Should you add a green smoothie into your daily routine? The majority of us (90% of Americans based on a 2013 CDC report) are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. While a smoothie can be a fast and easy way to increase both your fruit and veggie intake, calories and sugar can add up quickly depending on the ingredients added and the amount consumed. Here is the breakdown…
First lets start with the potential benefits of drinking green smoothies:
· Blending fruits and vegetables can maximize the absorption of nutrients. Certain phytonutrients like beta carotene and lycopene and the B vitamin Folate are released only when the cell walls of fruits and vegetables are disrupted. In other words, certain nutrients can become more bioaccessible to us when they are blended down into small particles.
· Although some may think that the physical disruption to the fiber of the produce may lead to blood sugar spikes and rebound hypoglycemia, research has shown that smoothies made with blended berries, mangos, or bananas can help to improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity over time.
· Blending fruits and vegetables is a great way incorporate parts of fruits and vegetables that are often discarded into our diets. Adding in the stems, peels, rinds, and certain seeds of produce provide a plethora of health benefits. For example, the peels of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons contain citrus flavonoids, including hesperidin, which have anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, and hypolipidemic properties.
Now, some potential downsides of green smoothies:
· Many store-bought green smoothies can pack up to 58 grams of sugar in a 16oz bottle and often contain juice purees from concentrate. For a comparison, a 12oz can of coke has 40g of sugar. Many “healthy” smoothie and juice bars add sweeteners like agave (more to come on agave) and fruit juices to their smoothies, which significantly ups both the sugar and calories of the beverage.
· Drinking a smoothie allows you to consume much more fruit than you normally would during a sitting, about 10 times faster then what it would take you to eat the fruit or vegetable in its whole form. This can lead to you to consuming a large amount of sugar in a short amount of time and leave you feeling unsatisfied. Sipping green smoothies slowly over the course of 20 to 30 minutes and stick to portion sizes under 12oz.
The bottom line:
Green smoothies can be a great way to add more vegetables and fruits into your diet. However, it is best to make your own smoothies that consist of whole fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on dark green leafy veggies (60-80% of your smoothie). The more greens, the better!
Stick to organic produce whenever possible. If organic produce is too pricey, click here for a list of the "clean 15" fruits and vegetables which are the least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
A great way to make a smoothie more filling while adding in fiber, omega-3’s, and beneficial phytochemicals is to add in a tablespoon or two of ground flax seeds. You can also add in healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, seeds, or avocado to keep you full while optimizing the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. As for liquids, unsweetened teas like green tea or hibiscus tea make a great base with no added sugars. For a more filling smoothie, you can add in almond, coconut, hemp, or macadamia milks or plain organic yogurt. Water is also an option to help minimize sugar content.
Green smoothies are a convenient and delicious way to optimize your intake of vegetables and fruits. Switch up your recipes often and don’t be afraid to try adding in ingredients like parsley, basil, fresh ginger, cinnamon, mint, turmeric, pumpkin, cacao nibs, chia seeds, oats, or hemp. Find one of my favorite green smoothie recipes here. Happy blending!
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Moore, L. V., & Thompson, F. E. (2015). Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6426a1.htm
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