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Are smoothies just a healthy person’s soda?

Healthy, green smoothie

I’m a sucker for smoothies. Not Jamba Juice slurpees; I make my own with organic frozen fruit, almond butter, rice milk, bee pollen, dates, and bananas. Basically all the ingredients I consider wholesome get thrown into a blender and pureed to perfection. Smoothies were my regular late morning snack until I met Jeanette Bronee, the integrative nutritionist behind Union Square’s Path for Life, who dropped this bomb:

“Smoothies are just another version of soda.” What? Hold the agave nectar.

How can anyone be anti-smoothie? Smoothies can cause bloating because you’re not chewing them, says Bronee. “They’re nothing more than a sugar delivery system and can easily contain 450 calories.” Her silver lining is green. “I’m not opposed to smoothies if they’re high in veggies,” she says.

Green juice can be a bitter consolation prize for those used to fruit smoothies. Fortunately, Bronee gets the smoothie addict’s need for creamy sweetness with her virtuous smoothie recipe, where avocado and apple do the trick. I barely have to turn a new leaf.

A handful of kale
Half an apple
5 slices of cucumber
A stalk of celery
½ of an avocado
½ cup water
A splash of lemon juice

Blend with several ice cubes. Pour into a glass and garnish with a lemon wedge and a celery stalk.

Photos: Torkil Stavdal

7 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. May 21st, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I love that you bring this up, because it’s so true. But a lot of people are not aware of it: No matter how fresh or pure, a lot of fruit juices and smoothies have a really high glycemic index and can really, really send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.

  2. May 21st, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    This is great advice! People always think that fruit is so healthy. Meanwhile, fruit gets broken down into fructose and the liver easily converts it to fat because it can only hold about 100 grams of glucose and fructose and that is easily reached with a banana, a bagel and a glass of juice.

  3. Well+Good
    May 21st, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Yoshiko and Ariane, You’re totally right. And yet I think we’d all agree that fruit is a healthier choice if you’re normally eating, say, Egg McMuffins and Toaster Strudel, per Jaime Oliver’s challenge with school children. Healthy eaters (like us) have to watch our fruit intake and sugar levels, and pair with a protein or at least get a shot of antioxidants with our fruit by choosing blueberries…

  4. May 21st, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I’m loving your article – mine came out about keeping smoothies low-glycemic and nutrient rich this week, too. I’m adding protein through blue green algae, but I’ve made tons with kale and other greens. This looks like a very tasty smoothie, I’ll be trying it soon!!

  5. May 22nd, 2010 at 8:45 am

    An acupuncurist/chiropractor suggested I start my day with juicing organic celery and cucumbers—that it would raise my alkaline level, lower my acidity, and make me less hungry. Also ditch the my morning coffee. I did this for a while, and easily dropped 15 pounds without much effort, and was feeling great. It really is a surprisingly refreshing drink. However, I started missing my coffee, and got tired of cleaning out my juicer, and the weight is slowly returning. Your piece inspired me to get back to what was working. Yucky old habits linger in the background (even when you enthusiastically think you’ve beaten them) and your piece was a good reminder to stay vigilant. Again, thanks well+good for another timely piece. I’ll let you know how it’s going.

  6. May 22nd, 2010 at 11:33 am

    while this makes me a bit sad :-( i love a fruit smoothie, this post was eye opening for me.. thanks

  7. November 15th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    [...] not sure Jamba actually has that in mind.The current menu is short on juice and is stocked with 200- to 400-calorie smoothies containing more than 100 grams of sugar—and that’s not exactly good news for childhood [...]

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