Smoothies are definitely touted as a diet-friendly meal replacement. What’s more, they’re convenient, quick and packed with whole fruits and vegetables for an easy, on-the-go drink.
But what many people don’t realize is that smoothies can actually lead to unintended weight gain, even though it’s nutrient dense and “healthy”. So, if smoothies are a common part of your diet, you might want to take a closer look at what you’re throwing in your blender so that you feel and look great.
Are you eating too much fruit in your smoothie?
If you’re not a big fan of fruit, or have a hard time getting your kids to eat it, a smoothie is the perfect way to make fruit more palatable and accessible. The only problem is that by adding fruit to a smoothie, you can add far more fruit than you would probably eat in a normal serving.
When you eat whole fruits, it takes longer to consume them and there’s more satisfaction. What’s more, your brain has a chance to tell you when it’s time to slow down and stop eating. But when you pack two or more pieces of fruit into one drink, it’s easy to eat too much fruit.
Smoothies have a high-sugar content
Whole fruits are a great source of nutrition, providing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even healthy fats. But unless you’re choosing low glycemic index fruits, such as pears and apples, you’re most likely adding lots of bananas.
And while bananas are the quintessential smoothie ingredient, be aware that they pack a lot of sugar. What’s more, all of that sugar will be stored as body fat if you don’t burn it off.
Barry Popkin, PhD, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina believes smoothies are just as bad as sugar-loaded fruit juices. And according to Popkin,”long-term fruit juice intake is linked with increased risk of diabetes and other health problems.”
Fruit fiber is destroyed
Since the fruits are blended in your smoothie, their insoluble fiber is destroyed. You might be thinking, “Well, who cares?” But the truth is, this insoluble fiber is what helps to slow down how your body metabolizes sugar.
Without this fiber, your body gets a huge kick of sugar all at once and according to Robert Lustig, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, “The sugar is absorbed at a maximal rate…and the excess sugar is turned into liver fat which is the precursor of metabolic syndrome.”
Not sure what metabolic syndrome includes? Some characteristics include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, fat around the waist and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Unhealthy and fattening smoothie ingredients
When you make smoothies at home, you can add anything and everything. If your smoothie usually contains any of the following ingredients, you might want to reconsider them.
- Chocolate syrups and/or powders
- Sweeteners, including sugar, honey and agave nectar
- Non-organic peanut butters
- Ice cream, whip cream or cool whip
- Low-quality, cheap peanut butter
- Sweetened, low-quality protein powders
The Danger of Protein Powders
Since we usually make smoothies as a meal replacement, we add protein to them. However, we usually don’t add a whole food source of protein. Instead, we tend to use protein powders that are made up of whey (separated milk particles), as well as sugars, soy, artificial flavors, preservatives, additives and gums.
All of these extra ingredients don’t really help to promote a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, it’s easy to add too much protein into a smoothie and consume too many calories in one “meal”.
Not only can too much protein lead to unwanted weight gain, but it can also lead to kidney problems, including kidney stones.
A Closer Look at Smoothie Calorie Count
It’s hard to imagine a fruit-based smoothie being unhealthy for you, but too much sugar can really add up. For example, Starbucks’ Strawberry Smoothie is a mix of banana, strawberry puree, milk and a whey-based protein. 16 ounces comes in at 300 calories, with 42 grams of sugar.
And don’t be fooled by the Peanut Butter Moo’d from Jamba Juice. It contains 480 calories and 72 grams of sugar!
And if you’re wondering how much sugar you should consume on an average day, Dr. Axe recommends no more than 20 grams per day for women, and 36 grams of sugar per day for men.
As you can see, with either of these smoothies, you can easily double your sugar consumption for the entire day with one drink.
How to Do Smoothies the Healthy Way
Even though smoothies can be high in calories and sugar, that doesn’t mean you should cut them out completely. It just means you have to be a little smarter about how you make them. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy smoothies that aren’t loaded with sugar and calories.
- Follow the 70/30 rule. That means, your smoothie should be 70 percent vegetables and 30 percent fruits. Good veggies to add include kale, beet greens, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber and even cauliflower.
- Add just one piece or one handful of whole fruit to your smoothie to keep you from consuming too many sugars.
- Skip the protein powder and opt for greek yoghurt. It contains twice the protein of normal yogurt and half the carbohydrates.
- Add berries, like blueberries and strawberries. They’re full of vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Make your smoothie an anti-inflammatory powerhouse by adding turmeric, an age-old spice that Traditional Chinese Medicine has used for centuries to help reduce inflammation.
- Add raw cacao powder instead of sugary powders. It’s a great source of antioxidants and a top source of magnesium. Besides, it tastes so good! Try Viva Certified Organic Cacao Powder.
- If you’d like to add protein powder, just make sure it’s a high-quality form of protein without nasty fillers and additives. Top picks include Orgain’s Organic Plant Based Protein Powder. It’s gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and soy-free. That way you can have some healthy protein in your smoothie without any of the nasty ingredients present in so many other protein powder options.
Smoothies can be a great source of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but just be smart about your blended concoction. That way, you can enjoy a nutrient-packed beverage to support your entire body.