We know eating more fruits and veggies is better for us. Does starting a day with a smoothie or juice count? Registered dietitian, Eliza Savage, explains.
Splendid Spoon: Back to basics. What’s the difference between smoothies and juices?
Eliza Savage: Great question! Juicing is a process that extracts water and nutrients from fruits and vegetables, but discards the (very healthy!) indigestible fiber naturally found in the produce. Smoothies are blends that contain the entire fruit or vegetables (fibrous skin and all).
SS: What difference does blending vs juicing have on how our body absorbs the nutrients?
ES: Some people argue that juicing helps the body better absorb the nutrients in the produce, as the digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food to get them. This process may make it easier for the body to process larger amounts of these nutrients, as you won’t eat that amount of produce whole (no one can eat 8 stalks of celery, 2 apples, ½ pineapple and some ginger in one sitting…). However; the fiber in smoothies helps modulate the blood sugar response to the natural sugar in these foods.
With juice, the liquid is absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly, and if you’re using large amounts of fruit, the blood sugar level may spike in response. The fiber in smoothies helps create a slow, even blood glucose response, so you avoid blood sugar spikes, and stay fuller for longer.
SS: Why are consistent blood sugar levels so important?
ES: Consistent blood sugar levels are paramount not only to good health, but also to daily functioning. Blood sugar dips and spikes can lead to mood swings and energy dips (hello “hangry”!), and can be dangerous for those who have diabetes or other health concerns.
SS: Would we be better to have a juice or smoothie for breakfast?
ES: Smoothies are the clear winner in my book. If made with balanced, whole ingredients (i.e. not too much sugar), smoothies are the perfect start to the day. Not only will the fiber keep you full, but if you add greens and nutrient-dense ingredients like nuts and seeds, you’re powering up with protein and essential vitamins!
SS: How will starting the day with a juice vs. smoothie affect our other food choices?
ES: In my experience, those who start the day with a smoothie made from a balance of healthy ingredients feel fuller longer, and therefore set themselves up to make better choices throughout the day. Those who reach for a juice (as they think it’s the “better” or “lighter” option) are usually hungry an hour or two later. That said, nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some individuals swear by a juice in the morning, and it works for them!
Splendid Spoon Smoothies fit the bill for a balanced breakfast as they combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich produce. When I’m at home, I sometimes blend my Splendid Smoothie with some frozen greens and ice for added oomph!
SS: What ingredients/nutritional points should we look for when choosing a juice or smoothie?
ES: 1) Be sure you can read and know what all the ingredients are. If you can’t read it, don’t drink it!
2) Watch added sugars. Sugar can show up with many different names (check this list from Organic Authority). If you’re going to sweeten your juice or smoothie, aim to use fruit or something natural like honey, dates, coconut nectar, or maple syrup (in a small quantity).
3) Make sure there’s a source of protein and/or healthy fat (vegan protein powder, chia, flax, seeds, nuts, nut butter). This will add some staying power!
SS: Juice or smoothies for weight loss?
ES: I recommend smoothies for weight loss, as the satiety from uber-filling fiber is pivotal to sticking to a weight loss plan. To me, smoothies are like a breakfast soup — a perfect blend of produce, healthy fats, and protein. If made with a balance of high quality ingredients (low sugar, high fiber, appropriate portions of protein and healthy fat), they can be a great tool for weight loss. They’re perfect to sneak veggies into the diet of people who don’t love them!
My clients often tell me they did a juice cleanse, felt great, lost weight, but then gained it back when they started eating again. A word to the wise: skip the juice cleanse. Opt for whole, real foods. A soup cleanse is a fabulous reset, without the juice cleanse weight rebound!
SS: Would some people or situations be better suited to a juice vs. smoothie, or vice versa?
ES: Yes! In my opinion, there’s always a time and place for certain foods. We need to use them strategically for optimal health:
- If you’re sick and feel run down, choose a juice with ginger and lemon.
- If you’re traveling and don’t have access or time for greens, choose a green juice.
- If weight loss or weight management is your goal, skip the juice and have a lighter smoothie.
- If you’re looking to up your protein, add nutrient dense whole foods to your smoothie (protein powder, tofu, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt if you do dairy, etc.).
- If you’re an athlete, recover smarter with a smoothie made of protein, fats and carbs.
- For kids — choose the smoothie! Skip the inevitable sugar crash and keep your kiddo full with a smoothie. It’s a sweet way to get in some extra veggies.
- If you have diabetes, PCOS, or blood sugar challenges, avoid juices and have low-sugar smoothies.