On the internet we can find a huge number of recipes for smoothies. However, we can quickly see that many of the most popular smoothies are based on fruit, causing the sugar level to rise to more than 50 g per recipe. For most people, it represents too much sugar for one meal only. Furthermore, the sugar in the recipes is usually not balanced with the amount of proteins, fibre, vegetables (i.e. leafy) and healthy fats.
Common ways how the smoothies can become unhealthy:
Too much sugar
Smoothies, especially those in restaurants or bars, are often prepared with added sugars to suit the taste of most people. Fruits such as mango, pineapple and banana already contain a big amount of natural sugar and sometimes they are used only to disguise the “green” taste in smoothies. Therefore, it is better to prepare smoothies at home and use strawberries which are rich in antioxidants, have sweet taste and contain less sugar. Ingredients such as zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and avocados are an excellent choice for smoothies with less sugar.
Not enough vegetables
Play with vegetable ingredients! It is a great way to increase the fibre intake in your diet. Therefore, stick to the rule that the ratio of vegetables to fruit is always 3:1, e.g. when making a smoothie with one small cup of fruits, add 3 handfuls of spinach. Several popular smoothies most likely have a higher fruit ratio compared to the vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, known as cruciferous vegetables, contain extremely powerful nutrients and should form the basis of any healthy smoothie. You can always add so called green powders to the mixture, but you should be aware of the fact that nothing exceeds the nutritional value of fresh and simple leafy super-vegetables, such as spinach and kale.
Too many good ingredients
More is not always better, especially when it comes to a smoothie that you consume as a snack between your meals. You should keep in mind that the smoothie represents an additional nutrient intake and for this reason you can reduce the energy value of any of the other meals. You should especially do this if your smoothie contains proteins, such as peanut butter, nuts, or other fatty ingredients.
We can say that the green smoothies have a beneficial effect on our health, especially when they are rich in leafy vegetables and made in the right ratio. Depending on the nutrient density, they represent a balanced mixture of nutrients. Being rich in fibres, they aid to a healthy digestive system. As the ingredients are already ground, they are basically “digested”, making them easier to process by the digestive system.
Whether you enjoy smoothies as a meal or as a snack, it can be tasty and healthy – without processed additives or fillings. While preparing a healthy smoothie at home keep in mind the healthy equations described below.
Smoothie as a meal
3 parts green vegetables + 1 part fruit + 1 citrus + 1 part protein + 1 part healthy fat + and/or 1 part carbohydrate supplement in the form of fruit + liquid to obtain the desired texture
3 handfuls of spinach + ½ banana + juice ½ lemon + 1 scoop of hydrolysed whey powder + 2 tablespoons of almond butter + 2 tablespoons of rolled oats + almond milk to obtain the desired texture
Smoothie as a snack
2 parts vegetables + 1 part fruit + 1 citrus + 1 part protein OR healthy fat + liquid to obtain the desired texture
1 handful of spinach + ½ banana + juice ½ lemon + 1 tablespoon of almond butter + almond milk to obtain the desired texture
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of coconut milk
4 leaves of romaine lettuce
1 medium green apple
1/2 cup cucumber
1 small handful of watercress (or spinach)
1 teaspoon of bee pollen or stevia
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
Mix all the ingredients until they become smooth. Optionally, based on your taste, add ingredients, such as bee pollen and stevia.
Add ice to cool it down and enjoy!
Ana Stepančič, dietitian