It’s kind of ironic that right before I sat down to write this, I enjoyed a delicious green smoothie. 😉
But I’m not here to tell you to stop drinking green smoothies. Or that consumption of green smoothies is bad.
I’m here to share why I rarely drink them myself, along with a few cautions for those of you who do.
Green Smoothies Aren’t the Ultimate Health Food
Green smoothies are pretty “in” right now, especially as spring weather comes and we start craving cooler and lighter foods. But here’s something you probably won’t hear very often: green smoothies are not the ultimate health food. I’m not here to hate on green smoothies, but I don’t want you to be stuck thinking (like I was) that you’re not eating healthy just because you don’t start your day with a green shake.
I used to think that drinking a smoothie every day meant I would automatically feel better, have more energy, and just be so much healthier! Of course, silly me, I assumed a banana, peanut butter, and yogurt counted as one of those “healthy smoothies”.
The whole energy boost from smoothies is based in some fact: if done right, smoothies have a good amount of fiber, natural ingredients, and sometimes naturally detoxifying ingredients. So I’m sure you WILL feel better if you start switching out your morning oatmeal (or pastries) for a blend of these fruits and veggies.
And there are other reasons to love a green smoothie. When you pack your blender full of veggies and fruit, you’re going to get lots of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Add in some superfood powders, and that’s even more great nutrition!
But here’s the thing. There are LOTS of smoothie recipes floating around, and some are not going to do you as much good as you might think. It’s all about knowing the difference between the two.
Not All Green Smoothies Are Created Equal
Smoothies CAN be a super quick, healthy way to start your day. They can also NOT be the best option. That’s because not all smoothies are created equal.
Something to be aware of, is what I call a “smoothie sugar high”. This is when you add so much fruit with little to no fats or protein to slow down it’s absorption…add to that, the fact that its blended…and your “energy” may just be a fruity sugar high. You don’t need to over-analyze this, but its something to be aware of.
So maybe ask yourself: How high is the sugar content of my smoothie?
Fruit has naturally occurring sugars too. While I’d much rather see you drinking an all fruit smoothie, than eating a snickers bar, it’s still something to be aware of. The natural sugar content of fruit has an effect on your body too, especially if your intake is out of control. And a lot of smoothies include extra added sweeteners aside from the fruit, which I just don’t get…we’re not trying to make a milkshake here! 😛
Ratio of Vegetables
The whole point of a GREEN smoothie is to include a few servings of GREENS. How many veggies (greens or not) are actually in your smoothie?
Believe me, I’ve seen recipes that only call for a handful of spinach…and then a banana, cup of blueberries, cup of frozen mango….you get the picture.
Then we have what’s commonly known as superfoods. Things like mushroom powder, chlorella, spirulina, and even blueberries fall under this category, and can easily be added to your green smoothie. These are foods that simply have such great antioxidant/healing/rebuilding properties, that they’re kind of like a superhero amid other foods.
It is certainly very possible to pack a smoothie full of these nutrients, but, not all smoothies are loaded with superfoods.
The more nutrient dense foods and “superfood” powders tend to be a bit expensive, but are usually potent in smaller quantities. If you’re looking to add a nutritional boost to your smoothie, I would recommend looking at amazon.com, vitacost.com, or your local health food store, and buying in bulk when possible.
Once again, it all depends on whats inside the smoothie.
Why I Don’t Drink Many Green Smoothies
So, the above factors aside, here are the real reasons why I personally don’t include smoothies in my day very often.
- Liquid Food: For some of us, drinking our breakfast just won’t feel as satisfying as actually eating something. Usually I prefer to sit down and enjoy the process of chewing actual food. Sometimes I DO want something that feels “lighter”, smooth and creamy. It just depends.
- Balanced Meal: A common thing I see, is that many smoothie recipes don’t have any protein or fats in them at all…just fruits and veggies. Fresh produce is AMAZING, and something we all need plenty of. There are tons of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in fruits and veggies (especially the green leafy kind). So, drink up! But have your smoothie as a side, or a lightweight detox. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a balanced meal, and you’ll stay full and satisfied, when fruit and vegetables is ALL it is.
- Protein: One of the biggest reasons why I have never gotten on the “smoothie a day” train, is because we rarely have protein powder in our pantry. This is simply because it can be expensive to buy high quality powder without added junk and sugar. As I said before, I can’t do the smoothie meal replacement with no protein. So, drinking a smoothie for breakfast only makes sense if its a lighter pre-workout snack with chia seeds for a little fiber/protein boost. (and because local fresh eggs can be pretty pricey, I never had the courage to try the raw egg thing)
- Time: Usually when I do make smoothies, it becomes a bit of a production. That’s just because I don’t prep for it. And, it’s usually only a part of breakfast, so I’m cooking eggs or something with it.
The good news is, there are time-saving tricks if you want to include more smoothies in your diet:
- you can make “smoothie packets” by combining your veggies, and fruits, and sticking in the freezer. Then, let thaw and soften for a bit before blending with any add-ins (homemade yogurt, nut-milk, chia seeds, etc.)
- On meal-prep day, blend a variety of greens/veggies and fruit, to make as many smoothies as you want that week. Store each serving in a mason jar. Then, mix it up by adding in things like protein powder, yogurt, etc., when you’re ready to eat it.
Decide What Works for You
Maybe you can relate to some of the above. Or maybe, you just don’t like the taste of vegetables blended up. That’s fine! There are other ways to get in your greens! If you’re like me, and your goal is a low-carb and low-sugar breakfast, then you might be better off sauteeing some greens with your eggs or sausage.
(okay, I’ll admit, the thought of experimenting with a savory smoothie HAS crossed my mind….but Lemon Garlic and Kale just isn’t a very appetizing name for a SMOOTHIE. And I don’t know about you, but its not very tasty to combine 3 cups of kale with only half of a banana)
Green Smoothies can be great, but that doesn’t mean they’re the end-all of good nutrition. It all depends on what your green smoothie is made of. The best ingredients for you to add, will also depend on the situation. Is it a meal? Post-workout fuel? Detox?
So don’t feel bad for not drinking green smoothies if you’d rather get your vegetables in some other way!
And if you drink a green smoothie every single morning, and it keeps you satisfied and energized? Then go for it!
Are you a smoothie drinker? If so, share your favorite smoothie combo below!
Notes: I couldn’t talk about green smoothies without mentioned oxalates and goitrogens. If you’re wondering about that yourself, here’s the deal:
Oxalates/Oxylic Acid (compound found in many leafy greens, among other foods): Unless you are fighting a Candida overgrowth, there is most likely not reason for concern. This article here, is where I tend to fall on the issue. It’s a bit controversial, but regardless of where you fall on this, there are still lots of veggies that can be made into smoothies, that are low in oxylic acid.
Goitrogens (another compound found in greens, among other foods): experts agree that these are kind of a non-issue, even with autoimmune thyroid conditions.