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Is it better to drink smoothies or juice?

Smoothies and juice are both popular beverage choices that offer important nutrients. While both can be part of a healthy diet, there are some key differences between the two. This article compares smoothies and juice to help you decide which one may be better for you.

What are Smoothies?

Smoothies are made by blending together fruits, vegetables, dairy products like yogurt, milk or ice cream, and sometimes other ingredients like nuts, seeds, protein powder or sweeteners. The blending process incorporates all parts of the fruits and vegetables, including the fiber-rich peel and pulp. This makes smoothies thicker and provides more texture than juice.

Common smoothie ingredients include bananas, berries, leafy greens like spinach, nuts like almonds, seeds like chia or flax, milk, Greek yogurt, nut butter, protein powder, cocoa powder and honey or maple syrup to sweeten. Endless flavor combinations are possible.

While ingredients vary, a typical fruit-based smoothie may contain around 200–300 calories in a 16–24 ounce (475–710 mL) serving. Veggie smoothies are often lower in calories, while smoothies with added nut butter, avocado, protein powder or other ingredients can be higher.

Making smoothies at home allows you to control the ingredients and tailor them to your own dietary needs and preferences.

What is Juice?

Juice is made by mechanically squeezing or macerating fruits or vegetables to extract the liquid contents. The pulp and skin are then filtered out, leaving only the juice behind.

Common juices are made from fruits like oranges, apples, pineapple and grapefruit. Vegetable juices may contain spinach, kale, carrots, celery, beets and other greens or produce.

Some juice is raw, meaning it’s unpasteurized or untreated. However, most commercially produced juices are pasteurized to allow storage for longer periods. They may also contain added flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives.

An 8-ounce (240-mL) serving of fruit juice typically provides around 110–200 calories, while veggie juices are lower in calories. Drinking juice lacks the fiber content obtained from eating whole produce.

Nutrition Comparison

Both smoothies and juice can contribute valuable nutrients to your diet, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Antioxidant compounds like carotenoids

However, there are some key nutritional differences between the two:

Nutrient Smoothies Juice
Fiber High in fiber as whole fruits and veggies are used Low in fiber since pulp and skin removed
Sugar Contains natural sugars from ingredients like fruit Can be high in natural and/or added sugars like fruit juice concentrates
Protein Can add high-protein ingredients like Greek yogurt, milk or protein powder Low in protein
Fat Can include healthy fats from nuts, seeds or avocados Very low in fat
Vitamins and minerals Good source of vitamins and minerals from whole ingredients Contains vitamins but lower in some minerals without pulp and skin
Calories Around 200–500 calories depending on ingredients used Around 110–275 calories per 8 oz serving

As shown above, smoothies retain the fiber content of whole fruits and vegetables. Fiber is important for gut health, digestive regularity, heart health and stabilizing blood sugar levels after meals (1).

Smoothies also tend to be higher in protein and healthy fats, while juice is very low in both. Protein and fat can help you feel fuller for longer after drinking a smoothie (2, 3).

While juice contains vitamins, some mineral content is lost when the produce pulp and skin are removed. Smoothies retain a more complete nutritional profile.

Both beverages have natural sugar from the fruit and/or veggies. However, juice concentrates are sometimes added to boost the sweetness of juice. Going for low-sugar varieties when buying juice can help limit added sugars.

Satiety and Weight Management

Drinking smoothies or juice can affect appetite and weight control in several ways:

Smoothies

  • The fiber and protein in smoothies helps you feel fuller for longer, compared to juice (4).
  • Chewing smoothies requires more effort than drinking juice, which can make you feel like you’ve eaten more.
  • Made with produce and protein, smoothies can be nutrient-dense choices and replacements for less healthy foods.
  • However, watch your portions. Large or high-calorie smoothies can contribute excess calories, leading to weight gain if consumed frequently.

Juice

  • Despite being low in fiber and protein, juice contains minimal solid content and therefore doesn’t promote fullness as well as smoothies (5).
  • Drinking liquid calories from juice is linked to increased hunger and calorie intake later in the day compared to eating solid produce (6).
  • Juice has less chewing resistance compared to whole produce, making it easier to overconsume (7).
  • Given the lack of fiber and protein, juice isn’t very filling. Pairing it with a snack or meal can help prevent overeating later on.

Overall, smoothies are typically a more filling choice due to their fiber, protein and thicker consistency. But for weight management, portion control is key for both.

Processing and Fiber

Blending and juicing produce affects its structure and fiber content:

Smoothies

  • Blending pulverizes produce but maintains some fiber and cell walls.
  • Leaves some produce particles intact for you to chew.
  • Results in a more complex nutritional profile.

Juice

  • Juicing ruptures cell walls and removes pulp and skin.
  • Extracts liquid contents but disrupts fiber content.
  • Leaves minimal bulk or particles.

Chewing smoothies and their fiber content can benefit dental health and digestion (8).

