A dietitian’s guide to making the most of your smoothie.
Who doesn’t like the taste of a pretty pink berry smoothie or the thought of the goodness in a green one? Smoothies are very popular and it’s no surprise, given how delicious, filling and versatile they are, however are they actually good for you? How can you make sure yours is delicious and nutritious too?
When you drop food into your blender to create your latest smoothie masterpiece (and get your phone ready to capture it), the food turns to a semi liquid. This makes it easier and quicker for your body to absorb as the digestive enzymes can ‘get in’. Digestion and absorption of sugars commence early on in your mouth. This is not always a good thing though,particularly for food with a high sugar content, which many smoothies do, think of fruit.
By comparison, when you eat fruit“normally”, the body needs to break down the skin and flesh before it can access the sugar inside. This has the benefit of the sugar entering the bloodstream more slowly, aiding the body to keep its blood glucose level within the desired range. Research has shown it also helps with keeping us fuller for longer, as the food takes time to be digested and absorbed. Conversely, when you add a lot of fruit to a smoothie, it means your body is receiving an immediate and large sugar hit. You can help reduce this issue by adding some ingredients to slow the digestion and monitor the amount of fruit you add.
There may be times when your body benefits from sugar quickly, such as during a long stint of exercise or when your blood sugar is low, which means that a liquid format might be ideal. In most cases though, we would like a more gradual release of sugar, so what can we do to still enjoy a healthy smoothie and moderate the sugar hit?
Below are my top 10 tips to create a delicious drink that will still benefit the body:
1. A fist-size portion of fruit is enough – you wouldn’t eat five oranges in one sitting, so the same goes when drinking them. It takes around 4 oranges to make a small glass of juice and you lose all the fibre you would get when eating the fruit.
2. Keep the skin on fruit or better still blend the whole fruit where possible, for extra nutrients.
3. Add in vegetables, which are lower in sugar and packed with nutrients. Cucumber, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, silverbeet and kale, are all great options.
4. Include a wholegrain such as oats, barley or buckwheat. These slower-release carbohydrates will increase the vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content and provide dietary fibre. Research shows including regular wholegrains in your diet can reduce the risk of chronic disease.
5. Remember sources of healthy fats can help slow the digestion process, aid absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and provide great texture. Consider avocado, nuts, seeds,full cream yoghurt or milk or even a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
6. Add in a serve of protein, such as cow’s milk, soy beverages, yoghurt, 100% nut butter, nuts and seeds. Even oats add protein. Be mindful that alternative milks (other than soy) can be low in protein- check labels.
7. Watch volumes; “over drinking”food in a smoothie is easy to do. The total ingredients should be only as much as you would eat in one meal- unless weight gain is a goal and then this might be your opportunity to pack more in. Lay ingredients out first and take a look .
8. Give it some zing with herbs or spices, such as cinnamon, fresh grated turmeric, parsley, basil, cumin seeds,nutmeg or fennel seeds. They are packed with antioxidants and flavour.
9. Ice can be a refreshing addition and a way to boost your water intake. Cool drinks help make the body feel cooler, important when exercising in the heat and great for a hot day.
10. Choose your favourite glass. Presentation does matter. We eat with our eyes first. Food is more than the nutrients it provides, it is also an enjoyment in life so make it a good one!
Enjoy your smoothie, now you know how to make a personalised, nutritious one! Send me some snaps and recipes too!
If you would like to read more about using nutrition to perform at your best, you may enjoy my book, 'Eat Like An Athlete' , grab yourself a copy!