“Loaded with sugar” and “Should not contribute more than 1 of your 5 a day”. Just two of the statements you’ll have seen in the recent press about smoothies. It’s not all doom and gloom though. At a time when only 30% of adults and 8.5% of children aged 11-18 eat their 5 a day (NDNS 2014), smoothies can still pack a healthy punch. Claire Baseley, Registered Nutritionist explains how smoothies CAN still be good for you.
Is drinking fruit and vegetables bad for me?
The good news is that, unlike the sugars in fruit juices, the sugars in smoothies are not all classed as free sugars (which the World Health Organisation recently advised us to restrict to no more than 5% total calorie intake). While the blending process does release some of the sugars, much still remains part of the plant cells, so you don’t get the ‘sugar rush’ that you would from a juice.
Not all smoothies are equal. If you use a variety of lower sugar fruits combined with vegetables in a homemade smoothie, the total sugar content will be limited by what’s naturally present. Berries, apples and pears are relatively lower in sugars along with most vegetables but even sneaking in a little banana won’t tip the sugar scales too far when mixed with other things. The benefits of using a variety of different fruits and vegetables is that every smoothie is a new taste experience and by eating a rainbow, you’ll be eating a wider range of vitamins and minerals.
I've worked with Thyme to develop a rainbow of smoothie options, to ensure each have their own unique health benefit.
By contrast, many shop-bought smoothies contain added sugars in the form of honey, sweetened yoghurt or table sugar. They’re often very sweet, relying on banana puree and apple juice concentrate to deliver sweetness with only small amounts of lower sugar fruit and veg. Notably, they will be consumed several days after they were made, so there will be an inevitable loss of nutrients like Vitamin C.
How to make the healthiest homemade smoothies
While it’s best to consume most of your fruit and vegetables whole and minimally cooked, it’s not always possible to do so and the majority of adults and children fail to eat all 5 of the recommended pieces of fruit and vegetables a day.
Smoothies can help because, unlike juices, you puree the whole of the fruit and veg, without losing the fibre. Follow these 8 top tips for getting the most out of your smoothies.
- Go fresh or even better, freshly frozen and drink soon after blending. Using frozen or fresh fruit and veg means you don’t lose out on the vitamins that can be lost over time in shop-bought smoothies while they sit on the chiller shelf.
- Include vegetables to add minerals and reduce the sugar content of the smoothie.
- Use a smoothie as a meal or snack replacement rather than as a drink on top of food to minimise the risk of over-consuming calories
- Eat a rainbow. Try to use a variety of fruit and vegetables each week both whole or in smoothies. It helps to keep things interesting and also provides a wider range of nutrients.
- Use only 1-2 portions of veg and fruit per smoothie (1 of your 5 a day weighs 80g but this can be made up of different vegetables and fruits e.g. 2 portions could be made up of 4x40g servings of fruit and vegetables). This ensures you don’t end up over-consuming calories and sugars. One of our smoothie pouches provides 1 ½ servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Blitz fruit and vegetables with other foods. Adding milk, unsweetened yoghurt, oats or other grains, nuts, seeds, whey powder or other protein sources makes the smoothie a lot more filling and a great breakfast substitute as the protein and fibre will keep you fuller for longer.
- Blitz minimally, the less you blend your smoothie, the more textured it will be. A grainier texture takes longer to be digested so may keep you going for longer and will have fewer free sugars.
- Use a straw. Drinking through a straw means the smoothie has less contact with the teeth so helps avoid any damage from the natural fruit acid. You can also protect teeth by drinking quickly and swishing your mouth out with water after finishing your smoothie.
Learn more about Thyme's rainbow of smoothies.