Juices and smoothies have both earned huge followings in the health and fitness community in recent years, with fans extolling the health-giving benefits of each. While both smoothies and juices are a good source of fruits and vegetables (and hence plenty of nutrients), the differences between the two drinks mean they affect your body in different ways and, therefore, are suited to playing different roles in your healthy diet.
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of juices vs smoothies to figure out which is better for your health.
What is the difference between a juice and a smoothie?
Juices and smoothies are both beverages prepared from a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and sometimes other ingredients, but the way each is prepared and the end result is somewhat different.
Juices are prepared by a special machine that extracts the flavour, water and nutrients from whole ingredients, leaving behind the skins and pulpy fibre which are generally discarded (although some juices do include a small amount of pulp for texture). Hence a juice tends to be thinner in consistency and more “liquid” than a smoothie.
A smoothie is usually prepared in a blender which mashes up the ingredients whole, leaving the skin, pulp and other solid matter in the final mixture. This results in a beverage that is much thicker and less fluid than a juice, especially if ingredients such as soy milk, yoghurt, grains or seeds are also added to the recipe.
Due to the different ways in which they are prepared, juices and smoothies offer slightly different nutritional benefits. In the following sections we’ll look at these differences and how they influence your body.
Which contains more nutrients – smoothies or juices?
Both smoothies and juices are made chiefly from fruits and vegetables, and hence provide plenty of nutrients that help your body function at its best. However, there is some debate over which offers a higher or more concentrated dose of nutrients.
Many advocates of juicing argue that because the juicing process condenses the raw ingredients into a smaller, more compact form (essentially by removing solid materials and leaving only the liquids), it is possible to fit more servings of fruits and vegetables into a single glass of juice, therefore providing a larger quantity and variety of nutrients in a single shot. However, others point out that the very act of removing the nutrient-rich skins and pulp from the juice prior to serving lowers its nutritional content, as many important vitamins and minerals will be lost along with the discarded materials. Smoothies may be bulkier and hence less concentrated, but they do retain all the nutrients in the original materials, as nothing is removed during the blending process.
The fibre content of smoothies vs juices
Fibre plays an important role in moving waste through the digestive system and keeping you regular, and also provides bulk that can help prevent overeating by helping you feel full for longer. It also slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping ensure a steady stream of energy rather than a sudden spike in blood sugar levels followed by a crash.
Because the skins and pulp of the fruit and vegetable ingredients are removed during the juicing process, juices usually contain little to no fibre. Smoothies, on the other hand, do retain these materials, and hence provide nearly as much fibre as whole fruits and vegetables. In this respect, smoothies do provide a nutritional advantage that juices cannot. However, juices may be preferable if there is a problem with your digestive system or you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to process fibre.
Protein in juices and smoothies
Protein is an essential building block for your body. Not only does it play a vital role in cell development and function but, similarly to fibre, it helps slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, thus regulating your energy levels and helping you feel full and satisfied for longer. Hence it is important to ensure your diet contains a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, ideally by including some protein and carbs in each meal or snack.
Because juicing focuses on extracting the fluids from fruits and vegetables in order to produce a liquid beverage, it generally doesn’t contain other ingredients which could boost its minimal natural protein content. Just about any ingredient can be blended into a smoothie, however, so these drinks often contain yoghurt, soy or cow’s milk, flax seeds, wholegrains and other foods that add healthy fats and protein to the smoothie. This creates a more balanced food that will give you a wider assortment of nutrients, as well as a slow, gradual release of energy throughout the day.
The role juices and smoothies can play in your diet
While smoothies do offer some nutritional benefits that juices do not, both beverages can form part of a healthy, balanced diet as long as you keep the pros and cons of each in mind and moderate your consumption accordingly.
Because of their high protein and fibre content, smoothies are more filling and provide a better blend of protein and carbs to support your body’s nutritional needs. As such, they can easily stand in for a meal (breakfast smoothies are particularly popular) or serve as a balanced snack to keep your energy levels up during a gym session or long afternoon at work.
On the other hand, juices are low in protein and fibre and so are far more quickly absorbed i, particularly if they’re made predominantly from fruit, which is naturally high in a form of sugar called fructose. As such, they provide a quick hit of energy, but may not sustain you throughout the day and could leave you feeling tired and hungry after the initial sugar rush has subsided.
For this reason, juices are usually not ideal to serve as a stand-alone meal or snack. However, because juices do offer a concentrated infusion of nutrients in a form that’s quick and easy to consume on the go, they can be an efficient way to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables when you feel your diet is lacking. Try to focus on leafy green vegetables rather than fruit or high-glycaemic vegetables such as carrots or beets – these have a lower natural sugar content and hence won’t cause as extreme a spike in your blood sugar levels.
The fluid content of juices also makes them a good way to keep your body hydrated, so if you’re looking for a sweet drink, a natural fruit juice is far better than a fizzy drink, although you should minimise your intake of both if you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels or watching your weight.