Smoothies and the “Fine Art of Juicing” seem to be taking a huge swing in popularity lately, as a whole slew of new fancy machines have been developed for the purposes of physically breaking down your food long before it gets to your stomach. Conventional wisdom says that smoothies are ALWAYS good for a person and they are the “best” choice for wholesome eating…even fast food chains have been adding these offerings to their menus. It makes a bit of sense…what adverse effects could there be in putting whole, fresh foods into a blender (Peaches! Bananas! Melons! Spinach!), adding a few interesting and flavorful ingredients (Yogurt! Honey! Protein Powder! Ginger!), pushing a button and pureeing them altogether into something beautifully natural, super delicious and extra convenient? Plenty! Depending on what your goals are, there are a more than few reasons why your smoothies and/or juices may NOT be the magic potions you think they are.
Your homemade juice or smoothie concoction needs to be developed and engineered with your health goals in mind. For what purpose are you choosing to create this thing? Is it the taste? The convenience? The nutritional value? Or is this just another opportunity to play in the kitchen with a fun new gadget? One smoothie does not fit all and is not a blanket solution to all of your health related issues, so let’s inspect your motives here.
If you’re eating for strict nutritional value, smoothies and juicing are great methods of getting fruits and vegetables into your system. Take me for instance. I am not too big on eating a ton of veggies, but blend them into a smoothie and it becomes a lot easier for me to ingest high doses of these nutrient packed plants. I have even found ways to make some of these formerly noxious (to my tastes) foods extremely palatable. Take kale for instance, which to my stomach is like grass to a dog’s. Blended with some blueberries, ginger, coconut milk and a little pineapple, it is actually quite nice. Both kale and blueberries are considered super foods, and isn’t it great to get both of those in first thing in the morning?
Now we all know that we feed babies fruit before introducing them to vegetables. It’s the sweetness factor, and all hunting/gathering humans are engineered to have a sweet tooth in order to survive! That being said, there has been an alarming trend of creating strictly fruit smoothies with the idea that since they are made from “whole foods”, they must be completely healthful. There are some issues with this type of thinking. The sugar load in pure fruit smoothies may sabotage some of the fitness goals that you have been trying to achieve, especially if you are trying to lose girth. You may actually gain weight rather than lose while doing this. What gives more cause for pause is this: The British Dental Health Foundation has recently published that all-fruit smoothies are leading to higher levels of tooth decay by creating an acidic environment in the mouth. This compromises the enamel of your teeth. Can you imagine being rendered toothless due to your fruit smoothie addiction? How about smoothies forever for the rest of your life. That would be a bit ironic.
Now the good news is, all things in moderation. The post workout benefits of an all-fruit smoothie have their place to restore glycogen in the muscle. Add some protein and you have a magic elixir that not only replaces glycogen but also aids in the rebuild of microtears in the muscles.
So here is the moral of the story. Your post-workout smoothie should contain protein and fruit. Regular non-workout smoothies should include more veggies than fruit in order to avoid the scare at the scale. Also steer clear of putting sugary things in with your fruits and veggies like milk, fruit juices, agave or honey that will increase the amount of simple carbs in the smoothie and increase your chance for tooth decay.
In the meantime, as always, have fun putting your own concoctions together, for whatever suits your purpose. The great thing is, with popular trends come lots of choices and tons of information on the subject, so experiment with others’ recipes and work with those to develop your own.