This article is written by Karina Francois and is taken from the current issue of Great Health Guide (May 2016 – issue 11).
Nutrition: Is A Smoothie Healthy? written by Karina Francois
These days, you can’t turn a corner without seeing a green smoothie or juice bar. Health conscious meal plans are laden with various smoothie recipes and people can’t get their hands on these ‘NutriBullets’ any faster. But while people have fired up their blenders with good intentions, they could be inadvertently filling their smoothies with large amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients.
When made with the right ingredients, smoothies are nutritional powerhouses. They are easily digestible and full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and offer an easy way to meet your daily fruit and vegetable intake.
I have three main rules that I provide to my patients for nutritious smoothies:
1. Include a balance of protein, essential fatty acids and carbohydrates to meet your dietary needs
2. Limit your sugar intake by having more vegetables than fruit
3. Include proteins to satisfy your hunger
The first commandment of healthy smoothies is that if you intend to replace a meal (such as breakfast), it needs to contain all of the portions a proper meal would. For example, a healthy balanced meal has good quality protein, essential fatty acids and complex carbohydrates, so your smoothie should include all of these groups. If you skip one of these essential components, you’ll soon feel your stomach grumbling.
Be discerning with how much fruit and vegetables you put into your smoothie. While common sense may tell you that the more fruits and vegetables you throw into your blender the better but this is actually a myth. While fruit has lots of health benefits, it still contains sugars particularly fructose, which must be consumed in moderation. Add too much fruit and you could be consuming your total daily sugar intake or more in one go – some smoothies contain more sugar than soft drinks!
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A good rule of thumb is to have approximately 70 per cent vegetables and 30 per cent fruit in your smoothie. Fruits such as mango, banana, or apples are great to have, as well berries which are high in antioxidants and are a good source of fibre. There are few more beneficial vegetables than spinach or kale. Sure, your smoothie may turn a less enticing shade of brown when mixed with greens, but the taste won’t be altered!
It’s also important to remember that a smoothie is a beverage, so it is less likely to keep you satiated than whole foods. To combat this, you can add sources of protein to your smoothie, such as a quality protein powder, green powder, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, plain Greek yogurt, coconut yogurt or avocado. Be aware that correct processing of green powder is important and avoid brands that add fillers.
So you’ve got your fruit, vegetables and protein, but how do you make it more drinkable? I personally like to add almond milk, which is a good source of magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. Fruit juices should be avoided at all costs, as they tend to contain high amounts of sugar because they are so concentrated. Coconut water is another good addition to your smoothie, or you can always add ice blocks to thicken your drink.
There is no point in making a smoothie if it doesn’t taste good, so add some flavour to your beverage with vanilla essence, mint, cacao or cinnamon.
While a smoothie can be a great way to incorporate fruit, veggies and protein into your diet, don’t fall into the trap of replacing all your meals with a smoothie beverage. In order to feel satiated, your body needs to chew and digest whole foods.
Take home summary:
Remember that smoothies need to include essential fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and protein to satiate you
Less is more: stick to 70% vegetables and 30% fruit to avoid a sugar overload
Add coconut water, milk or crushed ice instead of artificial fruit juices
Author of this article:
Karina Francois is a leading Australian naturopath, health educator and public speaker with over 14 years’ experience running her own clinic in Melbourne, Infinite Health Practice. She is also an international author, releasing her first book, Clean Food, Clear Thinking in 2015. After visiting a naturopath who assisted her back to health following a period of illness, Karina was inspired to help others to achieve optimal health and pursued a career in naturopathy. Katrina can be contacted through her website.
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