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?


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:



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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Green Smoothies 101 in 100 Words: A Veggietastic Breakfast Solution

What is the most important thing I’ve learned at school over the past 12 months?

what did you learn today

Drink more water and eat more greens.  Okay, that is technically two but lucky for you they’re both included in this next nutritional recommendation.  If you’re interested in learning about the benefits of adequate water consumption, click here and for information on why leafy greens are important, this will help explain things.

Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are the easiest way I can think of to get a huge dose of vegetables into your diet.  When starting your day of with one of these diddy’s you’re paving the way towards a full day of health eating.  The sugar content is extremely low because the only sweet ingredient included is fruit which is naturally occurring.  With a dash of complex carbohydrates and a whole lot of fiber, green smoothies will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent ravenous cravings later in the day.  Green smoothies are alkanalizing and are busting with vitamins and minerals.  Here is a recipe to get you started but the beauty of green smoothies is that the combinations are endless…as are the health benefits.

The Health Junction Green Combustion

  • 2-3 cups of leafy greens.  I like mixing red leaf lettuce and kale.
  • handful of frozen blueberries
  • half a banana
  • stalk of celery
  • 1/4th avocado
  • 1 scoop of vega energizing smoothie powder (I like the Choc-a-Lot Flavour)
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk + 1 cup of water
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • A couple of tbsp’s of hemp, flax, or chia seeds (optional)

Throw ingredients in the blender – it’s best to layer the denser foods (frozen blueberries, celery) on the bottom and the lighter ingredients on the top.  Pour in water and almond milk last.  I usually start blending on the ice crushing setting of my blender but do whatever works best with your home blender.

Pour into a large glass and sprinkle with some cinnamon.  This contains 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

 “Each of us has two “doctors”—the left and the right leg.”

– Vilcabamban philosophy on the importance of walking


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Boring Salads Are For Suckers! 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Leafy Greens

Eating a salad feels like s chore for many people, but it doesn’t need to because salads can be fun.  Yes FUN!  Just like anything else, adding some variety into your salad eating routine is the best way to keep motivation high and your colon happy.  Getting 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day requires planning, scheduling, and just a little bit of time by the payoff is indisputable.


I was curious to see what the correlation was between fruit and vegetable intake and long-term health status and turned to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Started in 1971, this is a longitudinal study that is tracking the dietary habits and health status of just over 14,000 US citizens.  This study is well designed and helpful in seeing over time, what happens to the body as a result of dietary choices.


So, in 2002, researchers at Tulane University did a follow-up study as published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on 9,600 of the original participants and found that when someone eats 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day compared to just 1 their risk was decreased as follows:

27% less chance of having a stroke

42% less chance of dying from a stroke

24% less chance of having a heart attack

27% less chance in having cardiovascular disease

15% less chance of dying in general

And that is  just at 3 servings a day.  Imagine what eating the recommended 8 can do for your body?


Here are ten ways to make your salad more appealing:

1.)  Mix your greens up.  Romaine lettuce every day is boring!  Try combining different leafy greens up or rotate through a favourite list.  My favourite combination is kale and red leaf lettuce.  Here is a good list to start with.

2.)  Add fruit to your salad.  I like diced apples, berries, pears and oranges.  Dried raisins or cranberries are also nice.

3.)  Toast some nuts and throw them on top.  A couple of tablespoons is a good serving size.  I enjoy cashews, walnuts, pecans or almonds.

4.)  Toast up some seeds and throw them on top.  A couple of tbsp’s should do it.  Try pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower.


5.)  Make your own salad dressing.  It’s SO MUCH HEALTHIER than what you will find in a bottle and it tastes 1000% better.  The easiest recipe is combining 1 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I use a fig infused balsamic vinegar).  Check out this site for dressing ideas.

6.) Add bean sprouts.  Yum.

7.)  Add green onions, garlic, or shallots.  You might stink, but that’s ok.


8.)  Add fresh herbs.  I like basil but cilantro, chives, dill and parsley are nice too.

9.)  Mix it with a grain for example, 1/2 of brown rice or some cooked quinoa.

10.)  Add a vegetarian source of protein.  Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, tofu, edamame, and eggs.


BONUS:  Top with cheese (if lactose isn’t a problem for you).  Some popular choices are goat cheese, feta, mozzarella, and parmesan.  Limit your serving size to 1/8th to 1/4th of a cup since cheese is high in saturated fat.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”

– Author Unknown


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