die-hard smoothie fans love the Nutri-Bullet for its simple efficiency. It will smash and blend whatever you drop into it (be careful with your mobile phone!) – seeds, nuts, ice cubes etc are all cut through like butter. It’s fast, sleek, and best of all, it’s easy to clean. This kit gives you the whole set-up, including a recipe book, as well as seeds you can add to your smoothies.
TOTAL GENIUS: Breville VBL096 Blend-Active Personal Blender (it’s under £30, people!) Blend-Active, where have you been all my life? The bowl is the bottle. Blend and go! No extra clean up, no spills, no fuss. Not only is this a great price but the single bottle bowl concept means you could make a different flavour smoothies for each member of the family without the time and hassle of washing the bowl out each time. Just fit the next bottle and blend again!
A GOOD ALTERNATIVE: if you want a larger batch of a single type of smoothie (or you’re planning to blend soups and dips as well as smoothies) go for a more traditional type of jug blender. Try this highly-rated Kenwood 3-in-1 blender.
Hand blenders have a little blade at the end of a handle, so there is no bowl or jug like there is with a blender. The advantages are that they are cheap to buy (sometimes under £10!), easy to store due to their compact size, and they are really easy to clean. Disadvantages include the potential for mess (though it’s avoidable if you use a high-sided container), the slower process – as you have to move the blender around to whizz different parts of the bowl to ensure you haven’t missed lumps, and the power: they do the job well with soft fruits, but if you’re thinking of adding frozen berries, frozen bananas, seeds or something tough like kale, you might be frustrated with the hand blender’s inability to cope. It’s my “in a pinch” tool if it’s all I’ve got available; it’s handy, but limiting.
My favourite: it’s got to be this Braun hand blender, and it’s only £15.
Juicers, as you know by now, work with fruit and veg at high speeds to extract all the moisture. The method they use to squeeze out all that lovely juice depends on the type: centrifugal juicers shred and spin the produce, while masticating juicers mash and sieve the produce. It may not sound like much of a difference, but masticating juicers (sometimes called “slow juicers”) are arguably better at retaining nutrients, because less oxygen is whipped in during pulverisation, and it doesn’t get so hot. Check out all my science words, yo!
Of course, because juicing is a more complicated process, and requires a more specialised piece of equipment, they tend to be more expensive than blenders.
BEST VALUE: Braun J500 Spin Juicer (at £80, it isn’t cheap, but cheaper than most, and it’s good quality)
This centrifugal juicer has two speeds to work with, so it can handle both soft and hard fruit and veggies, and it only takes 15 seconds to make a glass of juice. It’s also handy for saving on prep time, as the wide chute can take whole fruits, which can be a big relief when faced with the prospect of dicing an entire board of fruit. The difference between this and pricier juicers is how much juice is extracted from the produce; it does a good job but the remaining pulp is still fairly wet. This is fantastic as an occasional juicer (maybe a few every week). But if you’re going to be juicing every day, you might save more cash in the long run by investing in a more efficient juicer to begin with, and therefore needing to buy less produce each week.
HIGH END: the Sage by Heston Blumenthal Nutri-Juicer Plus (comes in under £200) is a masticating juicer with an even wider chute for whole fruit and veg, has 5 speed settings, and keeps produce cooler than many cheaper juicers (which helps to retain more nutrients). It’s got a generous 1.2l capacity, and – thank the Lord – it’s quick and simple to clean! It’s also pretty quiet to run, which is a nice bonus. It’s highly effective at removing moisture from produce.
ALL ROUNDER: This gadget (around £300 for this complete kit) deserves its own title because the Vitamix does everything: blending, juicing, mixing ice cream and sorbet, heating and blending soup… It’s the ultimate tool for the people in the overlapping part of the venn diagram: “serious about smoothies and juices” and “not in love with the idea of 100 different products on the kitchen sideboard”.
Keep it clean, people!
You will have noticed how I keep talking about whether certain products are easy to clean or not. Trying to remove the dried fruity crust out of the gaps and crevices in gadgets is JUST. NOT. FUN. So my first tip for machine care is to choose wisely to begin with, avoiding equipment with lots of tiny, tricky parts. After all, juices and smoothies aren’t the health foods they should be if they are full of bacteria from gross, crusty build-up.
The second tip – and the most important – is to NOT leave it too long to wash up. This one is often easier said than done, especially as the times I’m blending a smoothie or making juice are moments where I’m in a rush to get out of the door in the morning or whatever. But it is worth it. Every time I’ve “just left it for later” I have kicked myself so hard. It takes much longer to clean once stuff has dried. If you’re in a major rush, at least rinse everything off and do the proper washing later.
With some blenders (not food processors, or it may leak), a nice trick to speed things up is to fill the jug half-full with warm, soapy water and blend for about 15 – 30 seconds. To be completely thorough, cycle it through all settings to ensure every part is reached by the water. Rinse with clean water and you’re DONE. If you’ve blended with something more perishable like cow’s milk, then give it an extra wash with hot water or in the dishwasher.
If you’ve committed the sin of allowing crusty stuff to dry on, then do the soapy-water-blend by with an additional cup of white vinegar to really loosen things up. You may need to do this a couple of times.
The same rule about instant rinsing or washing applies to juicers, especially to the mesh sieve, which is a prime spot for stuff to get stuck. Any kind of scrubbing brush is the best help here (even a nail brush, or toothbrush for smaller corners).
Every so often, these gadgets need a full clean all over, just in case of spills. I find a cotton bud really helpful to get in tiny gaps around the base and lid.
When the jug on my blender or juicer looks a bit dull or sad, I run a lemon through it (add warm water for a blender) to put the shine back on.
One final word of cleaning advice: be careful washing electricals. I hope that’s obvious! Plugs, cables and the parts they connect to on the machine should never be placed in water. If they get dirty, use antibacterial kitchen wipes to clean them up and leave them overnight to dry.