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To Smoothie or Not?

Smoothies have been a popular health food for quite a while. Throw a banana, a handful of berries, protein powder (and even spinach or avocado for the adventurous ones) in a blender…whizz it for a minute and voila! They seem to be a quick way to get all the goodness of fruit and vegetables in a delicious drink.

So, what is the problem with the smoothies!!!

Well, if you have been drinking smoothies and feel like you are in your best health, your metabolic markers look great (e.g., blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, liver enzymes etc.). and, you are at your desired healthy weight, then, you do not need to read any further. Don’t fix what ain’t broken!

However, if you are like many of my patients, who struggle to control their diabetes or weight despite drinking their healthful smoothies, please hear me out.

When you take a bowl of food, full of fruit and vegetables and throw it in a blender, a few things happen.

- Blender is doing the work to breakdown the food that otherwise your body would do with chewing and breaking into small particles etc.

- You can consume a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

- You will likely not have the same satiety as you would from eating that bowl of food.

- More sugar and calories are available for absorption from a smoothie vs eating whole food.

- The fiber in the food is processed into tiny particles and diminishes its benefits in terms of gut health.

- The blood sugar rises a lot faster from drinking fruit in a smoothie vs eating the whole fruit.

In addition, if you are buying smoothies from one of the smoothie shops, please also look out for added sugar in the form of syrup or fruit juices.

Recently, someone brought me a delicious blueberry smoothie from a popular smoothie chain store. It tasted delicious, but when I looked at the nutritional info, it had a whopping 86 g of carbohydrates in it, which is more than the amount of carbohydrates that I strive to eat in an entire day.

Having said that, smoothies have their place in nutrition in certain cases.

When are smoothies good?

- If you have a digestive problem that makes it difficult to tolerate whole foods, you may NEED the blender to do the work for you, so you can absorb the nutrients which you otherwise will not be able to.

- When you have dietary restrictions which do not allow you to have enough protein, you may need to blend protein powder with the liquid of your choice (water, yogurt, milk, almond milk etc.) and perhaps some frozen berries for flavor.

- If you have a picky eater and this is the only way you can get some nutrients in them. (I know a thing or two about that!)

- And if you absolutely hate the taste / texture of whole foods and will not eat them except when they are turned into a drink, by all means, go for it. I ‘d rather you drink smoothies, than drink soda or juice.

But for people who enjoy the whole produce…with all its rich flavor, texture, and fragrance…Please, eat your food, rather than drink it.

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