Is it better to put milk or water in a smoothie?

Smoothies have become an increasingly popular way to get a nutritious breakfast or snack on the go. Blending together fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into a cold, thick drink provides a tasty and convenient alternative to sitting down for a formal meal. When making a smoothie, one of the most basic decisions is whether to use milk or water as the liquid base. Each has its pros and cons from a health and taste perspective. This article will examine the differences between milk and water-based smoothies to help you determine which option may work best for your needs and preferences.

Nutritional Differences

One of the biggest differences between milk and water-based smoothies is their nutritional profile. Here’s an overview of some of the key nutrients provided by each liquid option:


  • Protein – Milk provides 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, giving you a protein boost.
  • Calcium – 1 cup of milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium, which is important for bone health.
  • Vitamin D – Milk is fortified with vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption.
  • Vitamin A – Milk provides 10% of your daily vitamin A needs per serving.
  • Vitamin B12 – Milk is a good source of vitamin B12, which supports red blood cell formation.
  • Fat – Whole milk contains 8 grams of fat per cup, so opt for lower fat versions if limiting fat intake.


  • No significant nutrients
  • Calorie-free
  • Helps hydrate

As you can see, milk provides a powerhouse of important vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. Water offers hydration but no notable nutritional value. Keep this in mind when deciding between the two.

Calorie Difference

In addition to their different nutritional profiles, milk and water also vary in their calorie content:

  • 1 cup of whole milk = approximately 150 calories
  • 1 cup of 2% milk = approximately 120 calories
  • 1 cup of nonfat milk = approximately 90 calories
  • 1 cup of water = 0 calories

Water is the clear winner when it comes to limiting calorie intake. However, milk provides more nutrients to potentially justify the extra calories. If managing calories or blood sugar levels is a priority, water may be the wiser choice for your smoothie base.

Taste Differences

Milk and water also impact the taste and texture of smoothies in distinct ways:


  • Creamy, smooth texture
  • Muted fruit flavor
  • Sweetness from lactose
  • Potential “dairy” aftertaste


  • Thinner, more icy texture
  • Allows fruit flavor to shine through
  • No additional flavor contributions
  • Let’s other ingredients’ flavors come through

Whether you prefer the richer, creamier texture of a milk-based smoothie or the lighter fruitiness of one made with water is a personal choice. Water is better if you want the flavors of the fruits and other ingredients to take center stage, while milk creates a smoother, sweeter profile.

Cost Difference

Cost is another consideration when choosing between milk and water for smoothies. Milk is clearly the more expensive option, with a gallon of milk costing anywhere from $2.50-$4.00 versus virtually free tap water in most areas. However, if you already regularly purchase milk, the incremental cost of using some for smoothies may not be significant. Just something to factor in when deciding.

Health Benefits of Ingredients Commonly Added to Smoothies

In addition to milk and water, many other ingredients can be added to smoothies to increase their nutritional value and health benefits. Here are some of the top choices:

Greek Yogurt

  • Protein – Up to 20 grams per 6 ounce serving
  • Calcium – Provides 20% of the RDI per serving
  • Gut-healthy probiotics

Chia Seeds

  • Fiber – 10 grams per ounce
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Protein – 4 grams per ounce


  • Vitamin A – 56% of the RDI per cup
  • Vitamin K – Over 600% of the RDI per cup
  • Folate – 14% of the RDI per cup


  • Fiber – 8 grams per tablespoon
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Lignans – Antioxidants that may reduce cancer risk

Hemp Seeds

  • Protein – 10 grams per 3 tablespoons
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Fiber – 2 grams per 3 tablespoons

Adding any combination of these “boosters” to your smoothie provides extra nutrition and health benefits beyond the base ingredients alone. They are great options whether you choose to use milk or water as the liquid.

Blending Tips for Milk vs. Water-Based Smoothies

Not only do milk and water impact smoothie nutrition and taste, they require slightly different techniques when blending:


  • Pour milk in blender first, then add soft ingredients like fruits, yogurt, greens last.
  • Use caution not to overblend milk to prevent curdling or separation.
  • Avoid blending hot ingredients like coffee with milk.


  • Order doesn’t matter as much when adding water.
  • Can blend as long or as vigorously as desired.
  • Ice cubes blend best when added last.

Following these tips will give you the most appetizing final results, no matter which liquid you choose.

Potential Health Issues to Consider

While both milk and water can be used to create a nutritious smoothie, there are some potential health issues to keep in mind:

Milk Considerations

  • Lactose intolerance – Some lack the enzyme to properly digest milk sugar.
  • Milk allergy – An immune response to milk proteins.
  • Increased phlegm – Milk can trigger extra mucous production.

Water Considerations

  • Illness from unsafe sources – Use filtered water if quality is uncertain.
  • Overhydration – Excess water can flush out electrolytes.
  • Pollutants – Some tap and well water may contain heavy metals or toxins.

Being aware of these potential downsides can allow you to take steps to reduce any risks when selecting your smoothie ingredients.

Sample Recipes Using Milk and Water

To pull everything together, here are a couple smoothie recipes highlighting the use of milk and water:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Milk

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Creamy and decadent!

Mixed Berry Smoothie with Water

  • 1 cup mixed berries
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 5 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients together until fully combined and icy cold. Bright fruit flavors!

The Bottom Line

When it comes to deciding between milk and water for your smoothies, there’s no universally “right” choice. Milk provides more nutritional benefits, protein, and a richer texture, while water is lower in calories and cost and gives brighter fruit flavor. Any potential health issues like lactose intolerance may also influence your decision.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference and priorities. Try smoothies with both bases and see which you enjoy more. Either milk or water can be used to create a tasty, healthy blended drink.

Just remember to include plenty of fruits, veggies, and boosters like yogurt, seeds, or greens. With the power of these ingredients, you’re sure to get a nutritious beverage no matter which liquid you use for the base!

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