Home Food 101 Experts Say Smoothies May Be As Bad as Sodapop

Experts Say Smoothies May Be As Bad as Sodapop

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Before we get started, if you’re concerned about making your smoothies healthy, check out this post where I detail a long list of tips for building the healthiest smoothie possible.

I’ve said, for a long time, that they’re bad…. but as bad as pop?

Two researchers responsible for highlighting the health risks behind consuming sugary soft drinks now say that fruit smoothies may be just as bad for you as soda since they contain the same amount of sugar.

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“Smoothies and fruit juices are the new danger,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Barry Popkin told the Guardian. “It’s kind of the next step in the evolution of the battle.”

Popkin and his research partner George Bray say that since their 2004 soft drink study was released, Pepsi, Coke and other soda manufacturers have been buying fruit smoothie companies and marketing their products as healthier alternatives.

“It’s a really big part of it because in every country they’ve been replacing soft drinks with fruit juice and smoothies as the new healthy beverage,” Popkin told the Guardian. “So you will find that Coke and Pepsi have bought dozens [of fruit juice companies] around the globe.”

However, Popkin says these drinks are not in fact healthier and that they on average contain the same amount of sugar as a regular soda. Further, he says that smoothies do not actually provide the same health benefits as simply eating a whole fruit or vegetable.

“So pulped up smoothies do nothing good for us, but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving,” Popkin said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about half of the U.S. population consumes at least one sugary drink per day on average. Those statistics are higher for lower income individuals, minors and minorities. The CDC also says the dramatic rise in soft drink consumption over the past 30 years has played a direct role in rising obesity rates and cases of diabetes.

A recent Harvard study found that a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 15-18 teaspoons of sugar. The same study says U.S. beverage manufacturers spend about $3.2 billion dollars each year marketing these drinks to children .

In fact, the near omnipresence of sugary drinks is so prevalent that a June 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health claims that removing soda machines from schools would not have a significant impact on the number of drinks consumed by kids.

However, at least one fruit smoothie manufacturer is standing by their claims. “Smoothies are made entirely from fruit and therefore contain the same amount of sugars that you would find in an equivalent amount of whole fruit,” reads a statement from fruit smoothie manufacturer Innocent, which is primarily owned by the Coca-Cola Company. [source]

Someone tweeted the article to me while I was presenting at the Black Girls Run! conference this weekend, while countless women were asking me how I felt about smoothies and juicing. Man, do I wish I had this article then!

Now, to be fair, I think nutrition and quality of ingredients account for the “difference” between the two, with a smoothie actually imparting some kind of nutritional benefit [problems or not] while sodapop only gives you calories and nothing more.

A few years ago, I said this:

The difference between table sugar and the cane from which the sugar comes? There’s no possible way I’m getting as much sugar from chewing through (and swallowing) all that fiber as if I were simply swallowing a tablespoon of sugar. Why? Because with everything else in the sugar cane, I’ll fill up much quicker. There’s no possible way a tablespoon of sugar carries the nutrients that a stalk of sugar cane. Why? Because everything was filtered OUT Of the sugar cane to make the table sugar.. including the nutrients. Lastly, the fiber outright ensures that I’m not going to wreck havoc on my system. A tablespoon of table sugar cannot do that… and it comesfrom sugar cane.

The sweet part is separated from the part of the food that’s supposed to protect you from the element that, by itself, is harmful to your system. So no – most teas, coffees and juices with sugar added to them have the same effect. Baked goods made with “refined” flours (which go through a similar process, resulting in a flour devoid of fiber) have the same effect.
Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Table Sugar | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

…and, even though I was talking about the difference between natural sugar and processed sugar, I think the same applies to the difference between fruit and juiced fruit. Sugar, sans fiber, is a problem.

I joked to one of my audiences this weekend that I felt like a large portion of the people who do the juicing/smoothie thing are doing so because they “hate vegetables,” so they’re juicing a whole pineapple, a banana, an apple, a bag of blueberries and a leaf of kale. Because it’s basically “kool-aid.” Those are the people most susceptible to thisand thisand this.

It’s hard to slander juicing/smoothies because I understand the intention and the goal. You want to live healthier, and at least it’s more nutritious than processed food. But the end result needs to be a transition to actually chewing and learning to cook/prepare your veggies without running them through a blender.  No snark, no shade. I promise.

I also think that the juicing/smoothie craze was furthered largely by brands that make pre-packaged juices… sort of like this one:

While government agencies like the FDA keep stalling on demanding rigorous scientific testing of numerous questionable ingredients, GMO foods, and the correct labeling of such foods, PepsiCo has recently agreed to settle out of court for $9 million over a class action lawsuit that claimed ‘natural’ and ‘non-GMO’ on their bottles was misleading since they are made with GMO ingredients, as well as synthetic and ‘unnatural’ items.

