Fruit smoothies: The not-so-sweet side.

Fruit smoothies.

You know, the smoothies loaded with delicious berries, a banana, maybe some pineapple and mango for added sweetness and blended with water or juice. These colorful drinks are easy to enjoy and don’t last long when enjoyed with a straw! I encourage you to take inventory of your ingredients and make a smart dietary choice based on your personal goals. I’m not “anti-fruit smoothie” but I do believe that they are a treat that should be enjoyed about as frequently as any other dessert. On occasion and not habitually.

Let’s take a look at your typical fruit smoothie: 1 banana + 1/2 cup cubed pineapple + 1/2 cup cubed mango + 1 cup mixed berries + 1/2 cup orange juice + 8 oz water. Sounds amazingly delicious! Now let’s take a look at some nutrition facts gathered from www.http://nutritiondata.self.com. Combined, this fruit smoothie contains 314 calories, 81 grams of carbohydrate (54 grams of that is sugar), and roughly 3 grams of protein.

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This is quite a bang for sugar intake at one meal! Since it is all in the simple forms of glucose, fructose, and sucrose, there is a rapid rise in blood sugar. The body doesn’t want elevated blood sugar levels so the pancreas will pump a surge of insulin in to the blood stream to shuttle the sugar into the cells for either energy production or storage in order to bring the level closer to normal. Sometimes, the insulin surge is greater than the need so the lowering of blood sugar is more drastic than necessary. The result, a low blood sugar level followed by signals to the brain to return it normal again.

If you have ongoing blood sugar issues (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia) then fruit smoothies aren’t ideal for your diet. If you have a healthy metabolism and don’t experience high and low blood sugars following meals, then these smoothies may not be problematic for you. Bottom line is that you must take the following into consideration when deciding if you want to drink your fruit: how much fruit you’ve already consumed that day, how much added sugar you’ve consumed or will consume that day, how your body responds roughly 2 hours after drinking a fruit smoothie, does it satisfy you or make you crave more sugar, does it leave you feeling sluggish or energized, do you have poor blood sugar control, and do you have goals to decrease body fat stores?

If you’ve already eaten 2 servings of fruit in a day, a fruit smoothie is not recommended.

If you have eaten or plan to eat added sugars, a fruit smoothie is not recommended. I encourage everyone to limit added sugars (sugars that don’t occur naturally in your foods) to 24 grams per day. One teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4 grams of sugar. Therefore, a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar, or 24 grams, is the maximum amount of added sugars a person should allow themselves each day. For children, I encourage less than 16 grams of added sugar per day.

If you do drink a fruit smoothie and find yourself craving more sweet foods or feeling hungry before 2 hours have passed, I recommend avoiding them with the exception of changing the ingredients and adding 1 – 2 scoops of whey, pea, or vegan protein powder. The fewer ingredients (omit banana, mango, and orange juice because these are highest in sugar) and addition of protein will have two effects: decrease the amount of sugar that enters the body; and protein slows digestion of sugar into the blood stream.

If your goal is to decrease body fat stores, keep in mind that when insulin is present (released in response to carbohydrate intake) then fat metabolism is turned off.

Fruit contains amazing nutrition and can still be enjoyed with an approach that works for you. I encourage you to make choices that benefit your body and your goals by either avoiding 100% fruit smoothies, sharing one with a friend, or manipulating the ingredients to fit your personal health needs.

Note: Smoothie shops often provide nutrition information for consumers to help them make informed decisions. Read ingredients and nutrition labels. Ask questions. These smoothies are usually very high in sugar and should be treated as a dessert to be consumed on occasion.