Blog > Body > Exploring the Dangers of Smoothies – Are They Really Healthy?

Exploring the Dangers of Smoothies – Are They Really Healthy?

Smoothies come in a variety of forms and with a seemingly endless variety of ingredients. It is possible to blend almost anything into a smoothie. As such, it is an excellent vehicle for obtaining the nutrients and vitamins we need1.

Smoothies are a growing trend in the wellness culture and are making waves in the market. They can be tailored to taste and dietary preferences and are marketed as portable, convenient, and family-friendly health foods.

But while some smoothies are packed with healthy vegetables and fruit, others are loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients to make them taste better.

Are Smoothies really healthy?

Despite popular belief, not all smoothies are low-calorie or healthy just because they contain fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, this blended beverage might be masking unwanted calories, sugar, and fat.

In this article, we explore the hidden dangers lurking in this popular health food and find out if smoothies are good for you.

What is a Smoothie?

Smoothies are thick, creamy drinks that usually consist of blended fruits, vegetables, milk, and or means of replacement, even supplements.

Smoothies are a convenient way to consume your daily vitamin and mineral requirements.

However, the liquid nature of smoothies does not make them a good option for people trying to lose weight. Calories in liquid form have less satiety, making you feel hungry more rapidly.

But before we get into that, let’s look at the most common ingredients found in smoothies.

a girl creating a smoothie in the kitchen

5 Most Common Ingredients Found in Smoothies

Fruits strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, banana, apples, pineapples, oranges.
Vegetables spinach, kale, cucumber, celery, beetroot, cauliflower, carrot, avocado, pumpkin.
Liquids water, coconut water, fruit juice, milk, non-dairy milk e.g., oat milk, rice milk, nut milk.
Supplements protein powder, collagen powder, multivitamin, and mineral supplements.
Sweeteners maple syrup, honey, agave, stevia, raw sugar, simple syrup, ice cream, sorbet, and fruit extracts.
Texture & Nutrition dates, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, yogurt, coconut yogurt, maca powder, flaxseed, chia seeds, and oats.

Health Benefits of Smoothies

Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake

putting leafy green and fruits to make a smoothie

With the right ingredients, smoothies can be a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Together, these nutrients could reduce inflammation3, improve digestion, and lower your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults eat at least 5 servings (around 400g) of fruits and vegetables per day4. If you don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables in your diet, a smoothie can make up for 2 to 3 servings.

As far as weight loss is concerned, the role of exercise is to increase energy expenditure. The U.S Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate and vigorous activity per week.

Despite that, only 10% of the American population can meet that goal. But it doesn’t have to be exercise – take the stairs. Or walk instead of taking the car when traveling short distances. Any form of physical activity helps to regulate your energy expenditure and reduces calories.

Increase Fibre Consumption

A key nutrient that aids digestion is fibre, which prevents constipation and supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract5.

Researchers have found that a healthy, thriving gut microbial community can help reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and improve overall mental health6. With the right ingredients, smoothies can be an excellent way to boost fibre intake.

Increase in Protein intake

Protein is an essential nutrient found throughout the body. It is the primary building block for every tissue in our body such as the muscles, bones, skin, cells, and hair just to name a few7.

Protein can be obtained in smoothies by incorporating ingredients such as dairy, nuts, seeds, protein powders, and supplements. Bodybuilders and athletes consume protein smoothies as protein is the building block of muscles.

blueberry and banana smoothie

The Trouble with Smoothies

The difference between a healthy and unhealthy smoothie largely depends on the quality and quantity of its ingredients. Even though smoothies pack nutrition into an easy meal, the wrong combination of ingredients can render it unhealthier than we realize.

a spill sugar on the table

Large Quantities of Added Sugar

Consuming excessive amounts of smoothies has negative health effects due to hidden sugars. The consumption of more than one smoothie per day may lead to obesity, tooth decay, and cavities8.

The sugar content of a smoothie that includes honey, frozen yogurt, sorbets, or ice cream could easily exceed an entire day’s worth of added sugar. On average, an average-sized smoothie may contain up to half a cup of sugar, which is the equivalent of 24 teaspoons.

Store-bought or bottled smoothies can contain 45 to 63 grams, equivalent to about 11 to 15 teaspoons of added sugar.

These numbers are far more than the daily 6-teaspoon limit recommended for women and the daily 9-teaspoon limit suggested for men. People are usually fooled by what smoothies are generally marketed as – as a health product.

This added sugar then drives up the caloric intake leading to weight gain, and even increasing the chances of developing dental problems such as cavities.

different type of berries which can be used as a smoothie

Overload of Fructose

Why is fructose of concern? First, it is sweeter than glucose and sucrose9.

Although you might assume that fruit sugar will be good for the body, fructose does have some unique adverse effects when consumed in excessive amounts. Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruits. It is a monosaccharide, which consists of simple sugar molecules that are the basic units of carbohydrates.

The unique thing about fructose is that it does not follow the usual absorption path in the body. Cells are not capable of using fructose as a source of energy, so 100% of it is sent straight to the liver.

The liver is only able to metabolize a certain amount of glucose and fructose, so when it hits its limit, the rest of the fructose is turned into fat.

Additionally, fructose also does not trigger insulin release or the release of hormones such as leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain that the body is full and should not consume any more food. This could lead to an overconsumption of calories as well10.

That said, there is no need to restrict fruits in your diet. Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals that our bodies require. These natural sugars found in fruits and some vegetables are in no way harmful to the body when consumed in moderation.

However, it is important to bear in mind that there are other ingredients that may contain sugar in the fruit smoothie that can significantly increase the overall sugar content.

Eating whole fruits as part of your diet has more health benefits than blending them. In addition, blended fruit do not provide the same nutritional value as the same fruits when eaten whole. While some vitamins and minerals remain intact, blending may break down some of the insoluble fibers present in the whole fruits11.

Do Smoothies Help with Weight Loss?

The formula for weight loss is pretty straightforward – your daily calorie intake should not exceed your caloric needs. Likewise, research has suggested that smoothies may be effective for the purpose of weight loss as long as they are not causing you to exceed your daily caloric needs.

a woman using a green measuring tape on her waist

For some people, smoothies are a good way to watch food portions and stay on top of their weight loss goals, while others may not feel as full. This can then result in an overconsumption of calories.

Ultimately, although weight loss can be a complex process with many contributing factors, it still boils down to expending more calories than you can consume. If a smoothie helps you offset other calories you would otherwise consume, it can be an effective weight-loss tool.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Be Fooled

Smoothies are a good way to get your daily intake of fruits and vegetables and they can suit almost any taste or dietary preference. However, they are not a shortcut to getting rid of fat – especially stubborn pockets of fat.

All those calories, added fat and sugar can really add up, so don’t be fooled. Unless you are engaging in enough physical activities throughout your day to remain in a caloric deficit, your efforts will result in no fat loss.

If you’re looking to target stubborn fat that is resistant to any form of exercise and diet, find out more about non-invasive fat removal solutions here.