The plaintiffs in the suit claimed that PepsiCo gave the “the false impression that the beverages vitamin content is due to the nutritious fruits and juices, rather than the added synthetic compounds such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde)” and “Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company), fructooligosaccharides (a synthetic fiber and sweetener), and inulin (an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to … increase fiber content without the typical fiber mouth-feel).” [source]

…only make the situation worse, because if these are your introduction to smoothies and juicing, then you’re getting an artificial understanding of how your smoothie should taste, you’re getting an extra heaping helping of sugar, and you’re probably going to seek out all of your smoothies tasting that sweet. And, with all things, if you like it super sweet and aren’t losing weight, then….

…I’m just sayin’. You might want to look at those smoothies.

What do you think? Talk to me about your smoothie habits – how healthy are your smoothies? For those who are interested in keeping them as low in sugar as possible, what tips do you smoothie drinkers recommend?

Edited to add: Since this is getting so much attention, and since so many people have questions, I’m going to put it like this:

Take the recipe for your smoothie, and plug it into a nutritional profile calculator like the ones on SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal. Take note of how many cups (8oz cups, not merely a coffee cup which is usually around 12oz nowadays) of drink your recipe produces. If one 8oz serving of your smoothie produces more than 28g of sugar, then congratulations: you’ve just made something as sugary as a Pepsi.

And, vitamins and minerals aside, if you’re thinking the fiber in your fruit or flax seed will save you, remember: you’re blending the produce, meaning you’re disrupting the fiber. It cannot save you in the way it would if you were simply chewing it yourself, because you’re blending it to beyond what you’d chew it.

And, furthermore, I think it’s important to note that vegetables have sugar in them, too. It might not be in as gratuitous an amount as in most fruits, but there are single digit gram values of sugar in vegetables. And, when you’re adding “a cup of this,” “a half-cup of that,” it all adds up. Guess what else? Greek yogurt? Protein powder? Almond milk? They all have sugar in them, too. Take it from someone who had to learn all this stuff to help myself with my sugar addiction – find out what’s in your drink. Period.

I have a general disdain for smoothies, and this is why. People are just throwing stuff in a blender, thinking it makes sense, or that it’s “safe.” If you need your smoothie to be that sweet in order for it to be bearable, then you should strongly reconsider drinking your vegetables in the first place.

For more info on why you should reconsider the sugar in those smoothies, check out the following:

The takeaway, here, aside from the pricessing in store-bought smoothies, is to be incredibly mindful of the amount of sugar in your drink.

And, for those of you who are ready to disown me, check out this post where I detail a long list of tips for building the healthiest smoothie possible.

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69 comments

Ashleigh September 13, 2013 - 11:22 AM

I drink smoothies that I make at home. I use frozen fruit, almond milk, and spinach. I try to go heavier on the spinach than the fruit. The almond milk is so the blender will work. I’ve been told I need to add whey protein and flax seed to my smoothies but I haven’t done so yet.
I don’t drink the prepackaged/bottled smoothies. I’d rather make it myself so I know exactly what’s in it. I like to drink smoothies because I know I’m getting some good fruits & veggies in my system and they keep me from snacking on unhealthy foods. Plus sometimes it’s cheaper for me to buy a big bag of frozen fruit than the loose whole fruit.
All in all, I don’t think they’re as bad as soda unless you’re making it that way (adding too much fruit, adding sugar, that’s the only time you’re consuming veggies/fruits). I’d rather see someone drinking a smoothie than a soda.

ab September 16, 2013 - 2:09 AM

Wouldn’t the blender work fine with water?

I posit that many homemade smoothies are worse than actual store bought smoothies and in turn soda.

I’m always curious about nutritional content of homemade smoothies, especially ‘meal replacement’ smoothies.
I mean is there any fat in that stuff, you know FAT = SATIETY (the thing that keeps you fuller for longer?)

How much liquid carbs are you consuming in one sweet drink?

Why do you think your frozen fruit is much more expensive than the same quantity of natural fruit?

One thing I learned when delving into smoothies, is that the notion of portion control & a balanced meal or snack goes out of the window.

Ashleigh September 16, 2013 - 9:57 AM

Point taken: water would work.
Frozen fruit is actually the cheaper option for me in the long run. I have a large bag of frozen fruit that will last longer than the equivalent cost of fresh fruit. It’s definitely going to last longer than I originally planned since I’m probably only going to put like 1/4 cup in the blender now (that’s probably like 5 pieces of cut up fruit). My fresh fruit tends to go bad before I eat it all if I buy it in large amounts. I’m not saving money if I’m throwing it in the trash.
I usually feel full after drinking my smoothie. Maybe fat from the milk? Does almond milk have fat? I don’t know (which probably is part of the larger problem for me).
No, my concern isn’t weight loss over everything. Weight loss isn’t my “end” goal here. Yes it has happened as a result of lifestyle changes but my journey isn’t focused on that at all which is why this post has been quite a shock to me. I truly am trying to learn new ways of eating here. I thought I was doing something healthy and it turns out that smoothies can easily turn into something just as unhealthy. For someone who is just starting, this concept has been hard to process.

