Smoothies – the best or worst for your body?

Smoothies have become a staple in many diets over the last years. They make it easy to consume fruit and vegetables in one easy-to-sip drink and you can hide all the good things in there that you wouldn’t eat by themselves (celery anyone?).

But as always, there are two sides to the coin: a smoothie can be the best thing you consume all day – or far from that.

And there are a few tricks to make sure YOUR smoothie is just the right one for you.
Beforehand, and I will probably repeat that multiple times on this blog: there is no “one fits all” diet. Apart from health issues that influence how the body can digest or handle certain foods, there are also different body types that determine how we metabolize our food and how well we absorb certain nutrients.

I’m a carb monster for example: I metabolize them very fast and tend to become hypoglycemic after a meal mostly consisting of carbs because my body goes overboard with the insulin production. So I have to make sure my meals always contain complex carbs along with protein and/or fat to make sure the carbs are metabolized slower and my blood sugar level doesn’t drop, which can lead to either me feeling dizzy or being extremely hungry again very soon and scavenging the pantry for sugary foods.

Others are perfectly fine while eating the 80/10/10 diet (80% carbs, 10% fat and protein each) or eating low carb high fat with less than 30g of carbs a day. Some eat raw vegan, some eat paleo, as long as they feel well with it, no problem.

But smoothies have been advertised as the “one for all superfood” that will cleanse your body, help you lose weight and make you strong and fit – and they can be an absolutely wonderful addition to your diet – but there are a few tricks to keep in mind.

Let’s go through some complaints or worries people have regarding smoothies:

1. “They don’t satisfy me – after a smoothie I get hungry again quick!”

I feel you! A smoothie alone rarely satisfies me for a long enough time. To me they’re an addition to my breakfasts but I don’t consume them alone as a meal.

Smoothies are liquid, so they run through our digestive system pretty fast as they are easier to digest than the whole fruit or vegetables. Additionally, chewing has a major impact on how satisfied we feel, so simply sipping a smoothie won’t give you the same level of satisfaction than chewing the ingredients in their non-liquified form.

Also: despite smoothies being stock full of fruits and veggies (ideally), people tend to add a lot of sweet fruit and just a little veggies – making the smoothie essentially a sugar bomb that causes our blood sugar to spike and then fall quick which causes us to get hungry again soon.

What can we do to make a smoothie more satisfying?

  • Add fruit with a lower glycemic index: cherries, berries, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit. Try to avoid adding too many fruits with a high glycemic index (meaning they will have a larger impact on your blood sugar) like bananas, dates, grapes, figs.
  • Up your vegetable ratio: the all time favorite kale is a good addition, but spinach and broccoli (yes, raw! Believe me!) also make wonderful smoothie ingredients. More vegetables means more vitamins and less sugar which makes the smoothie have less impact on your blood sugar.
  • Add filling, protein rich ingredients like yogurt or oats.
  • Eat something along with the smoothie. Who says they only should be consumed as a single meal? Pffff…. my every day breakfast at the moment is an English muffins with cottage cheese and honey along with a smoothie

2. “Smoothies make me feel sick!”

And again, I feel you! Certain ingredients in smoothies make me feel sick and bloated too: lettuce and cucumber for example. But why?

Well, if your smoothie has more fruit and vegetables in it that you’d ever be able to eat in one sitting, it is simply too much for some people. A head of lettuce, a cucumber, a bundle of kale, two bananas, an apple and a big handful of cherries would make quite a big meal to eat, and it doesn’t make any less of a “big meal” in liquid form.

If smoothies tend to make you feel sick and bloated try these tricks:

  • Start by only adding as much fruit or vegetables as you could eat as a whole and fill the rest up with water. If you feel good afterwards, slowly add more (preferably more vegetables) to your smoothie next time.
  • To up the nutritional value add some highly nutritional “super foods” – there are plenty of ready-to-use mixes and powders available like açai, several dehydrated and powdered greens and roots from nettle to maca, bee pollen, medicinal mushroom powders…

3. “Smoothies don’t taste good!”

