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Juice or Smoothie: What’s Healthier?
by Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN

Sipping on green juice for breakfast and pounding post-workout smoothies has an aura of wellness. But finding a healthy drink is more complicated than you might think. While some nutrition gurus swear by juice cleanses and fasts, others caution that juice packs just as much sugar as soda. And smoothies can run even higher in calories, depending on what’s hiding in the blender.

To find out which is the healthier pick, we put juices and smoothies to the test, comparing 16 fluid ounces of each, the normal serving size you might grab from a wheatgrass-topped bar. Here’s the smackdown, broken down by nutrition facts, with a winner for each round.

What’s Lower in Calories?WINNER: JUICES

Smoothies can be like the mystery meat of beverages. Sure, they can contain all kinds of healthy ingredients. But some sneak in high-cal surprises like chocolate or ice cream. That can translate to 910 calories for a “small” serving. Fruit juice, on the other hand, provides roughly 220 to 300 calories per 16 fluid ounces. It’s not exactly a calorie bargain, but that’s still a better bet than most smoothies.

Sip smarter: For the fewest calories, skip the smoothie and stick with 100-percent veggie juice. Most types boast less than 100 calories per serving.

Which Has Less Sugar?WINNER: IT’S A TIE

Despite its bomb reputation, the sugar content in juice can vary—a lot. While 16 fluid ounces of OJ sports roughly 42 grams, an equal serving of grape juice will set you back 72 grams. As for smoothies, it all depends on what’s in them. While some of the cleaner veggie-based blends can be low in sugar, others can clock in at 70 grams, thanks to hidden ingredients like sorbet or lemonade.

Sip smarter: Think green. Generally speaking, the more green veggies in your juice or smoothie, the lower its sugar content.

Which Has More Protein?WINNER: SMOOTHIES

Whether it’s apple, orange, or carrot, juice contains negligible protein. Smoothies can run the gamut, but those made with Greek yogurt, milk, or protein powder usually provide a healthy dose of the muscle-building nutrient. Nut butter delivers some protein, too, but it also contains extra calories and fat, so save it for breakfast when you need a smoothie that will stick to your ribs.

Sip smarter: Blend some silken tofu, ricotta, or cottage cheese into your smoothie for an extra protein boost.

Which Has More Fiber?WINNER: SMOOTHIES

When you want a drink that will keep you full, fiber can help get the job done. And a smoothie with the right ingredients can boast more roughage than a bowl of oatmeal. Juice, by comparison, is basically fiber free.

Sip smarter: For the biggest fiber kick, blend rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseeds, beans, or frozen peas into your smoothie.

Which Has More Vitamins and Minerals?WINNER: SMOOTHIES

Juices and smoothies both give you a vitamin and mineral bump, but smoothies have a slight edge. Why? Not all juice is created equal. While a tall glass of OJ gives you 20 percent of your day’s potassium plus four times your daily dose of vitamin C, the same amount of apple juice has half the potassium and (unless it’s fortified) almost no vitamin C. And that’s for 16 fluid ounces, which is way bigger than the recommended serving size. Smoothies, however, are more likely to contain multiple ingredients, so you can customize them for maximum nutrition.

Sip smarter: Design your smoothie with as many vitamin- and mineral-rich ingredients as possible. Think leafy greens for folate, mangos for vitamin A, berries bursting with vitamin C, avocados packed with vitamin E, and low-fat dairy filled with calcium.

Overall Winner: Smoothies

While both juice and smoothies have their benefits, overall, smoothies are usually a better bet nutritionally. For the calories, you can get more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The key—as with most foods and drinks—comes down to healthy ingredients and portion control. So skip the smoothie bar, and start making your own at home.

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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.