Is Cold-Pressed Juice Healthier than a Smoothie?

jars of colorful pressed juices

Are you a smoothie or pressed juice fan? Recently, cold-press juicing has become a very popular trend among consumers and in the prepared foods industrySeveral companies have made a name for themselves creating tasty and presumably healthy juices. BluePrint Juice, Juice Press, Green and Tonic, Organic Avenue, and Pressed Juicery are just a few of the popular brands with storefronts across America.

What is cold-pressed juice?

Cold-press juicing is the process of extracting the juice from fruits and vegetables without causing heat damage to the nutrients that are being extracted. Exposing fruit to heat and light actually causes many vitamins and minerals to break down. Vitamin C, for example, is particularly reactive when it is heated.

Cold-Press Juicer

Cold-pressing is a slightly longer process and produces less waste than centrifugal juicers, which can cause oxidation to your juice. The argument for cold-press juices is that they are easier to digest than eating a full fibrous piece of produce because your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break it down. The nutrients are readily available for your body to absorb thus putting less strain on your digestive system and giving your system a quick boost of vitamins and minerals.

The issue with a traditional juicer, also known as a centrifugal juicer, is that it heats the produce that you are trying to juice. Heat treatments are usually the most cost effective for companies, however, research indicates that thermal processing can have negative effects on the available nutrients. When nutrients are subjected to heat they oxidize, which inevitably makes the final product less nutritious.

Vege to fruit ratio should be 3:1 to avoid too much sugar

Cold-press juicing is all well and good; however, juicing becomes unhealthy when large amounts of fruit are added to a juice. For example, most juices contain apple (at the very least) as the primary fruit ingredient. The average apple contains 19 grams of sugar. If you are eating an apple, the sugar does not affect you as much because the fiber in the fruit’s skin slows down your digestion of sugar.

Fiber is extremely important for our digestion and research has determined that eating your fruit will keep you satiated for longer. For this reason, you will feel fuller after eating one apple than you would after drinking the juice and nutrients from one. Because of this, you could easily end up drinking 2-3 apples in a juice without realizing it. Not to mention the lack of fiber will cause your blood sugar levels to spike, and will most likely leave you experiencing sugar cravings for the rest of the day. (You may want to revisit our previous post on sugar to understand more about how your body processes it!) Conversely, no one is going to suffer adverse sugar and health effects by eating whole fruits.

It can be very difficult for your body to handle all of that sugar at once, especially when many of these “healthy” juices exceed 40g of sugar per bottle…that’s more than a can of Coke! And while sugar from fruit is easier for your body to digest than the refined sugar from a can of soda, it still spikes your blood sugar levels.  You’ve then left craving more and more sugar— and when you go back for more, you probably won’t be grabbing an apple.

If you’re buying a prepared juice, you want to make sure the veggie-to-fruit ratio is at least 3:1, preferably with the primary fruit as a lemon. And more often than not, it’s better to skip any juice that contains more than one fruit.

Finally, you should be wary of how much waste juicing creates. Although cold-press juicing wastes less than centrifugal juicers, a 16oz juice wastes approximately 4.5 pounds of perfectly edible produce! Think of all the fruits and veggies you are throwing away that would keep you fuller for longer while also reducing waste.

Dirt-to-Dinner pick: Smoothies

Unlike juices, smoothies typically utilize the whole fruit and/or vegetable so the fiber is incorporated. Because of this, you can include a little more fruit than you would with juices, but be sure to make smart choices and not overload yourself with sugar. As with the juicing process, when blending your smoothies, you’ll want to use a mixer, like a Vitamix, that doesn’t subject the produce to too much heat, thus oxidizing, or breaking down, the nutrients and making them less abundant.

Smoothies can also be a great vehicle for incorporating protein in your diet. Using hemp seeds, chia seeds, almond butter, plain yogurt or your favorite protein powder, you can make a quick, nutrient-dense, protein-packed breakfast or snack on the go.

Microbiomes at Work

cell in a microbiome

All living creatures live in microbial communities of bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses. Microbes are everywhere, keeping humans, plants, and animals healthy and thriving. They are critical to life on earth!

It is generally understood that a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good health. So, we take our vitamin supplements, drink kombucha, and make sure we feed our probiotics with prebiotics. And while we understand the importance of good bacteria and a healthy gut, microbial research is still in its infancy. In fact, its potential applications are just beginning to impact human, animal, and soil health.

