Ah, yes…smoothies. What is a smoothie if not the milkshakes of the healthy?
Creamy blends with fruit, yogurt, and peanut butter or chocolate turn out tasty. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, green power drinks with a taste only a cow could love. Don’t pretend you’ve never had some sort of wheatgrass, spinach, and kale smoothie that tasted like a tall, refreshing glass of grass.
It is apparent that green smoothies are packing those good leafy veggies, but you may look at the sweeter versions and wonder, are smoothies actually healthy? Are they a sometimes-indulgence, or are smoothies good for you on the regular?
So, let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls and benefits of smoothies.
The Benefits of Smoothies
There are lots to love about smoothies. We’ll get into in more detail below, but to make a long story short, here are the ten best potential benefits:
- Get more servings of fruit and vegetables, which ups your levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Encourages healthy gut flora and may help improve digestive health.
- Help support healthy skin and nails.
- Boost your immune system.
- Good source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals in the body and may reduce inflammation.
- Can help lower the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- May aid weight loss when used as a meal replacement or in place of an unhealthy snack.
- Smoothies with protein and fiber help you feel full for longer.
- Smoothies with a liquid base of cow or goat milk, or certain milk alternatives, are good daily calcium options.
- Balanced smoothies without added sugars (like sugar, syrup, or agave) and lower in natural sugars (fruits like avocado, strawberries, tangerine) help curb blood sugar spikes and drops.
Reaping these benefits all comes down to your portions and ingredients.
You Control the Ingredients
You can’t drop a hamburger into your kale and spinach smoothie blend and call it a day. But as far as smoothie-appropriate ingredients go, you can experiment with a wide variety and tailor the drink to your preferences.
- And you can do this whether you’re making a smoothie from scratch or using ready-to-blend/ready-to-drink items.
- There’s greater control when you make it yourself, of course, but who sells only one type of smoothie blend? Pick the flavors you most enjoy.
- You can even add ingredients at home for extra nutrition or a tweaked taste.
Let’s go back to the spinach and kale smoothies we keep bringing up — that’s going to be one healthy drink, but it’s an acquired taste.
- If you want the green power without the overpowering green taste, mix in a larger portion of sweet fruits (apple, pineapple, banana) or other strong flavors (mint, ginger, Greek yogurt, coconut) to temper it.
- If you want to skip green smoothies altogether, you can still sprinkle a handful of leaves into fruit smoothies. Then you get a small veggie serving without compromising flavor.
Finally, aside from the whole food ingredients, you can easily add supplements. Powders should work well blended into a thick smoothie. If they need to be added directly to something- like 8 oz of water, just create the mix first and then use it as the smoothie’s liquid base.
The Ingredients Control Nutrition
Vegetable-packed isn’t the only way to go. There are protein-and-good-fat-packed smoothies for working out and balanced smoothies with fruits, veggies, and nuts that mimic the nutrient composition of a meal.
Aside from controlling ingredients for flavor purposes, you should always consider nutritional values as well. Fruits and vegetables and nut butter aren’t unhealthy, but they can still be calorie-heavy. Depending on what you blend together, you may also be missing out on key nutrients.
You can use FDA nutrition charts to figure out what is in certain fruits and vegetables and research your particular favorites more in-depth.
The Pitfalls of Smoothies
The biggest mistake people make with smoothies — especially smoothies you buy pre-made — is assuming they’ll all be good for you.
- In general, smoothies are healthy, but it’s easy to go overboard with filler liquid and sweetness.
- A watermelon and yogurt smoothie will taste way better than any spinach smoothie, but at that point, you’re eating a dessert.
- The same goes for many bottled fruit smoothies, which have nutrients but are diluted with juice and contain too much sugar.
Are fruit smoothies healthy if you make your own? Definitely. Fruits have vitamins, and minerals just like vegetables do, and they’re sweet enough on their own that you shouldn’t need any added sugars. It’s also OK to buy fruit smoothies if you know what’s going into them.
However, if you’re watching your blood sugar, you should still be careful: there aren’t truly sugar-free smoothies. Consider avoiding smoothies with bananas as a major component, as they’re highly sugary; sweet potato is the most sugary smoothie vegetable.
These are big concerns if you’re drinking smoothies regularly but less of a concern if you have them only occasionally.
Overall, if you want to drink smoothies, go for it. But be informed and proactive for the best results! And if you’re sick of looking for the best breakfast or dinner smoothie recipes, you can try a subscription service like SmoothieBox (although they do also have excellent recipes you can check out).
They’ll send you ingredient packets that are balanced for both taste and nutrition and made with whole foods. Just add your liquid base of choice and blend for a quick, easy smoothie. You can mix things up and add your own supplements and flavors, too.
But SmoothieBox packets already start with fully realized options like:
- A spinach fruit smoothie, with apple and pineapple
- A blend of mandarin oranges, carrots, and sweet potato puree
- A chocolate banana smoothie with added leafy greens
- A berry bonanza with added vegetables
Get $15 off your first SmoothieBox plus free shipping when you order using the code SAS15. Subscribe or place a one-time order to try out these healthy treats today.