Are Green Smoothies Actually Healthy?
Green smoothies are all the rage for a quick and easy breakfast, but are green smoothies actually healthy? And, what do you need to know about getting started with green smoothies?
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
Ask any person into wellness the best way to get a bunch of fruits and veggies into your system and they’ll suggest a green smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to pack a meal full of nutrient-dense veggies, especially for picky eaters who struggle to eat enough greens.
What are green smoothies?
Green smoothies are simply made with green veggies–usually leafy greens like spinach, kale, or Swiss chard–blended with fruit, nut milk, and healthy fat. They are basically drinkable nutrition.
Green Smoothies & Health
You might automatically assume that something green is good for you, but the healthfulness of smoothies is up for debate. It is important to remember that everyone is an individual, and smoothies may work for some and not for others.
Pros of green smoothies
1. Increased vegetable intake
Most people don’t get enough veggies in their diets. If you’re not used to eating vegetables, they can taste bitter. A smoothie is a great way to increase your intake. You can pack a lot of of veggies into a small smoothie and chances are you won’t taste them, especially if you also blend frozen fruit with the greens.
2. Easily absorbed nutrients
Pureeing your veggies in a blender can help break down the fiber and cellulose to make them more easily digestible. This means more bioavailable nutrients, so you get more out of what you’re eating! It’s always important to remember that it’s not just about what you eat, it’s about what you absorb from what you eat, too.
3. Hidden veggies for picky eaters
Get your kids into the habit of consuming smoothies. You can toss in a bunch of greens and veggies and they won’t object to the taste since it’s masked by the fruit. Smoothies are also great for picky eaters who dislike the taste of vegetables.
Cons of green smoothies
1. Can be tough on digestion
Consuming cold foods and beverages, especially raw vegetables, can cause bloating and discomfort. Cooking veggies breaks down some of the fiber, as does blending. If you are having digestive trouble, try steaming your veggies before blending.
It’s also wise to eat, not drink, your smoothies. Chewing signals the release of digestive enzymes and stomach acid which is important as carbohydrate digestion begins with salivary amylase. Consider your smoothie a full meal, and slowly chew each bite.
2. Blood sugar dysregulation
For some people, the large amount of carbohydrates in smoothies may cause a spike in blood sugar. The fiber is disrupted during blending, which makes smoothies slightly easier to digest, but also increases the chance your blood sugar will spike.
Avoid smoothies full of fruit and instead focus on low-glycemic berries, greens, and veggies like cauliflower. Be sure your smoothie has plenty of protein and fat, too.
3. Not feeling full
If you’re drinking your smoothie quickly, you may not feel satiated after. Chewing increases satiety, so drinking your meal may provide you with calories, but may not satiate you, potentially leading to overeating.
4. Caloric Intake
Because smoothies are a blended concoction, it can be harder to tell how many calories you’re consuming. A smoothie consisting of just veggies and nut milk is too low calorie, while a smoothie containing multiple tablespoons of nut butter, coconut milk, and fruit may contain too many calories.
When making your smoothie, consider: could I sit down and reasonably eat all of this as a regular meal? If the answer is no, cut back your portions a bit.
5. Oxalate Poisoning & Goitrogens
Certain veggies and fruits (like raw leafy greens and berries) are higher in oxalates and goitrogens, which can cause problems for certain people if overaccumulated. To get around this potential issue, always rotate your greens and vegetables and try steaming greens or veggies that are higher in goitrogens.
Can you lose weight drinking smoothies?
Yes, you can lose weight by drinking smoothies! Similar to a juice cleanse, a smoothie diet can help reduce inflammation weight and reset hunger signals. Smoothies are generally easier on blood sugar and your metabolism than low-calorie, high-sugar juices.
If drinking your veggies helps you eat healthier and steer clear of processed foods, go for it! Keep in mind, though, that weight loss is not guaranteed on a smoothie diet. Watch the caloric density of your smoothies and be sure you’re eating enough protein for satiety.
What are the best smoothie blenders?
When choosing a blender for a smoothie you have quite a few options. Choosing the best blender depends on what you will be using it for and also what your price range is. Here are the four main types of smoothie blenders:
- An immersion blender is also known as a hand blender or stick blender. They’re small handheld motors that blend food directly in a container. Popular for pureed soups, they can also be used for smoothies! Be sure your container is deep to avoid splashback.
- Price range: $30-$99+
- From low-high: Koios, Cuisinart, All-Clad
- Also known as smoothie blenders, single-serve blenders are perfect if you only make smoothies occasionally, or if you only need a blender for smoothies. They can be pretty powerful, and some even transform into a drink bottle for quick and easy breakfasts.
- Price range: $15-$115+
- From low-high: Hamilton Beach, NutriBullet, Vitamix single-serve container (for use with a Vitamix Ascent)
- These are what you think of as a traditional blender on your countertop. They consist of a motor base, a carafe, and an inner blade. They’re great for occasional smoothie makers but might require some additional prep work or liquid to make a completely blended smoothie. A regular blender can handle multiple serving sizes, but is not consider a high-speed blender.
- Price range: $20-$89+
- From low-high: Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, Oster
- High-speed blenders are the cream of the crop–and the most expensive. The price range for high-speed blenders is so wide because quality varies. There are some inexpensive high-speed blenders that do a great job but may burn out more quickly. The most expensive blenders are a multifunctional kitchen tool and tend to last much longer.
- Price range: $300-$500+
- From low-high: Blendtec, Vitamix
What is the best way to make a smoothie?
The best part of making your own smoothies is having control over what you’re putting into your blender (and your body!) Be creative with your smoothies and feel free to use this guide as a starting point.
- Steam your veggies. This helps break down fiber even more, making them easier on digestion. You can steam them in advance and then freeze them if you prefer frozen smoothies.
- Add in moderate portions of frozen fruit. Berries are a great choice, and tropical fruits like pineapple can create a sweet treat! Consider glycemic loads when choosing your fruit.
- Don’t forget the fat. Increase satiety and nutrient absorption by adding fat to your smoothie. Avocados and coconut milk add creaminess while nut butters and hemp hearts add a slightly sweet, nutty taste.
- Avoid sweeteners (including in your nut milk). It’s popular to add stevia, honey, or maple syrup to smoothies but they’re unnecessary and may spike your blood sugar. Replace sweeteners with low-glycemic fruits.
- Have fun with toppings! Toppings for smoothie bowls (or mixed into your smoothie!) are fun and help you chew your smoothie. Sprinkle smoothies with fresh berries, coconut flakes, slivered almonds, or granola. Keep your portions reasonable, of course.
- Consider add-in items. Make your smoothie a full meal by adding in protein powder or collagen protein. Turn up the fun factor by mixing in adaptogenic herbs, supplements, or trendy items like bee pollen.
Here are some of my favorite healthy and dairy-free smoothie recipes:
- Anti-Cancer Breakfast Smoothie
- Broccoli Sprout Smoothie
- Power Green Smoothie for energy and smooth skin
- Raspberry Cream Smoothie with frozen squash
- Vanilla Smoothie using frozen cauliflower
And, don’t miss my round-up of the best healthy breakfast smoothies!