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Jul 31, 2011 08:59 AM

Fruit Smoothie = "Bad for You"

After reading the pizza thread, I had to post is. The other day I told a friend of mine that I had a Smoothie for breakfast. She looked at me askance and said "You'll be so disappointed to know how bad that is for you. All that sugar and calories!" I explained that what I had was just fruit blended with ice. No sweetener. She insisted I was wrong. And this comes from a woman who works out regularly and watches her diet carefully.

I did the math and my smoothie was under 300 calories. How could anyone think that was bad for me?

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  1. Tell your friend to go pound salt. She's just plain wrong.
    She may be confusing it with "Juicing" which is not really a particularly healthful thing (since in that process one is separating the sugars from the beneficial fibre found in fruits and veggies).

    But a 300 calorie smoothie made from whole fruits and even some veggies added is most assuredly _not_ a bad thing since you're getting the all of the natural fiber in the drink. It's even better if you add in an appropriate amount of egg white or whey protein to balance things out (experts are now discouraging the use of soy protein due to health concerns attached to soy products). Adding some protein to it practically makes it a meal.
    I like my morning smoothies with strawberries, some blueberries, a handful or two of fresh spinach, and some protein added.

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Professor

      The only thing "bad" for you here is listening to friends like that one. Sugar is not "bad" for you. Calories are not "bad" for you. But remember (if you ARE counting calories) that a 300-calorie smoothie is just that. Just because you drink your calories rather than chew them doesn't give them any less impact on the total number you consume. If those 300 calories for breakfast can get you through to lunch, I think you made a good choice.

    2. She's right about it not being healthy, if it had no protein or fat to sustain a steady level of blood sugar over the course of hours. Adding some protein in the form of powder supplement or Greek yogurt or eggs would make it a healthier meal, if the fruit sugar levels aren't too high. Berries are a great choice. Just fruit and water is kind of a sugar bomb, low calories or not.

      45 Replies
      1. re: mcf

        But not everyone needs protein in the morning. Some people prefer to have it for lunch and dinner. You don't really need protein at every meal unless you have blood sugar issues. And everyone gets enough protein if they're getting enough calories. Inadequate protein is only a problem in those who don't get enough calories, at least in developed nations.

        1. re: Isolda

          We're just working from different information, I guess.

          1. re: mcf

            Actually I'd say you're not working from information at all, but your OWN set of food prejudices. One more time boys and girls: There is no such thing as a food that is innately healthful or not healthful. Not meat. Not salt. Not sugar. Not fat. Not peanuts or seafood or carbs. Eat everything -- -preferably in smaller portions and realizing that if you have the gooey chocolate cake tonight, maybe no dessert tomorrow and a simple salad for lunch.

            Honestly. For this site to have been founded to celebrate good food, there is some borderline food phobia that happens here on a regular basis.

            1. re: jmckee

              I work strictly from peer reviewed, research and personal experience that follows.

          2. re: Isolda

            so if i eat 2000 calories in bagels and apples and dark chocolate today, i'm getting enough protein? your statement, taken at face value, cannot be correct.

            1. re: danna

              It's based on a typical diet. Most people don't eat the diet you just cited, and neither do you. But if you did, you'd last maybe a day or two, then start feeling bad enough to want something healthy, such as meat or cheese.

              I suggest you look up kwashiorkor, or protein-calorie deficiency, for some more info. If you're not too thin, you're getting enough protein.

              Honestly, a lot of these posts entitled "Is _______ unhealthy?" are ridiculous. Why? because nutritionists look at your diet over the course of a week, not a single day, and certainly not a single meal. Everyone has days where their nutrition isn't complete, but if they were to examine it over a 7 day period, would find they had plenty of protein.

              There are plenty of nutrients Americans really are deficient in, such as fiber, but protein is not among them.

              1. re: Isolda

                Actually, if you read the plethora of research cited by Gary Taubes, you find that the most obese folks are often the most malnourished. Obesity or normal weight does not signify adequate nutrition.

                1. re: mcf

                  Correct. But we're talking about one nutrient here, protein. Few people, even fat ones, are defient in that. It's true, though that fat people need more protein than thin ones because they actually have more lean muscle mass to fuel. (Sounds backwards, but they have more mass period.)

                  1. re: Isolda

                    Clearly, we're working from very different information.

