The Difference Between Smoothies and Juice: An RD Explains
Smoothie vs. juice. What’s the difference and what’s really better for you?
Today I’m sharing my perspective on smoothies and juice as a Registered Dietitian and certified beverage lover. Both of these delicious drinks have their place in a healthy and delicious diet. But it can be confusing to know what’s the best fit for you!
In this article, we’ll talk about the key differences between smoothies and juice. What they are, how they’re made, and how they can support your health and habits. You might be surprised to learn which one I recommend!
What is juice?
Juice is the liquid part of fruits and vegetables.
It is made by extraction, which means the liquid is separated from the rest of the plant. So by nature… it’s missing a few important elements from a full intact fruit or veggie!
Think about it: what happens when you squeeze an orange or celery stalk through a juicer? Water, sugar, color and micronutrients flow into your cup. But the skin, (most of) the pulp, and fiber are left behind.
This makes for some important characteristics of juice:
- Thin and liquid texture
- Little to no fiber
- Concentrated source of micronutrients
- Concentrated source of fruit sugar
- Does not contain additional macronutrients like protein or fat
These characteristics make a difference for satisfaction and health. But more on that later!
What is a smoothie?
A smoothie is a blend of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients.
It’s made by blending different foods together. Unlike juice, nothing is removed or extracted when a smoothie is made. So everything the original foods contain–water, nutrients, sugar, and most importantly, fiber–remain in the final concoction!
Because of this, smoothies are usually a thicker and more viscous texture than juice.
And nutritionally, they offer a bit more.
This is especially true when smoothies are made with other ingredients besides just fruits and vegetables. When you add foods like nuts, seeds or protein powder to smoothies, you’re adding protein, fats and possibly extra fiber too.
Here are some key characteristics of smoothies:
- Slightly viscous to thick texture
- Typically contain fiber
- Concentrated source of micronutrients
- Concentrated source of fruit sugar
- Usually contains additional macronutrients like protein or fat
Key Differences Between Smoothie and Juice
As you can probably already tell, the big difference between juice vs smoothies is in how they’re made. Juice is removed from the whole fruit or vegetable. Smoothies contain the whole fruit or vegetable, but blended up.
This small difference can make a big impact in how these drinks make us feel! And there’s a few notable distinctions that could impact long-term health too.
But knowledge is power! And understanding the difference between smoothies and juice means you can make a more informed decision. So let’s dive in!
Smoothies contain fiber and juices don’t.
Fiber is a component of plant foods that is great for your health. Here’s more info on what fiber is and how to eat more of it!
Juice doesn’t contain fiber because it’s removed during extraction. If a juice has pulp, it might have a small amount of fiber–but not a lot!
Smoothies contain fiber because nothing from the original fruit and vegetable is removed when it’s made. If a smoothie contains other plant foods like nut butter, flaxseed or oats, it will contain ever more fiber too!
Why does this matter?
Well, fiber slows digestion, stabilizes blood sugar and keeps us full for longer. And it’s good for lowering cholesterol and supporting gut health too. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber, and smoothies can help fill in the gap.
Smoothies and juice contain sugar from fruits.
Juice tends to be a more concentrated source of sugar because of how it’s extracted.
Think about it this way: it takes a lot of oranges to make orange juice. One navel orange contains 12 grams of sugar but a cup of juice contains 22 grams! That’s a big difference!
And juice doesn’t contain many other macronutrients like protein, fiber or fat, so it’s more likely to cause a blood sugar rollercoaster that leaves you tired, hungry and thinking about food.
Smoothies can contain a lot of sugar, but it depends on how they’re made. If it’s made with a lot of fruit or contains added juice, that might mean a lot of sugar too!
DIETITIAN TIP: You can slow your blood sugar response from juice by pairing it with a protein or fiber-rich snack! Also consider making your juice at home with a mix of fruits and vegetables.
Smoothies often contain more calories than juice.
