The Science of a Smoothie

Are smoothies actually good for you, well that’s a million dollar question (literally!)

As with many ‘health foods’ smoothies were touted as a great addition to your diet and then completely blasted for being exactly the opposite (we’ll leave that point there and move very swiftly on).

So what is the truth?

Well unsurprisingly it’s a question of detail.

The blessing (and bad side unfortunately 🙁 ) of blending is that you break down the fibre contained within foods making them super convenient to sip on the run. However that also means that you make it easier to consume larger quantities of the wrong things if you aren’t conscientious with what you’re chucking into your blender. This is where the issue with pre-made smoothies tends to lie as in order to appeal to a mass market companies use large quantities of fruit in their blends, which once pulverised sadly takes a super healthy food and turns it into one of the worst offenders when it comes to hidden sugars.

So how to avoid this? Well that’s quite a simple story and centres mainly around balance, just to make it even easier for you we’ve simplified it into the following basic equation.

Large Handful Green Leafies + 2-3 Veggies + 1 Fruit + Citrus, Herbs, Spices + Protein + Healthful Fats 

The main problem is that many people will get the ratios wrong, over  considering the first half and possibly completely forgetting about the second bit or just not including enough. This then shifts the weight to one side and you and your seesaw topple over (figuratively of course, well sort of…. 😉 ).

It’s the protein and healthful fats that are the keystones of a healthful blend.

They take longer to digest and thus slow the release of energy from the rest of the ingredients. This then keeps your blood sugar on an even keel and prevents a ‘quick fix’ that dies away quickly, allowing hunger to reappear again rather sharpish. The other important benefit to note is that the fat soluble vitamins; A, D, E and K, are more readily absorbed in the presence of fats, so a small amount in your smoothie will actually increase the amount of nutrients you gain from it. Try adding coconut oil or cream, avocado or flaxseed oil to your next blend to reap some extra rewards!

When looking at the protein component you can let your creativity and flavour combinations run wild as there are so many plant based sources to choose from!

It was originally considered that a reliance on vegetarian versions meant you needed to include specific combinations at each meal to ensure you were achieving a complete amino acid profile, however now we know that we actually operate a ‘pool’ system which we add to throughout the day. Including a variety is still important however to still achieve an adequate intake of all of the 9 essential amino acids (the ones we can only gain through our diet). Our MACACHA blends take this consideration out of the equation for you as they contain a combination of organic brown rice and pea proteins, supplying 19g of protein per serving and a complete amino acid profile. Other good examples, although not complete by themselves, are whole nuts and seeds or their beautiful butter forms, hemp seeds, chia seeds and bee pollen.

Another element to consciously consider is the herbs, spices and botanicals you can include in a smoothie. ‘Superfoods’ such as maca, baobab, lucuma, moringa, chlorella or fresh herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger and parsley bring a specific ‘therapeutic’ quality to your daily breakfast or snack as they actively supporting your body’s in functioning more effectively.

The term superfoods has again been lambasted as a misleading marketing term, however in this capacity we refer to them to differentiate those which have evidenced health promoting powers. We also see their use as an opportunity to include foods that might otherwise be absent from your diet (unless you have a baobab tree going in your garden that is 😉 ). This is also an area where you add your flair; peeled citrus fruits for zing, raw cacao for a decadent chocolate experience and cinnamon, berry powders or vanilla to add a natural sweetness.

So with the more nitty gritty nutritional side of things covered I think it’s probably best we go for those informative bullet points for the rest of today.

  • Always start with a good grasp of green leaves: these are your micronutrient powerhouses and by blending them into your smoothie you can sneak in a huge amount (if not all) of your daily requirement into one delicious drink. They also bring a great amount of fibre that even when blended will help to balance the release of energy from the rest of your ingredients.
  • Vary your Veggies: opt for a rainbow (although maybe not in one drink as you may find you end up with a slightly unsightly colour…..) and also consider varieties you may not immediately think to munch raw. Courgettes, peas and cauliflower add wonderful creaminess, carrots, beetroot and sweet potatoes are sumptuously sweet, plus don’t forget if you chop and freeze them in advance you’ll end up with an amazingly smooth ice cream-esque finish, perfect for a thicker thirst quencher.
  • Tutti Frutti Time: this is up to you, you may choose to stick totally to a veggie blend. If not tarter fruits are naturally lower in sugar (hence their more sour taste) green apples are fab to cut through a ‘dark green’ blend and berries are another brilliant addition; not only are they low sugar but they come absolutely laden with health promoting antioxidants. Small amounts of exotic fruits can also cut through an otherwise savoury blend and when paired with all of the other elements in the equation their slightly higher sugar content will be balanced.
  • Bare or Bedecked? Again a totally personal choice. It is worth noting however that the addition of texture helps to trigger our satiety response so either dicing up some bits of your veggies and adding them to the finished blends, topping with nuts, seeds, coconut chips, raw cacao nibs, bee pollen, oats or granolas can actually make you feel more satisfied post smoothie than if it you go for a straight drink. Alternatively carry a few whole nuts to nibble alongside or just make it a bit thicker, it’s the chewing action that sends signals to our brain to say we’ve eaten.

So that’s about it really, well actually we could go on but we might lose you if we continue! We hope this has helped demystify a modern day myth and to simplify even further (gosh we are good to you aren’t we!) why not check out our ‘MACACHA Matches’ post here for a breakdown on what our beautiful blends love to be friends with, as well as a few they’re best enjoyed separately from 😀

Written by Phoebe, Nutritional Therapist BSc DipNT mBANT mNNA mCNHC