The Dark Side of the Smoothie

When starting this blog, I knew that the obligatory smoothie post was destined to occur. For some reason I just couldn’t get to it. Smoothies are so overhyped in so many ways. Quite often, a smoothie is actually the last thing someone should be drinking because they are usually loaded with copious amounts of sugar. Although a smoothie with 2 bananas, 19 strawberries, 32 blueberries, 2 dates, a mango, and a cup of orange juice may sound like the ultimate vitamin packed breakfast, you are actually consuming anywhere between 17 and 20 teaspoons of sugar! I encourage my patients to eat fruit often and on a daily basis- but the key is to eat in moderation. Up to 5 servings a day is enough, believe it or not. You never want to eat your entire fruit allotment in one serving. Too much of a good thing is usually not a good thing. Smoothies can be tricky, so you must proceed with caution. I have even seen “healthy” smoothies made with vanilla frozen yogurt. Hello! This is a dessert! Not breakfast. Not a healthy snack.

Many drink smoothies to allow their digestive tract to rest a bit. The fiber is broken down so finely that we more readily absorb all those fabulous nutrients that nature has to offer. Oh, aren’t you smart for blending up all those sweet fruits and virtually making the fiber disintegrate in that orange juice. Now that sugar is even more quickly absorbed into your bloodstream without a hint of fiber to slow it down. I have an idea, let’s next inject maple syrup directly into our veins! It certainly does have an exceptional mineral composition. But really, drinking these high sugar smoothies, albeit with the best intentions, only causes a major insulin spike. And what does insulin do? Being that it is a growth hormone, it assists in your growth…of fat cells very often. Not to mention the hard work that your pancreas has to do to secrete the necessary amount needed to keep that blood sugar in check. No bueno.

However, a smoothie can truly be a vehicle of health and wellness if we are smart about it. Here are some rules to live by:

1. Limit fruit portions to 2, 3 at the very most. That’s right, this should be plenty of sugar for one sitting. And don’t worry-you are getting a slew of vitamins and minerals from two simple servings of fruit.

2. Add greens. This is a perfect time to throw in a handful of dark leafy greens. I recommend spinach, kale, and Romaine lettuce. A handful is enough to give you plenty of benefits from the greens without overpowering your smoothie’s deliciousness. The benefits of these vegetables go way beyond a concoction of 15 fruits. So add them to every smoothie.

3. Go clear with the liquid. Let’s be real here… A smoothie is healthy, fruit juice is not. Make your base water only. Water does not have any added sugar or fat. It is pure and will not alter the taste of your smoothie. If you have been exercising heavily, or sweating a lot, add coconut water.

4. Skip the added sugar. I don’t care how healthy the sugar is that your adding- whether it be honey, maple syrup, or the healthynotreallyhealthy agave nectar. Don’t do it. The fruit that you choose should be sweet enough to sweeten the smoothie. If it is not sweet enough, then I recommend you not drink smoothies at all. Or if you absolutely must, have a small one for desert.

5. Include healthy fats. Healthy fats give staying power to the smoothie. This is especially important if you are making your smoothie a meal, like breakfast. Fat allows you to go a few hours without seriously considering eating the copy paper before lunchtime rolls around. Healthy fats are: nuts, seeds, avocado, and coconut flakes (unsweetened, of course).

These 5 basic tips will allow you to either continue or begin your smoothie habit in a very healthful and beneficial way. Stay tuned for more smoothie tips and upcoming recipes!

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2 Comments on The Dark Side of the Smoothie

  1. Stacy F
    August 20, 2014 at 2:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi Bryee! I love your blog, it is so well written! You made a great point about smoothies, definitely a great dessert substitute. Not far from the smoothie topic, I was wondering what your opinion of the new and trendy “juice cleanse” is. I was thinking about doing a 3 day juice cleanse from a company called Truce based here in Minneapolis. I have definitely heard contrasting opinions about this fad, so I thought I should ask someone I trust with nutritional advice. Maybe a new blog post? Thanks so much!


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