The Pros and Cons of Drinking Your Vegetables By Christine Sullivan, M.S., Guest Blogger

Lately, it seems that we have been bombarded by advertising and pseudo-news reports proclaiming the nutritional benefits of Green Smoothies. As I look at the pretty bottles that line the produce section of the grocery store, I wonder, is it really better for me to drink my vegetables, or is it just marketing hype?


Smoothies are big business these days, with big brands like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts getting in on the action. Smoothie King, an international franchise based in Louisiana, just opened on Newbury Street and Campbell’s bought Bolthouse Farms to balance its business portfolio. NutriBullet claims to have transformed millions of lives by delivering vegetables in a “predigested, easily absorbed” form. Best selling author and media guru, Dr. Mark Hyman claims that green smoothies will improve your mood, help you sleep better, reduce chronic pain, and boost your sex life, and don’t get me started on Dr. Oz!


So, what’s the problem? Well, maybe nothing …..


Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables despite clear and convincing evidence that eating the recommended amount is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type II Diabetes. Why not? Well, some people don’t have time to shop for and prepare vegetables, some don’t like them, and others simply find themselves in a rut, eating the same thing every day. For these folks, I say, liquid vegetables are better than no vegetables at all.


But there are a couple of reasons why eating your fruit and vegetables is a better idea. First, when your fruits and vegetables are pulverized into liquid form, you don’t have the pleasure of chewing them. You consume your meal more quickly, your brain doesn’t get the message that you are full, and you are tempted to eat more. Second, the blending process breaks down the whole fiber portion of the plant. Fiber is what makes you feel full. Less whole fiber means the simple carbohydrate portion of the food is absorbed more quickly, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar and leaving you feeling hungry again sooner. It is common for people who drink smoothies to increase their total calories for the day.


What should you do if you really enjoy a cold, frothy, green summer drink? Think about how the smoothie fits into your nutrition for the day. Is it a snack or a meal replacer? Consider the ingredients. If you buy a premade smoothie, you may be getting a whole lot more sugar than you expect. For example, a 15-ounce bottle Green Goodness by Bolthouse Farms contains five types of fruit juice, has 280 calories, and delivers has 60 grams of sugar. A small Strawberry Slim from Smoothie King has a shocking 72 grams of sugar. Starbuck’s Sweet Green Smoothie has just 32 grams, but still exceeds the 25 gram daily limit suggested by the World Health Organization.


Bottom Line: Whenever possible, eat the recommended daily fruits and vegetables (2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables). If you buy a smoothie, watch out for toal sugar and calories. Blending your own smoothies is the best idea, allowing you to limit fruit juice, add lots of mixed greens, and include a source of protein like yogurt or nut butter.