As a recovering soda addict, it is sobering to realize that a smoothie can be just as bad as a soda in terms of grams of sugar consumed. I don’t drink a smoothie every single day nor are my smoothies what I would call super sweet. In fact, since I’d stopped drinking soda, I find most drinks too sugary so I try not to make my smoothie that way either.
After reading further comments left here, I will take the advice of checking the nutritional profile of my smoothie and if it comes under the threshold Ericka posted then I’ll go ahead and resume smoothie drinking (haven’t had one since this post was published). If it comes in over, I’ll make adjustments to get it under that level. I guess there is something that feels safe about being able to drink fruits and veggies; plus I enjoy my smoothies. I’ll also point out that smoothies aren’t the only way I consume veggies. It was/(is?) just another method of delivery for me. I’m not married to having a smoothie either. Unlike my soda addiction, I don’t have to have a smoothie. At the height of my soda drinking days, if I didn’t have a 2 liter in the fridge and one in the pantry, I’d be on the verge of having a panic attack.
Side note: I wonder if I’m rationalizing too much much like an addict of other substances; i.e. I don’t smoke everyday. Or I don’t smoke a lot. etc etc.

Definitely a thought provoking post. I don’t think you should delete it Ericka but if it is too much of a trigger, I understand 🙂

ab September 19, 2013 - 8:30 AM

I can see how frozen fruit is cheaper, you are correct.
I know I went through a whole thing of throwing fruit away, until I decided enough.

I buy 3 bananas, (If I do blend anything I use a quarter of a banana) I chop and freeze the rest.
And I buy 1 other fruit a week, (5 for each day of the week) so this week my be peaches, next week maybe one melon which I slice into weekly portions. I have to say, I ear mark food prep time and I find it cathartic so its a win for me. (I understand this doesn’t work for everyone)

Its obvious you care about your budget and not wasting food, thats really cool.

Re: feeling full, that could be the fat in Almond Milk.
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/278488/2
(which is a good thing) I’m not saying give it up or chuck it out, nothing wrong with almond milk.
When you said it was just to make the blender work I offered water as alternative.

I wake up really early sometimes to train. I don’t like training fasted and so I blend this about 30secs:
handful of spinach,
250grams water
1 other small sweet fruit (peach, plum or half a large fruit)

It’s pulpy, its thick and it ensures I can train feeling ok, First time I did it my bowels got cleaned out immediately (lol)

I don’t think you are over rationalising. You are simply telling your story in a ‘thinking out loud’ way.

cool thoughts, I dig that. oh and good luck 🙂

Ashleigh September 19, 2013 - 4:40 PM

Thanks for the info and the support! It’s a rough ride sometimes but I’m hanging in there.

Today I made a smoothie with 2 handfuls of spinach, 1/2 carrot, 1/4 banana, 3 frozen strawberries, 1 tbsp peanut butter, and 3 oz. milk. When I put the ingredients in MyFitnessPal, I got 16g of sugar. Majority of the sugar came from the banana and the milk. Good to know where most of the sugar was coming from; I can easily use other types of fruit and switch to water instead of milk.

Fabian B Craword March 4, 2015 - 10:56 AM

I agree that the sugar is overpowering the possibilities of the so-called healthy smoothie. When I try to make a smoothie I try to go with the 80/20 rule in order to keep my sugar intake down. 80% veggies and 20% fruit.

Patrice Powell September 13, 2013 - 11:35 AM

Hi there,

I make my own smoothies with spinach, kale, fruit, flax seed, coconut water, and plain Greek yogurt but I always use more spinach & kale than fruit. This is still bad for me? *Clutching the pearls* as I await your answer. :o)

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 12:39 PM

Wait – you guys aren’t running the nutritional profile for the ingredients in your smoothie before you drink it? *wince*

Ashleigh September 13, 2013 - 12:53 PM

Well…..no. I just make it and drink it. Doing that seems to make things too complicated for me at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future. Right now, I’m happy I’m ingesting healthier things than I had previously.

Naa-Dei September 13, 2013 - 2:01 PM

Actually check the nutritional content. My smoothies are less than 300 calories. It is carbs and protein

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 2:28 PM

Okay, but I’m not challenging the macronutrient profile, although I could argue that your smoothie needs fat. I’m challenging the amount of sugar.

If your smoothie is 300 calories but still 200 of those calories is pure sugar, then are you really winning?

Milaxx January 23, 2015 - 2:12 AM

I do because I track using myfitnesspal. I also distrust any smoothie I don’t make myself. Sadly mine are often boring cause I”m just trying to wake up and go woke out. Most mornings it’s ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, ½cup FAGE 0% greek yogurt & a tbsp of almond butter. I’ll toss in some cacao powder if I’m feeling sassy. My other one is 2 small navel orange, ½ Fage again, dash of tumeric & ½ tbsp raw honey.

Please tell me that’s not too bad. Because the calories and sugar usually aren’t horrible. I’m just trying to get breakfast, not make a milkshake.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 23, 2015 - 7:22 PM

Not bad at all. Sounds delicious. 🙂

Naa-Dei September 13, 2013 - 11:37 AM

I appreciate this post. I make a smoothie every other day. I use 1/4 cup of frozen mango, 1/2 a can of the 8oz. pineapple chunks, 2 cups of spinach, and 2 tbsp of whey protein. I still eat vegetables and fruit, but I like to substitute one meal every other day with a smoothie. I understand the fruit has sugar in it, but I try to keep the amount of fruit in the smoothie low. For me it works.

