The rise of the smoothie was great news for anyone who struggles to squeeze in their five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Not everyone loves a big ol’ kale salad, after all.
Smoothies are a lightning-fast breakfast option that packs in multiple fruits (and veggies!) into one glass, but is the final product as healthy as the whole fruits? Does that gut-healthy fiber stick around once it hits the blender’s blades?
The short answer: yes! “All your favorite pureed foods—soups, smoothies, and dips—have just as much fiber as their whole version,” says nutritionist Sharon Richter, RD. Smoothie and hummus lovers rejoice!
Fiber actually does not get digested, but instead passes through your system more or less intact to help move other foods through your system effectively. Think about it: if your molars, stomach acid, and digestive tract can’t even break fiber down, neither can your blender. (Learn more about what fiber does for the body here.)
That’s important, considering the average American only consumes 16 g of fiber a day (short of the recommended 25 to 30 g). “Fiber is essential for bowel and digestive health,” says Richter. “It also helps keep your weight in check, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels low.”
Juicing, however, is a different story. Juicing separates the juice from the pulp—where the fiber is—so you’re left with the liquid. You’ll still get some of the vitamins and minerals from the fruit, but you’ll also be stuck with a high-calorie and high-sugar beverage in relationship to its volume.
And that difference matters—big time. A 2013 study found that eating more whole fruits was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but drinking fruit juices was linked with a higher risk.
“Unless you’re maintaining a low-fiber diet, as your doctor’s orders,” says Richter, “blending or pureeing is the best for your health and much more filling.”
For a smoothie that’s high in fiber but low in sugar, check out these 9 tips to stop turning your smoothie into a sugar bomb. Want a recipe to get you started? Try this berry-chia smoothie bowl.