Great Debate: Smoothies vs. Juice

The debate over whether smoothies or fresh unpasteurized juice is better will never go away—and there are people who feel very passionately one way or the other. I find this interesting, and I also think the debate is much like most nutrition debates. The “right answer” is that neither is better or worse than the other. What I always encourage people to consider when it comes to nutrition decisions is not just to learn what might be considered generically as a “healthy lifestyle,” but to apply concepts and information to themselves personally—-it’s what separates a person who has a “healthy lifestyle” from a person who “thrives.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather thrive (if you couldn’t tell by the name of this blog).

Juicing and smoothies are both great ways to consume more micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other healthy nutritious compounds). When made with quality ingredients, tailored to meet a person’s specific needs, both smoothies and juice can be wonderful nutrient delivery systems (and they can taste great too).

The differences between the two are as follows:

1. Juicing requires more produce for the same quantity of end product (it’s more expensive than blending/smoothies)

2. Smoothies maintain fiber content (juice has none), and are more “filling”

3. Juicing requires more expensive equipment (smoothies can be made in a relatively cheap blender, but there are also very expensive blenders that allow for blending a wider variety of ingredients)

4. Clean-up for smoothies is easier and quicker (juicer clean-up can range from about 5 minutes to 15, depending on the juicer)

5. Juice contains more concentrated micronutrients that are delivered to your cells much more quickly and efficiently than smoothies


These are all important things to consider because buying equipment and intending to make juice or smoothies does not actually mean you’ll do it—you have to budget the time, money, and fridge space (and the motivation) to make it happen!

The main question I receive about juicing and smoothies is “which one is better?”

My response goes something like this:

Juicing is awesome. It’s like mainlining nutrients if you consume it on an empty stomach. Your body doesn’t have to do much work to absorb the nutrients. It is energizing, and if done first thing in the morning (after “fasting” since dinner), this allows the body more time to work on important detoxification and metabolism processes rather than switching over to digestion (which happens when you eat breakfast or drink a smoothie). For increasing energy, blasting the body with nutrients, clearer skin, and doing a mini-fast (or longer if you have the strategies and desire for that), juicing is an amazing tool.

Smoothies provide significant amounts of micronutrients too, and they’re packaged with fiber. Fiber, which is something most Americans need more of (the average American female gets less than 12 grams a day but the recommended amount is 25 grams or more), can be super high in a smoothie, depending on the ingredients you use. You can put greens and veggies in a smoothie, and start your work day having consumed a day’s worth of nutrients and veggies (but you don’t have to feel like you ate a salad for breakfast). You can add protein, fat, and other filling ingredients to a smoothie to keep you full for many hours and/or to help you strategically recover from a workout or meet certain macronutrient (carb, fat, protein) goals. When you’re on the go, a picky eater, or need to find a way to get more nutrient density in your diet, smoothies are an awesome choice.

How do you choose which one is right for you?

1. Ask yourself: What is your purpose? Choose smoothies if you’re not looking for benefits of fasting, if you’re having it after a workout, or if you want to bump up your fiber intake.  Choose juice if you want benefits of putting off your daily digestion process, if you don’t like breakfast, or if you want super amounts of nutrients/energy in the morning!

2. Also, consider how much you want to spend on equipment and supplies. You can get a $75 blender that will last a while (if you don’t blend anything super tough), or you can spend $125 on a juicer (plus the additional cost of extra produce that juicing will require).

3. Consider how much time you have to prep your drinks! Some of my clients have restricted amounts of time in the morning to prep their breakfast, so it’s important to figure out which process you’re most likely to make a regular habit. There are few strategies to help with the time factor. For smoothies, you can even put (most) ingredients in the blender container in the evening, so that in the morning you can just blend, pour, and go…..and rinse the blender out! For juice, you can juice on the weekend, freeze in single serving containers, and just move one to the fridge each night before you go to bed so it’s ready for you in the morning (note: juice will go bad after more than a day in the fridge and lose nutrient density!).

