About eight years ago I would have considered a smoothie a healthy snack or breakfast. It didn’t really matter what type of smoothie, at that point I lumped them all together in the “health” category. I know I’m not the only one because smoothie bars are popping up everywhere and patients are often reporting smoothies as part of their regular diet.
From working out to eating breakfast on the run, you probably have been encouraged to have smoothies as part of your daily routine. It is an easy way to increase your protein intake, which is necessary for muscle growth. What could be easier? Add protein powder to some blended fruit, yogurt, and/or fruit juice. After some investigation I now know this could be a huge problem and here’s why:
- Smoothies are a reservoir of hidden sugar
Unless your smoothie is 75 percent or more vegetables, it is mostly hidden sugar coming from fruit. We all know fruit is a source of natural sugar. Think about how many servings of fruit get added to a smoothie…two…three…four? Would you eat this many fruits whole in one sitting? Of course not! It is way too much sugar. In fact, a Nutrition Facts label from Booster Juice, listed sugar at 56 grams per single serving and total carbohydrates at 68 grams. Wow!
- Smoothies have more sugar than protein
Smoothies are always advertised as high in protein. The problem is that even though they may be high in protein, they are usually higher in sugar. Let’s check out a couple of examples to illustrate.
The first example is the Spinach Smoothie, again from the popular franchise Booster Juice. You many think you are getting a protein/spinach smoothie but when you check out the amount of protein it is only 3g!
Another popular pre-made smoothie comes from Body Systems Nutrition and is made with frozen yogurt:
|Total Fat||5 g||Potassium||0 mg|
|Saturated||0 g||Total Carbs||50 g|
|Polyunsaturated||0 g||Dietary Fiber||0 g|
|Monounsaturated||0 g||Sugars||0 g|
|Trans||0 g||Protein||25 g|
You may think, “Well this one is great, look at all the protein!” Sure protein is listed at 25 grams and sugar is listed at 0 grams. We need to dig a little deeper though. This is how labels can trick you! You also have to look at the amount of total carbs listed and then subtract the fiber. This will give you a more accurate measurement of the hidden sugar. In this smoothie the amount of fiber is zero and the carbs are 50g! This means you are consuming twice as much sugar as you are protein.
- Smoothies can make you gain weight
How is this possible? I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with sugar. Whenever you consume sugar or starch your body produces insulin. Insulin is your fat storage hormone. Let me say that again, insulin is your fat storage hormone. Whenever you secrete insulin your body will store those calories in your fat cells. The only exception to this is if you are running a marathon or you haven’t eaten in two days and how often does that happen?
Armed with this information I hope you can now make an informed decision about your smoothie choices.
Ingredients matter. Don’t be fooled into thinking all smoothies are healthy.
Dr. Michelle Durkin is a Naturopathic Doctor at the Quinte Naturopathic Centre and resident health expert for the Eat Real Food Academy.