Ericka September 13, 2013 - 11:41 AM

PHEW!!! Girl, you scarred me! I have a smoothie for breakfast every morning, but it’s all whole fruit/veggie.

2 1/2 cups of kale, 1/2 cup of pineapple, 1/2 apple, 1/2 avacado, 2tbsps of flax seed meal, 1 tablespoon of raw LOCAL organic honey, 1 cup coconut water and about 5-8 ice cubes…

I usually finish it around 9:30 am and find myself force feeding my meal/snack at noon. I feel like I fill up pretty quickly because I find myself bargaining with myself to get the last few ounces down and I stay pretty full. I try to stay on a 2 1/2 to 3 hr schedule in between meals.

Brokenweed September 13, 2013 - 12:04 PM

I think it is matter of when you drink one and what goes in. Some people will grab a big gulp sized smoothie made just with fruit, juice and sweetener and have it as an after lunch drink. Some of those have 500 -700 calories. It is like those crazy chocolate coffee latte drinks, a big calorie bomb.

However, I do a smoothie for breakfast several times a week, especially if I have an early gym appointment. I use hemp milk, banana, brazil nuts, chai seeds, spirulina and vegan protein powder made from pumpkins seeds, peas and brown rice. It is about 400 calories, keeps me satisfied but is not too heavy close to a workout.

I can’t ever remember having an all fruit and juice smoothie.

Kimberly September 13, 2013 - 12:39 PM

I’m an avid smoothie drinker. I make my own at home, and have one for breakfast every morning. This article has me wondering if I should continue.

I know to stay away from premade smoothies due to the added sugars placed in them (Nake Juice, anyone). Plus, I know it’s best to make your own anything whenever possible

I used to put about 6 different fruits in my smoothie until I realized it was too sweet. All that sugar couldn’t be good for me.

My current smoothie recipe is:

2 handfuls of kale
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 of a plantain
1/4 cup of blueberries
5 strawberries
knob of ginger
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp of tumeric
1 lemon wedge
2 tbs of chia seeds

It has a slight sweet taste from the plantain mostly, but it’s nowhere near as sweet as it used to be. I think the key to keep the sugar low in a smoothie is to keep the fruit content low. I keep the fruit portion as small as possible, while still getting a pleasant taste.

I think my current recipe is healthy, but please correct me if I’m wrong on my assumption.

P.S. I love your blog!!

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 1:01 PM

Here’s my genuine take on it, and I should probably add this to the post just because it’s getting more attention than I anticipated.

Plug the recipe into a website like SparkPeople or MyFitnessPal. Be VERY sure to note how many cups (8oz) of drink your smoothie recipe puts out. If your smoothie’s nutritional profile shows you that an 8oz cup of your smoothie has more than 28g of sugar, then that is ENTIRELY TOO MUCH. That is the same amount of sugar in a Pepsi.

And we talk – a LOT – about what sugar can do to/for you.

Patrice Powell September 13, 2013 - 4:43 PM

Great, thanks for this info, I’ll try that.

Deb September 13, 2013 - 12:49 PM

I make a smoothie pretty regularly. I use a cup of frozen mixed fruit, 1 frozen banana, and 4 cups of kale. I then add enough water to get it to blend. My husband and I split this as “dessert” some evenings, or I may make it in the morning to supplement breakfast. He isn’t crazy about kale but doesn’t notice it at all in the smoothie.

Michelle September 13, 2013 - 12:53 PM

even if you use only whole, fresh fruit for smoothies it’s still bad? Is fruit really this bad? So confused…

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 1:50 PM

It’s not JUST fruit. It’s fruit WITHOUT fiber. HUGE difference.

Lissa September 13, 2013 - 12:55 PM

I’m kind of confused. Are they referring to homemade or the kind that you pick up at Jamba Juice or something? I feel like they are discussing the smoothies that are pre-made that you can get at Target or the kind that you can buy from a smoothie place.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 1:54 PM

They’re discussing pre-made smoothies, likely because they’re the easiest to track with some semblance of continuity. The formulas will always have the same average of grams of sugar, grams of protein, grams of carbs.

And, because they’re referring to the nutritional profile of smoothies, pre-made or not, that information easily carries over into discussing homemade smoothies, which is why my comments read the way they do.

Lissa September 16, 2013 - 10:36 AM

I think after reading all of the comments here, I get what you’re saying about the smoothies, I guess I never really thought about the sugar issue as much. Nonetheless, I am glad you brought this issue up because I try to watch my sugar intake as much as I can, because I have a lot of family members with diabetes and I don’t want to end up like them. Funny thing though, is that I have stopped making smoothies for about two weeks (due to me being lazy and not wanting to clean the blender). And I noticed my weight has been coming off much easier.

Elle September 13, 2013 - 12:56 PM

I sometimes juice my own fruits and veggies. I don’t like buying smoothies or juices from other places because of the misleading labels. I buy organic fruits and vegetables and juice them myself. And man is it a pain in the ass the clean the juicer.

I totally agree w/ you that you don’t get all the nutrients while juicing, but still homemade juice is so much better than bottle crap depending on what you’re juicing.