That said, both processing methods diminish some vitamin content, especially vitamin C and folate. Minimal exposure of produce to air and blending right before drinking can help minimize nutrient loss (9).

Antioxidant Content

Polyphenols and carotenoids are antioxidant compounds in produce that can help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in your body (10).

Since different processing methods alter these plant compounds differently, the antioxidant capacity also varies between smoothies and juice.

Studies comparing antioxidant markers in juices versus smoothies made from carrots, tomatoes or red cabbage observe:

  • Greater antioxidant capacity and polyphenol content in juice over smoothies (11).
  • Higher carotenoid levels in smoothies made with raw vegetables compared to juice (12).

In smoothies made with fruits like berries, apple, pineapple and mango, both drinks seem comparable regarding general antioxidant activity (13, 14).

So antioxidant retention differs based on the specific produce used. Overall, both smoothies and juice can provide antioxidants, but juices may offer a greater polyphenol boost.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods spike your blood sugar levels. Lower GI foods help control blood sugar.

For people with diabetes, prediabetes or other blood sugar concerns, the GI is one consideration when choosing between smoothies and juice.

Studies indicate:

  • Most juices have a high GI around 65–85 due to their high natural sugar content (15).
  • Smoothies tend to have a moderate GI around 40–65, but this depends on ingredients used (16).
  • The fiber, fat and protein in smoothies helps slow the absorption of their natural sugars, lowering their GI.

Overall, smoothies are generally a better choice for managing blood sugar. But low-sugar juices like those using tomatoes or cruciferous veggies may also fit into a low GI diet.

Cost Comparison

Both homemade and store-bought smoothies and juices can fit into most budgets:

Smoothies

  • Inexpensive to make at home using simple ingredients like bananas, spinach, nut butter and milk.
  • More costs involved when using prepared ingredients like protein powder, fresh berries and nut milks.
  • Premade smoothies from shops and brands cost $4–8 for a 16–24 oz serving.

Juice

  • Relatively affordable to make at home if you already own a juicer. Produce can account for most of the cost.
  • Premade juices cost around $5–9 for a 16 oz bottle, depending on the brand and ingredients.
  • Juicing kits that provide produce cost around $5–10 per serving.

For the best budget option, blending basic smoothie ingredients at home provides an affordable and nutritious beverage. Premade versions of both tend to cost more.

Preparation and Convenience

Both homemade and store-bought smoothies and juices can be convenient options:

Smoothies

  • Quick and easy to blend up in 5 minutes at home.
  • Requires minimal equipment like a regular or personal blender.
  • Can batch prep and freeze portions for later.
  • Available premade in various flavors at smoothie shops and stores like grocery and convenience stores.

Juice

  • Juicing at home takes 10–15 minutes and requires a juicer machine.
  • Some cleanup of juicer parts needed after use.
  • Can batch juice and store chilled up to 72 hours.
  • Found premade in many grocery stores, cafes, juice bars and shops.

Smoothies are simpler to whip up at home. But both provide an easy way to incorporate produce into your diet when on the go.

Taste Preferences

Personal taste factors may also direct your choice between these two options:

Smoothies

  • Creamy, thick texture from blended whole ingredients.
  • Can tweak flavors with mix-ins like cocoa, nut butter and vanilla.
  • May be grainy or chalky if not blender thoroughly.

Juice

  • Thin, light texture goes down quickly.
  • Clear look shows off vibrant colors.
  • Can lack flavor dimension or complexity compared to smoothies.

Some people dislike the texture of smoothies, while others find juice boring to drink. Trying both can help determine your personal preference.

Potential Downsides

Smoothies and juices also come with a few potential downsides:

Smoothies

  • High in natural sugar if mainly fruit-based, risking weight gain if over-consumed.
  • Can oxidize and lose nutrients quickly unless consumed right after making.
  • Raw greens or cruciferous veggies may contribute bitter flavors.

Juice

  • Lower in fiber, protein and fat leads to poor satiety.
  • Natural and added sugars spike blood sugar.
  • Nutrients oxidize quickly during storage.
  • High juice intake linked to tooth enamel damage.

Being aware of these drawbacks can help guide how you choose to enjoy smoothies and juice.

Conclusion

Both smoothies and juice can be healthy options when made with nutrient-dense whole ingredients. Smoothies tend to be richer in fiber, protein and healthy fats, while juices may contain greater polyphenol antioxidants.

For overall nutrition, meal replacement and weight management smoothies edge out juice a bit. But both provide vitamin and phytonutrient benefits.

To maximize benefits:

  • Use primarily vegetable-based ingredients for both smoothies and juice.
  • Add protein and healthy fats to smoothies.
  • Limit natural and added sugars in juice.
  • Consume within 24 hours and limit oxidation.
  • Aim for small serving sizes, such as 8–16 ounces.

At the end of the day, listen to your body, budget and taste preferences to decide if smoothies or juice fit better into your lifestyle.

Both can be part of a healthy, balanced diet when consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.