Companies in this space are developing revolutionary products that will change the way we incorporate good bacteria into our daily lives. Scientists are turning sugar into a prebiotic, applying animal feed technology to human health, and using strains of bacteria to help crops resist pests and diseases. At the agriculture conference, Davos on the Delta, the Dirt-to-Dinner team was introduced to some of the companies on the forefront of these microbial technologies.

Animal Microbiome: Keeping our livestock healthy

Farmers are under pressure to reduce or completely eliminate the use of antibiotics and hormones in animals. (Want to learn more about this? Read our posts on animal antibiotics and hormones). While vitamins made specifically for animals have been used for years to keep livestock and poultry healthy, the development of pre- and probiotics take animal welfare to a whole new level. By giving livestock these types of supplements, farmers are able to help their animals’ immune systems fight off diseases. A healthy animal will cost a farmer less time to manage and will create a better animal product.

Bactana Corporation focuses on the infinite ways an animal’s microbiome, immune system, and metabolism interact. They are producing safe, effective and inexpensive alternatives to antibiotics and hormones for animals using anaerobic bacteria strains. Clinical studies have demonstrated a decrease in intestinal inflammation, an increase in milk production, and improved feed efficiency and weight gain.

Diamond V is an animal feed company that uses proprietary fermented yeast technology as a feed supplement for dairy, poultry, swine, aquaculture, beef, and equine. They specifically utilize the bacteria strains Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus acidophilus to support an animal’s unique blend of bioactive metabolic compounds for optimum digestive and immune health effects.

The employees at the Diamond V animal feed facilities were beneficiaries of these fermented products as well. None of them were getting sick! Turns out, the employees’ exposure to these products were keeping their immune systems strong as well. Researchers and science continued to explore this connection, and a product for human consumption, called Epicor, was created. Epicor helps strengthen the immune system. (The Dirt-to-Dinner team can also attest that it works. We found that taking Epicor helped us avoid the colds and flu that were so rampant this past winter.)

Human Microbiome: Your Gut is your Second Brain

The microbiota in our gut weighs about 2.2 pounds and consists of 1,000 different species with 3 million genes. As humans, a third of our microbiota is the same as one another, but the remaining two-thirds is specific to our unique body. These bacteria help to digest our food, keep our immune systems strong, and help our bodies make and absorb vitamins. There are multiple connections between diseases and poor gut microbiota. (Want to learn more about this? Read our posts on Your Second Brain – Gut Microbiota).

Sugar has been demonized for a myriad of issues taking place in the human gut. But while conventional sugars, such as table sugar and fructose, are associated with unhealthy eating habits and disease, there are many other complex sugars in nature that act as healthy prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food for probiotics and a healthy gut microbiome is dependent on both for optimal health.

Two companies currently finding an application for natural sugars as prebiotics are Sugarlogix and Bonumose.  Sugarlogix has developed the technology to ferment “good” sugars into foods that can be sweet and healthy. Human breast milk, for instance, contains many healthy components, including good sugars. Could it be possible to duplicate these sugars in a lab and create a milk chocolate bar that tastes wonderful and feeds your healthy bacteria?

Bonumose is developing good-for-you sugars, such as tagatose and allulose, which are 92% as sweet as sucrose but have 38% fewer calories and an extremely low glycemic index. They also work with mannose, a prebiotic that can be used to treat various infections.

Grow Company, Inc. manufactures food flavors, natural coloring agents and animal and human health supplements. One of their primary products, Biogrown® vitamins and minerals, use probiotics as a sophisticated nutrient delivery system. For example, vitamin B can be hard for your body to completely absorb. By combining Saccharomyces cerevisiae, otherwise known as Baker’s Yeast, with Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a cultured yogurt, Grow Company has developed a way to help you properly digest vitamins and minerals, which may prevent gut maladies.

Soil Microbiome: Microbes for increased crop yield and health

There are large agri-science companies, such as BASF, BayerBioWorksCertis, DowDuPont, and Syngenta, involved with biological seed treatments or soil enhancements, but there continue to be new innovations in this space. (Want to learn more? Read our post on Soil Microbes in the Spotlight).

NewLeaf Symbiotics is one of the companies that has set out to answer the questions, “What if we could make plants healthier and help them overcome threats like pests, disease, and drought?” and “What if we could position growers to meet the needs of the growing population by strengthening crops – naturally?

