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Are Smoothies Good For You? Try These Tricks To Make It Healthier

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Is Your Smoothie Actually Good For Your Health?

A survey in Australia revealed that store-bought smoothies have more calories than a Big Mac. Regularly consuming smoothies can cause weight gain and increase risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Minimize risk by choosing a small-sized drink, checking ingredients and calorie count, opting for skimmed milk. Even better, make a healthy smoothie at home!

In recent years, smoothies have seen a surge in popularity. This should not be a surprise, though. They are easy to make, full of flavor, and can double as an amazing source of vitamins. What is not to love? According to the USDA nutrition standards on the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, smoothies may be classified as food or beverage if they meet certain criteria. For example, if a smoothie contains a major food group as the main ingredient and meets nutrient standards, it is good to go.1 But does this really mean smoothies are good for you? Before you use them as meal replacements or guzzle them down on the daily, it is a good idea to get the full low-down on healthy smoothies.

In Defense Of Smoothies

One study of students found that introducing fruit smoothies into their meal options at breakfast increased overall fruit intake. Smoothies were popular with 45.1 percent of the participants, while whole fruit only won over 4.3 percent. This proves that smoothies do hold some promise for encouraging fussy eaters to chow down on their daily five of fruit and vegetables.2 If a smoothie is the only way you will get any greens into your system, go for it. It is a better alternative than not eating those greens at all.

Smoothies are also a wonderful option for busy people with little time to think about nutrition or meal planning. This is especially true if you have developed a habit of skipping breakfast and reaching for coffee. In this case, a smoothie is definitely the better choice. It serves as a source of nutrients from milk, nuts, fruit, and vegetables that would not have been consumed otherwise.

But Do Not Trade In Meals For Smoothies

Generally, smoothies do not make an ideal meal replacement unless they contain adequate quantities of all nutrients and food groups. If your smoothie has milk, powdered oats or brown rice, and vitamin-packed greens or fruit, it may work. The key is to ensure that these ingredients are added in the right ratios to meet the requirements of the intake of a regular meal. Unfortunately, most ready-made smoothies or mixes are just as good as sugary snacks or dessert.

If you are stuck in between a whole fruit or vegetable and a smoothie, there are a few things to consider. If you cooked the ingredient or ate it in a salad, you may lose the fiber-rich peel depending on preparation methods. But if you drink it right away, you will avoid loss of nutrients from heat or air exposure, also known as oxidation. However, if you buy a ready-made product from the store, the game totally changes. These products often contain additives, stabilizers, and sweeteners — things your body could do without.

Furthermore, drinking your meals may lead to hunger later on. One study found consuming a food source in the beverage form resulted in higher daily energy intake for that day. It did not matter if the energy came from protein, fat, or carbohydrates. Satiety decreased when food was consumed as a liquid rather than a solid meal.

Here is the breakdown: a high-carb food in liquid form resulted in a 12.4 percent rise in caloric intake for the day, while high protein led to a 15 percent increase. High-fat liquid intake also yielded a greater intake of 19 percent.3These results are certainly worth considering if you are trying to control your appetite throughout the day.

Know What Is In Your Smoothie

Smoothies are typically made with a base of milk or yogurt combined with any combination of fruits, vegetables, and flavoring. The term “smoothie” is quite broad. It can mean a syrupy drink made with full-fat milk or ice cream, artificial coloring, and artificial fruit-flavored syrups. It can also mean a blend of kale and almond milk livened up with a twist of lime. So before you can judge your smoothie, you need to know what is in it. The ingredients make all the difference.

  • Watch the Calories: While smoothies are an amazing way to get your nutrients in a quick and easy form, this seemingly healthy drink can pack in quite a few calories. Focus on nutrient-dense calories from fresh fruits and vegetables instead of packaged products.
  • Sweet as Candy: Unless you are purposely creating a dessert substitute, go easy on sweetening those smoothies. Try using a natural sweetener such as fresh fruit, organic honey, or agave. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the portion size, too.
  • Natural or Artificial: Using processed foods can damage the nutritional integrity of your smoothies. Common “health foods” like nut milks may be hiding preservatives and sweeteners. Your best bet? Make your own or carefully read ingredient labels.

Getting In The Right Ingredients

Here is a look at some ingredients that are excellent for your body.

The Milky Way

Most smoothies have a dairy or non-dairy milk or yogurt base. Take your pick from low-fat milk or yogurt. If you are vegan or want to cut back on dairy, opt for milk made from almonds, coconut, rice, or soy. Specifically, plant-based options such as nut milk have fewer calories, lower carbohydrates, and zero cholesterol.4Keep in mind that these non-dairy milks each have a distinctive taste, consistency, and color.

Veggie Power

Vegetable smoothies may take some getting used to. However, a little dose of sweetness can make them just as delicious as one made with fruit. By opting for a vegetable variant, you can avoid fructose intake from fruit and fuel up on vitamins and nutrients.

Go Green, Hulk Style

The Incredible Hulk might be closely associated with the color green – but he is not the only one. Green smoothies made with spinach and kale have quite the fan base. These foods are also great for your overall health, making them ideal for transforming the average smoothie.

Sprinkle In Superfoods

Adding in superfoods like blueberries, nuts, kale, and low-fat yogurt can deliver a powerful dose of antioxidants and other micronutrients. It is one of the best ways to kick-start your day or recover from a workout.5

Protein Power

To increase satiety, use more protein in your smoothies.6Uncooked oats, tofu, pre-cooked cooled rice or barley, nut butters, and yogurt are all awesome protein choices.7If you are looking for ways to gain weight in a healthy way, protein-rich smoothies may be the answer. They are also useful for supplementing protein intake during heavy endurance training.

References   [ + ]

1. Questions and Answers Related to the “Smart Snacks” Interim Final Rule- Revised, USDA.
2. Bates, Dylan, and Joseph Price. “Impact of Fruit Smoothies on Adolescent Fruit Consumption at School.” Health Education & Behavior 42, no. 4 (2015): 487-492.
3. Mourao, D. M., J. Bressan, W. W. Campbell, and R. D. Mattes. “Effects of food form on appetite and energy intake in lean and obese young adults.” International journal of obesity 31, no. 11 (2007): 1688-1695.
4. Almond Milk, Unsweetened, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, USDA.
5. What’s so super about superfoods?, American Heart Association.
6. Paddon-Jones, Douglas, Eric Westman, Richard D. Mattes, Robert R. Wolfe, Arne Astrup, and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga. “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87, no. 5 (2008): 1558S-1561S.
7. ILD Nutrition Manual:High-Calorie Shakes and Smoothies, UCSF Medical Center.