My favorite juice is 1 cucumber, maybe 2 cups of spinach, one orange, one apple, and 4 strawberries. So good. However, my go-to drink will always be water. 🙂

Monique September 13, 2013 - 1:00 PM

The rule to smoothies and Juices should be 3 Veggies to 1 fruit. There should never be more veggies in your smoothie than there is fruit as fruit contains a lot of sugar. A combination of Kale, Spinach, Cucumber and Carrot is great. I don’t add a bunch of milk, yogurt and things of that nature as most of it is not natural and furthermore, if you investigate no better for you than what you had previously been eating. I add distilled water. That’s it! I am not juicing or making smoothies because it is the latest fad. I had to change my diet because of thyroid issues. The intake of raw veggies can be good for you. There is a discussion about raw vs cooked and it all depends on the veggie as to which way of eating it (cooked or raw) is the best. Ladies, we have to do our homework and make sure that we understand what and how food affects our bodies.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 1:42 PM

“3 Veggies to 1 fruit. ”

Really, it should be way more than that, IMO.

Alexandrea Ward September 13, 2013 - 1:45 PM

How much should it be?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 2:00 PM

WAYYYYY more… like five or six to a half… so pick your fruit wisely.

Alexandrea Ward September 13, 2013 - 2:12 PM

I definitely need to do some research on smoothie recipes then.

Monique September 13, 2013 - 2:59 PM

For those that are just starting out. 3 veggies 1 fruit gets them used to those veggies.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 4:21 PM

Yeah, but so does a salad…and it’s not fraught with all the issues of too much sugar and little to no fiber.

Besides, what are you getting them used to, if it’s still the same amount of sugar?

Nadia September 13, 2013 - 1:10 PM

Yea, the trust of the FDA went out the window for me a long time ago. Everything should be consumed in moderation but fruits & juices are nowhere as processed as sodas. Adding sweeteners to natural drinks is silly & counterproductive. But this new claim against juicing will encourage people to go back to junk food. We’ve gotta remember the FDA is run by lobbyists so companies need money & juicing organic fruits / veggies is not lucrative to the walmarts +superdupermarkets. I’ve gotten energy & lost fat through juicing , I’m a spinach lover cooked fresh or juiced & being from the islands in my bloodline , one thing I do know is that fruits + veggies are good & taste good.

LNicole September 13, 2013 - 1:18 PM

Greetings. I met you at the conference and was glad I had the opportunity to sit in with you.

I “smooth” on a regular basis as a meal replacement or snack (depending on the size). All of my fruit is frozen to provide a shake consistency providing a very enjoyable experience.

They’re great to take in the car when I’m short on time…or anywhere else for that matter.

I used to juice on a regular basis but my freezer was getting overrun with pulp and I kept making baked breads which is uhhh not the best path. So I transitioned to smoothies so I could use all of the produce/fiber and be actually feel full.

I use generally use about 1 cup water, 3 cups of kale, 1 tbsp wheat germ a/o flax, banana, 1 cup of blueberries, and 3-6 oz of plain Greek yogurt. I may toss in 1 other random fruit: kiwi, grapes, pineapple, apricot, etc. and a scoop of ……vanilla whey (55 cals). Yes, I know.

I didn’t used to measure but began to realize that I could drink the entire blender and it wasn’t doing me any good calorie wise. My personal large is 20 oz for a meal and anything left over goes into the fridge or freezer for another day.

I also use peanut butter power with kale, pineapple, banana ….and whey protein (yep, I said it again and I’m working on it) for a “dessert” smoothie.

Mishala September 13, 2013 - 1:28 PM

I’m addicted to my smoothies. I’m not even going to lie. If someone took my blender, there would be an all out brawl. That being said, I do use MyFitnessPal, and while I’m fond of blueberries and strawberries, I always toss carrots and spinach in my smoothies. They aren’t too sweet, and I always mix my chia seeds in after I put it in my cup. It’s the best way for me to get something in my system early while getting everyone out the door for the day. In all honesty, I don’t see the problem with the smoothies as long as they aren’t strictly fruit. But maybe I’m strange. I never blend mine to being perfectly smooth because I like a little texture.

Alexandrea Ward September 13, 2013 - 1:33 PM

I do like the ladies above but right now I am using a powder as well. I know that I need to add flax seeds or chia seeds as well. I’m working on it.

Jamilla A. September 13, 2013 - 1:56 PM

My mom makes me make green smoothies in the morning. If it’s not green, there too much fruit and not enough green. The only time this alters is when I use beets bc those suckers contain a whole lot of color. I usually use a banana to sweeten my smoothie.

The general rule is fill the smoothie cup with dark greens (kale, spinach, beet greens), slide a banana down the side, almond milk, and cashews for protein. I like ginger and beets sometimes. Other times I’ll make a “fruit punch” with half an orange, apple, and kiwi. A couple of strawberries, less than a handful.

