In the heat of summer, there is nothing more refreshing than a big smoothie or a glass of fresh juice. But are smoothies and juices actually healthy? When it comes to your health, which is better?
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer to that question. When it comes to smoothies vs. juices, the choice depends on what you need as an individual.
What Is the Difference Between Smoothies and Juices?
A smoothie is a pureed beverage that can contain a wide variety of ingredients. It typically contains some type of liquid, like a fruit juice or milk, ice, vegetables, and fruits. But smoothies can range from plain to filled with superfoods like chia seeds or spirulina. Smoothies are made in a blender and contain all parts of the ingredients contained in the smoothie, including the insoluble fiber of the fruits and vegetables being used.
Juices don’t contain any fiber, as the process of juicing extracts the liquid and separates it from the fiber. Juices are made in a juicer and can contain any blend of a variety of fruits and vegetables. The texture is much thinner than a smoothie because it’s purely liquid.
Are Smoothies Healthy?
Smoothies have a lot of good going on. They are more satiating than juices because all the fiber is included and additional foods can be used to increase satiety even further. Foods like protein powders, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, etc. can all help boost the protein, fiber, and healthy fat intake. When you include the necessary macronutrients, a smoothie can be a complete meal. Many people wonder, “Are smoothies healthy for breakfast?” The answer is yes! But what you put in the smoothie is what makes the difference between a healthy smoothie and a big glass of sugar!
To make a healthy and filling smoothie, you want to focus on including the following five things:
1. Leafy Greens
Greens are king in smoothies! There are many varieties to choose from and each one packs its own nutritious punch. Greens are nutrient-dense, meaning they have more nutrients than calories. Nutrients include vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and magnesium. When you add greens to your smoothie, it’s not only providing crucial vitamins and minerals, but also fiber.
Options for greens to add in your smoothies include but are not limited to kale, spinach, watercress, romaine, arugula, cilantro, parsley, and microgreens. Have fun with it and experiment using different leafy greens.
Fruit is underrated as a source of fuel in smoothies. Fruit contains essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Fruit is also a major source of glucose, which is necessary for proper brain function, as glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain. Brain fuel is important, and including fruit in your breakfast smoothie will help feed your brain to tackle the day ahead.
Some great options for fruit to include in your smoothie are blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, mango, banana, apple, pear, orange, pineapple, and papaya. Switch up what fruits you use to get the largest variety of vitamins and minerals as each fruit has its own unique health properties.
Protein is a must in smoothies, as it increases satiety, which helps prevent you from feeling hungry 30 minutes after you drink your smoothie. It would be a shame to make a big smoothie, drink it, and be starving shortly after. Protein helps eliminate this issue. A recent study found that the research participants who drank a high-protein, high-fiber beverage protein were less hungry, had a decreased desire to eat, and a reduced subsequent food intake in comparison with the control group participants who consumed a low-protein, low-fiber beverage. Adding protein to your smoothies not only helps to keep you full but also provides amino acids that are necessary for energy balance and longevity.
There are many ways you can add protein to your smoothies. A clean protein powder like hemp protein, egg white protein, or pea protein are options. You can also incorporate different nuts and seeds like almonds, hemp, chia, or pumpkin seeds. Nut butters like sunflower seed butter or almond butter also provide protein.
Added fiber in smoothies does wonders for digestive health and keeping your system regular. Fiber comes in two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps keep you fuller longer, and insoluble fiber is beneficial for cleansing the digestive tract and eliminating constipation. Fiber also plays a role in satiety so your smoothie will keep you fuller longer.
The good news is that a couple of the smoothie items listed above contain plenty of fiber! Leafy greens and fruit have fiber. You can incorporate additional fiber by adding foods like celery, cucumber, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or psyllium husk to increase the fiber content even more.
Fat in a smoothie? Yes! Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to play an important role in brain health, including reducing the risk for depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Think of omega-3 fatty acids as brain fuel. And when you’re having a smoothie, it’s all about fueling your body.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids that you can use in your smoothies include avocados, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds.
When you incorporate leafy greens, fruit, protein, fiber, and fat in a smoothie, it becomes a nutrient-dense meal that can nourish your body and provide energy, which is exactly what you want in a meal! It can be consumed for breakfast or as a nutrient-dense snack.
