Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Road to Five-a-day isn't always Smooth(ie)

Free Digital Photos - By Praisaeng
Smoothies have recently been the subject of media attention in relation to their perceived health properties, especially because of their popularity with celebrities. Everyone thinks of smoothies as blended fruit and vegetables, bursting with vitamins and goodness. The reality is often quite a bit different, and smoothies have been getting a bad rap, especially in newspapers like the Daily Mail. They've published this article with scary figures about the amount of sugar contained in various drinks including Innocent Smoothies (3.5 Krispy Kreme donuts per serving).

On the whole, smoothie culture is different in the UK to the US – for us, the occasional Innocent or Pret A Manger smoothie or Starbucks Iced Juice drink is the closest most of us come to mass consumption of the drink, but across the Atlantic demand is much bigger. Plenty of places sell smoothies that are nearing 1,000 calories per serving, while the British market hasn’t really taken off yet. That makes it even more important for us to be aware of both the health benefits and risks of smoothies before companies bring their products to the UK.

According to Barry Popkin, professor in the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, "The fruit juice industry has essentially taken the 'apple-a-day' mentality and used it to sell fruit juices as healthy." People are keen to consume their recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables but it turns out that smoothies are not really the best way of achieving this goal. They taste sweet and satisfying, but unfortunately this is due to the large amounts of sugar and additives in many smoothie drinks.

The confusion often arises because people are worshipping what are perceived as magical health options that are nothing but good for you, when in reality smoothies contain a lot of sugar in the form of fructose, which in large quantities is just as bad for you as regular sugar. The problem  is exacerbated when smoothies contain lots of extra ingredients apart from fruit which bump up the calories, like ice cream, syrup and cream.    

So, instead of providing overall health benefits, smoothies can contribute to your risk of developing some diseases. "Every one of the long-term studies of the health effects of fruit juices shows that you increase your risk of diabetes and weight gain" with regular juice consumption, Popkin said. It’s much better to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s impossible to absorb all the of the nutrients you need from liquid fruits anyway, and it's crucial to eat a wide variety of produce on a regular basis.

On balance, it's important to be wary of media sensation and remember that most things in moderation are not that bad for you. The key focus should be on eating as many different fruits and vegetables of every colour for the essential nutrients, enough carbohydrates for long lasting energy to sustain performance throughout the day, and protein to replenish your body. Ultimately it's a lot better to make your own smoothies, and a lot more fun, too. Here's a recipefor a healthy green tea smoothie to help make sure you get all the vitamins you need.

By Catherine Heath

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