Could that glass of smoothie be doing you more harm than good?

If not done right, smoothies could have great cons. We tell you how to make it healthy again.

Harper's Bazaar India

Remember that phase, when our mornings started with drinking a smooth blend of fruits, veggies, greens, nuts, and seeds poured into a tall glass? We’ve all had our smoothie obsessions, in fact, continue to, and rightly so—they are easy to make, quick to consume, always manage to fill us up immediately, are said to be the Holy Grail of health, and are very Instagrammable. But, do you really know your smoothie and what it’s doing for you? Or rather, what it may be doing against you?

Let’s strip it down to the basics. 

There are some real benefits of drinking smoothies; there's a reason why the drink has gained popularity in the first place. Smoothies offer a balance of fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals; help manage immediate food cravings; and can be delicious if made right. And while all that is true, much like anything else, there are certain cons that are important to take note of but have often been ignored by smoothie drinkers. 

“There is no denying that drinking a smoothie is the easiest and quickest way to get nutrients and, for me, their biggest advantage is that they offer targeted nutrient intake,” says Kavita Devgan, a nutritionist and author of The Immunity Diet. Although, Devgan is quick to point out that like any other food, smoothies, too, have their own downside. “An imbalanced glass of smoothie can lead to skewed sugar intake,” she says.

A standard glass of commercially-bought protein-based smoothies can be anywhere upward of 400 calories, given the added sugar and sugar substitutes used in it. And, even if you make these at home with natural ingredients, you are probably adding more fruit in it, again risking an increased sugar intake.

Add to it the fact that smoothies make you feel full really quickly, but because the fibre is pulverising in the blending process—the fibre in the fruit acts as a net and slows down the process by which the body turns sugar from food into blood sugar—you are likely to feel hungry sooner, which often leads to unhealthy snacking. Though a smoothie has fibre content, it is not in its most effective natural form.  

Then there is also the temperature problem with smoothies that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert, Dr Nat Kringoudis, points out. For the body to process food properly, she says, the gut must first heat food up to 37 degrees before it can even begin to think about digesting and pulling nutrients from the foods and drinks. And if cold and raw foods are constantly being consumed—which strains the system and slows everything down, the digestive fire will weaken. Eventually, the body will stop drawing nutrients because it doesn’t have the energy to do so, and it will lead to the nutrients need not being met by the body and an increase in cravings and therefore food consumption.

Smoothies, with their blend of cold and raw fruits, veggies, dairies, and ice are a classic example of a meal that could fuel this bodily malfunction, of course, when not taken in moderation. “It is all about moderation, and doing it correctly,” chimes Devgan. She doesn’t recommend smoothies as a meal replacement, as many often do, but more as a snack, taken once a day. She even offers two recipes for an ideal smoothie blend. 

The heavier blend
1. Choose your base—īt could be milk or yoghurt. You can choose lactose-free options, or even vary your choice based on what your body needs—try a greek yoghurt for higher protein content, or a portion of homemade yoghurt for its higher probiotic value. 
2. Pick any two fruits of your liking
3. Add concentrated nutrition sources such as nuts, flaxseeds, coconut flakes, sesame seeds. These are all great options to boost the nutritional value of the drink.

The lighter blend
For a light veggie-fruit blend, make sure to keep the proportion of veggie to fruit at 70:30 per cent. Devgan recommends a classic combination of spinach and banana, or perhaps beetroot and amla. You can add spirulina, moringa or wheatgrass for that extra dose of nutrients!