Another benefit of smoothies is the fact that they are pureed. Blending breaks down the foods so your teeth don’t have to. Imagine if you had all your smoothie ingredients in a big bowl. You’d have to chew everything and essentially puree it in your mouth before swallowing. When you have a smoothie, everything is already pureed for you, so it’s easier for the body to digest and absorb nutrients.
Are There Healthy Juices?
As mentioned, the process of juicing removes the fiber from the fruits and vegetables to bring you pure, unadulterated liquid nutrition. It extracts the juice from the pulp of the fruit or vegetable that is being used. Dietary fiber is essential for digestive health and an important part of your diet. Since juicing removes all the fiber, I don’t recommend a juice cleanse where you only consume juices. However, because juices are purely liquid, your body doesn’t have to process any of the fiber, fat, etc. like it does with a smoothie. The vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes present in the juice are absorbed into your body with minimal digestion required.
Juicing can be beneficial for individuals with compromised digestive systems. Studies have found that patients with gastrointestinal (GI) diseases like Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and ulcerative colitis, as well as those recovering from post-abdominal surgery can benefit from a low-fiber diet for a short period of time. A low-fiber diet reduces the frequency of stools, which can be beneficial in beginning remission of GI diseases. Once remission begins, I recommend re-introducing dietary fiber as part of a healthy diet as it’s essential for overall digestive health.
However, you don’t have to have a gastrointestinal disease to benefit from juicing. Juicing is a great way to incorporate more vitamins and minerals into your diet in a way that is easy on the digestive system. Juices make a great snack or supplement to a meal.
What Are Healthy Juices?
Healthy juices include a mix of both fruit and vegetables. If you only juice fruit, it ends up being a tall glass of sugar water. You will get vitamins and minerals, but the sugar content of it will be high, so you want to use more vegetables than fruit when making a fresh juice.
When making your juice, including water-rich items as your base. They are more hydrating and this also saves you from using pounds upon pounds of produce! Celery and cucumber make a wonderful base for a juice, and you can add a multitude of different fruits and veggies to it. Carrots also work well as a base and pair wonderfully with fresh ginger root.
Simple Juice Recipes
The following are some quick and easy juice recipes to try:
- 1 bunch celery, 1 cucumber, 1 apple
- 8 carrots, 1 orange, 1” piece of ginger root
- 1 bunch celery, 8 spears asparagus, 1 apple
- 6 carrots, 1 bulb fennel, 1 apple, 1” piece of ginger root, 1 lemon
Different Types of Juicers
Having some juice is easier if you have a juicer. The different types of juices are described here.
- Centrifugal: This is the most affordable option when it comes to juicers. It’s a faster process, but doesn’t provide as many benefits. Centrifugal juicers use very high speed to extract the juice, which can cause oxidation of nutrients. This process leads to loss of enzymes so you don’t get as many nutrients from your juice. Centrifugal juicers also extract the least amount of liquid.
- Masticating: This is the best option for an at-home juicer. It uses a slow pressure method to extract juice so it preserves more nutrients and doesn’t oxidize as quickly as juice from centrifugal juicers. It’s pricier, but worth it if you want to get the most value.
- Cold-pressed: Cold-pressed juicers are pro-level. They are expensive, but provide the most benefits of any juicing method. Cold-pressed juicers grind the food and then press it to release the juices. This extracts the most nutrients and the results last up to four days with minimal nutrient-loss.
Juicing Can Positively Affect Your Cardiovascular Health
Fruits and vegetables are healthy, but juicing them is proven to provide benefits much deeper than a burst of vitamins and minerals. Consuming fresh fruit and vegetable juices can lower blood pressure and improve blood lipid profiles to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Juices also have anti-inflammatory effects and possess high levels of antioxidant properties.
A Quick Recap About Smoothies vs Juices
Smoothies contain the whole fruit and vegetable in a pureed texture. The fiber is included and it is a more filling, complete meal when you include greens, fruit, protein, fiber, and fat. Are they healthy for breakfast? Yes!
Juices do not contain any fiber—only the juice extracted from the pulp of the fruit or vegetable. Juicing can provide many health benefits, but does not take the place of a complete meal as it lacks dietary fiber and macronutrients like fat and protein.
Now that you are well-versed about the difference between juice and smoothies, and juicing and blending for that matter, you can make your informed decision about which is the best option for you. Remember to always choose what is healthiest for your body—you are an individual, so your health is unlike anyone else’s.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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