Top 5 Smoothie Mistakes
1. Skewed fruit/veggie ratio – Most of us aren’t getting the recommended minimum 5 servings of vegetables each day, which can put us at risk of deficiency in micronutrients and fibre, which can subtly impact our health and cause sluggish bowels, contribute to fatigue, increase risk of chronic disease, etc. Adding more veggies to smoothies is an easy way to get an extra few servings. We need to eat for ourselves…but we can’t forget about our microbiome (the bugs in our gut) who are directly related to our overall health and love the pre-biotic material found in vegetables.
Both fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, but vegetables tend to have less sugar than fruit. Sugar in small amounts, especially post-exercise is not a bad thing, but most people are consuming more than they need to for our sedentary lifestyle. This becomes especially important if you have an insulin-resistant condition like PCOS or diabetes.
So, instead of loading up on fruit in your smoothie, try to include at least two vegetables. Try: kale, spinach, swiss chard, celery, collards, beets, zucchini (cut in slices and store in freezer), cucumber, carrots, etc. Play around with combinations - it's still possible for it to taste good!
2. Too much juice – Similar to above, juice increases the sugar content of a smoothie. This can create a spike in blood sugar, followed by a dip/crash. Again, this isn’t good for someone who is insulin resistant, but even if your insulin sensitivity is ok, it can still cause you to feel tired, get headaches, and/or experience mood changes.
You’ve likely seen this before with kids after eating cake. They’re flying high with energy and then boom, they crash and cranky spells, fatigue, and bad behaviour ensue. This is due to the sudden drop in blood sugar.
Blood sugar spikes can be curbed/avoided with the addition of protein, fat and fiber. That’s why it’s so important to have a well-rounded smoothie. Too much fruit and juice are the perfect storm for blood sugar spikes. Note, berries tend to have lower sugar content compared to ripe bananas, mangos, and pineapples.
3. Type of Protein Powder – I’m not going to call out any brands…but a few of the pyramid scheme businesses out there sell some powders that have some sketchy, unnecessary ingredients. Things like caramel colour - no one needs to consume that.
Powders can also get people into trouble if they have underlying food intolerances. For example, milk ingredients (including whey) can cause symptoms, subtle or obvious, to someone who doesn't tolerate dairy well.
You get what you pay for with powders…if it’s the best price on the shelf – check out the ingredient list. A well tolerated option is collagen powder – not a complete amino acid profile, but still a source of protein that can be easily found without additives and flavours.
4. Lacks healthy fats – When smoothies are used as a meal (like breakfast) it’s important to make sure you’ve got all macronutrients in there. Fat tends to be the missing component. Aim for healthy, unsaturated fats which can be achieved by adding things like: extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, avocado, almond butter, etc. Remember, fats also decrease the spike in blood sugar and many of these seeds also contain protein to help with that as well. Buy raw seeds, and store in the fridge for longer shelf life.
If you're worried about fat intake, focus on decreasing saturated fat sources, which you get from dairy and animal products.
5. Lacks diversity – This isn’t as important as achieving blood sugar balance…but for optimal, long-term health, it’s good to mix up the type of fruit and vegetables used to get a wide array of micronutrients and phytochemicals. Diverse diet= diverse microbiome.
We know that a more diverse microbiome is associated with positive health outcomes, so instead of always using say, blueberries, mix it up and buy something different like frozen cranberries.
Eating isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing your best to feel your best, without feeling like a radical or breaking the bank account. These are the foundations for a well-rounded smoothie. You can add herbs, powders, and spices to take it to the next level. Happy blending!