by Shayna Hiller
If you are even 14 percent involved or interested in the world of health, nutrition, and wellness, you probably have heard that drinking smoothies is good for your health. No, I’m not talking about a Wendy’s frosty (omg yum but gross simultaneously). I’m talking about the green concoction many health-savvy folks devour daily in an effort to maximize nutrient intake, get their ‘greens’ in, add healthy fats, maintain weight, and fuel up pre or post workout. Well, I have some news for you: smoothies may not be as wholesome as you think. Don’t listen to everything you hear.
As a yogi, health coach, and ex-rawfoodist, I can tell you first hand that FOR ME green smoothies don’t work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still consume them occasionally because I like them. And P.S. having some of what you really enjoy won’t kill you (there are some exceptions, but I’ll save that for a later post). When I say smoothies don’t work for me, I simply mean they don’t work for me right now. Depending on many factors, certain foods may serve us at certain points in our lives. Our bodies are always changing, and our diets should be too.
A few months ago, I was talking with a friend of mine (fellow health coach) about how I was feeling ungrounded. It was a very odd and unusual feeling. I told him I sometimes feel like everything in life is going at 100 mph and I just can’t keep up. I described that I often feel hyper sensitive, to the extent that it can become difficult to interact in groups and at large events. After listening to me rant, he asked me one question: “What are you eating?”
Huh? What am I eating? Did you hear me? I’m telling you about how I feel in my life, and your advice is to ask me what I’m eating? How could that possibly be related?
Reluctantly, I told him my typical daily intake. I happened to be especially proud to tell him all of the magnificent ingredients that go into my superfood smoothie every morning: coconut water, chia seeds, blueberries, spirulina, almond butter, bananas, kale, spinach, and hemp seeds.
Apparently, my concoction proved not so thrilling when he immediately demanded I stop consuming it. I was baffled beyond belief and attempted to combat his abrupt decision. He suggested that I stop drinking my smoothie for one week to see how I feel. Since that time, I have had maybe one smoothie, and overall, I feel so much more grounded, relaxed, and focused. Call it placebo, or try for yourself.
The reason drinking smoothies can be obstructive to some peoples’ health depends on many factors. In my case, I do not process many raw foods well. I am a light person by nature, and too many raw foods only make my energy lighter and are difficult to digest. In order to get work done, establish solid relationships, and be fully present in my body, concentrate, and focus, cooked foods, soups, stews, and protein work best for me. Eating warm food makes me feel more grounded, and ultimately, more healthy.
Regardless of the way you handle certain foods, it’s important to learn more about why you make the choices you make for your health. Do you know why you do what you do, or do you simply follow the crowd because it sounds good?
Don’t let smoothies deceive you. Learn the secret lives of smoothies:
1. Usually smoothies contain way too much sugar.
Would you really eat three apples and a banana in one sitting? Even if you add a handful of spinach to your smoothie, you might as well eat a spinach salad or sauté some spinach and skip the fruit. Sugar makes you fat and can lead to diseases. Yes, even fruit.
2. Smoothies may be poorly combined.
Even a totally organic, raw food, vegan superfood smoothie can be detrimental to your health if there’s ‘too much going on’. Yes, smoothies can be easier on digestion, but depending on what’s in it, your body can have a difficult time processing the ingredients. For example, fruit digests much quicker than nuts, so if you add almond butter to your smoothie, the fruit may get backed up in your colon and cause fermentation and yeast. Again, these are general possibilities, and I know many people who feel great drinking smoothies on a daily basis. This may be you, and that’s wonderful. I am talking to those of you who drink smoothies because you think they’re good for you, but you probably wouldn’t drink them otherwise and/or you experience some of the physical side effects.
3. Raw spinach interferes with absorption of calcium.
Certain raw vegetables contain oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium absorption. Due to this interesting fact, it is actually healthier to lightly cook certain vegetables than eat them raw. Oxalic acid is broken down during the cooking process while many other nutrients are retained. Some vegetables containing oxalic acid include spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard.
4. Dairy is one of the highest known allergen foods.
If you are still putting yogurt in your smoothies, please stop. Not only is it SO ten years ago, but it’s totally not necessary and not healthy. I’m not saying all dairy is bad and should be avoided, but if you’re going to indulge in dairy, just have a piece of cheese or something good at least. Or eat plain organic yogurt by itself. Not in your smoothie. It’s just silly. Dairy is known to cause mucus, congestion, acne, inflammation, and weight gain. It is difficult to digest for many people, and people tend to overlook the close association between dairy and physical reactions. If you’re craving creaminess in your smoothie, add some homemade hemp milk or almond milk.
5. Protein powders? There is no ‘powder tree’.
One of my favorite quotes by author and nutrition enthusiast Michael Pollan: “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” Ahhhh… music to my ears. I don’t care how many grams of protein or how organic or how ‘whole’ it is, powder is processed. It does not exist in nature, and regardless, our bodies aren’t capable of breaking down that much protein at once… especially when you’re guzzling it in a short amount of time. And I’m referring to vegan protein powders here… don’t even get me started on WHEY… NO WAY, WHEY! Hemp and chia seeds contain plenty of protein. You don’t need to add more to your smoothie. Eat an egg.
6. It’s too much at once.
Unless you have enough self-discipline to ‘chew’ your smoothie, chances are that BPA-free smoothie mug of yours will be empty in less than 5 minutes. The truth is, you SHOULD chew your smoothie. Reminder: A smoothie is a bunch of foods blended together, and while blending does make it easier on the digestive stem, chewing is what initiates digestion. A smoothie is not a drink. It’s food that looks like a drink. Without chewing, the body may not release necessary ‘pre-digestive’ enzymes. Remember, digestion starts in the mouth. When consuming a smoothie, swish it around your mouth and get your digestive juices flowing.