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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Smoothies Can be Helpful or Harmful.

Wednesday August 15, 2007
By Leah Betancourt

Drinks May Have More Calories Than Hamburger.

Cold, fruity drinks aren't just for happy hour any more. They can be used for weight loss or healthy gain, as a snack or a meal.

Smoothies are now found at nearly every corner store. The blended gems have made their way out of specialty shops such as Jamba Juice and Smoothie King and into places such as Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks. {Continued click READ MORE below}

Smoothies' momentum continues to be strong. Smoothie and juice bars make up a $2.5 billion industry, according to the Juice and Smoothie Association.

But nutrition experts worry that despite some smoothies' healthful ingredients, the key is remembering where they fit in your diet.

"My concern with smoothies is it's a beverage, so people don't count it as a meal," said Tara Gidus, a spokeswoman and registered dietician with the American Dietetic Association. "(People) don't feel like they had lunch because they drank it."

How Much Is In That Cup?

Smoothies are defined as a healthy meal, snack or dessert in a cup, according to the trade group's Web site.

Depending on the ingredients added, the beverages can be fattening or healthy.

Gidus said that making smoothies made with fresh fruit and frozen fruit that doesn't have added sugar keeps the sugar content low.

"You have to be aware of the ingredients," Gidus said.

Using whole milk or ice cream means a lot of fat. Sugar content can also run high.

For example, a Jamba Juice 24-ounce Peanut Butter Moo'd smoothie has 840 calories, 21 grams of fat and 122 grams of sugar, according to the company's nutritional information. A McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese has 740 calories, 42 grams of fat and 40 grams of carbohydrates.

Gidus said that a lot of commercially made smoothies are made with fruit concentrate and have very high sugar and not a lot of fruit.

The Juice and Smoothie Association ranks commercially made smoothies from platinum to bronze for their healthfulness. A list of rankings is available on its Web site.

Benefits Of Smoothies

Despite some nutritional risks, smoothies can pack many benefits, including their portability. But that's not all they offer.

"I think people are looking for really good nutrition without high calories," said Cherie Calbom, author of "The Ultimate Smoothie Book."

She knows what makes a smoothie good.

"The top three things people want in their smoothies -- creamy, flavorful and cold -- and after that, I'd say people are looking for nutrition," Calbom said.

She said bananas are a lot more fattening than a lot of other fruits, and that people think a banana has to be in a smoothie. For example, Smoothie King's 20-ounce Banana Boat smoothie, which is made with all-natural vanilla ice cream and bananas, has 520 calories, 14 grams of fat and 93 grams of carbohydrates.

If anything you consume racks up 500 to 600 calories, people should not forget that it's a meal.

Although fruit usually goes hand and hand with smoothies, it doesn't have to. Ingredients that people might not normally eat, such as spinach and avocadoes, can be tossed in and they might not even notice it's in there.

Should You Boost?

At some chains, the beverages can be ordered with boosters -- or scoops of vitamins, energy powders or other substances.

For those looking at smoothies as a meal replacement, dieticians suggest adding protein.

Gidus suggested adding a scoop of protein powder, soy mile or milk to give it more protein.

"If you use it as a meal replacement, I think the protein powder booster isn't bad," she said.

Other boosters she suggested are multivitamins, flax seeds or wheat, because they are high in nutrients and are natural.

Make Your Own

For more choices and exotic ingredients, try making smoothies at home.

Anyone with a blender can also make smoothies, especially if he or she is looking to achieve certain goals, such as weight loss.

For example, Calbom has a smoothie recipe to curb cravings that includes ingredients high in magnesium such as wheat germ, coconut, almonds and cashews. She also has exotic recipes such as Strawberry Rosewater Lasse and Honey Mint Julep.

Pat Crocker, culinary herbalist focuses on herbs in her book, "The Smoothies Bible," and outlines 50 different conditions and matches them with the optimum fruits, vegetables and herbs.

"When making smoothies at home, you're in control of the ingredients you put into them," she said.

Drinks Follow Trends

Smoothies continue to evolve as new ideas get thrown into the mix.

"I'm seeing a lot of buzz around berries. Cherries have had a lot of press," Crocker said.

Berries are high in antioxidants.

Going organic with smoothies can also keep some of those toxins out. Some shops even make sure their ingredients are organic.

"Some establishments are excellent in making sure the fruit juice is fresh and there isn't anything added to it," said Crocker.

Calbom said she has noticed a change in people's choices of protein boosters. She said people are picking rice protein, and dairy-sensitive people are getting away from whey protein and soy because it contributes to a sluggish thyroid in women.

Smoothie fans are also turning to nutrient-rich greens such as wheat grass and barley green.

Source: thepittsburghchannel.com

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