Why Smoothies Are a More Gut-Healthy Choice Than Juice, According to a Gastroenterologist
Not everyone has time to sit down to a full multi-course meal—or even a breakfast sandwich or salad from the deli—every day. We get it! But we're not fans of skipping meals. This is especially true regarding skipping breakfast; research suggests that omitting your morning meal and eating a late dinner might decrease your overall energy expenditure and drastically affect your appetite.
Pictured Recipe: Kale & Apple Smoothie
For this reason, and because we're learned time and time again that polyphenols and other plant compounds are so vital to support our overall health and our gut health, many EatingWell staffers turn to sippable solutions that can be enjoyed while on-the-go, at our desks or hustling back from our workouts.
As we learn more and more about the systemic impact of gut health—including related to sleep, weight, digestion, immune health, mood and more—the more we keep this top of mind with as many food-related decisions as possible. No wonder Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., a Charleston, South Carolina-based gastroenterologist and the New York Times bestselling author of Fiber Fueled, is quickly becoming one of our favorite social media follows. Nearly every day, "Dr. B" drops new posts to help clear up myths and to share practical intel, from what he eats in a day for better gut health to five reasons why you can't poop when traveling.
The latest hot topic is one that hits home for all of us too-busy-to-sit folks: In terms of optimizing gut health, are smoothies or juices healthier?
Which Is Better For Gut Health: Smoothies or Juices?
Both are awesome ways to get us closer to our goal of consuming 30 or more different fruits and vegetables per week—a stat that a seven-year study of the human microbiome suggests is ideal for our gut health. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
It certainly doesn't have to be one or the other, Dr. Bulsiewicz admits, "but I do have a preference if you twist my arm behind my back," he explains. "I like both, but if you only give me one choice, I'm going to definitely take the smoothie. The smoothie actually continues to contain all the dietary fiber. We're not getting rid of it. It does change, and that change can actually be beneficial for some people in some cases…We want our fiber, and that's why I'm going to opt for the smoothie." (ICYMI, gut bacteria love to feast on fiber, and tend to thrive when fiber is present in adequate quantities.)
If the smoothie recipe features the whole fruit, including the skin and flesh, it should deliver the same amount of fiber as if you ate that fruit whole, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The pros: Since the fiber is blended up a bit, it might be easier to digest for those with sensitive stomachs. Plus, smoothies can easily feature other gut-healthy foods like yogurt or kefir. The cons: Drinking rather than eating produce tends to be less satisfying, the Harvard pros add, and smoothies can easily become vehicles for added sugar.
As far as the juice goes, it "allows you to enjoy all of these fruits and vegetables, and is very easy to consume. You still get the polyphenols and still get a little bit of fiber; you just want this to be the accessory and not a centerpiece of your diet."
That's because, to make fruit or vegetable juice, the fiber is stripped away and is left in the "pulp" byproduct. If you juice at home, you can repurpose that pulp. But if you're ordering out, chances are high that it simply gets composed or tossed—and you certainly don't share it with your good gut bacteria.
The Bottom Line
Dr. B and EatingWell dietitians agree that both smoothies and juices can be part of a well-balanced, produce-packed, gut-friendly diet. Our current favorite recipes? Joanna Gaines' four new refreshing juice recipes, the green smoothie Reese Witherspoon drinks every day and our 22 best smoothie and drink recipes to help you poop. If you prefer to improvise, round up the fruits and veggies kicking around in your crisper drawer or freezer, and take a cue from the only formula you need to make a healthy smoothie. And when the mood strikes for something more dessert-like, don't miss Rachael Ray Calls the four-ingredient, gut-healthy "ice cream" that Rachael Ray deems "amazing."