Smoothies can be a delicious way to get some of nature’s most energizing, nutritious, and even fat-burning ingredients in as a quick and easy meal. But beware of the Sneaky Seven! These seven ingredients may seem like a healthy addition to your smoothie, but in reality they could sabotage your diet and even lead to weight gain. Unless you are looking to pack the pounds back on, or really don’t care much about your health, here are seven so-called healthy foods to keep out of your smoothie.
1. Peanut Butter
Nuts are awesome. They taste fabulous. They are a wonderful, plant-based source of protein, heart healthy fats, as well as vitamin and minerals your body needs for optimal health. That doesn’t mean that adding a giant scoop of peanut butter should be dropped into your next smoothie. Many of the jars of peanut butter lining the shelves of the supermarket contains much more than peanuts; added sugars, salt, hydrogenated oils, and corn syrup are often added to improve flavor. Many people avoid peanut butter altogether for another reason: toxic mold. Aflatoxins are a toxin produced by a mold that grows in nuts, seeds, and legumes (which a peanut actually is, by the way). These toxins are very stable and can survive even very severe processing methods. Luckily, the processing that peanut butter undergoes can reduce the presence of aflatoxins by up to 90%.
Save yourself the worry about mold toxins, the added sugar, and the hydrogenated oils and skip adding the peanut butter to your smoothie. You can cut out nearly 200 calories by not adding this “healthy” food.
2. Frozen Yogurt
Yogurt is a source of beneficial probiotic cultures that can help restore your levels of good bacteria in your gut. This is important, because more and more research on the human microbiome is revealing that the bacteria in our gut can have an effect on our weight by influencing food cravings for fat or sugar. Sitting next to the ice cream in the freezer at the grocery store, frozen yogurt may seem like a much healthier alternative. Not so. Frozen yogurt can have added sugars, food additives such as artificial flavors, and preservatives that have no place in your whole-food smoothie. As for those beneficial probiotic cultures found in regular yogurt? They don’t survive the processing and freezing process that frozen yogurt endures.
To get the same thick and frosty feel that fro-yo can bring to your favorite smoothie, reach for Greek yogurt — or simply use frozen fruit instead.
3. Fruit Juice
Once again, reading the label on this ingredient will reveal exactly how unhealthy this “healthy” food is. If you are buying cartons of fruit juice from the store, they most likely contain added sugars and even added flavors. You will also find that they have added vitamins as well. Real fruit has naturally occurring sugars, but it also has fiber to help slow the digestion and absorption of glucose and fructose. Real fruit also has a wonderful flavor and plenty of vitamins and minerals, so why would fruit juice in the store need to have flavors and vitamins added? The pasteurization process that juice undergoes to kill any bad bacteria also destroys beneficial nutrients, so vitamins are added right back in.
Add whole, real fruits to your smoothie to get the benefits of the fiber and naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and other nutrients fruit contains. If you need to thin your smoothie out, use fresh squeezed juice or even coconut water instead.
4. Nonfat Milk
For years, fat was the enemy. Nonfat dairy products promised to be the answer to our weight loss problems. Nonfat milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, however, may actually contribute to weight gain. Many nonfat products have higher amounts of sugar compared to their full-fat counterparts. Since sugar more responsible for fat gain than dietary fat, these nonfat dairy products can actually lead to weight gain. One reason may be that full-fat products trigger a feeling of satiety, leading us to eat less and feel fuller quicker.
Multiple studies have shown that people who eat full-fat dairy products are less likely to suffer from obesity. If you want to add dairy to your smoothie, go for the full-fat milk or yogurt.
Agave has been touted as an all-natural alternative to sugar that is much healthier, in part because it contains the fruit sugar, fructose. The amount of fructose found in fruits, however, is small. Studies have shown that fructose can lead to significant weight gain, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. If you want to sweeten your smoothie, do it with fruit, not with natural or artificial sweeteners.
Real cacao is a healthy food, and is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that promote good health. It is also very bitter. To make the chocolate that most people like to eat, or use in hot cocoa or even smoothies, sugar is added. (And sometimes dairy, to create milk chocolate.) If you want a taste of chocolate in your smoothie, reach for a pure 100% cacao powder. It will give you that hint of chocolate flavor, plenty of beneficial nutrients, and none of the sugar that chocolate has.
7. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a very popular non-dairy alternative for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Soy contains high levels of estrogen-like compounds known as isoflavones. This phytoestrogen may impact your body’s hormone levels, and some studies have suggested a link between soy and breast cancers. Until more research has been done to better help us understand the impact of these estrogen-mimicking plant compounds, skip the soy and reach for almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, or any other non-dairy alternative instead.