“I don’t like green vegetables!” is something I hear from my children and my patients alike. While I still strongly advocate for trying any “hated” vegetable several times (yes, even Swiss chard) and using many different preparation methods, there are ways to add more greens to our diets without sacrificing on flavor. One of my favorite ways? Smoothies!
As you know, I love a good smoothie as much as the next person. In fact, I’d argue that they’re one of the best ways to squeeze in an extra serving or two of fruits and vegetables — two food groups that Americans fall notoriously short on, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Smoothies are made by blending together fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients such as yogurt, milk, or juice, creating a tasty and nutritious drink that can be enjoyed any time of day. While many consider a fresh-squeezed juice and a smoothie to be nutritionally equivalent, this isn’t actually the case. That’s because, as Mayo Clinic notes, a juicer removes the majority of the fiber from the fruit or vegetable — one of the major benefits of eating these superfoods. Smoothies offer the following benefits:
Smoothies are packed with nutrients from the fruits and vegetables used as ingredients. They are an easy and convenient way to consume a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are important for overall health. Some smoothie ingredients that are particularly rich in nutrients include spinach, kale, berries, and citrus fruits.
They’re Good for Digestion
Smoothies tend to be made with ingredients that are high in fiber, as well as yogurt, which contains gut-friendly probiotics. Both these nutrients can help promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. In addition, blending fruits and vegetables may make the nutrients in them, particularly fiber, more readily available to the body. In one small study of 20 college students, researchers compared the effects of eating whole apples and blackberries with the same fruit that had been blended. The results, which were published in October 2022 in Nutrients, indicated that consuming blended fruit had a lower impact on blood glucose levels, possibly because blending assisted the release of dietary fiber and other nutrients from the fruits. Similarly, research that compared different methods of prepping spinach found that lutein, a powerful carotenoid in the green, was best absorbed when the vegetable was liquified, according to a study published in March 2019 in Food Chemistry.
They Can Fuel Your Workout
Smoothies can provide a quick energy boost, thanks to the natural sugars found in fruit. Combined in a smoothie with some protein and fat, these sugars are released more slowly, notes Joslin Diabetes, providing sustained energy to fuel your morning or workout. In fact, smoothies can be a great pre-workout snack because they provide the energy needed to power through a sweat session. Past research found that enjoying a banana before a workout was just as beneficial as a sports drink, so adding some to your smoothie can help. Plus, smoothies can be prepared at home quickly and cheaply!
They Can Help With Weight Management
Smoothies can be a great tool for weight management, as they can be low in calories but high in nutrients. By including ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and protein sources like Greek yogurt or almond butter, smoothies can be a filling and satisfying meal replacement option. This can help reduce overall calorie intake and support weight loss. Not only are these ingredients naturally high in fiber and likely to help fill you up as a result, but past research also indicates that blended food may actually slow the speed at which your stomach empties, leading to an even greater feeling of fullness. Additionally, a small past study indicates that green smoothies in particular may have positive effects on waist-to-hip ratio, a major indicator of health, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
They Help Hydrate You
Smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, especially during the hot summer months. Past research has found that green smoothies can be up to 92 percent water, and often contain electrolytes, minerals that aid hydration. Smoothies can help you increase your fluid intake and stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when they're made with water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon or cucumber. In addition to supporting healthy skin, digestion, and overall bodily function, staying well hydrated may even lower the risk of chronic diseases, premature aging, and mortality overall, found a study published in January 2023 in eBioMedicine.
With all these benefits, it seems clear that smoothies can be a valuable addition to any diet. But buying them out can be pricier than a coffee habit. A green smoothie at Smoothie King, for example, starts at $6 (add-ins and larger sizes cost more).
With that in mind, I decided to challenge myself to come up with a smoothie recipe that can be made at home affordably and easily, while being just as delicious and nutritious. After experimenting, I came up with one that rings in at just over $1 per serving — talk about a bargain!