Green smoothies – why I don’t recommend them.
Ah, the rave about green smoothies!
Green smoothies to heal this, green smoothies to clear that infection, green smoothies for brighter and clearer skin.
The list is endless of what green smoothies can (apparently) do!
Yet, I might be the only nutrition specialist that doesn’t recommend drinking them. Especially not for people with diabetes.
Have you ever thought of the ingredients in these smoothies?
Sure, they’re packed full of good stuff like spinach, kale, cucumber, various other veggies and sometimes even spirulina and other gently detoxifying stuff.
Have you noticed that most recipes contain an enormous ratio of (high sugar) fruit, though?
So much so that it becomes closer to the American Diabetes Association’s outdated recommendation of 60% carbohydrate to every meal?
And, a smoothie should probably not even be considered a full meal! (Unless you’re doing a juice cleanse, in which case I wish you good luck if you have diabetes.)
Let’s have a look at some of the recipes I’ve seen recently:
1. Avocado Coconut Smoothie (from: finerminds.com)
1 large avocado
1 large banana
3/4 cup organic pineapple juice
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 can organic coconut milk
1 tablespoon flax seed oil3 tablespoons melted extra-virgin coconut oil.
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sounds super yummy! But what’s the carb count?
1 large avocado has about 17 grams of carbohydrate (fiber 14 g), 1 large banana about 31 g (3,5 g fiber). ¾ cup pineapple juice has about 25 g crabs (0 g fiber). 1 can of coconut milk has 10 g carbs. The rest of the ingredients aren’t too carb-filled.
The total? 83 grams of carbohydrate. In one drink. Even if you discount the fiber count (which I only heard that you can do recently, and doesn’t work for me) you still get 65.5 grams of carbs.
Although this smoothie has a lot of good fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, I’m honestly surprised at just how much carbohydrate there is.
Let’s have a look at another one.
2. Pomegranate Citrus Punch Green Smoothie (2 servings) (from simplegreensmoothies.com)
2 cups spinach, fresh
1 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 cup water
1 cup pomegranate seeds
OMG, get in my belly! And the title sounds so carb-innocent, too, right?
Well, 1 banana has 31 g (3,5 g fiber), and 1 cup orange juice 26 g carbs (0.5 g fiber). 1 cup pomegranate seeds has 32 g of carbohydrate, with 7 g fiber
This gives us a grand total of 89 grams of carbohydrates, 44.5 g per serving. Without the fiber, it’s still 39 grams of crabs per person. Yikes!
Third time’s the charm, right? Let’s take a really simple one, with only 3 ingredients. How bad can that one be, really?
3. Basic Balance (from: rawfamily.com (Victoria Boutenko))
1 cup kale
1 cup water
1 mango has 39 grams of carbs, 4 g fiber. 1 cup of kale has 6 grams of carbohydrate, so not very much at all!
Still, 45 grams of carbs in one drink is way too much for me…
Do you notice just how much carbohydrate these drinks contain? (AND WHAT IF YOU DON’T LIKE BANANAS?!)
In comparison, a can of coke has 39 grams of carbohydrates. Granted, there’s no fiber (or any other nutrition for that matter) in a can of coke, so it’s not exactly the same. But comparing the pure carb values? And what carbohydrate, in whichever form, does to your blood glucose levels in the end? Ouch, that’s going to hurt in the morning.
Yes, the type of carb in fruit and vegetables is infinitely better than eating 100 g of pasta, as it’s more nutritious and filling. But: there are simply too many carbohydrates turning into sugar in these smoothies to be able to include them in a low(er) carb lifestyle.
With the carbohydrates, fibers and occasional fat added too, it can get very tricky to get the insulin dose right for a diabetic, as well. Let alone if you buy it from a healthy store/juice bar and haven’t even made it yourself, meaning that you therefore have very little clue of exactly how much banana (or other high sugar fruit) is in that smoothie.
It’s not all gloomy days when it comes to green smoothies, though.
I have two suggestions for you so that you can still enjoy these bombaliciously nutritious powerhouses!
My first suggestion is to make your own, at home. This way you have the best possible control of what’s in it, making sure to use the freshest and most organic ingredients you can possibly find.
There are some really neat (and cute!) carrying/take away options you can use. I’ve even seen mason jars with a special lid for straws, like this one.
My second suggestion is that you make sure it’s a GREEN smoothie. What I mean by this is that you use about 90% vegetables in your smoothie. Please avoidmaking a “fruuitie”! What I mean by that is to avoid using mostly fruit with some added vegetable and think that it won’t affect your blood glucose.
Here are some excellent, low(er) carb green smoothies that won’t send your blood glucose and insulin requirement on as much of a rocket ride.
I want your opinion; am I being too harsh? Have you tried green smoothies? What are your experiences?
(Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to do a HAPPY DANCE for the first blog post with the new web page design! Woohoo! )
Hi Hanna, great article! But you’re not the only nutritionist not recommending them. I just recently read an article by Andrea Beaman, where she writes about how raw greens affect thyroid in a negative way.
I am not a huge fan of Green Smoothies, but I have grown to like them lately. But I only include 1 fruit (and typically rather an apple and not a banana) and only use water or home-made almond milk as liquid base. And I have to say, I was surprised to see that such a smoothie kept me full the whole morning.
Ok, I can imagine I’m not the only one not recommending them! 🙂 And yes, raw greens can have an effect on the thyroid, although not for everyone.
Thank you for your truly green smoothie recipe! It sounds delicious. Will have to try that one!
THANK YOU Hanna for bringing up this point that’s most often neglected! There is such a hype about the smoothies, and as you say, they CAN be really healthy, when made the right way. I’m actually having one as I’m writing… 🙂 I use nuts and seeds in my GREEN smoothies as well as sometimes some natural protein powder. Can’t wait to share this!!! You are a star! Thank you!
Thank you for your fantastic comment and great idea about using nuts and seeds! Hope the GREEN smoothie was delicious!