Are smoothies healthy? In a health-conscious world where smoothies seem to reign supreme, they might not be as good for you as you think. Sure, that apple-beet-spinach-parsley smoothie has a vibrant-green glow and a lot of vitamins and minerals, but it actually may be wreaking havoc on your blood sugar, sabotaging your weight-loss, and messing with your hormones. Let me explain…
Liquids are metabolized much faster than solid food, even after chewing. So anytime you throw food in a blender, no matter how “healthy” it is, you’re setting yourself up for a big sugar rush and even bigger crash. Can you say, “Hello midmorning lull?” When you drink that smoothie, your body tries to keep your blood sugar stabilized by releasing A LOT of insulin to shuttle all that sugar into storage and out of your blood. We feel this blood sugar spike as a big energy rush followed by an even bigger slump a few hours later.
This cycle becomes a problem when we have too much sugar in our blood and not enough places to store it, so the only place left to keep it is in our fatty tissue, particularly around our stomachs. Excess insulin in the blood overtime also leads to insulin resistance, which drives inflammation, obesity, and subsequently, chronic illness.
While that super green power smoothie might offer some vitamins and minerals and maybe even some protein from that grass-fed collagen we all love so much, your body reads it as one thing: sugar. Your body doesn’t really know the difference between the natural sugars in your morning smoothie and the high-fructose corn syrup in a Big Gulp Dr. Pepper, so it responds in the same way.
Let’s talk about chewing for a second. Digestion really starts in the brain. Wait, before you start rolling your eyes let me explain. At the first sight and smell of delicious looking food our brain starts signaling our digestive organs to start producing digestive juices and enzymes that help break down our food. This process is amplified once we start chewing. While we chew our brain has enough time to start registering the fact that we’re eating and, again, send signals to our stomachs to prepare for further breaking down our food to absorb nutrients. This process of mindfully eating and chewing our food increases the hormones that make us feel full & satisfied (leptin) and decreases the hormone that makes us feel hungry (ghrelin).
“Hold on a second, I thought smoothies were supposed to be healthy?”
They can be when consumed properly. Smoothies can be a great way to increase calorie and fresh fruits and vegetable consumption, particularly if you’re trying to gain weight or have a difficult time digesting too much fiber. Here’s the caveat, eat some protein with your smoothie that requires chewing. Maybe that looks like four strips of bacon or a few homemade sausage patties. Chewing a protein alongside your smoothie helps to slow the rapid absorption of sugar causing blood sugar spikes & crashes as well as helps keep your hunger hormones regulated.
Bottom line, chewing protein alongside that smoothie keeps you off the hunger-crash roller coaster all day.