Juices and smoothies

Photo: photocrew1 (Shutterstock)

Cold-pressed juices have a healthier reputation than just tossing a few fruits and vegetables into a blender. They’re expensive, they have to be eaten fresh, and juice sellers and followers praise their purported health benefits. But how is a juice really different from a smoothie?

What is the difference between a juice and a smoothie?

A smoothie is made in a blender. The blades cut the fruit, vegetable, or other ingredient into tiny pieces and mix those tiny pieces with liquid (both the juice released from the fruit and any liquid such as milk or water added in the recipe).

A juice, on the other hand, is only the liquid part of the fruit or vegetable. While you can juice an orange or lemon by simply squeezing or grating it, juicers usually grind or puree the fruit (much like a blender) and then separate the juice from the solids. You drink the juice and throw away the pulp.

How do juices and smoothies differ nutritionally?

Smoothies contain everything that was initially in the fruit or vegetable. Nutritionally, drinking a smoothie is equivalent to consuming all of its ingredients. I could make myself a bowl of yogurt with honey and berries, or I could put yogurt and honey and berries in a blender with a little water to make it runny.

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The nutritional value of a smoothie depends on what you add to it. If you have fruit and add juice, and you also add a sweetener like honey, you can get something high in calories and high in sugar.

Juices, on the other hand, deprive fruits and vegetables of the fiber (the ejected pulp consists mainly of fiber), which is unfortunate, because Fiber is an important nutrient that most of us should be getting more of. The juice contains many vitamins and phytonutrients, which would also have been found in the fruit. The juice is also a more concentrated source of sugar than the original fruit and is less satiating.

When making a nutritional choice and comparing a smoothie and juice with similar ingredients, the smoothie is almost always the healthier option.

People interested in juicing will mention the benefits of vitamins, antioxidants, and other ingredients in the fruit. (Fresh fruits and smoothies have these too.) You will argue that cold-pressed juices contain more of these nutrients than store-bought juice. (While that’s true, you could just eat the fruit or make your own smoothie to reap the benefits.) Sometimes they claim that juices will detoxify you or help your body detox itself. (Rubbish.)

Juices are perfectly fine if they make you happy, but none of their purported benefits are an advantage over eating whole fruit or even blending a smoothie.

Why are people so into juicing?

I believe that juicing is only approved because it is more expensive to make a juice than to throw a smoothie together.

Juicing got its start as a health food trend when Californians started selling juice to gym goers, inspired by a man who had no medical credentials, but the wrote several books that made impossible but enticing claims about what juicing can do for health. (Under their headings, Get Younger, and Water Can Undermine Your Health.)

Juicers are much more expensive than blenders, and juicer fans will tell you that the cheap juicers just aren’t good enough; they supposedly destroy the micronutrients in the juice. Similar arguments are made against store-bought juices, pasteurized juices and all juices that are not freshly made immediately before drinking.

In other words, the appeal of juicing isn’t that it has unique health benefits; The point is that fancy juices are heavy and expensive to come by, which makes you special if you are the kind of person who can drink them on a regular basis. (They also look colorful and enticing on Instagram or TikTok, which can’t hurt.) If you’re genuinely interested in the health benefits of the vitamins and micronutrients in fruit, the best way to get them is just by eating the fruit. And if you want to drink them, a smoothie will do just fine.