Rather than looking at the whole array of soil microbes, NewLeaf Symbiotics focuses on the m-trophs, which are native-to-plant microbes. Sequencing this bacteria has enabled them to provide a potent force for plant immunity and nutrient uptake.

Holganix has created a complete ecosystem in a bottle, containing over 800 species of beneficial soil microbes among other ingredients. This mixture of microbes is applied to soil to help farmers use fewer inputs and increase yields.

Biome Makers has examined 22,000 microbial species in the soil relevant to vineyards. They make recommendations and provide analytical tools to optimize microbial activity for both grape growth and fermentation.

Agbiome isolates microbes from environmental samples across the globe to create biological pesticides that kill insects, fungal pathogens and weeds.

Indigo Agriculture develops microbial seed treatments to support crops grown under stress, which will naturally help them defend against pests and diseases. Indigo coated seeds have helped farmers increase their crop yields by up to 15% without added use of chemicals or water. In addition, Indigo will partner with farmers and offer a robust marketplace for their crops. For instance, farmers who grow Indigo wheat sell for a premium to breweries and flour mills that demand GMO-free and insecticide-free products.

How will CRISPR impact our food?

non-browning crispr mushrooms - Penn State
The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system is revolutionizing food and will be used in the near future to address global hunger, create more nutritious food, and grow more sustainable crops. It has the potential to positively impact all aspects of our global food system.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR is a gene-editing technology that actually mutates a gene within the plant itself.  Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley, the co-inventor of CRISPR, likens gene editing to editing a word document using the “find and replace” function. This means that CRISPR locates a specific gene within the plant genome and changes it in order to alter the traditional outcome. (Want more information on CRISPR technology? Read our post here).

You are probably wondering what the difference between GMO and CRISPR technology is? To put it simply, GMOs enhance a crop by taking a gene out of another organism altogether and inserting it in the crop, while CRISPR edits the existing gene within a crop.

This ingenious technology has the ability to expedite our traditional plant crossbreeding process. Remember: the food we eat today is not how it was found in the wild; plants have been cross-bred for millions of years to become the edible fruits and veggies we now know and love. CRISPR allows us to breed these plants sooner by at least three or four years.

From turning gene expression on and off to fluorescently tagging particular sequences, this animation explores some of the exciting possibilities of CRISPR.

“CRISPR is as profound a shift in thinking as genetics was in the 1970s.  Looking back from the future it will seem obvious.  We are just now comprehending the possibilities.” -Carter Williams, CEO, iSelectFund

From turning gene expression on and off to fluorescently tagging particular sequences, this animation explores some of the exciting possibilities of CRISPR

“CRISPR is as profound a shift in thinking as genetics was in the 1970s.  Looking back from the future it will seem obvious.  We are just now comprehending the possibilities.” -Carter Williams, CEO, iSelectFund

CRISPR is just one of the technologies shaping the future of the food supply chain.

The Dirt-to-Dinner team speaks with Craig Herron from iSelectFund at the Davos on the Delta Conference.

The Dirt-to-Dinner team recently attended an iSelectFund sponsored agricultural technology conference, called Davos on the Delta. We learned about what our food and agriculture system might look like in the future as technology advances. We met and heard from a number of innovative companies that are already revolutionizing the way we farm and the food we eat. At the helm of the conference was Carter Williams, CEO of iSelectFund, who hopes to encourage consumers to accept these revolutionary technologies all along the food supply chain.

As we listened to the speakers during the conference, it became clear that three critical innovations: CRISPR, microbiota and big data on the farm will affect the way we grow, process and eat our food. Stay tuned for more on microbes and big data.

What are some of the applications of CRISPR technology?

Scientists from AgroParisTech reviewed 52 peer-reviewed agricultural applications of CRISPR in order to better understand how CRISPR technology has been applied to various crops from 2014 to 2017.


It is very interesting that rice is the largest CRISPR application in a crop to date and is primarily being studied in China. The United States comes in second with CRISPR crops from the mustard plant, presumably because these crops can easily be tested and understood as a precursor for other crops.

How CRISPR will affect crop production

CRISPR will enable farmers to grow more dynamic crops, as opposed to the traditional corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola. They can mature faster, require less water, contain more nutrients…or even all three! Today, there are 30,000 different types of crops available, but our overall food system only relies on about 30 and, interestingly enough, 66% of our calories come from only eight crops.

