A smoothie was originally a fruit juice drink with ice added, according to Dan Titus, director of the Juice and Smoothie Association and author of “Smoothies! The Original Smoothie Book.” By the 1980s, other ingredients such as milk, iced milk, yogurt and sugar were added. Eventually, the green smoothie – a combination of the previous ingredients mixed with vegetable juice – was developed. Smoothies are used as a meal enhancement, meal replacement or dessert, according to Titus. If you choose to replace fruits and vegetables with a smoothie, you should understand the pros and cons.
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Calories, Volume and Water
Fresh fruits and vegetables are considered low-calorie, energy-dense foods. That means the food contains few calories in a high volume of food. They tend to be high in water – dried fruits such as raisins are an exception – high in fiber, high in volume and low in fat. The high volume and fiber help you to feel full. A smoothie, in contrast, may or may not be high in water, depending on how much fluid it contains. Most importantly, a smoothie may have little fiber or the fiber it does contain may have been chopped into tiny fragments by the manufacturing process.
Fiber is vitally important to your health. Insoluble fiber – the sort found in many vegetables – helps move stool through your digestive system and helps prevent constipation. Soluble fiber – found in legumes, carrots and citrus fruits – can help lower your cholesterol and blood sugar. You need both types of fiber in your diet, according to MayoClinic.com. High-fiber foods normally require you to spend extra time chewing them, which makes you less likely to overeat. A smoothie, however, can be quickly consumed without chewing.
Commercial smoothies may contain ingredients that increase calories without adding nutrition. A 20-ounce Blueberry Heaven smoothie from Smoothie King contains 64 grams of sugar. A 12-ounce wild Berry Smoothie from McDonald's has 200 calories and 25 grams of sugar. Starbucks makes a 16-ounce Strawberry Banana Vivanno Smoothie with 280 calories and 41 grams of sugar. In contrast, a cup of blueberries has 50 calories and a medium apple has 65 calories, according to PositiveHealthSteps.com.
A blended smoothie – the sort you make at home with a blender – does include the fiber, and is one way to obtain the health benefits of a smoothie with fiber, according to BodyEcology.com. Body Ecology also recommends adding some fat in the form of avocados or coconut oil, which increases the feeling of fullness or satiety, as well as some nuts, seeds or nut butter. You can also add more water to increase the amount of fluid in the smoothie and decrease or eliminate sugar.
Considerations and Warnings
There is no evidence that a smoothie is the nutritional equivalent of the fruit or vegetable from which is it made. A smoothie might be easier to drink in some cases – such as after oral surgery or with a sore throat. If you want to substitute smoothies for your fruits and vegetables, consult a dietitian or doctor to ensure that you are consuming a well-balanced diet.