How a smoothie is nothing like a Big Mac or a Coke
Have you recently read how smoothies are killing you faster than a Big Mac? Or because Coke has fewer calories, it’s better for you than a smoothie?
A survey of 40 smoothies from commercial retailers found they were all high in sugar, up to 31 teaspoons. Some milkshakes and frappes were also high in saturated fat.
Food Hermetica compared the survey data to Gloria Jeans’ Drink Menu Nutrition and Ingredient Information1. There is 123g of sugar per 710ml Mango Fruzie. If 1tsp =5g, that means there are 25 teaspoons of sugar per serve, not 31. It’s still quite a lot, but when you realise that there is no actual mango in this Fruzie, only flavoured syrups, are you surprised it contains that much sugar?
Clever marketing makes it sound as though there is real fruit in these products when in fact there is not. Not all smoothies are created equal. Just because it has ‘mango’ in the name doesn’t make it healthy.
The media is well known for bending the truth and misreporting to gain a reader’s attention.
Alison Ginn from LiveLighter, who conducted the survey, says, ‘food outlets use phrases like 97% ‘fat free’ or ‘dairy free’ to make their smoothies and frappes sound healthy’.
For their survey LiveLighter used a 600ml Coke against a supersized 710ml Mango Fruzie. Not exactly a fair comparison. What happens when you compare the 600ml Coke to a regular Mango Fruzie?
The regular Mango Fruzie contains 15 tsp of sugar per 499ml; the Coke contains 13 tsp of sugar per 600ml. Not so different now is it? Whilst the Fruzie sugar content is still higher than a Coke, by reducing the serving size, the sugar content is almost halved.
As for those fat-laden products such as milkshakes, thickshakes and iced beverages, the saturated fat (bad fat) comes from cream or ice-cream. Milkshakes also contain flavoured syrups which is why they are also high in sugar. Plain milk, on the other hand, has less than 3.8% (3.8g fat per 100ml milk), reduced-fat milk contains approximately 1.4% fat and skim milk contains a tiny amount – less than 0.1%2.
Now compare a Big Mac and a commercial smoothie to a homemade smoothie.
We already have the nutrient information for the Big Mac and several commercial smoothies, so let’s look at a homemade smoothie, like this banana and strawberry smoothie from Nutrition Australia. It contains 1143kJ, 7g of sugar and 2g of saturated fat, significantly less than half of the smoothies reported in the LiveLighter survey and much less fat than a Big Mac.
Smoothies may appear to be high in calories and sugar, but it’s not enough just to look at how much calories, fat and sugar there is in a food. Healthy to one person may mean consuming less processed and artificial ingredients. To another person being healthy may mean being high in vitamins or fibre.
Natural milk and fruit sources in a homemade smoothie contribute to the high sugar content in the form of fructose and lactose. All nutrient (fat, carbohydrate, protein) needs are influenced by differing factors such as age, gender, physical activeness, illness/deficiencies and pregnancy etc. If you are an active person, your energy requirements may be higher than what LiveLighter recommends.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly recommends reducing sugar intake to 10% or less of your total energy intake3. Ginn suggests we follow the less than 5% recommendation, however this is only a conditional recommendation and is based on ‘very low quality evidence from ecological studies’ on dental carries3.
When you are choosing a treat, consider reducing the serving size and what nutrients it provides, rather than only focusing on calories.
What is your favourite healthy smoothie?
Share your recipes in the comment box below.
*Any information provided by Food Hermetica is a guide only and should not replace medical advice. Reader discretion is advised.
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- Gloria Jean’s Coffees. (2012). Drink menu nutrition and ingredient information – Jan 2012 [Factsheet]. Castle Hill: Gloria Jean’s Coffees International Pty Ltd. Retrieved from http://www.gloriajeanscoffees.com.au/Drink%20Menu%20-%20Nutritional%20and%20Ingredient%20Info.pdf
- Nutrition Australia. (2016). Dairy nutrition [website]. Retrieved from http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/frequently-asked-questions/dairy-nutrition-0
- World Health Organisation. (2015). Sugars intake for adults and children [Guideline]. Geneva: WHO Document Production Services.