Smoothies can be a plant-based diet savior when you’re strapped for time (or not fond of veggies). But are they healthy? Here’s why it’s important to be thoughtful about what you put in your smoothies — plus our 7 tips for making the perfect vegan smoothie, every time.
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We love smoothies at MamaSezz. They’re a great way to get a lot of nutrient-dense foods in one fell swoop. They can be enjoyed for breakfast or dinner. They’re quick to make and clean up. They taste wonderful.
However, smoothies aren’t all the same nutritionally speaking. Even plant-based smoothies can run the risk of spiking your blood sugar or otherwise knocking your health.
Here’s why smoothies are sometimes just so-so and how to make healthy smoothies that fit with your plant-based lifestyle.
Research has shown that our appetites don’t always respond to liquid energy the same way as solid energy. In other words, we might feel hungrier after a smoothie than if we eat a solid food meal of the same “size.” That can mean we might eat more later when we drink smoothies, even though our bodies might not actually need that extra energy.
One good way to ensure your smoothie fills you up? Make sure to include healthy plant-based fats, proteins, and fiber. (More on our specific suggestions for making the perfect vegan smoothie below...)
Foods converted to liquids can spike blood sugar. In one study, researchers found that our bodies may respond to liquid foods with a sharper and faster spike in our blood sugar. Such dramatic shifts can impact our digestive systems, particularly how our brain regulates the hormones that control our digestion.
Over time, these irregular hormone levels can contribute to such conditions as diabetes and unusual weight gain. In the short term, blood sugar spikes inevitably lead to crashes — low energy, low mood, irritability.
That said, there is a difference between drinking straight fruit juice, which doesn’t have any fiber, and drinking pureed fruit juice, which still contains fiber. Your blood sugar will spike and fall much more dramatically after consuming fruit juice than when consuming pureed fruit, AKA smoothies.
And this study shows that the time it takes you to drink your smoothie matters when it comes to keeping blood sugar in check. So yes, enjoy your smoothie — just don’t chug it!
A 2014 study found that high-acid smoothies can damage tooth enamel. The study used mango-passion smoothies and strawberry-banana smoothies, as well as Diet Coke. The Mango-passion smoothie resulted in the greatest loss of tooth enamel, followed by the soda.
One thing to note: the study involved regular, frequent immersions of enamel into the liquids, which is not how any of us actually drink smoothies. But over time, these high-acid smoothies hold the possibility of damaging enamel. (Also, because we drink them, they don’t mix with the alkaline saliva that comes with chewing. They keep their acidity.)
7 components of the perfect healthy vegan smoothie
Vegan smoothies can indeed be spectacular and a healthy part of your plant-based diet. Here are some guidelines to creating healthy plant-based smoothies. And if you’re not up for rules, just try one of our eight heart-healthy smoothie recipes.
1. Choose low-sugar, nutritious liquids.
We typically suggest unsweetened almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk as the liquid base to get you nutrition without a sugar spike. Wondering which plant-based milk is best for you? Check out this guide to non-dairy milk.
2. Add a “creamy” ingredient.
Frozen bananas and ripe avocados work well here.
3. Sweeten with whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
Try whole apples, dates, pineapple, mango, orange. Fresh or frozen.
4. Add berries.
5. Add greens.
Kale or spinach are both great neutral tasting leafy greens for your smoothie.
6. Include whole food plant-based protein.
We love peanut butter or any all-natural nut butters, ground chia seeds or flax seeds, spirulina, oats (yep...a ½ cup steel cut oats contains 14 grams of plant-based protein!).
7. Use fats (thoughtfully).
Some of our favorite smoothie recipes include peanut butter or almond butter, in reasonable quantities for the recipe, like this Creamy Vegan Green Smoothie. Adding healthy plant-based fats can help regulate the rise in blood sugar. Other go-to plant-based fats to add include avocado, whole nuts, ground chia, flax, or hemp seeds, unsweetened coconut, cacao nibs.
BONUS tips for your healthy smoothie
Choose a single-serving glass or container.
If your smoothie is in a huge to-go thermos, you’re probably going to drink the whole thing! Pour it into a right-size mug and then save the rest for later. (Pro tip: Smoothies freeze well. You can even pour leftovers into an ice cube tray to add to future smoothies for a shot of cold.)
Keep smoothies to one meal a day.
Use those teeth to activate your digestive system the rest of the day. You can also eat your smoothie with a spoon to slow down your pace, which can lighten the impact on your blood sugar and make you feel more full.
Grab our MamaSezz Breakfast Smoothie. It’s rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. And antioxidants! It’s completely plant-based and ready to blend — just add your favorite liquid and you’re good to go.
- Smoothies can be a vital part of a plant-based diet.
- Smoothies aren’t created equal.
- Liquid foods might not fill you up, and they can spike blood sugar if you forgot important nutrients like fiber, fat, and protein.
- A few simple guidelines make smoothies plant-based spectacular.
By Becky Karush
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.