Smoothies. Health nuts gulp ’em. Diet books preach ’em. What’s not to love?
Well, depending on what you’re throwing in that blender, your smoothie may be doing you more harm than good. Smoothies can be a great way to pack some nutritional value into your diet. This is even more true if you opt to throw some greens in there, since most people don’t eat enough veggies. The sneaky problem with smoothies is that they condense EVERYTHING down so small you may be over-killing certain nutrients with all of your good intentions.
Fruit is great for you. Antioxidants in fruit work like little warriors to fight off diseases in our bodies, and may even help prevent aging. When it comes to fruit, the smaller and darker it is, the generally better it is. For example, blueberries offer tons of nutritional benefits and are far lower in sugar than something like bananas. The area where fruit becomes a smoothie danger zone is when you combine too many types of fruit or other sugary ingredients. Adding bananas… and berries… and mango… and pineapple… and sweetened yogurt… and juice, very quickly becomes the sugary equivalent of a candy bar or soda!
The problem with too many sugary ingredients in one smoothie is that it gives you a powerful burst of energy that burns out very quickly. This can cause headaches, irritability, and frequently leads to feeling hungry again sooner rather than later. For maintaining good overall health, and feeling good, you want to try to keep your blood sugar nice and steady. We can do this by trying to always combine a sugary food with something rich in fiber and protein.
We all hear about glorious protein when talking about healthy eating. Protein is awesome because it takes our body longer to break down, keeping us fuller longer. It also is the nutrient our body uses most to rebuild muscle. The way our muscles grow is actually by making teeny tiny micro tears during working out, and then repairing themselves bigger and better. Some great sources of protein naturally are things like meats, beans, and nuts. When it comes to smoothies or shakes, many people think of protein powders as the holy grail. These are typically super concentrated versions of milk proteins (whey).
The issue with protein powders varies depending on the specific product being used. As a former supplement store employee, I can say with experience that in many cases people are paying way too much money for these. Many brands dilute their product with fillers and unnecessary chemicals. Supplements in general are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since things like vitamins and protein powders are not technically food or drugs, they really have very few ‘checks’ to pass before being sold to the public. Because of this, many products hit the shelves with unsafe side effects, like liver failure, and aren’t pulled until they start causing harm to people buying it.
Another issue with protein supplements is that because they are so concentrated, it is easier to take in too much protein. It would take quite a bit of chewing to consume too much protein in the form of chicken or beans. With artificial supplements like protein powders, it becomes much easier to sip up more than a day’s requirement for protein. This not only packs on calories, but also causes an unnecessary stress on your body’s organs.
Try using whole food sources of protein like peanut or almond butter for a more safe and satisfying stay-full ingredient.
This has gotten some press lately. Similarly to how protein powders can pack in too much protein, vegetables can lead to individual nutrient overload when blended down and consumed in massive quantities. Veggies like kale are renowned for their dense nutrients, which is totally fantastic for your body. When you think about it, you would never sit down and eat 2 pounds of kale in one day.Yet, when people juice or drink excessive amounts of green smoothies, this isn’t an unheard of dose of greens within a few days’ slurping. While most vitamins will be pushed out of the body through urine and sweat if we take in too much, some can actually float around the body and slowly poison you. Some symptoms people are seeing from overdoing the kale are things like tiredness, nausea, and headaches.
While overloading on 1 particular nutrient is only a risk for people who take green smoothies to the extreme, it is also easily avoidable. First, never use smoothies as entire 3-daily-meal replacements. They are a great addition to a healthy diet, but should not replace eating whole foods. Most importantly, change up your ingredients. Rather than making the same exact smoothie everyday, use a blend of greenery and berries or rotate ingredients. This way you’ll never overload your body, and your taste buds won’t get bored!
Everything All At Once
The last smoothie warning has to do with calorie catastrophes. Remember, calories are a measure of the amount of energy in food. Fruits, veggies, proteins, yogurt, etc all offer great fuel for your day! The issue becomes when you want to be SUPER HEALTHY so you toss in EVERY HEALTHY FOOD all in one smoothie. A smoothie that has fruits, oats, yogurt, peanut butter, and fruit juice could very easily exceed the amount of calories you should be eating in a standard dinner. However, unlike if you eat a giant bowl of pasta, you probably won’t feel overly full. Our bodies don’t recognize liquid calories the same way that we do solid food calories (mostly in that we don’t feel that our hunger is satisfied by them). To combat this, just keep an eye on your ingredients and keep in mind that snacks should stay around 200 calories, meals around 500-600.