Considering that’s about the only sugar I get in a day, and its not everyday I use that much fruit, I should be okay right?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2013 - 2:41 PM

It depends on what the nutritional profile of “one day” in your life looks like, to be honest. I find that many people don’t understand that there’s sugar in TONS of stuff – not just fruit – and if you’re eating processed food, chances are VERY high that you’re consuming more sugar than you think.

Amy September 13, 2013 - 4:05 PM

Like most foods, I think the key is just to remember “in moderation”. Of course, it’s also important to know what you’re actually putting into your body. I don’t drink premade smoothies because I have no guarantee what’s *really* in them, but I do like to make my own. I just checked my recipe’s nutrition on MFP and according to it, mine are way under 28 grams of sugar per cup. Of course, mine are mostly spinach and I only use one or two fruits at a time, not the entire produce section. They shouldn’t be an every day thing in my opinion, but they are a good way to get your fruits (and spinach!) in and great if you’re in a hurry but don’t want to grab a Pop-Tart or something equally gross. I think it’s also important to remember that these “experts” are always going to find something dangerous in everything we eat or drink.

marie September 13, 2013 - 5:30 PM

good post. makes one think. I stopped making smoothies so often (like every morning) because I realized I was actually eating way more than usual. to have one glass of smoothie I needed to add so many fruits and veggies more than I could actually eat at one meal! crazy! and I don’t like veggie only smoothies, they need to be sugary otherwise I don’t enjoy them. so now once in a while I have a banana, almond milk, raspberry shake as a “treat”. it’s better to chew food in my opinion, it helps me boost my awareness!

Kami September 13, 2013 - 6:55 PM

People always tell me I need to be juicing or drinking smoothies with protein powder. My friend bought me a juice cleance from the juice bar it was filled with vegetable water and sweetened agave nectar. I gave that crap back to her. I bought a smoothie from a raw vegan place looked up the nutritional content and it had over 50 grams of sugar plus sweetened with agave nectar with fruit and fruit juices. Then I tried making my own smoothies and gave up on protein powder, smoothies, and juicing. I gained weight in that week.
During this summer my ezcema came back because I was trying to do the protein powder thing. After experimenting with that i will leave that to my past. These protein powders made me sick. Now when people tell I need to be juicing, drink a smoothie or get protein powder I roll my eyes.
Yeah I prefer to chew my food. I will make a kale salad with cashew cream sauce or sautee my kale in sesame oil/ garlic/ onions and dah of coconut milk. I love kale, yellow fruits, some berries, nuts and all my other greens. However I like nut drinks ie. milks. Now I could feel comfortable saying I hate drinking my vegetables and fruits. Alot of these places always trying to convince people this makes you healthy its a lie.
Thanks for this info. Sorry for the rant.

Janine September 13, 2013 - 7:23 PM

Just found out my daily smoothie has 19 grams of sugar in it! Damn! And it’s not even store-bought.
I don’t eat much sugar as a whole and usually consider that my “daily sweet” but still. Will be way more mindful of this in the future.

tabitha September 14, 2013 - 1:51 AM

i’ve just recently started considering how much sugar i might be taking in with my juicing. i started juicing in earnest 5 years ago shortly after my first daughter was diagnosed as anemic. for a long time, i made MOSTLY apple kale juice. 1 bunch of kale to 3lbs of apples is the ratio i use. after giving her 4oz of that every day for 2 weeks, her anecmia wet away. she’s been periodically tested and it totally fine.

i juice more for me as well and it’s almost always an apple base. sometimes green to lower the sugar content. other times it might be a carrot base. i’ve been gradually adding more vegetables and trying different combos. mostly- it’s apple, ginger kale or lemon etc. part of the problem is- i do’t know how much sugar is too much and i’m not sure how to determine it in the context of fruit.

Melissa September 14, 2013 - 7:58 PM

I am so late. But, I am just now reading this post. Very informative and the reason I tend to stay away from Jamba Juice. I do make a smoothie some mornings with almond milk, peanut butter, banana, and a little honey.

Tiffany September 15, 2013 - 10:14 PM

And here I thought this NutriBullet was an awesome idea/investment … 🙁

ab September 16, 2013 - 1:24 AM

I’m reading many comments and what is clear as day is that some people have simply swapped one sugar addiction for another.

Some people don’t seem to be interested in nutrition at all, just simply weight loss, under the guise of ‘healthy’.

Fruit is carbs + sugar. Yes CARBS + Sugar.
Check out the nutritional profile of 1 small whole banana.
Then check one whole apple, 0.5 of an orange, and what ever fruit you pile up in your homemade sugar drink.

Look, if you’ve read this blog long enough then you know that substitutes have their side effects.
Stop lying to yourselves and check the actual nutritional value of EVERYTHING you put into your juicer/blender.

Just because something is ‘more green’ doesn’t mean it is healthier or better. It just means you are using more green stuff than anything and in the case of smoothies and juices, it probably means it is not a balanced meal.

A meal = Good fats, Protein and (Filling + Good) CARBS.

Many will claim to have energy on smoothies when what they are experiencing is a sugar high.

But as long as they are losing weight it doesn’t matter, right?
Man, people are funny,

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 8:12 AM

“I’m reading many comments and what is clear as day is that some people have simply swapped one sugar addiction for another.”

