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Making a Balanced Meal Out of a Smoothie

Updated on February 3, 2015

Introduction

There are countless types of smoothies that can be made. What is put in them is often determined by the objective. If you are drinking one for enjoyment, it will often consist of extra sweet and rich ingredients, such as full fat milk or cream, and a sweet fruit juice like pineapple, grapefuit, or orange. Fleshy fruits like peaches will probably also be included. The type of smoothies in this article however, will focus more on maximizing nutrition, and creating a balanced meal out of one of these delectable drinks.

An option long on taste and nutrition for those who are short on time.
An option long on taste and nutrition for those who are short on time. | Source

Berries Versus Fleshy Fruits

All fruits contain a variety of nutrients and vitamins and are considered healthy foods. However, all fruits also contain sugar to varying amounts. Excess consumption of sugar is inflammatory and can result in increased insulin resistance. There is a definite hierarchy in nutritional merit in the fruit family.

The category of fruits that are the most nutrient dense and generally have the least sugar are the berries. Berries also have less simple carbohydrates in general. Some examples are as follows, by serving:

  • Strawberries - 12g carbohydrate, 7g sugar
  • Raspberries - 15g carbohydrate, 5g sugar
  • Blackberries - 15g carbohydrate, 7g sugar

An exception are blueberries with 21g carbohydrate and 15g sugar, however blueberries make up for this in that they are on many accounts the most nutrient dense and antioxidant rich of all fruits.

Contrast that with some popularly used fleshy fruits in smoothies:

  • Kiwi - 26g carbohydrate, 16g sugar
  • Apple - 21g carbohydrate, 16g sugar
  • Orange - 15g carbohydrate - 12g sugar
  • Banana - 27g carbohydrate - 14g sugar
  • Pineapple - 22g carbohydrate - 16g sugar

Add to that the carbohydrate and sugar level of a fruit juice:

  • Orange juice - 26g carbohydrate, 21g sugar
  • Grapefruit juice - 23g carbohydrate, 22g sugar
  • Apple juice - 28g carbohydrate, 24g sugar
  • Pineapple juice - 32g carbohydrate, 25g sugar

If two fleshy fruits are used such as apple and kiwi, and a fruit juice such as orange, that is 73 grams of total carbohydrates and 53 grams of sugar. If one of those smoothies is made for breakfast, you have almost used up your recommended daily intake of sugar for the day. If you are making a smoothie as a treat for yourself and a couple of other people, and each of you are having a considerably smaller portion, that smoothie would be a good choice if that is where your tastes lie. But to have the entire amount as a meal on a daily basis would not be advisable, despite the considerable nutritional positives of the fruits and fruit juice listed. For an optimally healthy smoothie, use berries.

Many berries are not as sugary as they taste.  As good as they taste, they also have a high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.
Many berries are not as sugary as they taste. As good as they taste, they also have a high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.

Use Water or Ice, not Fruit Juice

Fruit juice is far less beneficial than eating the actual fruit. Drinking fruit juice will supply you with a lot more sugar per serving, and no fiber. The fiber, and a good portion of the other nutritional positives are carried in the solid part of the fruit. Utilizing plain water, or ice, if you want your smoothie to be extra cold coming out of the blender, will cut out a third of the sugar if you use fleshy fruits, and potentially two thirds of the sugar if you use the ideal two servings of berries instead. A serving each of raspberries and blackberries and water will yield 12g of sugar instead of the 53g listed in the previous section. The resulting smoothie will taste great, and If you really wish to sweeten your smoothie, I would recommend using stevia instead of adding any sugar.

I would also not recommend using milk or cream, as the type of protein in these dairy products is casein. Some studies have found that casein can potentially bind to many of the antioxidants in the berries and prevent absorption. Milk also contains a significant amount of sugar.

Protein

When I was in college, most of the time I would crack three extra large eggs and drop them into the blender for protein. The addition of raw eggs make for a very nice texture of the smoothie, and provide a high quality protein. There have been conflicting theories about the potential danger of consuming raw eggs. It is true that there are incidents of people who have come down with food borne illness from raw eggs. But that is also true with virtually every type of food, including fruits and vegetables. I can testify that in the two years I made smoothies with raw eggs, I never got sick once from them. During that time I was also training at a gym that included raw eggs in their shakes, and they were never sued by a member for food borne illness. It is up to you to decide for yourself.

If you do not wish to consume raw eggs, I highly recommend egg white protein powder. Due to the processing, whole egg protein powder can contain oxidized cholesterol from the yolk, which is unhealthy. Various brands have different sized scoops. Whenever I did use powder, I usually added about 30 grams worth of protein in the blender. I would suggest you put the powder in last. If you put the powder in first, it can cake and stick on the blades of the blender. So drop it in right before you are ready to mix.

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