Ask Kayla, #4: "Smitten with Smoothies: Pros and Cons" by Kayla Butts MS, RD, LD (Part 1)

"Hi Kayla,
What do you think about smoothies? Do you think they make good meal replacements?"
Thank you,
Smitten with Smoothies

Dear Smitten,

Smoothies have gained popularity in recent years and have become a go-to "healthy" option. While smoothies can enable even the pickiest of veggie haters to gulp down a serving of kale, they can also be packed full of sugar and calories. Here's what you need to know about smoothies before investing in a high-performance professional blender.

  • Smoothies are a great way to clean out the fridge and your intestines. (Too much?) Throw any produce that needs to be eaten quickly (with only a few exceptions) and blend until you have a nutritious snack filled with fiber. Bonus: The good bacteria in your gut loves to feed on the fiber found in fruits and veggies.
  • Satisfying your sweet tooth with a smoothie that capitalizes on the inherent sugars of fruits and vegetables is a much better option than most desserts or sweets. In addition, smoothies that are produce-based offer a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Smoothies are convenient to make and very portable. If you're torn between a green smoothie and a drive-thru breakfast sandwich, nine times out of ten the smoothie is the better option. 

  • Smoothies are almost always high in sugar. True, the fructose found in fruits is better for us than the corn syrup found in sodas BUT, since smoothies are blended into a homogenous liquid, we consume them a lot faster than it would take us to chew an apple or finish off a serving of carrot sticks. They also tend to raise our blood sugar more than the whole fruit/starchy veg. Further, they tend to raise our blood sugar more quickly than when we eat the whole piece of fruit. You're better off eating an orange than drinking a fruit smoothie that has been further sweetened with honey or agave.
  • Smoothies can leave us feeling unsatisfied. We also tend not to stay full for long after drinking a smoothie. This is because the hormone our body uses to determine whether or not we are satisfied is dependent on the mechanical stretching of our stomach. A liquid smoothie may travel through our stomach without activating our hormone so that no signal is sent to the brain telling us that we're no longer hungry.
  • Smoothies are only as good as their ingredients. Vegetables that are picked prior to ripeness never have the opportunity to absorb as many nutrients from the soil as produce that is vine or tree ripened. Vegetables and fruits sprayed with synthetic fertilizer can also be deficient in certain minerals. Even if a vegetable is organic and vine-ripened, the vitamin content can decrease over time. The amount of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, B12, niacin, you get the drift) tend to lessen over time with exposure to heat, light, and water. 

Just as all meals should be, a nutritious smoothie is balanced. These are the necessary components for a health-promoting smoothie.
  1. Protein:
    Examples are 8 oz milk, 1 cup unflavored greek yogurt, 8 oz almond milk. Nuts (about 14 walnut halves or 24 almonds) and nut butters (serving size 1 tbsp.) may be considered a good source of protein and fat.
  2. Fat:
    Servings sizes of healthy fats include: 1/8 avocado, 1 tbsp. coconut oil, 1 oz flaxseed, 1 oz hemp hearts, or 1 oz chia seed
  3. At least 1 serving of vegetables:
    2 medium stalks celery, 1 cup fresh kale, 1/3 cup frozen spinach, half whole beet, 1/3 cucumber, or 3 oz carrots.
  4. Sugar from fruit:
    1/2 cup pineapple, 1 medium-sized apple, 1 large banana, 1 cup berries

Do enjoy a smoothie now and again, but don't regularly use them as meal substitutes. Think of your smoothie as a nutritious treat. You'll be right on both accounts.


For more nutrient-packed goodies, check out Kayla's recipes in The Bend Magazine or on her blog at:

Ask Kayla an Anonymous Question
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