I’m starting to realize this the hard way, and it’s making me sad. I think it’s also what is powering the visceral reaction I’m having to these comments – it’s actually really triggering for me. I might actually delete this post because the comments, the virulent defense of what is, ultimately, people looking for a “healthy way” to indulge their “sweet tooth”s… it’s really difficult to read this as a recovering sugar addict.

Addiction is addiction is addiction – the problem isn’t WHAT you’re addicted to (ergo, swapping out processed foods and sodas for smoothies), the problem is that you have an addiction IN THE FIRST PLACE. So if I tell you that the excess amount of sugar in smoothies in the absence of fiber is going to give you diabetes – mind you, this is something Robert Lustig talks about in both his book and his presentation on sugar – and your reaction is anything other than “Damn, I’ll have to think twice about the next smoothie I make,” then I’m giving you the side eye. Why fight so adamantly in the presence of scientific data? Chances are likely very high that it’s because you have a sugar addiction that you’re only furthering through sugary ass smoothies.

“Many will claim to have energy on smoothies when what they are experiencing is a sugar high.”

Seriously. Low inference data rules it all. All of it. A reader e-mailed me and sent me the recipe for her daily smoothie… the smoothie alone had 87g of sugar in it… SUGAR, not carbs… and it was more than 25% of her daily caloric intake. 350 calories ALONE from her smoothie came from sugar. She’d been consuming it for MONTHS. I had to tell her to go get her blood work done! WTF?

You know what a LOT of this is, too? The “smoothies” message is getting its signal crossed with the “fruits and vegetables are inherently healthy forevermore!” message, because we never thought we’d have to differentiate between blending them and actually CHEWING them. Very rarely do people talk about the fact that you NEED natural fiber, not the powdery oligofructosaccharide stuff.

Kimberly September 16, 2013 - 9:06 AM

I want to say thank you for opening my eyes to the ignorance I’ve been telling myself. I did the nutritional value of my smoothie, and I’m deeply shocked by it. I fell under the mindset, as most people on this post, that due to the blending instead of juicing that the fiber remained intact. I really held on to that belief which gave me the reason I needed to continue making smoothies.

I spent the past weekend re-evaluating my smoothie regimen, and have decided to give it up. This post has revealed to me that I need to educate myself more on the field of nutrition in the form of textbooks.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 9:54 AM

I would start with the books “Sugar Nation” and “Fat Chance.”

Textbooks aren’t really going to cover this kind of stuff contextually – ask me how I know – and a lot of the information is outdated, but these books give insight in a very praxis-oriented way.

Kimberly September 16, 2013 - 10:31 AM

I will put those two books on ‘my to read list’. Is there any way you can get some type of credit when I purchase these books?

“Textbooks aren’t really going to cover this kind of stuff contextually – ask me how I know –”

How do you know?

This post has made me realize that the smoothies are probably the reason why my belly fat hasn’t been going down. I’ve intensified [weights/cardio/] my workout routine, and I see changes happening everywhere except my stomach area. I read up thread that you’re contemplating deleting this post – please don’t. This was very educational from the misinformation so many of us have.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 3:58 PM

I actively considered pursuing a program for becoming a registered dietician. Did the research – looked up the program, looked up the curricula, looked up the books, and even went and check a few of them out. Everything is so science-based with so very little praxis, it made me feel like it’d take me too far out of the game and what I know now to get to the holy grail, the internship.

I’m basically doing an end run around the entire process now while mapping out an epidemiology degree, but that’s because it keeps me close to the people and what I actually want to do.

Alexandrea Ward September 16, 2013 - 2:58 PM

I am thankful that you posted this, no matter if you choose to delete it or not. It did open my eyes and showed me that I need to pay more attention to what I consume and this past week has really opened my eyes to what I need to eat more of and less of. I’m a work in progress and your blog really does help me think about things that I didn’t know I should have been thinking about anyway.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 3:51 PM

I’m not going to delete it. I think I can manage. But a LOT of this language is reminiscent of past experiences. It’s rough.

Sunrara September 16, 2013 - 2:31 AM

Why is everything we think is good for us a fluke. I have a hard time conceptualizing how fruits and veggies can wreck havoc. Is it better to get more kale into your body by drinking more than you can eat?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 8:15 AM

“I have a hard time conceptualizing how fruits and veggies can wreck havoc.”

Look at it this way – fruits and sweet vegetables, in a blender, are basically nutritious sugar with no natural fiber. The natural fiber is what protects your blood sugar from the negative effects of the sugar. It might be nutritious and a great way to deliver vitamins and minerals, but without fiber, you are playing games.

Is it EVER better to drink more than you can eat? What’s so difficult about actually EATING kale?

ab September 19, 2013 - 8:49 AM

Here’s what I learned.
Everything in nature has its pro’s and con’s. EVERYTHING.

Buy a bucket of sweet oranges.
Eat 1 – (no probs) a 2nd – no probs, Eat a 3rd –

Your brain – You this is more than enough sweetness. I’m done. please get some water or give it a rest.