                  2. re: mcf

                    I am a great fan of Gary Taubes! His book "Why we get fat" was a eye opener for me. I felt as if the cobwebs of misinformation, growing for decades, just fell away.

                  3. re: Isolda

                    oh yeah, I agree with you as to the typical diet, and the American population as a whole. But on an individual level, there's a lot of middle ground between getting the optimal amount of protein to support healthy muscles, etc. and full blown kwashiorkor!

                    One of the incidents that made me pay attention to this issue, was when one of my friends, who is a very successful athlete, tried to go from "regular vegetarian" (dairy and eggs) to vegan. She had to switch back after 3 weeks, she couldn't support her training...and she's a PhD, so absolutely smart enough to figure out the best way to feed herself. She wasn't too thin...but she also wasn't getting enough protein.

                    1. re: danna

                      I think we've really wandered from the topic. I don't think the OP is facing protein deficiency, but any meal that's metabolically sugar and water causes deleterious effects that make it a not healthful meal due to the influence of protein on healthier metabolism. Fat is important, too.

                      My daughter tried vegetarianism several years ago, supplementing with enough protein powder, tempeh, tofu, beans and eggs to get over 100 grams of protein per day. She became so weak over the course of a month that she had to go back to eating meat. It's not just how much protein, it's quality of source that matters, in terms of how it's used in one's body.

                  4. re: danna

                    Here is some education from a soon to be PhD

                    Smoothies, like the ones homemade (peel and freeze a banana, blend with fresh berries, add unsweetend vanilla almond milk) are fantastic for you!
                    Yes, you are getting sugar, but it a natural sugar one that your body needs and processes properly.
                    Juicing is not bad for you! Yes, you are missing out on some of the fiber and a miniscule percentage of vitamins compared to what you will end up drinking. Add juice as a meal replacement and you will see you will have no problem being regular.
                    In regards to the "2000 calories in bagels and apples and dark chocolate" I don't see any protein in there, just a tone of sugar, and not the good kind, the kind that attached to your belly and hips.
                    After a year out of the military my husband put on thirty pounds so about a month ago I changed up his diet.
                    Either a protein shake or smoothie in the morning
                    3 out of his 5 work days he has to pack a lunch, the other 2 he can hit whatever drive through or restaurant he wants as long as he has no potatoes or corn
                    Finally the only thing he can have after 7pm is juice, that he juices

                    He still gets two full meals and a snack in addition to a smoothie/protein shake and then juice. He spends an hour at the gym every other day, mostly messing around I'm sure and is down 17lbs

                    1. re: chelsearae

                      Sugar is sugar is sugar. Starch is sugar, metabolically. Sugars from juicing are metabolically, about as bad a thing as one can do nutritionally and metabolically.

                      1. re: mcf

                        How shocking that the spike in obesity and diabetes coincides exactly with the rise in consumption of low-fat, high-carb diet foods by the "Health-conscious" sugar obsessed Amerrican public.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Not true. Everything in moderation and how fast it is absorbed by your body. Your body and brain NEED sugar.

                          1. re: blazeaglory

                            The brain has a glucose requirement that is very small when ketones are present, which it prefers. Glucose comes from protein.

                            But in a healthier, gradual release pattern.

                            Even endurance athletes adapt with no loss in performance in 3 weeks on a ketogenic diet.

                            1. re: blazeaglory

                              Your body needs dextrose, a form of glucose. It does not need fructose, which is the component of sugars which encourages overeating.

                            1. re: 64airstream

                              Exactly. I'd love to read that thesis;)

                        2. re: Isolda

                          He is not saying to eat the protein becuase the person is lacking protein...He is saying to ADD protein to the fruit to allow the sugar to be absorbed more slowy into your body.

                          Eating blended whole fruits breaks down the fiber and allows for the sugar to be absorbed into your liver much more quickly then if you had eaten the fruit whole. Adding protein slows down the digestion of the sugar.

                          1. re: blazeaglory

                            I don't think it slows it down, but it does prevent a glucose spike by eliciting a strong, sustained insulin response instead of a fast gusher followed by a crash.

                        3. re: mcf

                          My deal is that it I try to eat much in the way of protein or fat before I'm vertical for a couple of hours, I end up with an upset stomach the rest of the day. My max limit for breakfast protein is whatever is in a white flour bagel or couple of bread rolls and maybe a tablespoon of spreadable cheese.

