With all of the food and nutrition crazes flying around, it’s hard to know exactly what ones we should buy into and what ones we park in the “don’t go there” zone. A craze that has been around for a while now and often falls under its healthy guise of being chocka full of all things super, fruity or green, is the good ol’ smoothie.
A smoothie recipe usually consists of pulverised fruit and/or veggies plus additional items found in one’s fridge or pantry, made slurpable with a liquid of choice. Unlike juices (where the fibre has been removed), generally speaking, the whole fruit or veggie goes into the smoothie, therefore, the fibre, water content, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients are retained. So that sounds healthy, right? Yes and no, as there are many variables with smoothies that can see them coming in anywhere from a nutritious refuel or something you could find on a dessert menu.
Here are a few things to consider when tucking into your next blended bevvy…
THE SPEED OF INGESTION & DIGESTION:
While retaining the fibre is seen as a positive, the whole food and insoluble fibre are broken down (essentially, the blender does a big part of the job our body is designed to do). Ideally, we want our body to do the hard work, to ensure slow digestion and help maintain optimum bodily function! Also, as a liquid, it is easier and quicker to ingest (drink) a smoothie compared than eating the whole version of the food. This can mean:
a) the sugars hit our bloodstream and liver quicker
b) we may feel hungrier sooner, and as a result,
c) are more likely to eat more than required over a day.
ADDED SUGAR CONTENT:
A lot (nearly all) of store-bought smoothies contain some kind of added or free sugar. This could be in the form of honey, sugar, fruit juice or syrup, flavoured yoghurt or sweetened milk. Alternatively, they might contain sugar substitutes to keep palates that are accustomed to excessive sweetness satisfied.
THE NUTRIENT BALANCE:
Depending on the ingredients, smoothies can pack a pretty high energy (calorie) punch and unless you’re making the smoothie yourself, you can’t guarantee it is nice and balanced. A smoothie usually serves as a meal on the go or a decent snack to keep you going, so for a smoothie to keep you satisfied, it helps to include a good dose of healthy fats, protein and fibre-rich carbs. This will help to keep your hunger cues at bay and tide you over for a few hours.
A smoothie can be a great way to up your fruit and veg intake but it shouldn’t be a one-stop shop. Granted, most people need to eat more fruit and veggies, however, blending your daily intake worth (or close to it) in one drink doesn’t get you off the hook for the rest of the day. Eating plant-based foods should happen at every meal, it’s all part of the balanced approach.
But it’s not all bad news!
Ideally, smoothies aren’t an everyday food- as mentioned above, we want to make our body work for its nutrients. But there are those times when you know it will hit the spot so the best thing to do it make it yourself- this way you have control over the ingredients and you can get the most out of your glass of goodness.
Want to make a good one? Try to include these things:
- A serve of fruit and a handful of greens like; ripe banana, mango, kiwifruit, berries (frozen or fresh), avocado, baby spinach or kale
- A handful of oats (to help turn a drink into more of a meal)
A good spoonful or two of yoghurt, always unsweetened greek or natural
Some nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, linseed and chia
- A touch of sweetness (if required) from cinnamon, vanilla or a couple of dates
- Liquid to blend, either coconut water, skim milk or unsweetened milk of choice.
And my final tip would be, don’t blitz it into a completely silky smooth, runny consistency. Keep it a little on the thick side and a little bit chunky to slow you down and get your jaw moving!
By Jennifer Peters, ANutr
Public Health Nutritionist