Benson Hill Biosystems is a biotech company that helps farmers differentiate their crops with unique traits as well as predict crop trait outcomes by combining artificial intelligence and big data. They work closely with consumer products companies to make specialty foods; for instance, heat resistant chocolate from the cacao plant. Benson Hill has also patented a way for corn to enhance the photosynthesis process so that it can take more carbon out of the air while growing more quickly.

Using CRISPR to expand the geographical range of important food crops – Dec 2016

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York are changing the way we appreciate tomatoes. Using CRISPR, the tomatoes flower and mature two weeks earlier than traditional tomatoes. This means that farmers can grow two crops per season, inevitably becoming more profitable. This also gives consumers more tomatoes and allows farmers to grow the crop in more northerly latitudes. The best part? No more mealy tomatoes in the wintertime!

Corteva Agriscience (a merger of Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer) is growing the next generation of waxy corn. What is waxy corn, you ask? It has a high amylopectin starch that is used for consumer and industrial use. For instance, when you next enjoy a printed picture on high glossy paper, you can thank waxy corn for that!

Crops grown for industrial use will expand beyond starch, ethanol, and biodiesels. For example, your tires may soon be made from dandelions. Another small biotech company, Kultevat, has identified a Russian Dandelion that can make rubber exactly like the rubber from a tree. It is easier to grow, more sustainable, less expensive, and its byproduct can be used for fuel.

A more familiar name in this space, Monsanto, invested in Pairwise in order to address global food challenges via gene editing technology. They will initially focus on the major crops of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and canola. They licensed editing technology from Harvard University, but Pairwise will also work with other agriculture and food processing companies.

How CRISPR can solve global hunger

We need about 40 known nutrients to live healthy lives and right now there are 2 billion people globally who don’t have enough nutrition in their bodies when they go to bed, millions of those are children. Nutrient deficiencies prevent brain development, increases the chance of infections, and have serious social and economic repercussions. This doesn’t just apply to those in the developing world. For instance, many of us are literally starving ourselves of essential vitamins and minerals when we choose to eat an abundance of unhealthy foods over healthier options. Now with advancements in CRISPR, farmers will be able to grow crops that are biofortified – making crops more nutritious and shelf-stable.

Biofortification is when scientists breed crops to have more micronutrients and vitamins. You may already be familiar with the GMO-developed golden rice, rice made with Vitamin A to prevent night blindness and even death among those severely deficient in the vitamin. Rather than using transgenic technology, CRISPR is helping the larger agriculture science companies develop staple crops such as sweet potatoes, legumes and maize with iron, zinc, amino acids and proteins by tweaking the genetic code of the plant itself to make it more nutritionally diverse for those who have a monotonous diet.

Additionally, because of the long lead time to develop a crop, the larger agricultural science companies are better suited using CRISPR technology for biofortification.

Some of the companies leading the way with biofortified foods.

CRISPR in your grocery cart.

Some CRISPR edited crops are simply just to keep fruits and vegetables fresh and appealing. The non-browning mushroom from Yinong Yang and his team at Pennsylvania State University was the first to come to market. Harry J. Klee from the Plant Innovation Center at the University of Florida found the 13 important flavor components in a variety of different tomatoes. Editing the tomatoes to meet those components means an even better tasting tomato – especially in the wintertime.

Anti-browning mushroom developed by plant pathologist Yinong Yang using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology.

Nutraceuticals are also becoming a possibility. This means better health from the daily foods we eat. The Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Spain has created gluten-free wheat for those with celiac disease that will soon be coming to our own grocery shelves. According to the WSJ, DowDuPont will soon be selling CRISPR corn for healthy salad dressings and Calyxt will sell healthier vegetable oil.

What are the regulations surrounding CRISPR?

Currently, the USDA has chosen not to regulate CRISPR crops because there are no transgenics involved and the CRISPR results could have been done through cross-breeding. They do not see a risk present with CRISPR, not to mention that there is no way to tell the difference between a CRISPR crop or one which has been cross-bred. We hope this leads to a swift adoption of this amazing technology to make our crops more efficient, healthier, and more sustainable.

While the possibilities are exciting, the patent process is also something to keep your eyes on. Jennifer Doudna from University California Berkeley vs. Feng Zhang from The Broad Institute (M.I.T. and Harvard) have gone to court over who receives the patent over CRISPR- Cas9. The disagreement will continue in agriculture as Corteva (DowDuPont) is using the patent from UC Berkeley and Pairwise (Monsanto) signed a deal for their CRISPR/Cpf1 technology with Harvard and M.I.T.