I don't know about y'all, but there are more than a couple of people in my life who have smoothies as a part of their daily ritual. Some of them do it as a quick way to consume their breakfast. Others do it as an energy boost before working out. Some just simply like the taste of 'em. If you happen to fall into any of these categories, first let me say that homemade smoothies, for the most part, are a good thing to have. The nutrients in them can help to strengthen your immunity, improve your digestion, detoxify your body, fill you up with antioxidants, control your cravings and help you to lose weight—yep, all this with just one serving. At the same time, the reason why I said, "for the most part", is because, believe it or not, there is such a thing as a "bad smoothie". It's when you find yourself preparing one in such a way that it can literally do your system more harm than good.
If smoothies are totally your thing, but you want to make sure that you're making the kind that are as healthy as possible, here are some signs that you might be working against this goal—whether you realize it or not.
You’re Making Them with Juice
While fruit is good for you, fruit juice? Eh, not so much. A lot of fruit juice brands are packed with both sugar and calories, so using them as a base for your smoothies is usually working against you, rather than for you. For instance, adding a half-cup of apple juice to your morning smoothie could easily give you 50-70 extra calories and 10-15 grams of sugar. So, if you want your smoothies to be a little less thick, opt for a milk alternative instead. Case in point, there are 30 calories in a cup of almond milk with zero grams of sugar in it (if you go with the original or unsweetened kind). For the most part, milk alternatives instead of juice are definitely the way to go.
You’re Putting in Too Much Fruit (or Only Fruit)
Just because I said that fruit is healthy (and it is), that doesn't mean it's also not packed with a type of sugar known as fructose. If all you have in your smoothie is berries, bananas or pineapples, that could cause your blood sugar levels to spike up. Plus, smoothies are basically meant to serve as mini-meals, so it's best to put more in there anyway. Protein powder, green veggies, seeds (like chia or flaxseed) can up the nutrient value of your smoothie while also balancing out all of the sugar that fruit tends to provide.
You’re Adding WAY Too Much Green Veggies
Kale. Spinach. Cucumber. Zucchini. These are just some of the green veggies that not only are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but actually taste really great in smoothies as well. But again, balance is key.
If you eat too much of a good green thing, the fiber could have you in the bathroom for much longer than you ever planned. Plus, kale contains compounds known as goitrogens; too many of them are prone to totally mess with your thyroid—and not in a good way.
So how much is enough? 1-2 cups of fresh raw green vegetables, per smoothie, is pretty cool. Just make sure that you're only doing a smoothie a day in order to keep your green veggie intake on point.
You’re Adding WAY Too Much Protein Too
As women, all we need is 50-60 grams of protein a day. Well, if you're adding collagen, whey and protein powder to each of your smoothies, you're actually giving your body way too much protein. The challenge with that is, not only can that lead to things like nausea, dehydration, exhaustion, diarrhea and intestinal discomfort over time, but when protein rises to excessive levels, it's prone to turn into sugar. That's why, really no more than 10 grams of protein, per smoothie, should be a rule of thumb that you should follow.
You’re Putting Sweeteners In
Lawd, y'all. If you're putting fresh fruit into your smoothie, why in the world would you need to add any sweetener to it? Remember that smoothies aren't just a convenient way to get vitamins and minerals into your body; they're also supposed to benefit you, holistically, long-term. Consuming anything that could low-key turn you into a diabetic isn't helpful. Bottom line, if there's fruit in your smoothie, you've got all of the sweetener that you need. If there's not, a teaspoon of honey or molasses, some dates, or a little bit of flavored yogurt should be all that you need to add a little sweetness to it.
You’re Forgetting About Adding Spices
Here's an interesting question. When's the last time you added some spice (or spices) into your smoothies? Not only do they add a bit of a "kick" to how your smoothies taste, but many of them are really great for your overall health and well-being too. Ginger contains potassium, copper and magnesium, along with anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon is filled with antioxidants and the organic compound cinnamaldehyde which helps to keep bacterial and fungal infections at bay. Sage is dope because it's high in Vitamin K and also has the reputation for reducing cholesterol levels, relieving menopause-related symptoms and improving blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. So, definitely consider adding one of these (or other spices) into your smoothie, the next time that you make one.
Your Smoothies Are HUGE
Back in my Smoothie King days, I used to be amazed by some of the sizes of smoothies that they offered. I mean, who needs a Big Gulp equivalent of a smoothie, right? At the end of the day, all that means is you're packing on more calories and sugar.
So, what size should your smoothies actually be? Between 8-12 ounces is best and one a day is good. And what about having a smoothie every day? If it's something like a homemade green smoothie, that shouldn't be a problem, so long as you add some protein into it so that you're not hungry an hour later.
Just make sure that you don't treat your smoothie like it's a drink that is accompanying a meal—even if it's a salad. Too much of a good thing can turn into something that's not-so-good, real quick. Many folks have found themselves packing on pounds after consistently drinking smoothies for a month or so. So, if you're having a smoothie, consider that to be an actual meal, until it's time to eat again.
BONUS: You’re Buying Them
The reason why this article focuses on mistakes that are made when it comes to making smoothies at home is because, when they're the DIY kind, you have full control over what does (and doesn't) go into them. When you're getting them at your local grocery store, not so much. Many commercial brands contain so many additives and preservatives that the word "natural" in the branding is hardly true. And if you get one at a restaurant, oftentimes frozen yogurt, sherbet and all sorts of sweeteners will make it more of a fattening treat than a healthy snack. So, when it comes to getting a smoothie outside of your house, while it might be convenient, it typically isn't your best bet—not if you want to drink one that is actually good for you. Make them at home. It's better for your body—and your budget in the long run.
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