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Why Smoothies Can Be Bad For Your Health

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Smoothies are a great quick breakfast that you can eat on the go. With an infinite number of combinations, almost anyone can create a flavor combination that works with their taste buds. Plus it is an easy way to incorporate all your different food groups - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and protein - in one meal. While smoothies may seem like the obvious healthy breakfast solution, there are a few points to take caution.

1. Smoothies can Easily Hide High Levels of Sugar

Although smoothies are generally made with natural ingredients, they can still contain high amounts of sugar depending on the combination used. Be wary of smoothies that use a sweetened base such as fruit juice, cane juice, coconut water, sweetened dairy or non-dairy milks- plus added fruit or additional sweetener. Because the fruit is blended, it is easier to eat a larger portion than if you were to eat the whole fruit. Look out for the amount of high-glycemic fruit such as banana, mango and pawpaw. While yogurt may add protein, avoid the fruit-flavoured ones that also contain high amounts of sugar. Be mindful of your portion size as well - while smoothie bowls can be a satisfying meal, it is quite a large portion.

To ensure that your smoothie is not just a dessert in disguise, start with water or an unsweetened milk base, limit fruit to one cup, use unsweetened yogurt and omit any added sweetener.

2. Food Combining Challenges

Many smoothie recipes include nuts, nut butters or seeds such as chia seeds and flaxseeds to add protein, healthy fats and more bulk. Other recipes include whole grains such as oats to make it more filling and some include a protein powder for additional protein. When you combine this with the fruit and veggies- if it is a green smoothie, some will argue that it's a balanced meal all in one cup. However, there are some dietary theories that suggest that this combination of foods leads to indigestion and imbalance in the body. While there are supporters and detractors of food combining theory, if you have a sensitive digestive system, it may be worth exploring.

According to food combining rules, fruit should be eaten alone and first thing in the morning. Fruit can be combined with non-starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers and greens such as spinach and kale. You can save higher protein smoothies for after a workout including nuts, seeds, protein powder with some greens but excluding any fruit, grains or starchy vegetables.

3. Drinking and not “Chewing” our Smoothies

It may seem odd that I am suggesting that you chew a drink, but hear me out. Digestion starts in the mouth. When we chew our body gets ready for digestion by secreting the necessary enzymes to break down our food. While our blender does the job of breaking down the various elements into tiny pieces, we still need digestive enzymes to be able to extract the nutrients from the smoothie. When we skip this important step and just gulp our smoothie down like a juice, we will not be able to metabolize all the nutrients and this can lead to indigestion.

4. Cold Raw Foods

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda raw foods are considered “cold” and therefore require more energy for the body to digest. Eating too many raw foods dampens the body's digestive fire which compromises digestion and can weaken the body's immune system over time. In addition cruciferous vegetables such as kale, which is often included in green smoothies, contain goitrogens, a naturally occurring substance that blocks thyroid function. While cooking these types of vegetables can deactivate the goitrogens, they are often used raw in smoothies.

5. Eating the Same Thing Everyday

Because smoothies are quick, easy and healthy, many people rely on them as a daily staple in their diet. If you are having smoothies daily then you need to be aware of the potential dangers identified above. Also when you are eating the same foods every day, you are missing the opportunity to eat other foods. A varied diet provides the widest range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients for our health.

Other quick and easy prep-ahead breakfast ideas include overnight oats, chia pudding, greek yogurt, muffin-tin baked eggs, chickpea or tofu scramble, and hummus with roasted veggies.

Ultimately smoothies can be a highly nutritious meal but it should just be a part of a balanced diet and not a daily staple. It is important to still eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in their whole form, adequate whole grains, legumes or clean animal-based protein and healthy fats.


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