It can be a challenge to create healthy, easy meals, especially when we are on the go. The smoothie is one of the more popular health foods to emerge in recent years. And these days, you can find them anywhere, from your neighborhood new age restaurant to famous fast food joints. There’s a reason that the smoothie is so ubiquitous; they are a fast, easy and convenient way to get a lot of nutrition into your body in a short amount of time. But although smoothies have many benefits to our health, they can also cause health challenges, depending on how they are made.
What’s In a Smoothie?
Blended fruit is the most basic ingredient in a smoothie. Unlike in a juice, a smoothie can contain the entire fruit including the skin and seeds. Fruit is simply cut up and blended until it’s a liquid, instead of having its liquid extracted, as is the case with juice.
But the smoothie has much more potential than just the addition of fruit. Beyond that basic element, smoothies can include just about anything. A large number of smoothies have some sort of fat component, often a protein-rich food like yogurt or nut butter. They also tend to include a variety of fruit. Some people add supplements like protein powder, digestive supports like fresh ginger and powdered cinnamon to their smoothie. Super foods like spirulina, maca, or raw cacao can also be added.
The green smoothie is a definite favorite. This includes green leafy vegetables such kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, arugula, and lettuce. These leafy veggies can be blended with sweet fruit like bananas, or a raw vegan fat like avocado or soaked almonds can be used.
Beware the Unhealthy Smoothie
The level of a smoothie’s healthfulness depends on what has been put into it. But it’s important to understand that in a smoothie; relatively large amounts of food have been broken into tiny bits. This means that far more calories can be consumed than we realize. Making a smoothie that has over 800 calories is very easy to do. And because smoothies are liquid, we can ingest a high volume without necessarily feeling full, and then feel hungry again shortly after.
Fruit contains a lot of calories as well as naturally occurring sugar. If a smoothie is largely fruit-based, and a sweetener like agave nectar or honey is added, the sugar calories skyrocket which can spike our blood sugar levels.
Weight gain is triggered by eating too much sugar. Many think that increased fat consumption causes weight gain, but in a smoothie, healthy fats like avocados and nuts are usually added. Eating a lot of sugar places a lot of stress on the bloodstream. Whatever the body doesn’t immediately use for energy is converted into fat. And this is what makes smoothies potentially fattening; the potentially large amount of sugar that’s ingested in a relatively short period of time.
Healthy Smoothie Versions
Of course, there are incredibly healthy versions of the smoothie. One example is the vegan smoothie which contains primarily leafy green vegetables with some healthy fats, plant-based proteins, and a small amount of fruit. The vegan smoothie is a great way to boost your health. You can enjoy a large serving of nutritious greens and camouflage their taste in the fruits you add. This is a great idea for those who find salads challenging to enjoy. You can even make a sugar-free smoothie with greens, lemon, avocado, and assorted seeds.
The secret to a smoothie that supports weight loss and overall health is the careful choice of ingredients. Include only those ingredients that you would feel good about eating in a single meal. For example, if you would not eat 4 ounces of nut butter or 3 bananas in one meal, you may wish to reconsider adding them to your smoothie, because you will be consuming a high amount of calories at once.
It’s always a good idea to include a bit of fat in your smoothie to make the vitamins in the vegetables more accessible by your body. Doing this will also increase the level of satiation so that you feel full for longer, but it won’t be so much fat that your smoothie becomes a dessert. Adding just enough fruit to make the greens palatable is preferable to turning your smoothie into a fruit salad. Avoid the addition of sugar and calorie-laden ingredients like fruit juice. Do not add sweeteners unless it is stevia, which provides the sugary flavor without blood sugar spike. Ensure your smoothies are high in fiber, as this will help to slow the absorption rate of any sugar that may be present.
It also makes sense to think of your smoothie as a meal instead of a drink. Use smoothies as a main meal replacement. Enjoy your smoothie as you would any other meal, by sitting at your dining table. Drink slowly, and chew it a bit. This will help to further break down the greens and help your body to absorb it more slowly and thoroughly. If you intend to lose weight or maintain your current weight, the calories in your smoothie can be counted as a part of your daily total.
Smoothies remain one of the most versatile, healthy and convenient meal options available today. With the push of a button, we can create elaborate and delicious concoctions of fruity and green goodness. But just as with anything else, smoothies are only as healthy as their individual ingredients, amounts, and serving sizes. Choose to include mostly green veggies in your creation, along with a little healthy fat, plant-based protein, and minimal fruit, and your body will reap the many benefits.
This post is contributed by Ron McDiarmid, who is the founder of My Healthy Living Coach. Having had health challenges along the way Ron was keen to share the research and learning he gathered. Through MHLC this continued into a current presentation of healthy lifestyle choices and how to implement them. Check out his website at www.myhealthylivingcoach.com.