The seduction of smoothies


Whether or not it’s appropriate to wear active wear in public has been debated in the media recently, but the preferred drink of active wearers – the seemingly innocent smoothie – has escaped all the attention.

I am all for an active lifestyle, so I support the right to step out in my exercise gear. What I’m concerned about is what’s in those smoothies and are they are actually good for you?

Just like painting a rock gold doesn’t make it valuable, throwing stuff into a blender and calling it a smoothie does not mean it is healthy.

The actual science behind blended foods is simple. The speed and velocity of the blades crack open the cell walls releasing all the nutrients into an easily digestible form. You could say that the blades ‘pre-chew’ your food for optimal nutrient absorption.

So if you are using fresh, organic ingredients then you are getting some serious health benefits. If you use conventional produce however, you may be just adding more toxins to your body.

There is a list of 12 foods known to contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. This ‘Dirty Dozen’ includes many of the foods regularly used in smoothies; almonds, bananas, carrots, celery, cucumbers, grapes, kale and apples.

If we take a closer look at non-organic apples, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, they can contain up to 42 different types of pesticide residue, five of which are known carcinogens, 19 that are suspected hormone disrupters and 10 that are known neuro-toxins.

So if you buy a smoothie without any idea of where the ingredients are sourced, you are playing smoothie roulette, health-wise.

Then we need to consider how much sugar is in your favourite smoothie, or more importantly what the overall glycemic index (GI) is.

Many store-bought smoothies are high GI, which means they dump huge amounts of glucose into the bloodstream. This stimulates the release of a load of insulin (also known as the fat hormone) into our system, followed by a big crash.

By combining ingredients you can effectively lower the total GI and therefore control how slowly the energy is released into the body.  This means even a sweet tasting smoothie can have a low GI if the sugar, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals are balanced.

Sugar in a balanced smoothie behaves very differently in our body than sugar from a can of soda.

This all leads to why any self-respecting active wearer should be scrutinising what’s in their store-bought smoothie and why homemade smoothies are a safer bet.

Creating your smoothie at home also lets you personalise it to a point where you can actually produce the ideal smoothie for your body type, nutritional requirements and current health status. Your personalised smoothie should be medicinal and contain therapeutic levels of active ingredients, which over time, will greatly impact your health. Smoothies shouldn’t just taste great; they should also be great for you.

For example, cinnamon and turmeric, or cacao and lucuma powder? These are not just ingredients to create taste, they have specific health benefits;

–  Feeling aches and pains? You need turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory.

–  Prone to 3pm energy slumps? Add some cinnamon to help stabilise blood sugar levels.

–  Athletes should include cacao because its high in magnesium for muscle recovery.

–  If you want to dodge the flu, add the Vitamin C-packed immune booster lucuma.

–  Likewise, edible essential oils can really boost your smoothies taste and health benefits.

There are ingredients to help reduce stress and promote calm, help with cramps and digestion. Some ingredients are good for your skin, hair and bones and others help detoxify. Based on what ails you, a smoothie could and should be completely personalised to maximise its benefits for you.

No one wants a smoothie that tastes like cough mixture though, so here are some general guides to ensure your personalised smoothie tastes so good, you will actually enjoy drinking it.

Smoothies should be broken up into four elements;
•  the base
•  the sweetener
•  the superfoods and
•  the nutritional supplements

Each element can be carefully balanced to your individual needs.  For example, if someone suffers with depression and hormonal imbalances, but exercises a lot, they need a cashew nut milk base (great for depression), raw cacao powder (magnesium and muscle relaxant), with maca (hormone balancer), and a pinch of Himalayan salt along with frozen banana (for exercise recovery and digestion).

This would be the ideal smoothie health-wise and it would taste like a chocolate caramel Mars bar.  One serving of this smoothie daily over 2-3 months could have a great impact on health.

Here are a few guidelines for creating smoothies:

If you are using a water, coconut water or tea-based:
•  Avoid – dairy such as yogurt or milk. This style smoothie is best as an alkalising and cleansing green smoothies.
•  Include – greens, fruits, citrus, spices, fats like flaxseed and coconut oil.

If you are using a dairy and nut milk-based:
•  Avoid – fruit (banana and avocado okay) – the proteins slow down the digestion of fruits which may cause fermentation leading to bloating and digestive issues.
•  Include – spices, superfoods, bananas, avocado and coconut oil.

Check out Deborah’s smoothie recipes here


Deborah Murtagh has more than 20 years’ clinical experience in natural medicine, specialising in gut and bowel health, food intolerance and weight loss. As an avid researcher, the wisdom, experience and knowledge Deborah has accumulated is encyclopaedic.

Her real gift though is how she teaches, inspires and shares this knowledge with her students in 47 countries around the world. One session with Deborah can literally change your life and help you become your most vibrant, healthy self.  To see if her services fit with your health goals Deborah offers free initial meetings.  Visit


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