Smoothies are good for me, right?

Fruit smoothies are not as innocent as we are led to believe - an article by Dr Tom Heath (GP)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you can’t drink too many fruit smoothies. They are marketed to us as a quick and easy way to consume multiple portions of fruit in one quick hit, making it easier to hit the five portions of fruit and vegetables per day target we’re told will help us to live longer. Not only that, smoothies usually contain only natural ingredients and above all, they taste delicious.

In a world where everybody knows that soft drinks are bad for you, smoothies seem at first glance like a great alternative. But here’s the problem – the reason smoothies taste so appealing to all ages, is because they are loaded with sugar. The most popular brands of smoothie contain a similar amount of sugar as fizzy soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola. 

Whilst these are naturally occurring sugars, rather than refined or artificial sugars, the effect they have on our body is much the same. A debate is raging as to the fibre content of smoothies, with some experts claiming they retain healthy fibre after being blended, whilst others say the fibre is destroyed, meaning we absorb the sugars more rapidly compared to when fruit is eaten whole. Furthermore, levels of healthy antioxidants may be reduced by the process of turning fruit in smoothies.

Some experts argue that the five portions of fruit and vegetables per day target should be more heavily weighted towards vegetables. In Australia for example, the population are encouraged to eat more than twice as many portions of vegetables per day as fruit (http://www.gofor2and5.com.au/).

Fruit contains more fructose sugar than vegetables do, so consuming fruit causes higher spikes in our blood sugar level than consuming vegetables. Basically, smoothies are making it easier for us to take in more fruit – and therefore more sugar, more easily in one go. We know that over time, excess sugar intake increases the risk of developing diabetes, weight gain and heart disease. So should we avoid smoothies altogether?

Smoothies should probably be enjoyed as an occasional treat and if consumed regularly it is best to only drink small portions and preferably smoothies that have a balance of fruit and vegetables. When it comes to fruits, as with other foods, a rule of thumb is consume more whole foods and less that have been processed, like smoothies.

If reading this has made you fancy a smoothie, here’s an example you can try:

1 Apple – healthier to leave the skin on, but up to you!
1 medium sized carrot
2 celery sticks
Approximately 200ml of water or milk to achieve the desired consistency – try unsweetened coconut milk for additional flavour
For extra zing, try adding a small amount of fresh ginger!

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