In an article for Eat This, Not That, Erin Yarnall outlines 6 harmful smoothie habits you may not be aware of. While smoothies are often seen as a healthy choice, these smoothie habits can actually be making them unhealthy, and in turn harming your body.
Megan Byrd, a Registered Dietitian from The Oregon Dietitian, says the easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to keep it simple. Try smoothies that involve fruits, vegetables, a protein—think Greek yogurt, protein powder, or nut butter.
1. Adding Fruit Juice
Making a smoothie is all about balancing the ingredients with the correct amount of liquid to create the perfect texture. Unfortunately, adding the wrong liquid can make the smoothie unhealthy. Stephanie Mantilla, a plant-based nutritionist and the founder of Plant Prosperous, says one of the worst additions to smoothies is fruit juice.
“Where people get into trouble is when they start adding fruit juices to their smoothies,” Mantilla says. “Fruit juice doesn’t have the fiber that whole produce has. The fiber is what keeps you from getting a sugar rush. By drinking a lot of fruit juice, studies have shown that you have an increase in the risk of diabetes.”
2. Lack of Protein
More often than not, fruit get all of the spotlight in a smoothie. But as it turns out, protein should be sharing the attention too, according to nutrition specialist Dr. Uma Naidoo.
“The ideal smoothie to balance blood sugar levels, gently detox the body, aid the digestive system, build immunity, balance hormones, and give you sustained physical and mental energy has to include a combination of protein (which helps muscles), fiber (which feeds your gut bacteria), healthy fats (which are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties) and folate found in leafy greens (which deliver loads of vitamins and antioxidants for optimal health),” Naidoo says.
She adds that this “will ease inflammation and give you prolonged energy along with a feeling of satiety and satisfaction for hours.”
3. Overloading the Sugar
Fruit can be a double edged sword when it comes to health. Fruit contain a lot of great components your body thrives on, but it also comes packed with natural sugars. Smoothies that are heavy in fruit involve a large amount of sugar into one serving.
“When you use mostly fruit in your smoothie, especially high sugar fruits like mango or pineapple, the sugar quickly adds up,” says Jessica Meyers, a licensed physician assistant, and functional health consultant. “Blood sugar spikes, like from a fruit-heavy smoothie are linked to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hormonal problems, and more. Instead, opt for berries for a touch of sweetness with a much lower sugar content.”
4. Leaving Out the Veggies
Another way to solve the sugary fruit problem is to replace some of it with vegetables. By incorporating veggies as well, you’re getting the health benefits without the sugar. As opposed to fruit, vegetables have much less natural sugar in them, according to Dr. Rand McClain, the chief medical officer of lcrhealth.com. Make adding vegetables apart of your smoothie habits.
“If by ‘smoothie’ we could change the parameters to include vegetables, [with] much less sugar, rather than fruits, then smoothies would be a healthier option,” McClain says.
5. Using Low-Quality Protein Powder
If you’re in the business of bulking up, you’re probably familiar with protein powder. Protein powder can be a secret weapon, and many use it to replace a whole meal. The key to a good, protein-filled smoothie is using god quality powder that contains nutrients.
“While this is common, most protein powders do not contain other vital nutrients required in a balanced meal,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. Anyone living with kidney disease should speak with their healthcare provider before adding protein powders to their diet.
6. Opting for a Smoothie Instead of a Meal
Though many do use smoothies in place of a meal, this habit is not encouraged by experts. Naidoo says that eating a whole meal instead of a smoothie can lead to you feeling more full and satisfied after a meal.
“Due to the fiber content and more complex carbs in whole foods such as vegetables, digestion will take longer and the insulin will not spike, which will help prolong the feeling of satiety,” Naidoo says.
Interested in more healthy eating habits? Check out our article on gut health.