                          The idea of protein power, greek yogurt, or eggs going into a perfectly nice all fruit-no added sugar breakfast smoothie makes me want to vomit.

                          1. re: beachmouse

                            Sounds like you may have gastroparesis. A bagel or an all fruit breakfast is a pure sugar meal, basically.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I've always been that way. My childhood breakfasts were mostly a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup (which maybe had a teaspoon of chicken bits in it) or buttered toast because Mom couldn't get me to eat much else before school.

                              1. re: beachmouse

                                Wow, that's an inauspicious beginning for someone destined to be a chowhound, dontcha think?? ;-)

                                1. re: mcf

                                  These days, I'm up to 'artisan' jam and a tiny bit of spreadable brie on my morning breakfast roll, and washing it down with a can of coca cola. The serious fun of eating starts around 11am when my tummy's ready to handle just about anything.

                            2. re: beachmouse

                              Simple solution--don't eat breakfast. I'm never hungry first thing in the morning. If you're not hungry, don't eat.

                              1. re: beachmouse

                                If I ate/drank that smoothie for breakfast without something to balance it I'd be hypoglycemic long before lunch... fruit by itself does not equal a 'meal' to my body.

                              2. re: mcf

                                mcf, I am curious if you have any other tips on making smoothies healthier? we have smoothies 3-4 mornings a week. typically they include:

                                -homemade kefir or store-bought plain whole milk Greek or European-style yogurt
                                -whole milk Lactaid
                                -frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or a combination)
                                -sometimes frozen figs or peaches
                                -a splash of water (if using yogurt)

                                I avoid bananas because they are so sugary and full of resistant starch.

                                I've been thinking about adding some type of unsweetened protein powder. And maybe starting to add baby spinach or other greens (if my Osterized can handle it). Almond butter or low-sugar organic peanut butter were other ideas. Or maybe avocado?

                                Do you have any thoughts/suggestions?

                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  I've mentioned it here before but when I was nursing and smoothies were the perfect fast, one handed breakfast, I got in the habit of whirring up about 1/4 cup of dry quick oats into a powder, before adding the rest of my ingredients. The oats helped with milk production, but also added fiber into my diet and I found that those smoothies kept me feeling sated longer than the ones I made without the ground oats.

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                    We recently found a fruit smoothie with cottage cheese, worth passing on to you: NBA basketball great,Roy Hibbert's "Ripped Like Roy Protein Smoothie," which calls for 1/2 cup of cottage cheese blended with stuff like a cup of frozen strawberries; also, blueberries, cherries, chia seeds, pecans, whey powder- wow!(This one does call for ice, too) Its a huge blender-full, and pretty good! The link:

                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      Maybe the protein powder instead of the yogurt, both seems like overkill.
                                      Nice balance of low sugar fruit to protein there. I add a big handful or two fresh spinach, you'll never notice it.
                                      My favorite combo that keeps me full for hours is: vanilla vegan protein (dairy hates me), frozen blueberries and blackberries, chia seeds, almond milk, fresh spinach, and a TB or so almond butter. Great mix of nutrients- fiber, protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals.

                                      +1 for adding a handful of oats, will make it thicker too

                                      A smoothie with yogurt, half an avocado, an orange, spinach, and oats will be creamy and delicious yet an unfortunate color... You could use kiwi or peeled apple to make it just green.

                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                        UNPEELED apple - don't throw away the best fiber! That's what slows down the sugar...

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Without a high speed blender the peel doesn't break down very well (i always ended up with weird unpleasant bites of it)

                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                            We use a cheap blender and do just fine.

                                        2. re: Ttrockwood

                                          Protein powder plus yogurt works for some of us. I've had bariatric surgery, and that requires a fairly high protein diet thereafter. (Bare minimum is 60g daily, every day, 80-100 usually ideal.) My nutritionist sanctioned smoothies consist of 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen berries or other fruit, vanilla whey protein, a splash of 2% milk, and either 1/4 a banana or 1 tsp of raw local honey. Sometimes I use the oatmeal trick too. Easily 20-25g of protein, and easily carries me through the 4 hours until lunch, because the protein and fat blunt the dump of fruit sugar.

                                          Then there's the differences in individual metabolism. If my mother ate 60g of protein every day, she would be sick. I thrive on it, but would be in constant gut pain if I ate the levels of fiber that work for her. Many bariatric surgery patients become violently sick on any amount of fruit sugar. Some people thrive on a vegan diet, others others need varying amounts of animal protein to feel their best. We all have to figure out what works for the body we got stuck with. The key is doing that and then following it.

