We’ve all know that one person who sees someone drinking a smoothie, only to roll their eyes and say: “you know those are so bad for you”, before tucking into a sugar-laden breakfast bar.
But the fact is, smoothies get a bad rep. Yes, some smoothies are bad for you. But for each calorific smoothie you find, there are dozens more healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies that boost your immune system, deliver valuable nutrients, and even help you lose weight.
To convince you once and for all that smoothies are a perfectly viable addition to your diet, let’s break it down for you.
When are smoothies not good for you?
The reason smoothies have such a bad image isn’t because they intrinsically bad for you — it’s about the way shop-bought smoothies are made.
Brands like Starbucks offer a range of smoothies, all in a variety of wholesome-looking colours. Packed with apples, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, and spinach, at first glance they promise nothing but health and vitality, all in one handy drink.
But in reality, they are often packed with hidden sugars and calories, hidden away in the small print. It’s a necessity of producing cost-effective smoothies en masse.
And even those made entirely of fruit and vegetables can be bad for you in excess. They often contain high levels of sugar (albeit natural) from the fruit. Having one or two on occasion is fine. But drinking them everyday will gradually take its toll on you.
Are smoothies good for weight loss?
Well, yes and no — it depends.
Smoothies are often made with fruit, vegetables, and a binder such as water or milk. That all sounds well and good in itself.
But by turning all these into a liquid with a blender, you’re reducing the effort it takes to consume them. As a consequence, your jaw doesn’t need to chew.
But chewing plays an important part in stopping you feeling hungry. It sends a message to the stomach to let it know it should start digesting, making it feel full.
So when you’re drinking rather than chewing, your stomach doesn’t know it should feel full.
How to make a healthy smoothie
But this doesn’t mean you should ignore smoothies completely. You just need to use the right ingredients.
Use frozen fruit
Fruit is a great addition to your smoothie. Of course, they still contain a lot of natural sugars, so use it in moderation.
By using frozen fruit, you increase its density. This makes your smoothie thicker and more filling (and well as giving it a nice frosty texture, great for a summer cooler).
Frozen fruit is also super cheap, with big bags available at supermarkets for only a few pounds. Alternatively, you can buy your own to chop up and freeze at home.
Include stuff that fills you up
As we mentioned earlier, smoothies generally aren’t great at making you feel full. You’re not chewing, so you’re not letting your body know that it should start feeling full.
But a good way to bypass this is by including ingredients that actually fill you up.
Seeds are great at this. Chia seeds are small but mighty, and pumpkin seeds are great for a filling autumnal smoothie. And flaxseed is another filling seed that blends perfectly in smoothies.
Finally, tofu is a good go-to for a filling smoothie. It might seem odd at first, but it’s such a neutral flavour that you’ll barely taste it.
Add a couple tablespoons of protein powder
You might associate protein powder with the thick-necked guys at the gym benching for #gains. But whey protein actually has a wealth of health benefits that anyone can enjoy.
Whey protein contains essential amino acids that repair damaged tissue in the body, boosting muscle growth. You don’t need to go overboard — a couple of heaped tablespoons full are enough to give your smoothie that healthy kick.
Use coconut water instead of fruit juice
If you prefer a thinner smoothie, don’t add fruit juice. Even freshly squeezed fruit juice is just extra sugar on top of the fruit already in your smoothie.
Instead, add some coconut water. It contains a wealth of electrolytes and potassium, and tastes great with just about any other ingredient.
Buy it prepackaged or make your own — both are great alternatives to fruit juice for your smoothie.
Add a chopped avocado
The darling of the millennial, avocados have soared in popularity in recent years.
And with good reason — while they do contain a lot of fat, they also contain oleic and linoleic acids. These are great at regulating your cholesterol, lowering levels of bad cholesterol and boosting levels of good cholesterol.
Like everything on this list, don’t go overboard. One avocado per smoothie will suffice.
Careful with the sweetener
If you’re stuffing your smoothie with kale, seeds, and even eggs, you might want to add something sweet to make it taste that little bit nicer.
But sweeten with caution! Obviously refined sugar is a big no-no, but so too are supposedly ‘natural’ sweeteners such as honey. Even natural honey straight from the hive contains enough sugar to negate the effects of your healthy smoothie.
If you absolutely need a sweetener, use a little agave syrup. It has a lower glycemic index than honey or maple syrup, which prevents your blood sugar spiking and making you feel hungry later on.
Smoothies aren’t always the sneaky sugar-laden snake oil they’re made out to be — but they’re not necessarily a cure-all elixir straight from the Fountain of Youth.
Ultimately, whether or not a smoothie is healthy depends on what goes in it. And the only way you can ever be sure of that is by simply making it yourself.
By choosing a variety of wholesome ingredients including fruit, veg, seeds, and protein, you can create a smoothie that boosts your energy and revitalises your body.
So next time Janet from HR tries to tell you how bad your smoothie is, you’ll know exactly what to say.