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Ask Health Coach Maria: What’s Better…Juices or Smoothies?

June 20, 2014

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Hi Maria,

I recently started paying more attention to what I eat, and have started drinking smoothies and juices. Now I’m trying to decide between buying a juicer or a blender for my home. Is one better than the other?

Tom, FL

Smoothies and juices can both play a role in your healthy lifestyle, but when it comes down to choosing just one appliance for your home, I say blender, all the way!

A blender creates a smoothie from whole fruits and vegetables, macerating the skin and flesh—and all the fiber that comes with it—into a drinkable liquid. Nothing gets wasted. Because fiber takes longer to digest, smoothies are much more filling than juices and can even serve as a meal replacement. 

A juicer, on the other hand, extracts all of the liquid from a fruit or vegetable and delivers a nutrient-rich liquid, sans fiber. I like to think of juice as a liquid vitamin. The remaining fruit or veggie fiber, otherwise known as pulp, usually gets tossed in the trash. (If you currently have a juicer and want to reduce waste, try this genius recipe that turns juicer pulp into a delicious and savory cake). 

So the main difference between a juice and a smoothie comes down to the fiber content. Fiber is essential to digestion and keeps you feeling full and satiated. It’s only found in plant foods, which, unfortunately, many people don’t eat enough of. Whipping up a smoothie makes it easy to increase your fruit and veggie intake. Any ingredients you use in a blender would count towards your daily vegetable/fruit quota, whereas any fresh juice you drink would count towards your water needs for the day. 

Plus, while a fruit smoothie may taste like dessert, it’s healthy enough for breakfast. I think the perfect breakfast smoothie combo is:

  • 2 cups liquid (water, coconut water, or plant milk)
  • 1-2 cups fruit and/or veggies (banana, berries, spinach, etc.)
  • 1-2 servings plant protein and fat (seeds or nuts, such as hemp seeds, almonds, or tahini)   

Partnering fiber with healthy fats and protein slows down digestion and prevents a blood sugar spike, helping you stay satisfied until lunch. There is no need to be concerned about adding too much fruit to smoothies.

Now juices are a different story. Because the fiber is removed, when you drink straight fruit juice, you experience an immediate and huge blood sugar spike. This makes fruit juice a high glycemic food, just like soda or a candy bar. That’s why if you’re going to drink a juice, it’s best to stick to low-sugar veggies, like cucumber, celery, and greens. Try adding lemon or ginger for flavor. To make your vegetable juice more palatable, you could add a little sweetness in the way of carrots, beets, or pineapple, but be sure that the sweetness comprises up no more than ¼ of the volume of the juice.

Drinking a nutrient-packed green juice is a great way to start the day, but it probably won’t be satisfying enough to count as breakfast alone. I often drink a glass of green juice in the morning, and follow it with a bowl of oatmeal or fruit. Once in a while, I’ll use it in place of water before a workout.

When you are in the mood for a sweet drink such as freshly squeezed orange, pomegranate, or pineapple juice, a great trick is to add chia seeds to it. The chia instantly boosts its fiber content and therefore lessens the blood sugar spike. However, I generally advise my clients to think of fruit juice as a treat to enjoy only on special occasions—and never on an empty stomach.

Bottom line: if you have to choose between a blender and juicer, I vote on the side of smoothies and recommend a blender. Plus, blenders are versatile and can be used to make soups, dressings, and even healthy fruit-based desserts. 

If you already have a juicer or a blender, please share one of your favorite recipes in the comments below. 

Maria Marlowe is a Certified Health Coach and regular Wellness Today Contributor. Get your health question answered in her next column by sending her an email at