Smoothies are many health enthusiasts’ go-to sweet treat. They’re full of essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, plus they taste amazing. But, they sometimes come under fire for their high sugar and fat content. So, are the naysayers correct? Are smoothies good for you, or aren’t they? And, how can you make your smoothies healthier?
A Nutrient-Rich Treat
Berries contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants found in any of the fruits. These healthful compounds help keep the body’s cells healthy by neutralizing free radicals. They also fight cancer, and improve memory function, among other things.
Everyone knows that the citrus family of fruits are vitamin C powerhouses, but they also boast high levels of potassium, which improves cardiovascular health, and folate, which improves cell health, and is great for expectant mothers. Fruits in the pome group, which includes apples, pears, Asian pears, loquats, and quinces, usually contain vitamin A, manganese, and other essential minerals.
Pitted fruits like cherries, peaches, plums, and nectarines are known as drupes. Like citrus fruits, drupes contain potassium and vitamin C. They’re also rich in beta carotene, which is crucial for immune system function and ocular health. Coconuts, bananas, avocados, kiwis and other tropical fruits also provide ample nutrients. Melons, while not especially vitamin rich, do contain vitamin C, plus they’re full of good old H2O.
Most fruits are basically chock full of fiber, which we all know is essential for healthy digestive systems.
What About the Sugar?
There’s no denying that fruits tend to be rich in sugar. They’ve used this clever reproductive strategy for millions of years, and it’s worked pretty well for them.
When an animal (such as a Homo sapien) bites into a sweet piece of fruit, our brains say, “BANG! WOW! I am taking some of these with me!” Later, after we have eaten the sweet, fleshy part of the fruit, and only the seeds remain, our brains say, “Hmm… tasting this part does not make me want to dance. I am leaving this here.”
We get an energy boost, and the devious, fruit-bearing plant gets to spread its equally crafty progeny across the countryside, where the cycle will begin anew. Insidious creatures, plants.
Back to smoothies. They do contain a sizable dose of sugar, but they are also very nutrient-rich. And, the body’s absorption of the sugar they do contain is slowed by their ample dietary fiber. So, if you’re going out and doing something active, a smoothie is a great choice, as it will give you a sustained energy boost that will carry you through a good part of the day.
If you’re watching your sugar intake, there are ways to eliminate some of the sugar from your smoothies, and still give them a creamy texture. Try switching out a banana for an avocado, and leave out the extra sweeteners.
What about the fat?
Some fruits, such as avocados, contain fat, but the majority of the fat in most peoples’ smoothies comes from add-ins like frozen yoghurt, cream, or milk. Fat, like sugar, is necessary for the body to function properly, but as we know, too much of it can cause health problems. So, what’s a fat-conscious smoothie enthusiast to do? Instead of frozen yoghurt, try whey or hemp protein and coconut water.
The Bottom Line
Smoothies make a pretty healthy breakfast, snack, or workout energy booster. You wouldn’t want to live solely on them, but who does that, anyway? And, compared with many other snacks (soda, candy bars, potato chips) smoothies are nutritional magic.