Your teeth tell you enough! (the sugar in the orange starts to set them on edge

Your tongue – starts to run over the edge of your teeth as if to wipe the sugar from it

Your stomach says – gets uncomfortable, feels a little bloated and demands you point it to the nearest bathroom NOW.

Of course you can ignore your body and keep going, its what we do when we drink alcohol, eat too much chocolate, eat too many fruits stay too long in the ocean and end up like a prune.

Nature heals but too much and it will poisons you. But your body will tell you when its had enough.
Its unfortunate that many of us have lost those signals due to a constant diet of sugar and salt

Nikki September 16, 2013 - 7:14 AM

I juice at home, then take the pulp and freeze it into ice cubes. Then later, I use the ice cubes plus a banana to make a vegan smoothie. The consistency and flavor is great, and I’m still getting the fiber from the fruits 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall September 16, 2013 - 7:56 AM

That’s not quite how that works. Juicing still disrupts the fiber and affects its ability to do its job.

Sigh.

ab September 19, 2013 - 9:02 AM

your body deals with what you put in it at the time you put it in.

When you juice and drink it, your body process that juice. It has no means of knowing that you are going to save the pulp for later. It gets the sugar hit Immediately.

The pulp helps with the slow digestion of the sugar in the fruit, so you don’t crash. that won’t happen if you take it out.

marie September 23, 2013 - 9:01 AM

But Erika, what about soups? I guess it is the same thing.
I eat mine completely blended… and the veggies are cooked so I guess the nutritional value is close to zero is it?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 23, 2013 - 9:06 AM

Not quite. Most people aren’t making fruit soups, not with major frequency, the sugar is markedly lower – which is the real issue, here – and since you’re drinking the broth in which the soup was cooked, you’re still getting the nutritional value the produce has to offer.

marie September 26, 2013 - 12:43 PM

aaaaah that being said, I’m going to savour my carrots/lentils soup 🙂

Molly January 26, 2014 - 5:17 PM

I think there’s a huge difference between processed cane sugar (if you’re lucky enough to find soda with that) and high-fructose corn science, and the fructose in whole, fresh fruit. Huge difference. And I never buy my smoothies, always home made, so I know there are no additives. Sometimes I add spinach or kale, sometimes it’s just bananas and berries, but with all the water I add to make my ancient blender work, I typically get 16 to 32 oz and it lasts all the way until lunch.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 27, 2014 - 3:25 PM

“And I never buy my smoothies, always home made, so I know there are no additives.”

This still ignores the point. There’s no fiber in it. The “kind of fructose” doesn’t matter when you’re still endlessly flooding your system with sugar, with no fiber to slow you down.

Don’t overthink this. Smoothies are problematic. Be smart about their consumption.

carol February 5, 2014 - 4:03 PM

Thank you Erika. I just started using a nutri bullet and was making fruit shakes with spinach or protein powder. I realize my mistake of using to much fruit. And consuming all that sugar Yuk. thank again!!!

SwtMaggieB May 24, 2014 - 9:48 PM

I am so glad you made the point about sugar. I love my nutribullet and encourage people to use it if they have an issue getting in their veggies like I do.

However, I always tell them about the amount of fruit I use is always way less than any recipe calls for. Because I am predisposed to diabetes and have other issues with sugar, I try not to use more than 1 to 1.5 cups of fruit.

Smoothies that are made like milkshakes with juice and whole milk and such as the base are not good for you, no matter the nutrition.

Glad you’re making the point.

Young One June 17, 2014 - 1:38 PM

I missed this article and discussion earlier. I honestly don’t think the problem is smoothies and juicing. I think the problem is what you’re putting in your smoothie and juicing. I like juicing, but I like primarily vegetable juices, A typical recipe for me is: cucumber, celery, kale, lemon, ginger and a half an apple or a small apple. It gives me a kick of energy along with the nutrients. I really like the way it taste. I still get my fiber into some of my other meals, but could probably add chia seeds or flax if I wanted fiber in it.

Erika, I think you are correct about sugar though. Alot of people don’t realize how much they have in some smoothies or even in juicing. Fruits and vegetables have natural sugars and some more than others. For example Beets have 6 grams of sugar for a small beet, if you juice 3-4 your sugar count goes to 18-24 grams. Same thing with fruits which are generally higher in sugar.

With that said. I personally just try to be aware of the ingredients I use. I like morning smoothies sometimes because they’re quick. One of my favorite recipes is about 1/4 cup of crushed ice, 1/2 a banana, a heaping tablespoon of natural almond butter, about 1/2 scoop of Vanilla Raw Protein and about 8 oz. of unsweetened almond milk. All of this goes in a magic bullet and I just blend until smooth.

I did put it in the Sparkpeople recipe calculator, it’s about 10 grams of sugar. It keeps me going and filled until about lunch time.

April January 21, 2015 - 6:55 PM

I love a smoothies. I am not a veggie lover, so I hide the kale and spinach in it. I will use more greens than fruit. I use berries instead of higher GI fruits. I also use the lowest calorie soy or almond milk. If I’m watching my calories, I use water instead of milk. Sometimes I’ll add an avocado to get a milkshake fill when I am craving sweet. For me, it is a healthier option to getting a real milkshake.

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