Smoothies have Carbohydrates! – Or do they?


Smoothies have Carbohydrates!

What?  Can a Smoothie have carbohydrates?  Isn’t that like saying the Pope is Jewish or milk and orange juice mix together naturally?  How can this concept enter the lips of sane people’s mouths?

And yet, the deed has been done.  The unthinkable has been penned.  There it is in print.  But, if it has been so stated, is it indeed true?  Let’s find out!

A smoothie, in the pure, unadulterated sense is a fruit-blended drink.  When smoothies first came out, they had no sugar or additives, otherwise known as carbohydrates (Agbenorhevi and Marshall, 2012).  Newer versions of the traditional smoothie fashioned the fruit-blend to include vegetables to accommodate growing demand that each person wolf down a whopping five portions of vegetables as well as fruit per day.   Why?  So says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; that’s why (Dietary Guidelines, 2015).

Over time blenders, more aptly named processors, conveniently blended whole fruits and vegetables with wholesome, high-fiber proteins such as oatmeal or flax grains, beans, nuts and seeds (High-protein smoothie add-ins, 2015).  These new generation processors did for smoothies what the juicers could not seem to accomplish (Keane, 1992).  The current-day smoothie, with its creamy texture of blended nutrients, presents all the nutrients at the proper consistency for maximum, sustained bioavailability.


Bioavailability.  Nutrients, when released into the digestive tract, are presented in one of three phases:  solid (chewed) food or liquid, watery soup or creamy semi-solids (Willett et al., 1995).

Solid food poses a challenge for nutrient release in the duodenum or the first foot of intestine after the stomach (Grossman, 1986). The duodenum is 12 inches, hence “duo-denum” or “two-plus-ten.” This important segment links with the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.  Thus, food that passes undigested cannot release important nutrients like iron that can only be absorbed in that part of the body (Sturgeon, 1956).

Liquids, such as what comes from juicers are watery and soupy.  As you can imagine the nutrients are all readily present, but they release with great intensity over a short period of time.  Scientists call this rapid processing of liquid nutrients and the body’s release, “first order kinetics” (Schulze, 2006).   For those who have medication or blood sugar sensitivities, this is especially dangerous.

Enter the semi-solids with their “time-released” feature.  Scientists call this “zero order kinetics” (Schulze, 2006).   Processed food from new generation smoothies reaches the upper intestines, especially the duodenum with just the correct consistency for relaxed bioavailability.  And, as you guessed it, insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, necessary for blood sugar regulation are released from the pancreas that is connected to the duodenum (Unger, Dobbs & Orci, 1978)!

So, how do smoothies have carbohydrates?

Originally, smoothies were intended to have a fruit-only blend and later the vegetables and protein were added.  The problem is along the way creative recipes have included unwanted carbohydrates that defeat the purpose of the “time-released” feature of the semi-solid smoothie (Williams, 1999)!   Maybe a few examples of hidden carbohydrates are warranted!

Carbohydrates are sugar (Carbohydrates, 2011).  Carbohydrates can be the simple sugar glucose like honeyhoney.   Or the glucose can be mixed with fructose from beets or sugar cane to make sucrose, which is table sugar.  Molasses is similar to sucrose as it is the unpurified syrup that makes sucrose the original brown sugar.

Milk has its own carbohydrates with galactose and glucose added together to give the white fluid a slight sweetness called lactose.  This is independent of the fat percentage that we so carefully monitor in the stores!  Then, there are the simple starches, called maltose or compounded glucose molecules!

Carbohydrates are complex, too (Carbohydrates, 2011)!  Long chains of glucose are called the starches.  One starch is amylose, which is unbranched, and the branched starch is amylopectin.  Undoubtedly, you can imagine complex carbohydrates store a lot of sugar.  So, they don’t mix with water as much due to their large molecular shapes.

Examples of complex carbohydrates in nature are corn, rice, potatoes, and wheat.  It’s not surprising that these are the basic ingredients to make bread and pasta.  But they still manage to work their way into smoothies to sweeten the blend!

For completeness, carbohydrates also include a set of complex molecules that we as humans cannot digest (Southgate, 1973).  Still, we must eat them for proper digestion of the nutrient foods as these hold the food suspended enough for proper bioavailability, and yet force it along to be expelled.  What are these carbohydrates?  They are called cellulose (plant wood), pectin and other polysaccharides such as lignin and inulin (not insulin!).  Given another name, they are dietary fiber!

Obviously, we need a certain amount of carbohydrates since our brain uses glucose, only, to survive.  Still, our body uses biochemical systems such as ketogenesis to convert stored fats and proteins into glucose as needed (Ballaban‐Gil et al., 1998).   The body also releases storehouses of glucose from glycogen, a highly carbohydratesefficient storage form of unused, complex carbohydrates in humans using a process called glycogenolysis (Carbohydrates, 2011).  Carbohydrates are never a problem to find as our body is quite efficient at using anything it can find to convert as carbohydrate to serve the brain and muscles!


Be sure to drop me comment below the references and let me know what you thought! And for my smoothie lovers that want to know the nutritional value of your smoothies, check out our free app – Smoocing!



Agbenorhevi, J. K., & Marshall, L. J. (2012). Investigation into the total phenols and antioxidant activity during storage of fruit smoothies. J. Food Sci. Eng, 2, 72-79.

Ballaban‐Gil, K., Callahan, C., O’dell, C., Pappo, M., Moshe, S., & Shinnar, S. (1998). Complications of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 39(7), 744-748.

Carbohydrates. (2011). Kimball’s Biology Pages.  Retrieved August 20, 2015 from

Dietary Guidelines. (2015). Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  Retrieved July 28, 2015 from

Grossman, S. P. (1986). The role of glucose, insulin and glucagon in the regulation of food intake and body weight. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 10(3), 295-315.

High Protein Smoothie Add-ins. (2015). Retrieved August 3, 2015 from

Keane, M. (1992). Juicing for life. Penguin.

Schulze, K. (2006). Imaging and modelling of digestion in the stomach and the duodenum. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 18(3), 172-183.

Southgate, D. A. T. (1973). Fibre and the other unavailable carbohydrates and their effects on the energy value of the diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 32(03), 131-136.

Sturgeon, P. (1956). IRON METABOLISM A Review with Special Consideration of Iron Requirements During Normal Infancy. Pediatrics, 18(2), 267-298.

Unger, R. H., Dobbs, R. E., & Orci, L. (1978). Insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin secretion in the regulation of metabolism. Annual review of physiology, 40(1), 307-343.

Williams, M. H. (1999). Nutrition for health, fitness and sport (No. Ed. 5). WCB/McGraw-Hill.

Willett, W. C., Sacks, F., Trichopoulou, A., Drescher, G., Ferro-Luzzi, A., Helsing, E., & Trichopoulos, D. (1995). Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 61(6), 1402S-1406S.