                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                            I did try the almond butter in a smoothie with yogurt, kefir, raspberries, and blackberries this AM. Very tasty addition!

                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                              Today we had one with plain kefir and yogurt, frozen pears and figs, and almond butter. Very tasty. Thanks for all the good ideas, guys.

                                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                Glad you liked it! I find even a small amount of almond butter adds a ton of flavor and i think the fat helps me stay satiated longer.

                                                The version with figs sounds great too!

                                            2. re: ChristinaMason

                                              green bananas have rs, ripe ones have very little. either way, why are you avoiding it? it's very good for the gut.

                                              not mcf, but i'd toss a couple raw eggs in there.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I follow the Fast Tract Digestion diet by Norm Robillard, which controls SIBO and related conditions (GERD, gastritis, IBS, etc.) by limiting fermentable carbs, including resistant starch. In short, RS is good for *some* but not all guts :)



                                                1. re: ChristinaMason


                                                  have you tried incorporating gelatin? hydrolyzed will not affect the smoothie texture, is a good source for protein and is excellent for gut repair.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    That's a good idea, and one I was thinking about. I will try adding it and see if DH notices. He was not a fan of the oatmeal texture today.

                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                      Hemp seeds are another idea- adds protein, fat, fiber, and lots of nutrients with fairly neutral flavor. My sister has IBS and tolerates them well, i *think* they fit within your parameters... Great for smoothies or stirred into yogurt. (Also fabulous as the nut/seed component of a pesto)

                                          2. It is no less healthy than a piece of fruit. I agree with a previous poster that some protein would make it better, as I would be hungry too soon otherwise, but there is nothing inherently wrong with your smoothie. I would say perhaps your friend was talking about most commercially available smoothies, but you explained otherwise to her.

                                            1. It was one meal out of three I had that day. The other two had plenty of protein.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: mojoeater

                                                It's not about protein deficiency overall, it's about the metabolic effects of any meal or snack without protein to balance the effects of sugar.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  When I eat fruit, I don't get any sort of sugar high or crash the way one does when eating a candy bar or cake. One of the reasons I don't like desserts is the crappy sugar feeling. Fruit does not effect me that way. I cannot see where eating a banana requires drinking milk or eating yogurt too.

                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                    I don't want to wander off of chow and into metabolic science and endocrinology here. If you want to, you can look it up, and if you don't, hey, whatever floats yer boat is fine with me.
                                                    All of the research I've done, along with my personal experiences says your friend was right, it's not a healthy meal. If you aren't concerned about that, it's fine by me. :-)

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      I'm with mcf. I tend to think most of us just don't listen to our bodies carefully enough to know when our insulin levels are wonky, because most of us aren't diabetic/diagnosed insulin resistant and paying close attention. I am walking the line away from insulin resistance myself, and have done a TON of reading lately, and by all accounts, liquified fruit is not a healthy breakfast option. Fiber or no fiber, it's sugar you can drink. Fruit sugar, milk sugar, brown sugar, whatever, it's all sugar. Try kicking the sugar habit for a couple of months and then drink that fruit smoothie, and tell me you can't feel it.

                                                      If you're not so worried about your blood sugar, now or in the future, or how you're teaching your body to burn or store fuel, go crazy. A lot of us are not that fortunate. I've been doing a food diary for a while now, just to get a sense of my macronutrient intake, and know I know that I can carrot and sweet pepper myself right into carb-land. I'd rather save those carbs for ice cream, myself. Mmm, ice cream.

                                                    2. re: mojoeater

                                                      I think the main difference is that with the fruit you have fibre to offset the sugar. While I am sure some people feel off if they just have fruit, no protein, I agree that I don't get the crash with fruit.

                                                      Yet another way one-size-fits-all pretty much never does.

                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                        I test my blood sugar after eating meals; I've never found any difference in timing a rise from naturally occurring food fiber in over a decade of testing.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          So is there no difference in your blood sugar between eating a piece of fruit or a piece of candy or a glass of juice?

                                                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                            I don't drink juice or eat candy, but I eat a lot of things with a lot of fiber and some things with little fiber. My glucose peak is the same time after eating either way.

                                                2. People who tell other people that X that they ate is bad for them are not friends.