The Health Junction Mailbox: Are Smoothies bad for me?

Dear The Health Junction,

I merely wanted to know what your take on smoothies was. At first they seemed to be the key to eternal life, but then I asked my other nutritionist mate Glen who pissed on the parade a bit, and then I started to read a book called Bad Science that is dissing Patrick Holford and the whole idea of nutritional science in general so I have got myself all confused.

What do you say?

From,

Stephen Kent, Sengawa Japan

Hiking with Stephen @ Mt. Takao in Japan

Hiking with Stephen @ Mt. Takao in Japan

Dear Stephen,

First up, I’m glad I could find a picture of you which showcases that you’re a healthy guy who enjoys eating healthy food (apple in hand and all)…though, bring British, I know you do enjoy the occasional beer.

Fukuoka Izakaya

Fukuoka Izakaya

Readers should really check out this great article by Glen Matten, founder of the site Health Uncut:  The Antidote to Poor Health Advice  before reading on as I think it provides some excellent insight into the usual main component of smoothies – fruit.

So, are smoothies bad for you?  Yes and No depending on how they’re made.  If you’re putting a bunch of fruit and little else in your smoothie, then I would argue you’re doing more harm than good.  Why?  Because, while natural, fruit contains a lot of sugar which we know, in excess and over time, can cause a cascade or health problems.  Inflammation, insulin resistance, hypertension, an increase in bad “LDL” cholesterol while decreasing your healthy “HDL” cholesterol..just to name a few.  I eat fruit but consider it a special treat which in my opinion should be limited to 1-2 servings a day.  Even at that, I would recommend choosing lower Glycemic Index fruits which will have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels than it’s higher GI counterparts.

fruit smoothie

Having fruit means having sugar and having sugar is especially problematic in the morning when you want to start your day off with a slow and steady release of energy rather than a sudden onslaught of sugar which is found in many homemade smoothies.

That being said, I have a green smoothie a few mornings during the week but I try to use them as an opportunity to ingest vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.  The combination of healthy fats, protein, vegetables, and some fruit help keep me satiated, sharp, energized, and blood-sugar balanced at during the time of day when it matters the most – starting off with stable blood sugar levels paves the way for stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.  Here is how I do it:

green-smoothie

BASIC AM GREEN SMOOTHIE

1/4th Avocado or 1 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 – 1/2 cup of low glycemic load fruit (I use a mix of raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries).  Click here for information on the GI/GL of fruit.  Low GI is 55 or less, low GL is 10 or less).

1-2 cups of leafy greens (start with a mild leafy green such as red leaf lettuce or romaine).  I normally use 1 cup romaine or red leaf lettuce and 1 cup of kale or bok choy.

2 tbsp of seeds (mix it up between flax, hemp, and chia)

3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop Vega energizing smoothie powder (10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving).

2 tbsp cooked steel-cut oats (good if you commute to work via foot or bike and you need a bit of extra available energy).

Place in a blender (I enjoy the Blendec but there are lots of great options on the market) and blend for 45 seconds or until contents are well mixed.  Drink immediately.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“”May the Smoothie be with you…Always”.

–  Author Unknown

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7 thoughts on “The Health Junction Mailbox: Are Smoothies bad for me?

  1. Dear Heather, thank you for this entertaining and informative article. Everything you said seems to concur with the information I got from Glen, so I shall endeavour to make smoothies that are well balanced and not overly biased toward fruit. Cheers! Stephen x

    • Fruit is tricky because while it’s full of sugar it also offers many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Because of the sugar though, I would limit to 1 serving per day and think of it like a healthier dessert.

  2. Thanks for giving our article at HealthUncut a shout out. I’m sure your readers will find the website a mine of information.

    And I hope Stephen knows that our (ahem, award winning) book The Health Delusion is the final installment in the trilogy following on from Patrick Holford, and then Ben Goldacre/Bad Science, and taking the debate to the next level.

    And…your green smoothie recipe rocks!

    Glen (from HealthUncut)

    • Your book is still on my Amazon wishlist mate, will defo get round to reading it. Started reading Bad Science totally randomly after I found it in a load of Kindle books that my mate gave me, am just about to start reading the chapter about Paddy H.

  3. I totally agree with you Heather and am going to try your smoothie! Bunch of sugar addicts we are. You should do an article on how old it makes us look. Cathy xo

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