4. Identify your health issues, and find out which method might be most appropriate for those issues. For example, If you have constipation, you may want to start with smoothies to get things moving (a la fiber content), but if you have the ever elusive “IBS” diagnosis, the fiber in the smoothies may cause you to have gastrointestinal issues (and if this is the case, you should do an elimination diet!). Do you have a serious disease or condition? Cancer? Obesity? Diabetes? All of these factors should be taken into account because they will impact what you put in your smoothies and/or juice (for example, if you’re diabetic, you won’t want an all-fruit juice or smoothie!), and which one may be better for you. My advice, if you’re confused on this point, is to ask a professional for help in figuring it out!

Overall, I like both smoothies and juice, and I don’t think one is better than the other in a general—they’re different and wonderful all in their own ways. I think, though, that they will always be compared to each other, and this is ok too. Many people become very passionate about one technique or the other, and I like to maintain that not only are we all changing in our needs over time (and even at different times of the day!), but we all have different needs compared to each other. There really is no “right” approach.

As I’ve said before, I think trial and error is a great approach to reach our maximum “thrive-style” (vs. just plain old standard healthy lifestyle) goals, but before you run out and buy a Greenstar juicer or Vita-mix blender, you will want to assess which method you’ll most likely stick with and that will serve you best!

If you’ve been here at my blog before, you probably know that I conduct smoothie workshops, and the reason I do smoothies and not juice for my workshops is because I think it’s more accessible for most people. It’s also cheaper to provide samples, and the bottom line is that I really use my smoothie workshops as nutrition workshops—people come to learn how to make nutritious smoothies, and they leave having learned all kinds of things about micronutrients, ingredients, food and energy levels, sweeteners, cacao, nut butters, and more… I’m so sneaky, aren’t I?!

When helping a person map out (1) whether to make smoothies or juice and (2) what to include as ingredients, there are many questions to ask—there is strategy involved, and it can be fun if you let it be! I’ll follow up with a post describing a couple clients and which types of drinks/ingredients I would recommend for them.

What is your opinion about smoothies and/or juice?

Check Out Part II of this topic: Smoothies and Juice


22 thoughts on “Great Debate: Smoothies vs. Juice”

  1. Heather (Where's the Beach)

    Honestly, I’ve never really tried juices and only minimally tried smoothies. Smoothies seem to appeal to me more because you can add in protein, which seems to me would make them more filling. 

  2. Smooooothies!  My reasoning is very scientific: I hate cleaning the juicer.  A good rinse of the blender right after using it, and it’s already clean.  And there you have it…if that isn’t a reason for making smoothies, then I don’t know what is!

    I do love citrus juice made with a squeezer, but I don’t think that “counts”.

  3. I love smoothies!  I don’t really want to spend the extra money or use the valuable counter and cabinet space for a juicer, since I don’t know that I would use it enough to justify it.  I love making smoothies for my little guy – he isn’t really into dark, leafy greens, so it is a way for me to get some kale and spinach into him.

  4. Aaaahhhh I suggested elimination diets the other day to a… relative… actually, maybe I need to email you about it separately.

    But, aside from that, I’ve been thinking about smoothies lately.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had green smoothies regularly in the morning and I might need to revisit them… 

  5. I’ve never done either (even though I consume a ridiculous amount of veggies) because I don’t like the texture of juices or smoothies. I know they are healthy, but I’d almost always rather chew crunchy veggies or cook them and eat them Maybe if I’m looking for further health benefits I’d look into it- although I think I’d need to do a really t hick smoothie and eat it with a spoon!

  6.  I guess I never really have compared smoothies to juice … I use them at different times.  I can’t drink smoothies in the morning … I need something warm!  Maybe that will change when summer gets there 🙂 

  7. I love them both, but agree with you on the fact that smoothies are more filling and my juicer is a pain to clean so I usually go with smoothies. However, I LOVE whipping up a large batch of orange pineapple juice in the summer! 🙂

  8. thanks for the thorough analysis, lisa! this is a comparison where i don’t know much about juicing OR smoothies, so i really appreciated the facts, plus your opinion.
    i actually do not like either juice or smoothies! it’s a taste + texture thing. plus, i think i have negative associations with juice from childhood when my parents *made* us drink juice with breakfast!
    if we were closer, i would take your smoothie workshop, and i would invite you to come to “thrive juice bar” a local, totally awesome and very hip cafe (i’ve reviewed it before).
    i do agree that juices or smoothies offer fabulous nutrition and suit many people’s needs wonderfully!

