Smoothies… Are They Good or Bad??
The answer consists of a variety of factors such as the inclusion of unhealthy ingredients, too many ingredients, too much sugar, and large portions!! A lot of people put a lot of fruit in their smoothies thinking that for sure they are doing something good- fruit is good for you… right? Well as with everything else… too much fruit is not good... everything needs to be in balance. I have also seen people put lots of fruit AND some sort of sweetener in their smoothie to make their smoothie even sweeter!! If you do this, please be careful. Sugar is sugar whether it is from fruit, honey, agave, refined sugars, etc. After reading this blog post, I hope you'll be able to discern between healthy and unhealthy smoothies with ease. First, I will attempt to cover all the things you don't want in your smoothie, which causes the scale to tip in favor of unhealthy. Then I will list the healthy ingredients, and in doing so show you that creating healthy smoothies is actually pretty easy.
Please note that most restaurants, chains, venues, and large events serving smoothies generally lean towards the unhealthy. For example, a smoothie from Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Jugo Juice and Booster Juice can pack up to be anywhere between 400-1,000 calories!! WOW that's more calories that a meal would have and a huge spike to your blood sugars! Especially, now that we are entering into warmer weather, smoothies appear to be ideal but do be careful, they "sound and look healthy, but they are deceiving. There is a time and place where smoothies can be great for you. We just need to make sure we tweak the recipe and be selective with our ingredients in making a smoothie. Just like a salad, when you start adding lettuce, then other vegetables, a source of protein, nuts, and cheeses, toppings, and dressings, before you know it, you a got a 1,000-2,000 calorie salad!! So please keep your smoothies short, and simple.
Below I have provided a list of unhealthy smoothie bases and unhealthy smoothie ingredients to help guide you so you know what NOT to do.
We'll start with the liquid base of your smoothieand what you want avoid like the plague
Most fruit juices sold in super markets are nothing more than flavored sugar water.
Store bought milk (whether skim, 1%, 2%, or whole) comes from cows that are often mistreated, given hormones and antibiotics, and over milked. Chalk and pus have also been detected in the milk.
Recent studies have revealed a plethora of undesired substances in regular old tap water. This includes, but is not limited to, trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, lead and arsenic, perchlorate (a toxic chemical found in rocket fuel), sucralose, and many other man-made chemicals.
Most mainstream bottled water is nothing more than glorified tap water. Pepsi even admitted that Aquafina comes from tap water. For the definitive story on bottled water I highly recommend the documentary Tapped.
Now onto the list of smoothie ingredients that I wouldn't add into my blender if you paid me. An exhaustive list isn't practical, but I'll hit on the more obvious offenders.
· Ice cream and sherbet
· Chocolate syrups and powders
· Sugar as a sweetener
· Agave nectar
· Most store bought honey
· Non-organic peanut butters (Jif, Skippy, Smuckers)
· Cheap protein powders
· Chocolate pudding mix
· Cool Whip or whip cream
· Cream soda
At the end of the day, just use a little common sense in determining what not to add to your smoothie.
Now that you know what not to add to your smoothies, let's get to what you can toss in the blender to make the healthiest smoothies ever! Instead of using the word organic over and over, I'll mention here that using organic ingredients is always in your best interest. However, I realize this isn't always possible and don't beat yourself up over it. At the very least try to avoid the "Dirty Dozen". With respect to the colour of your smoothie.. every fruit colour, red, green, orange, etc all represent different nutrient profiles. Therefore, for the most part they are all good.. But a good rule of thumb to remember is that… the greener the better.. so add that spinach or kale, that green apple, celery.. don't be afraid of the greens!!
If you're treating your smoothie as a meal replacement, then it definitely requires a source of protein, some vegetables, and a source of fruit. If your smoothie is more of a snack than the portions need to go down as well as some of the ingredients.
I think for the most part in creating a smoothie as a meal replacement, if you're using protein powder, just use ½ scoop, or 100 g of Greek Yogurt, a cup of spinach, 1/2c to -1 cup fruit (berries), a tsp of flax seed or chai seed, and water or unsweetened almond milk. If your treating your smoothie as a light and nourishing snack than have a source of protein and ½ cup of fruit, and a tsp of flax or chia seeds with water or unsweetened almond milk. Try not to use any juices as juices are just sugar. If you do need to, just use ¼-½ cup.
If you're not lactose intolerant, raw milk is a great option. Almond milk and coconut milk (and water from young/Thai coconuts) are great to use too. I didn't include soy milk because there's evidence soy isn't the health food it's been marketed as, see here and here for reasons why you should avoid soy.
This includes water run through a good filter, legitimate bottled water (Spring Mountain, Starfire), distilled, purified, and the best option spring water. To locate spring water where you live, check out Find a Spring.
Using a healthy or medicinal tea can really improve the nutrition of your smoothie. In some circles "elixir" is the term used to designate these drinks.
Kefir (milk and water), kombucha, and Hindu lemonade. These are all extremely healthy options, especially when homemade.
There may be some things on the list below that you're not familiar with, don't worry, in future recipes and posts I'll explain why each ingredient is good for your health and a welcome addition to your smoothie.
· Fresh and frozen fruit
· Fresh vegetables
· Fresh sprouts
· Yogurt (organic, Greek, homemade)
· High quality protein powders
· High quality superfood green powders
· Superfoods (cacao, maca, aloe vera, goji berries, spirulina, etc)
· Herbs and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, mint, etc)
· Local and/or organic honey
· Hemp seeds and hemp protein
· Raw nuts and nut butters
· Various coconut products (shreds, flakes, raw meat, oil, butter)
· Flax seeds and oil
· Chia seeds and chia seed gel
· (Celtic sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, Redmond salt, etc)
· Medicinal mushroom powders
· Chinese herbs
· Mineral supplements
· Pine Pollen
As you can see there's quite a few ingredients available to make healthy smoothies. The number of different concoctions and recipes is endless. Once you get the basics of smoothie making down, you can experiment and come up with your own favourite recipes.
I hope you found this information both informative and actionable. After all this talk of smoothies, I'm off to the kitchen to create my next masterpiece. Please leave a comment below as I'd love to hear what you think of my "good" and "bad" list of smoothie ingredients. To read more of my blogs check out my website: julianacavaleri.ca and/or email me at [email protected]
Lots of love, health, and happiness,
Your Nutritionist and Coach,