Are Today’s Smoothies Healthy Drinks?

“Smoothies are health drinks”.  Some have fruit, some have veggies, some have carbs, some have protein…so are they diet or health drinks? wonder if smoothies have carbs. If you have heard these before, you have probably chanted the diet mantra for memory by now. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, current recommendations are to eat five portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables, daily (Dietary Guidelines, 2015).  Satisfying this high-frequency requirement created the demand for easy solutions such as the smoothie, which by now you most definitely have discovered!  And, you probably enjoy them almost every day.

Smoothies are customarily created from a fruit base.  Still, the fruit smoothie blend was originally intended to be 100-percent fruit, not a concentrate, and with no added sugar or additives (Agbenorhevi and Marshall, 2012).  Additionally, the fruit of a “pure” smoothie must be whole, which provides nutritive value from the pulp, fiber, and flesh.  So, why have we adulterated this purified beverage with commercialized variations that include sugar and additives, which only serve to delete the intended benefit of the smoothie?  Let’s take a moment and explore the difference between a healthy smoothie and what we usually drink, today.

Recall that smoothies are not the same as juicing, which strains out the juice of fruit or vegetables (Keane, 1992).   Unfortunately, juicing has little stability in vitamins as it depends on what is strained.  Sadly, it also throws away the valuable fiber in the process (Nelson, 2014)!  Still, the healthy smoothie rewrites the book on the whole, fruit versus vegetable concept.  To find out, read on!

Traditionally you have only fruit in your smoothie.  The can be full of vitamins.  Full of fiber.  Even full of calcium (Whisner and Weaver, 2013).  But, then there’s the flavor.  You must have extra flavor! 

Well, are Smoothies Health Drinks?

So, you walk down the halls of your local mall, feeling like a king and purchase a commercial smoothie with everything you can find.  The flavors and fruits are so yummy, and the additives bring out the flavor that much more!  Then, you realize you can do the same thing at home!  So, what then gets added for flavor?

Why, more fruit, of course!  Maybe it’s only a date, which adds about 50 grams of carbohydrates to the blend.  Consider adding another banana or two.  Each banana adds another fifteen grams of raw sugar to the blend.  That does not include the potassium concentration increase, which could be an issue if you are taking a blood pressure or diabetes stabilizing medication. 

What about those favorite flavor alternatives such as ice cream?  These include varying amounts of butterfat, sugar, fructose from the fruits, and fats from the nuts.  If it is not ice cream, there is whole milk that has 3% milkfat. 

Of course, there’s always that “healthy” spoonful or two or three of honey that gets added for good measure.  That’s pure glucose.  Some resort to just plain scoops of sugar when nobody is looking!  Go ahead, admit it!

This makes one wonder what is healthy if not simply adding fruit to the blend using non-fat milk?  The most beneficial is coconut water because it has a hint of unsaturated fat to satisfy hunger and feed your nervous system.  The alternate source to satisfy hunger without calories is to use an avocado.  Other options are non-sugared coffee, unsweetened almond milk and pureed vegetables. 

Some pureed vegetables that tend to create a good milk consistency are pumpkin when mixed with a hint of non-fat milk, spinach diluted in carrot juice, and kale blended in a small amount of non-fat milk.  The best way to thicken a smoothie without adding calories is simply to add ice (Gelman, 2015). 

There have been researching efforts to identify the maximum sweetness-to-consistency using minimum caloric ingredients.  In a study of four popular variations of smoothie blends, researchers selected milk, mango pulp and four types of flour (green gram, finger millet, chickpea and sorghum) to evaluate optimum flavor-to-consistency (Rani, 2015). The materials used to evaluate sweetness percentages of mango pulp (10, 15 and 20 percent), flour (2-6 percent), and pectin (0.2-0.4 percent).  Researchers discovered when more than 30% milk was introduced there was a water layer separation in the consistency.   Also, the mango pulp percentage of 15% marked the boundary for change in consistency from thick to thin. 

It should be remembered that smoothies only supply an easy diet supplement for fruit, and if added, vegetable portions of the daily diet.  Researchers point to the universal lack of mineral components needed in the daily diet that must come from other diet sources such as a daily vitamin with minerals (Moreira et al., 2012).  Still, for an easy way to eat the large, daily diet of fruit and vegetables we must manage, the smoothie is definitely a fun way to drink your nutrition!

2015-09-13_1207References:

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.

Becker, Paul. (2011). The Vegan Therapeutic Meal Plan: High Blood Sugar.  Trim Tab Nutrition. Santa Rosa, CA.

Dietary Guidelines. (2015). Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  Retrieved July 28, 2015 from http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/

Gelman, Lauren. (2015). 7 Tricks to Make a Healthy Smoothie. Reader’s Digest.  Retrieved July 28, 2015 from http://www.rd.com/slideshows/7-tricks-to-make-a-healthy-smoothie/view-all/

Harvey, J. (2004). A feasibility study into healthier drinks vending in schools. Marketing, 10, 11.

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

Moreira, D. C. F., Manzoli de Sá, J. S., Cerqueira, I. B., Oliveira, A. P. F., Morgano, M. A., Amaya-Farfan, J., & Quintaes, K. D. (2012). Mineral inadequacy of oral diets offered to patients in a Brazilian hospital. Nutr Hosp, 27(288), e97. DOI:10.3305/nh.2012.27.1.5499

Nelson, J. K. (2014). Juicing: What are the Health Benefits.

Rani, R. (2015). Selection of optimum levels of ingredients for preparation of breakfast smoothie. Indian Journal of Dairy Science, 68(2).

Whisner, C. M., & Weaver, C. M. (2013). Galacto-oligosaccharides: prebiotic effects on calcium absorption and bone health. In Nutritional Influences on Bone Health (pp. 315-323). Springer London.

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