Are Smoothies Better for You Than Juices?
Blending vs. Juicing? Eating whole fruits is more beneficial than drinking fruit juices, but are smoothies, which involve blending whole fruits, more beneficial (in terms of fiber content and effect on blood sugar levels) than juicing?
The short answer is yes, if you’re referring to a homemade smoothie containing nothing but fruit. “But I’d still rather they have whole fruit,” said Robin Foroutan, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a trade group representing nutrition professionals.
Most juices have had all the pulp removed, so the sugar is more concentrated and the juice contains little if any fiber. Smoothies, on the other hand, maintain their fiber, even though it has been pulverized, and fiber helps slow down the absorption of fructose, the main sugar in fruit.
“Juice would cause the biggest spike in blood sugar,” Ms. Foroutan said. “An all-fruit smoothie would also cause a spike in blood sugar, though probably not as much. Eating the fruit whole would have the most gentle effect.”
Whole fruit also takes longer to eat and may be more likely to make you feel full, she said. In one study, adults ate either an apple or applesauce or drank apple juice with or without fiber shortly before a meal. Those who ate applesauce consumed fewer calories at the meal than those who drank juice, but those who ate an apple consumed the fewest calories of all.
It’s hard to make comparisons when it comes to juice and smoothies, but an eight-ounce cup of unsweetened apple juice or orange juice contains at least 22 grams of sugar (equivalent to about five and a half teaspoons of sugar), and both contain less than a gram of fiber. A smoothie made from a banana and a cup of frozen raspberries has only slightly less sugar – about 20 grams — but 12 grams of fiber (three grams in the banana, and nine grams in the raspberries).
If you’re concerned about fluctuating blood sugar levels, Ms. Foroutan suggests adding veggies like cucumbers, spinach or romaine lettuce. And if your smoothie is replacing a meal, add avocado for creamy texture, vitamins and healthy fats, and protein like nuts or silken tofu (these will boost the calorie count, of course).
But smoothies have a health halo they don’t always deserve. A store-bought smoothie can be just as caloric and loaded with added sugar as a milkshake — especially if it’s super-sized.
An all-fruit smoothie can cause a rise in blood sugar if you’re eating it alone, without any protein or fat, Ms. Foroutan said. If you find you’re often hungry shortly after drinking a high-calorie smoothie, “smoothies may not be a great weight loss strategy for you.”