Green Smoothies: Are They Good for You?

Green smoothies are nutrient-rich blends of fruits and vegetables. They’ve become a popular way for people to meet their recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Unlike juices, green smoothies retain the beneficial fiber content from whole foods.

At their most basic, green smoothies combine leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and microgreens with a base liquid like water. While these greens alone can make for a bitter-tasting smoothie, there are tons of combinations that improve its flavor profile and add nutritional content. 

But added ingredients can also increase a smoothie's calorie count by increasing its sugar and fat content. Leafy greens are naturally low in these nutrients, so make sure to be mindful when adding ingredients to ensure a balanced smoothie. 

Based on your preferences, healthy additions to a green smoothie can include:

  • Fruits like apple, mango, banana, avocado, or pineapple
  • Other vegetables like carrot, beetroot, cucumber, or cauliflower
  • Nuts and seeds like almond or peanut butter, hemp or chia seeds, and flax meal
  • Herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, or cocoa powder
  • Natural sweeteners like honey, dates, or stevia
  • Creamy additions like yogurt, dairy or non-dairy milk, or silken tofu

Smoothies are also an easy way to take supplements like protein powder, spirulina, or other powdered vitamins and minerals just by adding a serving into the blender. 

Nutrition Information

The nutritional content of your green smoothie will vary based on what you include.

As a baseline, an eight-ounce serving with a half-cup each of spinach, kale, apple, and banana contains: 

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 3 grams 
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 30 grams 
  • Fiber: 5 grams 
  • Sugar: 15 grams 

This combination is a good source of: 

Green smoothies are also a great source of B vitamins. The B vitamins found in leafy greens, like folate, vitamin B6, and niacin, help your body release energy from food and can promote a healthy nervous system.

Potential Health Benefits of Green Smoothies

Green smoothies are a great way to incorporate leafy greens into your diet. These greens are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and are most nutritious when consumed raw like in a smoothie.

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It’s also easy to customize a green smoothie to your taste. However, while adding ingredients can improve the green smoothie’s flavor, they can also increase the amount of calories, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. 

Including leafy greens in your smoothie can provide health benefits like: 

Digestive Health

The insoluble fiber in leafy greens helps food to pass through your digestive system, reducing issues like diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Fibrous foods also help you to feel fuller for longer, which can aid in meeting weight-loss goals.

Bone Strength

Leafy greens like kale and spinach are a great source of vitamin K1. Research has documented that people with a high intake of vitamin K1 are at a decreased risk for bone fractures, osteoporosis, and decreased bone mineral density. 

Immunity Support

Leafy greens are much higher in vitamin C than other vegetables. Vitamin C is known to support the immune system, fight infection, and help maintain healthy cellular function throughout our bodies. 

Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

Leafy greens are high in antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin C, which help to prevent and may even reverse oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally but increase due to lifestyle and environmental factors, and the damage they cause to our cells is linked with chronic issues like inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. 

Lower Cholesterol

Bile acid sequestrants are compounds used in medicine to lower cholesterol and are found naturally in leafy greens. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels keeps fatty deposits from building up on your artery walls, reducing your risk of heart disease

Potential Risks of Green Smoothies

Because there are many ways to make a green smoothie, it’s possible to add too many sugars, carbohydrates, or fats. The potent vitamin content in leafy greens may also be unsuitable for people with certain medical conditions. 

Things to consider when whipping up your green smoothie include:

Weight Gain

Leafy greens are naturally low in calories and fat. However, common green smoothie additions like fruits, nut butters, sweeteners, or milks can add excessive amounts of these nutrients to a single serving. Too much fat or caloric intake can lead to unwanted weight gain, so measure your portions so you know what’s in your drink. 

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Blood Sugar 

Excess sugar not only leads to weight gain, but may also increase your blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of diabetes. Fruits and nut butters contain numerous vitamins and minerals, but can also have a high natural sugar content, so moderate the amount added to your green smoothie. 

Medication Interference

The high Vitamin K content in leafy greens can reduce the effects of certain anticoagulant drugs. While people taking blood-thinners do not need to avoid vitamin K, you should still talk to your doctor about how much you should consume.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 25, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Kale.” “Spinach.” “Apple.” Banana.”

Frontiers in Pharmacology. “Antioxidant and Oxidative Stress: A Mutual Interplay in Age-Related Diseases.”

Horticulture International Journal. “An overview of nutritional and nutritional factors in green leafy vegetables.”

International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. “Effects of different cooking methods on the antioxidant capacity and flavonoid, organic acid and mineral contents of Galega Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala cv. Galega).”

Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences. “Where are we with Smoothies? A Review of the Latest Guidelines, Nutritional Gaps and Evidence.”

Journal of Osteoporosis. “Vitamin K and Bone Health: A Review on the Effects of Vitamin K Deficiency and Supplementation and the Effect of Non-Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulants on Different Bone Parameters.”

Mayo Clinic. “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

National Health Service. “B vitamins and folic acid.”

Nutrients. “Influence of Green Leafy Vegetables in Diets with an Elevated ω-6:ω-3 Fatty Acid Ratio on Rat Blood Pressure, Plasma Lipids, Antioxidant Status and Markers of Inflammation.”}.

Nutrients. “Vitamin C and Immune Function.”

PLOS Medicine. “Fresh fruit consumption in relation to incident diabetes and diabetic vascular complications: A 7-y prospective study of 0.5 million Chinese adults.”

UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “Why You Need (and Might Need) Vitamin K.”

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