  9. Okay, first off, THANK YOU so much for this post!  I have been getting some ppl who are very concerned that by juicing I am on a “liquid starvation” diet – which is SO not the case because I am getting a host of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals (though yes, it is probably a lot less calories than a normal person would consume…but I think nutrients should outweigh calories).  Anyways, I like both, though have been juicing mostly for the past month and a half).  I plan on incorporating more smoothies in soon, though.  I could go on and on, but thanks 🙂

  10. Gina (Candid RD)

    What a great post!!  So, I’ll admit I am personally not a fan of the whole juicing concept, but I can see your arguments for having juice in the morning for quick energy, or using it for a mini-fast (I hadn’ thought about that).  I also think if someone really can’t give up juice, they are much better off making their own due to the lack of pasteurization.  For me, I’m just not into it because it takes too long and doesn’t fill me up long enough.  I’m a smoothie gal!

  11. Great info and advice! I’d loove to have a juicer some day, but for now I make and drink a lot of green smoothies!

  12. i think both are for sure beneficial. We need the nutrients from each. I just got a juicer, so i will be using that ASAP for extra nutrients and calories.

    enjoy yoga tomorrow!

  13. My opinion about smoothies/juice is that I just don’t like either! I am a “eat-my-calories” person. I love food and while I know many people use smoothies and juices as easy ways to get in macro and micronutrients, I’d prefer to eat a huge salad than grind it all up into juice, or to eat a yogurt bowl than grind it up into a smoothie. Just me tho 🙂

  14. Lol, me too on the smoothies (but I can get behind a green juice sometimes for energy as long as I don’t feel like I should eat less because of it)—I used to make smoothies sometimes, but it feels like a waste in some way. Actually, if I do make smoothies, it’s always super thick so I can eat it with a spoon and pretend it’s ice cream (and it has to taste good or I don’t want it!)… Cheers to chewing!

    On Thu 29/03/12 11:02 , “Disqus” sent:

  15. I’ve never tried juicing although I am curious about it. I am a big fan of smoothies though! Made right I think they can taste pretty naughty while still being packed with vitamins and such! 

  16. love this post! so many great points!
    we love both, we wish we had more time and money (for the produce) to make fresh juices more often. so we just try to do our best in get them in when we can. we do love our smoothies.

  17. I have a juicer and a vitamix and often what I end up doing is making juice to use in a smoothie.  (I know it is more steps, but its fun!)  I’ve been making smoothies for a few years and I think they are very good but I really don’t like Kale in smoothies.  I just got the juicer for Christmas this year and I like it for greens like celery and kale and also for apples.

  18. I agree with you, I like both. I make smoothies often, and have a “nice blender” that I spent a petty penny on. I did work at a smoothie shop, which made me lean towards smoothies. I love my fiber, but the detox benefit of juicing is great too. Either way, I’ll take my veggies in bulk! 

  19. I really love both! at the moment i have a green smoothie at leaste 3 times for breakfast and up until a few days ago I had a juice too as the first thing in the morning! unfortunately our juicer broke, i am so bummed. have to get a new one now, do u have any suggestions on a good one?  i read that the gastroback ones are quite good. pls drop me a message if u have one in mind!

  20. My favorite juicer is the greenstar—it has been shown as comparable to the Norwalk (which is ridiculously expensive). But, the greenstar runs in the $400 range, so it’s definitely more expensive than others. I use mine for making all kinds of things—nut butters, frozen “sorbets” etc. It takes a little longer to prep produce and to clean than the centrifugal juicers, but it should last forever!
    The Juiceman Pro and the Brevelle are great for juicers of the centrifugal variety—they’re quick and easy to clean and have a wide opening (you can juice whole lemons at once, etc). I used one for a year straight and it began to lose it’s efficiency—I probably used it more than the average juicer though…and it still works, the pulp just comes out more “wet.”
    I haven’t heard of the gastroback!

  21. I love both!
    I actaully started off with juicing about 2 years ago. Rinaldo had been reading a lot about it so we purchased one and loved it ever since. I don’t juice anymore as often as I’d like, but I always enjoy it when I do.

    I tend to make smoothies more nowadays, but I enjoy a large fresh juice on the weekends. Whenever I feel like I’m getting sick, I load up on juicing and it always makes me feel better!

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