Yes, that’s true sometimes. I had my fair share of smoothies that I never want to get close to ever again  (I’m talking about you, beetroot and banana!!!). But smoothies taste like whatever you put in there and you can make one with just the ingredients you love!

  • Don’t put anything in that you simply don’t like just because it’s “healthy” and considered a “super food”. I don’t like celery and beetroot, so I don’t put them in my smoothie, even if they’d magically make me more beautiful after the first sip. They taste like soap and soil, and I don’t do soap and soil!
  • Start with two or three ingredients you know taste good in combination (banana, strawberry, mango for example) and add some vegetables that don’t have a strong taste (spinach tastes like nothing in a smoothie, as does lettuce).
  • A date for added sweetness can make all the difference!

4. “Smoothies aren’t all that healthy!”

Also true: a smoothie can be as unhealthy as a bowl of ice cream with extra whipped cream and sprinkles and chocolate sauce (and cookie dough… and smarties… and… stop, woman!!!)

If you add a lot of calorie dense ingredients, cheap protein powders, chocolate sauce, extra sugar, sweet yogurts, a lot of very sugary fruit  (dates, it’s you I’m talking about) and fruit juices (which are basically sugar water) your smoothie can turn from the best thing you eat all day to the worst!

  • Use naturally sweet fruit instead of additional sugar or sweeteners
  • Use plain yogurt
  • Protein powders are great, but make sure they’re good quality and don’t contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame. You can easily use a flavorless protein powder as you’ll get flavor from the other ingredients
  • Don’t go overboard with calorie dense ingredients like avocado or nuts. An 800 kcal smoothie might be all natural and healthy but it still has 800 kcal and if you watch your calorie intake that might be two meals in one mason jar.
  • Don’t add fruit juice. Fruit juice is mostly sugar and water with little nutritional value and with fruit already in the smoothie you simply don’t need it. Fill the smoothie up with plain water to bring it to your desired consistency.

5. “It’s too much work to make! And too expensive!”

Excuuuuuuuse me! I promise you here and now, it’s not! Swear!

  • Throw in the whole fruit if you have a high speed blender. I don’t bother taking off the strawberry tops or filet the orange, peel the apple or pick every possible little stem of the blueberries – they get blended up all together and just add more nutrients!
  • Make yourself some frozen smoothie packs ready to grab! HERE is an easy guide and some ideas what the put into them!
  • Buy ready made smoothie mixes. They’re available frozen or freeze dried / dehydrated and just need some water added
  • You don’t need a high speed blender at all: all I had for years was a cheap stick blender and it worked perfectly. It doesn’t get raw broccoli all that smooth but I just swapped that for softer ingredients like spinach.
  • A smoothie doesn’t need 4 fruit and 3.2 vegetables in it. One of my favorite smoothie recipes I’ll give you below has a total of… ONE fruit and ONE vegetable!
  • Use some scraps! Seriously! As long as it’s not spoiled or moldy you can throw it all in: soft strawberries, broccoli and kale stalks, wrinkly apples, trimmings from making your salad bowl, carrot tops and greens…
  • Buy fruit and vegetables in season and/or on sale, cut up and freeze in portions. Grab a handful to add to your smoothie and you’re good to go!

So: if the smoothie you drink is your friend or not all depends on the ingredients, and with these few tips in mind you can make just the right smoothie for you that’s delicious and full of nutrients, and makes you feel satisfied and happy!

Three of my favorite smoothie recipes are:

“Sweet Greens are made of this”

  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 3 handfuls of spinach
  • 2 large leaves of kale
  • Juice of one lemon

“Orange you glad I’m not a soda”

  • 5 tangerines (peeled)
  • 2 carrots
  • Water

“I almonds got away with it”

  • 2 apples, cored but not peeled
  • 1 pear or 1 banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 medjool date
  • 1/4 cup of oats
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