Dissecting the Anatomy of the Smoothie: The Skinny on What's Healthy & What's Not
Smoothie season is almost here. Summer is the season where we crave smoothies more often due to its cooling and easy-to-digest effect.
As a personal trainer and health coach, I’ve seen how the smoothie industry corrupted the mixed fruit beverage. With it’s clever marketing tactics and special “fat boosting” tablets, the public has been misinformed about smoothies. Today, smoothies are trendy and “cool” thanks to its odd flavor combinations. Move away basic banana, strawberry and whey; chickpeas, oats and chia seeds are the new protein boosters in town.
What are some of the problems with smoothies sold today? They contain mystery ingredients, sold in super-sized cups, and can spike blood sugar thanks to its higher sugar content. This blog guides you to what you need to know about smoothie ingredients, portion sizes, fruit used and liquids used.
Portion Sizes: Should smoothies be a meal replacement?
Smoothies are healthy, until they become the next super-size me meal for hipsters and surfers. It is common for smoothie shops to sell 16, 24, 32 and even 44-ounce smoothies that contain the same amount of calories as a traditional meal, or even a fast food meal! Many people have good intentions, but fail to realize that gigantic smoothies will probably cause you to eat more calories during the day.
In my opinion, smoothies should not replace a meal and should contain ingredients that you can eat from its whole food state.
First we have to under the role of digestion. Any food broken down from its whole food state is “predigested food.” This means the digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food because it’s already broken down. This goes for anything that is chopped, pureed, blended and cooked.
Some companies mask bigger portion sizes with ice cubes, but generally, the bigger the smoothie the more ingredients. So in order to fill you up, specifically long term, you need to consume more of it. Like a pureed soup (think of a creamy tomato or cream of asparagus), if you eat a bowl, most like you’ll still be hungry. Smoothies are satiating on a short-term basis. So if you consume 700 calories with 70 grams of sugar (from milk/juice and fruit) it’s too much sugar (even though its natural) on the system, especially if you order the smoothie with solid food.
Gulping down 24 and 32 ounce smoothies are too much on the system in one setting. Some companies sell 44 ounces!
You need to ask yourself, “Can I consume the smoothie ingredients in its whole food state in one meal?” Most likely, it will be a no. I recommend 8-12 ounce smoothies because it serves its nutritional value.
For those who are on the go and eat a smoothie as a meal replacement, choose a smoothie with some protein in it to satiate the body until you can eat again.
Food corruption is one of the biggest battles in today’s society. Unless you cook for yourself using whole foods, it is impossible to know what is in your food.
Frozen foods like ice cream contain emulsifiers, which makes it melt perfectly. The science of smoothies contains mystery ingredients either for texture, taste or “nutritional value.”
The above nutrition labels are from the Pacific Northwest chain, Emerald City smoothie. Although the labels say “whey protein,” what exactly is in the protein powder? Many protein powders contain artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. Look at the nutty banana nutritional label. What exactly is flavor? Is it artificial flavor? Sugary syrup? What is it?
Store bought smoothies like NAKED and Bolt are no better. The question that no consumer asks is, “how does the strawberry smoothie stay so pink?” If you’ve ever cut your own fruit, or juiced at home, the fruit / juice browns within 30 minutes. If its too pink, there must be a mystery ingredient to keep its shelf life. Plus, any "protein powder" smoothie doesn't really stay as smooth and thin when sitting on the shelf for a while at home compared to mainstream "vanilla chai smoothie" bottles.
Have you ever tasted an avocado smoothie from a store but when you got home and made it yourself it tasted bland? It’s because these companies use stevia or a sweetener/syrup to make it palatable.
Smoothies are one food made “bad.” And it is best to control what goes into the blender by making it yourself. Many companies are owned, operated and corrupted by behemoths like Pepsi Co. & Kellogg's.
Using Juice as the Liquid Base – A Smoothie No No
Juice, like mentioned above, is the broken down, liquid remains from the fruit or vegetable’s whole food state. The body easily digests and absorbs juice. And since a smoothie is easy to digest, the body ingests too much sugar in on sitting, even though it originates from fruit. When that much sugar hits the system, the body cannot tell the difference between a soda pop or an orange-mango smoothie. To get one cup of orange juice, it is possible to juice up to four oranges. Can you eat four oranges in one meal?
Plus, since a smoothie is a liquid, there is not much saliva produced, which contains enzymes to break down the food.
I recommend using an unsweetened plant-based milk as the liquid base. If you use a fruit juice base, make sure the portion size stays under 12 ounces. Every now and then using fruit juice is okay, but long-term juice consumption has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes. I recommend squeezing your own juice, if possible.
It is better to eat the fruit in its natural state or use milk (preferably plant-based) as the base. Another alternative is to use water.
Tips for Making Smoothies
-Keep portion sizes "normal" meaning 8-12 ounces
-Recommend plant-based milk or water as the liquid base
-Use Enough Ingredients that you think you can actually eat from the whole food state
-For thicker smoothies, freeze fresh fruit and then use it in a blender
-Consume the smoothie and once you obtain your next hunger pang, incorporate solid foods
Mind Body Soul Food Smoothie Recipe Examples
Vegan Tropical Peach Smoothie
Banana Spinach Smoothie
Vegan Caramel Apple Smoothie
Vegan Tropical Peach Smoothie
Dairy-Free Cherry Berry Vanilla Smoothie
About the Author
Elizabeth Rae Kovar M.A. is an award-winning plant-based fitness trainer and health coach. She is a Master Trainer presenter for BOSU & the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Kovar is also an ACE Subject Matter Expert in Fitness Nutrition. Elizabeth has studied yoga in 7 different countries and is author of Finding Om: An Indian Journey of Rickshaws, Chai, Chapattis and Gurus. Kovar is the first Stuart R. Givens Fellowship co-recipient, 2014 Shape.com's "Top 50 Hottest Trainers in America" and "PFP Media Personal Trainer of the Month - November 2016."
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Elizabeth Rae Kovar M.A. is Author of her memoir, Finding Om and is a Fitness Trainer, Yogi, Reiki Master, Presenter and Lover of Life. To view her portfolio please visit www.elizabethkovar.com