Food 

Are Smoothies Good for You?

August 30, 2020 6 min read

Are Smoothies Good for You?

At a glance

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle or simply increase your overall health in the coming months, you might be thinking of incorporating smoothies into your diet. First arriving on the nutrition scene in the 1920s(1), smoothies accounted for more than $22 million worth of supermarket sales in 2018 alone(2), and with good reason. Adults and children alike appreciate smoothies thanks to their portability, convenience and general tastiness.

Additionally, smoothies offer a number of benefits related to health and weight loss. In fact, various studies reveal that meal replacement smoothies can be an effective weight-loss tool(3). Still, not all smoothies are created equal, and the question of are smoothies good for you remains pertinent. Keep reading to learn more about the potential health benefits and drawbacks associated with smoothies.

What qualifies as a smoothie?

Wondering if your breakfast beverage counts as a smoothie? A general term for a drink made from pureed ingredients, smoothies may contain fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk, seeds and protein powder. Generally, nutritional experts divide smoothies into the following categories:

  • Fruit smoothies, which may include several types of fruit, fruit juice, water, milk, yogurt and ice cream.
  • Green smoothies, which may include vegetables like spinach and kale, fruit, juice, water and dairy.
  • Protein smoothies, which may include any of the above ingredients along with a protein source such as Greek yogurt, nuts, whey powder or protein powder.

While some people consume smoothies as snacks, others use these beverages to replace a meal (typically breakfast or lunch). Both options can serve as a component of a healthy diet. However, it’s important to consider your dietary goals when making a smoothie selection. The calorie counts in these beverages vary dramatically depending on the ingredients, with some drinks racking up 1,000 calories or more. For best results, aim to limit your snack smoothies to 300 calories and keep meal replacement smoothies to under 800 calories. Weighing ingredients like almonds or fruits can help you ensure you don’t wind up with a drink packed with hidden calories.

While many smoothies are full of healthful ingredients, some blended beverages can have a detrimental effect on wellness, leading to weight gain and other issues. In particular, sugar-filled smoothies can do more to harm than help when it comes to your nutritional goals.

The health effects of sugar

Are smoothies good for you? The answer to that question is complex and depends in large part on how much sugar is contained in your frothy breakfast blend. Fruit-packed smoothies tend to contain a large quantity of sugar without a sufficient amount of protein and fat to balance the scales. While you will likely enjoy a bump in energy upon drinking a sweet smoothie, your body will go on to store that sugar as fat. Moreover, research shows that fructose — the sugar found in fruit — can prevent you from feeling satisfied after a meal, potentially causing you to overeat(4).

It's worth noting that consuming too much sugar can have a negative effect on overall health. Studies link sugar consumption with an increased risk of obesity, as well as conditions like heart disease, liver disease and diabetes(5). Limiting sugar intake to less than 36 grams a day for men and 25 grams for women is one of the best ways to manage weight and stay healthy(6). For reference, the average 20-ounce bottle of sports drink contains around 38 grams of added sugar!

While sugary foods can clearly have a detrimental effect on overall health, that doesn’t mean smoothie fans have to give up their favorite treat. By avoiding store-bought smoothies in favor of homemade options (and choosing your ingredients with care), you can stay in shape while continuing to enjoy this drink or meal supplement.

Health benefits of smoothies

Despite the risks inherent in ingesting too much sugar, you shouldn’t write off smoothies just yet. In fact, studies have shown that these drinks can help increase fruit and vegetable consumption. With the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting that most adults fail to consume their recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, drinking a daily smoothie can be an effective way of getting more nutrients (7). Along with fightinginflammation, a proven cause of weight gain and disease, consuming nutrient-rich fruits and veggies aids in digestion while protecting again osteoporosis, diabetes and heart failure(8).

Additionally, produce-packed smoothies may support healthy digestion. Although fiber is a key element of a balanced diet, preventing constipation and contributing to the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, just five percent of Americans consume the recommended daily amount(9). Smoothie ingredients like vegetables and nuts can help boost your fiber intake and reduce your odds of suffering digestive issues, obesity, hypertension and other conditions.



The best smoothie ingredients

If you’re wondering about the answer to the question “are smoothies good for you,” start by taking inventory of what you’re adding to your breakfast beverage each day. The following are among the best smoothie ingredients for boosting health:

  • Cherries: Packed with vitamin C and inflammation-battling anthocyanins, fresh or frozen cherries are a great component to add to your smoothie.
  • Wild blueberries: Along with fiber and antioxidants, blueberries contain the mineral manganese, which is known to promote healthy bones. As a bonus, blueberries add a burst of sweetness and flavor to your favorite breakfast drink.
  • Almonds: Offering both protein and healthy fat, almonds are a smoothie ingredient proven to keep your full longer.
  • Walnuts: Known for blending well, walnuts are another healthful option, thanks to the presence of mono and polyunsaturated fats(10).
  • Leafy greens: Spinach and kale contain plenty of fiber, along with nutrients like vitamin C, iron and calcium.
  • Green tea powder: This smoothie add-on doesn’t just give you a burst of caffeine in the morning.Green tea also contains EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), which is known to fight weight gain.
  • Natural sweeteners: Bananas and honey add sweetness without unnatural ingredients or fillers.

The worst smoothie ingredients

Not all smoothie ingredients are beneficial, of course. Whether your goal is to lose weight or simply boost health, avoid adding the following ingredients to the blender:

  • Added sugars: Granulated sugar, maple syrup, frozen yogurt and ice cream all make smoothies tasty, but they add little in the way of health benefits. For best results, skip these additives in favor of naturally sweet ingredients, like bananas or honey.
  • Fruit juice: Instead of adding sugar-rich orange or apple juice to your smoothie, consider using water or almond milk as a base.
  • Fillers: Protein powders can be a beneficial addition to any smoothie, but some of the most popular options are packed with unhealthy fillers. When shopping for powders, try to find one with 20 grams of protein and less than five grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Tips for blending a healthy smoothie

One of the biggest benefits of smoothies is that they’re customizable. Depending on your needs and tastes, you can add a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and sweeteners. Still, it’s important to realize that putting ingredients in the blender doesn’t automatically make them healthy. Below are tips on creating a better smoothie, courtesy of a nutritionist (11):

    You can create your own smoothie recipe or search for healthful options online. With a little research and some careful grocery shopping, you’ll be able to create a mouth-watering and nutritious smoothie that will help you achieve your goals with regard to health.

    In summary

    Portable and tasty, smoothies offer plenty of benefits for the average busy adult seeking an easy-to-make meal. After all, you can blend a nutritious smoothie in mere minutes and consume it on your way to work or school in the morning. Still, answering the question of “are smoothies good for you” is easier said than done.

    If you want to lose weight or boost health, consider packing your blender with beneficial ingredients like leafy greens, protein powder and healthy fats. For best results, you should avoid overindulging in sweetened fruit juices and ingredients with added sugar, such as frozen yogurt or ice cream. By selecting the right ingredients for your smoothie, you can create a meal replacement beverage that’s as healthful as it is delicious.

    April Maguire - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice