I think many would agree that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do smoothies. There’s certainly an art to it. There has a be a good texture, perfect temperature, and a great mesh of flavors. Nutritionally speaking, there’s more than one way to mess up a smoothie.
In my last blurb, I explained how drinking smoothies can disrupt digestion. While I don’t think that for most people swapping out smoothies for whole vegetables would be of any benefit, I will agree they are enjoyable and a great way to get in extra vegetables. But before we begin, let’s cover the differences between smoothies and juices, how to ruin a smoothie, and then we’ll wrap up with my template for building a better smoothie. Let’s roll..
smoothie versus juice: the age old debate
smooth·ie, pronouncedˈsmo͞oT͟Hē/. noun.
1. a man with a smooth, suave manner. (who knew?!)
2. a thick, smooth drink of fresh fruit pureed with milk, yogurt, or ice cream. (source)
juice, pronounced jo͞os/. noun
1. a drink made from fruit or vegetable juice (source)
The process of juicing extracts water and nutrients from the fruit and vegetables and discard the fiber. Most juices have had all their pulp removed, and will have more concentrated sugar and little (if any) fiber. Smoothies, on the other, are blended and will contain the entire fruit or vegetable, including the skin and fiber. This pulverized fiber, will slow down the absorption of the natural sugar from the produce. Fiber acts as a signal to inhibit ghrelin, the hunger hormones, which means it will help provide satiety. For this reason, juices will leave you feeling hungry more quickly.
Juices do have a time and a place. For instance, they can be a great way to support an intense healing and detoxification program (such as in the case of cancer) as a way to quickly saturate the body on a cellular level. But here’s the deal, juices cause a rapid increase of blood sugar and will put your pancreas, adrenals, and liver in overdrive trying to mitigate the impact of all that straight sugar.
How to ruin a smoothie
- Use only fruit. This can negatively impact blood sugar levels.
- Not adding enough color or veggies. Smoothies are a great way to sneak in some extra veggies in to your diet. We should be striving to get in each color of the rainbow in to our diet daily, so sneak in some variety of color in there too. Yes, your smoothie may turn out brown, but it’ll taste just as yummy!
- Not balancing the carbs with protein and fat. Fruit and vegetables count as carbs. Protein and fat will make the smoothie more satiating and will help to balance the carbohydrates to support more stable blood sugar levels.
- Adding in overly-processed powders or smoothie enhancers, such as protein powders, that are denatured, poor quality, or contain artificial sweeteners.
- Overly relying on smoothies as a source of calories and/or vegetable intake.
- Not taking the time to sit down and actually enjoy your smoothie. Not taking the time to eat and digest will wreck digestion and can feed pathogenic gut bacteria. See my previous post for more about this.
How to build a better smoothie
Here’s my three key tips:
- Use those vegetables! Stick to no more than half of the smoothie of fruit, and really packing in those vegetables – aiming for as much as you can get away with. As for the other ingredients, I never measure; it always turns out to be slightly unique this way! Check out my Eat the Rainbow smoothie recipes!
- Choose quality ingredients. Stick to the principal of whole-food ingredients. Use the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 list to help you shop for organic produce. Organic frozen produce is a great option here to maximize freshness. Also, shop in season at your local farmers markets and freeze. I even make my own personal grab-and-go smoothie packs, which I toss my smoothie ingredients in ziplock bags. On busy mornings, just grab from the freezer, blend, and eat! You can even freeze greens — try it!
- Balancing the protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables
- Protein: full-fat yogurt or milk, nut butters, bone broth, collagen peptides
- Fat: coconut milk, coconut oil, nuts and seeds
And the most important part is to enjoy! Sit down and drink that smoothie. Even better, make it in to a smoothie bowl so that you’re slowing down, chewing, and optimizing digestion!