As many of you know, I have changed my diet drastically over the last couple years. Before kids, I would eat fast food all the time, processed boxed meals from the grocery store and soda…lots of soda. Our oldest child’s food allergies pretty much changed everything for us, especially the way we eat. We no longer could depend on quick “convenience” processed meals and I had to learn how to make most of our meals from scratch. To me, this has been a blessing in disguise as it has helped me take my health and my families health under control.
I saw and felt the effects of my bad eating habits and I didn’t want my kids to have to go through the same. During both of my pregnancies, I was considered, in medical terms, obese. While I was able to have textbook, easy pregnancies, it wasn’t until after having my children that I realized things needed to change. I noticed I would get out of breath easily just playing with my kids or walking around the block. My knees and legs would hurt if I walked a little more than usual. During my first pregnancy, I had high blood pressure for the first time in my life. Things had to change.
With my son being allergic to eggs and dairy, I was opened up to the vegan lifestyle and diet as they not only don’t consume meat, but they also do not consume any other animal products such as eggs and milk! So I found myself making veganized versions of muffins, breads, cakes, pancakes and many other foods we enjoyed in the past. This led me to explore eating more vegetables, grains, beans and fruits. While we still consume meat from time to time, exploring vegan foods has become such a big part of our lives and it has helped me get my health on track, lose weight and teach my kids good eating habits while tasting a variety of foods and flavors.
One part of eating healthier that I have really enjoyed is making smoothies. I pretty much consume a smoothie a day and have for almost a year. I gave up soda almost 3 months ago and never looked back. My headaches went away and I dropped 10 lbs in the first 2 months (although just giving up soda won’t produce the same results, I also eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein, fruits and veggies.) One argument that has come up numerous times is that the sugar content in smoothies is as high or higher than soda. Or that I shouldn’t be eating more fruit because of the sugar! It always seems that with all the fads and diets these days, one group will be opposed or disagree one way or another with the way another chooses to eat. I have read numerous articles (like this) about how consuming smoothies or fruit is as bad or worse than drinking soda or eating a candy bar and that “all sugars are the same”! *cue eye roll*
So let’s talk sugars… Yes, there is sugar in fruits. It is a naturally occurring sugar called fructose. Now before you get all worked up saying that it is the same as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), let discuss it more. The sugar in fruit is not absorbed the same nor does it have the same effect on our body as refined sugar or HFCS. While fruit contains sugar, it also contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, water and fiber. Now the fiber in fruit helps determine how the sugar will be used in your body and actually slows the absorption of sugar. Fiber also is what helps you feel fuller longer. So when it comes to fruit, yes you will get sugar, however, because of our lovely friend fiber it will take a heck of a lot of fruit (about 16 cups of strawberries) to equal the same amount of sugar you get in 2 cans of soda. Plus, fiber will help keep you satisfied instead of making you hungry sooner. Plus, you are also getting a variety of vitamins and minerals that you will not find in a candy bar or soda.
Now what about high fructose corn syrup? HFCS has been linked to weight gain, inflammation, heart disease, kidney disease and causes issues to those who are diabetic. It is cheap and easy to make which is why it has become used in so many processed foods. It is quickly absorbed by your body and causes insulin spikes as opposed to slow absorption and gradual rises like the sugars in fruit. HFCS also gives many people a spike in energy, however if this fuel isn’t used up right away, your body turns it into fat. And since your body absorbs it so fast, it is in turn digested quicker causing you to be hungry sooner and more often.
So now that we understand how the sugars are absorbed by our bodies, let’s look at sugar content. I went ahead and used a nutritional tracker to check the nutritional and sugar content in some of my smoothies. The ingredients listed are the ONLY things I add. I do not add any artificial sweeteners.
The first is a green smoothie with the following ingredients:
- almond milk
- 100% pineapple juice
- frozen mango chunks
- frozen banana
It has 463 calories, 13 grams of protein and 48 grams of sugar.
The second one contains:
- decaf coffee
- almond milk
- raw cacao powder
- medjool dates
- pure vanilla extract
It has 256 calories, 6 grams of protein and 41 grams of sugar.
- fresh squeezed lemon juice
- fresh parsley
- strawberries (a whole cup!)
- coconut water
- chia seeds
256 calories, 9 grams of protein and only 23 grams of sugar.
Now granted, I realize the first two contain more grams of sugar than a can of soda that I pictured below. But look at the other nutritional data. This soda contains 0g of protein, no fiber, no vitamins, no minerals, no antioxidants, however it does contain nasty processed chemicals such as phosphoric acid, “natural flavors” and caramel color… Plus ALL the sugar from this can of soda is high fructose corn syrup so it will be used up quicker, cause insulin and blood levels to rise quickly, most likely cause a burst of energy then a crash later on and won’t satisfy you nearly as long as any of the smoothies I listed. Not to mention this can is only 12 oz. The nutritional data I supplied for the smoothies is for the entire smoothie. All of my smoothies are anywhere between 3-4 cups per serving which equals to anywhere between 24-32 ounces! So think about that the next time you want to tell me my smoothie is worse than your can of soda!
Now of course not all smoothies are created equal. I get that. When might a smoothie be not so good for you? Well when it contains any of the following:
- ice cream…pretty self explanatory
- dairy milk…especially commercially produced containing antibiotics and hormones
- artificial sweeteners or syrups
- canned fruits, especially canned in syrup
Ok, then what about our Diet Coke drinkers? Well unfortunately, just like it’s regular full calorie counterpart, diet soda has been found to cause kidney function issues. Even though the calorie count looks much better, it doesn’t help you lose weight. A study actually found that people who drink diet soda are more likely to become overweight and overeat which may be because of the artificial sweeteners that trick their body into thinking they are consuming sugar, thus causing them to crave more. And if this isn’t enough to get you to change your mind, read the rest of the ingredients or I should say chemicals…
I really hope all this information has been helpful. I enjoyed researching everything and I even learned a lot of new things I hadn’t known before. I will continue to drink my smoothies proudly and encourage many people to try giving up soda for good or even a month and see how they feel.
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