Are homemade smoothies actually healthy?
Chances are you’ve seen the benefits of smoothies touted by fitness and nutrition influencers. Yet, have you considered if smoothies are actually healthy for you? You may be surprised to find that health and fitness experts don't always agree on the answer. Are fruits still healthy after they’re blended? Which fruits should and shouldn’t be added to smoothies? Can drinking smoothies be bad for my health? With so many factors to consider, you’re looking for help navigating the smoothie world.
Read on to understand if smoothies are a healthy (or unhealthy) choice for you.
Is blending fruit as healthy as eating it?
Many people prefer drinking smoothies as opposed to eating a whole piece of fruit. I mean how appetizing does a plain banana sound in comparison to a pineapple banana smoothie? If you struggle with getting in your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, smoothies are a great and easy way of obtaining those nutrients. Though, some may wonder, “Is blending fruit as healthy as eating it whole?” While research on this topic varies, blended fruit does vary from whole fruit in two main ways: fiber structure and nutrient content.
There is concern that blending your fruits and veggies will destroy their fiber. However, as long as the peel and pulp are blended into the smoothie, the fiber will still be present. On the other hand, juicing your fruits and veggies is where fiber will be lost. Juicing removes the peel and pulp from the end product, and just retains the juice.; You know the bulk that’s left over after juicing and (usually) thrown out? That’s the fiber.
Another question you may ask is, “Does blending fruits cause nutrient loss?” The answer to this question has to do with oxidation. Oxidation occurs when fruits are cut and exposed to oxygen. Think of cutting an apple and seeing it turn brown over time Blending fruits increase oxidation. This is because more of the fruit is exposed to the air after it's been blended. However, oxidation takes time. As long as you drink your smoothie soon after blending it, the nutrient loss will be minimal.
What are the healthiest fruits to put in a smoothie?
When deciding what the healthiest fruits to put into a smoothie are, you can't really go wrong. Some ideas are berries, mangoes, bananas, apples, pineapples, peaches, cherries, and oranges. No matter which fruits you choose, don't forget to pair them with protein and fiber to keep you satisfied and full. For added protein, consider throwing in your favorite protein powder, nut butter, or a couple of spoonfuls of Greek yogurt. To boost the fiber content of your smoothie, opt for high-fiber fruits like berries, or you can add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds or flax seeds.
What fruits and vegetables should not be blended together?
You may have heard of the food-combining diet. The food-combining diet is built upon the idea that different categories of foods require different digestive environments, such as different pH and different enzymes. Proponents of this diet claim that you shouldn't eat certain food categories together because it can inhibit or impair one’s digestion, eventually leading to disease. For example, the diet suggests that you can eat vegetables with protein, starch, or fat, but not with fruit. Does the logic hold?
Our digestive system is extremely good at its job and can handle breaking down fruits and vegetables at the same time. There isn't any scientific evidence supporting the theory that eating food groups separately has any beneficial effect. In fact, mixing fruits and vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, can help ensure that you're getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber in each meal.
Followers of the food-combining diet believe that fruits and vegetables should be eaten separately to maximize digestion instead of confusing it. However, our digestive systems are not easily confused, and it isn’t necessary to eat these foods separately. As a matter of fact, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is crucial for your health and keeping digestion normal. Fruits and veggies contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber to promote fullness, balance blood sugars and insulin levels, and lower “bad” cholesterol.
What are 2 potential health risks of smoothies?
Despite the many benefits of drinking your fruits and vegetables, there are two potential risks of smoothies.
The risk of over-eating
First, smoothies can lead to over-eating. A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Obesity studied the effect of liquid meals vs. solid meals on satiety. The results revealed that individuals consumed, on average, 12% more calories per day when drinking high-carbohydrate beverages. This suggests that drinking a smoothie is less filling than eating a whole fruit. This is likely linked to the fact that eating a fruit whole takes longer than drinking it blended or juiced. Not only does chewing take longer, but chewing also increases satiety. Let’s dig into the science. When you eat, hormonal signals are released to tell your brain when to stop eating. One of these signals is CCK, a hormone that helps decrease appetite. More chewing can lead to an increase in the secretion of CCK in the gut. Another signal is leptin, a hormone that communicates with the brain about your body’s needs and satiety, based on its energy stores. Research suggests that leptin boosts CCK signals, to enhance the feeling of fullness.
The risk of blood sugar spikes
The second potential risk of smoothies is the effects of high sugar content. Excess added sugar can lead to health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. High-sugar consumption drives insulin resistance, causes high blood sugar levels, and increases your risk of diabetes. Likewise, connecting back to the first point, sugary drinks don’t curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories.
At the end of the day, drinking a smoothie is an easy way to get your daily servings of fruits and veggies in and is better than not eating fruit at all. If you’re still concerned about the risks or drawbacks of drinking smoothies, remember these 3 steps: add some protein, add some fiber, and consume soon after blending.