This is because smoothies are usually made with other ingredients like milk, yogurt or protein powder that add extra nutrition and calories.
Important side note: calories aren’t everything. That particular smoothie contains almost 30 grams of protein–which will keep you full wayyyy longer than the lower calorie juice. So it’s hard to say what’s better. They’re just different… ya know?
Smoothies might contain more antioxidants than juice.
Both juice and smoothies can offer antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. But this study in the Journal of Food Science found that blending has an advantage over juicing! The research suggests that many antioxidants are bound with fiber, which is lost when juice is extracted.
There’s more potential for nutrient loss in juice due to heat processing and time in storage too. So if maximizing antioxidants is your goal, homemade smoothies or juices is the way to go.
Smoothies might support gut health better than juice.
‘Gut health’ is a bit of a buzzword that’s hard to define. But most dietitians agree that two important factors to consider for gut health are the gut microbiome and the ease and regularity of your poops. TMI?!
Because smoothies contain more fiber, they take the advantage here! Research suggests that dietary fiber promotes a more diverse microbiome, aka more of those good gut bugs. And fiber is well studied to promote regularity and prevent constipation too.
Juice can maybe still support gut health because antioxidants play a role as well. But that missing fiber matters!
Smoothies can be more filling and satiating than juice.
Satiety = not feeling hungry anymore.
A lot of things can impact that feeling. But what we know is that solids tend to be more satiating than liquids. And foods containing protein, fat and fiber tend to be more filling than foods containing just carbs and sugar.
Knowing all this, it’s no surprise that smoothies win out in the satiation department! Not only are they thicker and take longer to drink, but they usually have more protein and fiber too.
Juice and smoothies can both support weight loss–or hinder it!
A calorie deficit is all you need to lose weight. If you can consistently eat slightly fewer calories than your body requires over time, then you could drink smoothies or juices or even eat pizza… and still see the scale trend down.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Because different foods can make a calorie deficit easier or harder to achieve. And you can eat or drink too much of anything too.
Smoothies have more calories. But they also contain more fiber and protein, which will leave you feeling full for longer and perhaps more likely to be able to stick to your calorie deficit.
Juices have fewer calories so they may be easier to fit into your diet. But because they’re mostly sugar, they won’t leave you feeling very full and might leave you craving more sweets and carbs later.
What’s Better: Smoothie Vs Juice?
As with everything in the world of nutrition, there’s no single right answer!
There is a difference between smoothies and juice–but the best choice for you depends on you, your preferences, and your goals.
Here’s a few things to consider when choosing between smoothies and juice:
- What’s it made of? Does it contain mostly fruit? Mostly veg? Are there other ingredients and nutrients added and how will those make you feel?
- Is it homemade or store bought? This can impact how many nutrients are in your drink or whether it contains added sugars.
- What are your goals right now? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you want something yummy or something to carry you through the day?
- What are your goals long-term? Weight loss? Weight gain? Trying to finally let go of diets and find balance with food?
If you’re still unsure, here’s a quick checklist to help you decide.
When to choose a smoothie
A smoothie might be your healthiest choice if you:
- Are really hungry
- Want to eat more fiber
- Want a source of protein
- Are trying to support gut health
- Want your drink to serve as a meal or snack
- You prefer smoothies
When to choose a juice
A juice might be your healthiest choice if you:
- Aren’t very hungry
- Want a source of quick energy
- Want a few extra micronutrients that day
- Want to pair your drink with a meal or snack
- You prefer juice to smoothies
There are some important differences between smoothies and juice.
Smoothies tend to offer more fiber, satiation and calories. Juices are great sources of micronutrients, hydration and deliciousness.
As a Registered Dietitian, I can confidently say that both options can fit into a healthy and sustainable diet.
But remember–drinks of any kind are less filling and more calorie-dense than solid foods. So whichever one you choose, include lots of ‘chewable’ whole foods in your life too!