People often ask the following question about the health benefits of smoothies…
Are smoothies healthy in general?
and more specifically,
are fruit smoothies or green smoothies healthy?
My opinion about smoothies has made a 180 degree turn. From an avid proponent of all kinds of fruit and vegetable smoothies, I became a cautious and very selective consumer.
I believe these things are hard to generalize. In this article I will explain why. It all boils down to what kind of food you use to prepare your smoothies.
Table of Contents
The Dos and Don’ts of Smoothies
The health-related properties of your smoothie depend on two main factors:
- the type and quality of the base you use to prepare them
- the type and quality of the ingredients you put in there.
Let’s take a look at the base first:
In my humble opinion, unhealthy bases are the following:
- fruit juices — with or without added sugar, even freshly squeezed fruit juices should be used sparingly
- pasteurized milk — skimmed or otherwise, it doesn’t make a difference.
- tap water — especially fluoridated water.
- soy milk, with or without sugar, equally bad, check for example here if you want to know more.
Fruit juice, even if freshly squeezed, should be used in moderation. Fruit juices contain too much fructose, which can produce a lot of adverse effects in the human body.
Well, the list here could become potentially very long. Here are only the most common unhealthy ingredients people put in their smoothies:
- sugar, white, brown,… any color
- peanut butter
- ice cream
- agave syrup
- more than half a teaspoon of honey
- fruits with high-glycemic index
- oxalate containing vegetables
- any refined powder or cream
Healthy Smoothie Bases
Water: Nothing beats pure quality water. You have two options, basically: filtered water (use high quality filters), or bottled spring or mineral water. For the second option however, make sure to use water in glass containers, not plastic bottles.
Raw milk or coconut milk: If you can stand it (if you do not have lactose intolerance), raw milk has many health benefits and is perfect for your smoothies. Coconut milk is also good, provided that you make your own, versus store bought coconut milk.
Fermented drinks: Kombucha or kefir are great and healthy options for a smoothie base, especially if you prepare them at home. Again, use the store bought fermented beverages only if you have no other choice.
Tea: Say, green tea, chamomile tea, turmeric ginger tea or any other medicinal tea can help improve the absorption of nutrition of the smoothie.
Healthy Smoothie Ingredients
There may be some things on the list below that you’re not familiar with, don’t worry, in future recipes and posts I’ll explain why each ingredient is good for your health and a welcome addition to your smoothie.
- Fresh vegetables — organic if you can find them, (it might be a good idea to boil the oxalate-containing veggies for a couple of minutes before blending)
- Lemon juice — this one is an exception from all fruit juices
- Sprouts — sprouts are great if you can grow them yourself.
- Yogurt — again, homemade and full-fat is the best
- High quality whey protein — it should be from organically grown grass feed animals, cold pressed, one of the best sources of glutathione you can find anywhere
- Super-foods — in a form of powder, for example, maca, cacao, aloe vera, spirulina, or moringa powder
- Spices and herbs — ginger, cinnamon, mint, cayenne
- Garlic — no reason why you won’t put some garlic in
- Parsley — great addition to any smoothie
- Mushroom powders — may of them have great healing effects
- Locally harvested, organic honey — just a little bit is enough
- Nuts — use them raw and organic, never roasted
- Coconut oil — one of the best source of the health-promoting MCT fatty acids
- Gelatin — this one is greatly missing from our Western diet, but it’s so essential for good health
- Quality salt — pink Himalayan salt is what I use
Smoothies as a snack?
Now that we have seen what’s beneficial and what’s not so beneficial, hopefully you can decide what’s in your best interest. My recommendation is to consume your smoothies instead of meals, for example for breakfast. But some people like to use them as a snack.
In fact, smoothies have become the modern version of snacks. As a rule, what seems to be attractive is the amount of fruits and (to a lesser degree) vegetables and can be served in beautiful glasses for maximum pleasure!
Let me be clear with this and say it once again. I don’t believe in snacks. Just in the plain old 3 meals a day with a good time window in between them without any food whatsoever (4 hours at least).
But if you have to have snacks, at least make sure they are healthy, by following the guidelines above.
That way, they will be much better than sugar packed foods or cookies filled with corn syrup fructose, omega-6 rich vegetable oils, and who knows what else…
At least, the smoothies are natural, and if you are careful with your selection of fruits and if you watch out that the fruit content is only a tiny fraction of your smoothie, you should fine.
Let me repeat some of the most important things you would have to keep in mind to have a healthy smoothie:
The way people prepare smoothies is to combine various types of fruits with milk (cow milk, soy milk…).
As I said, I don’t think this is smart. Unless the cow milk is raw. That’s my humble opinion.
If you absolutely cannot live without sweetening your smoothie, my suggestion is to avoid sugar or vanilla sugar altogether. Just a teaspon of honey should be OK. But, usually the fruits contain enough natural sugar as they are.
What I love about smoothies the most, is the fact that you can add some great supplements in them, such as wheat germ as well as various spices (cloves, cinnamon, ginger, mint).
You can (and should) also add some healthy fats, like coconut oil, ghee, avocado, or avocado oil.
Also, instead of milk (which some people find hard to digest), smoothies can be prepared with spring or mineral water (my favorite way).
Here are some suggestions on preparing them:
Classic Type: Banana
Banana smoothies have managed to drive the world crazy. I don’t like them very much, but many people are crazy about them so here’s how you should be using them.
Bananas can be useful in your diet (in moderation) because they are rich in potassium, which helps to eliminate the excess water from your body – one medium sized banana contains as much as 450 mg of potassium in it!
It’s true however that bananas should be avoided if you want to lose weight. But, if you use it wisely and sparingly, they can be a valuable ingredient in your smoothies (thanks to the potassium content).
Even better, you could use the green bananas over the yellow bananas. They are less starchy (less sugar in them), and contain more resistant, non-digestable starch, which won’t be counting toward gaining weight. The downside is, of course, the taste, but you should learn to live with that, as opposed to indulging your senses and gaining weight.
Potassium in the bananas is responsible for the release of excess water from the body. On the other hand, the fiber from the bananas accelerates the metabolic processes and helps the decomposition of fats (along with flax seeds and spinach, for example).
Banana can be used as the main ingredient in preparing a number of nutritional beverages. You can add other ingredients beneficial for breaking down fats, such as flax seeds, berries and spinach.
Here are four easy recipes:
Green Banana Smoothie With Flax Seeds
juice from 2 lemons
1 green banana
2 teaspoons whey protein
2 teaspoons of flax seeds
Green Banana Smoothie With Berries
1 green banana
1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, cranberries)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
half a cup of cold water
Green Banana Smoothie With Spinach
1 green banana
1 cup washed fresh spinach
half a cup of light yogurt
one third of a cup of oatmeal
1 teaspoon honey
Green Banana smoothie with milk
1 banana chopped into pieces
3 ounces of raw milk,
lemon juice from 1 lemon,
1 teaspoon of honey
Instead of milk, you can use lemon juice, fresh-squeezed from a couple of lemons, mixed with quality water.
Well, you don’t actually have to sweeten your smoothie with honey – the banana is sweet enough on its own. The instructions are the same for all three smoothies:
Put the ingredients in a blender and mix everything up. That’s it.
You will get a healthy drink best consumed in the morning for breakfast. Cheers!