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Smoothies are an interesting beverage in that they often carry two very different connotations. One person might hear the word, “smoothie,” and immediately think of a healthy, refreshing beverage with fresh fruit. Another person might hear the same word and think of sugary fraud masquerading as a health food. So which connotation is correct? Well, it depends.

Some smoothies are loaded with added sugars and fruit juices and actually contain very little real fruit. However, there are also those smoothies that have lots of fruit and are packed with vitamins and minerals that your body needs. The real key to discerning whether or not a smoothie is “good for you” is when you drink it. Both aforementioned smoothies have a good deal of sugar in them. Fruit is naturally high in fructose, a variety of sugar. So it is really not possible to make a low sugar fruit smoothie. However, that sugar can work to your advantage.

Smoothies are actually one of the best things that a person can drink after a workout. There is a metabolic window that lasts from the moment you stop lifting weights until about forty five minutes later. During that time, your muscles are looking for fuel. Most people think that protein is the key, but that is actually a common misconception. Your muscles are looking for a quick fuel to replenish themselves, and sugar is the answer. The ratio of carbohydrates to protein should be between 2:1 and 4:1. So for every four grams of sugar, you should consume one gram of protein. It is true that protein is a crucial building block for muscles, but when you think of protein, think long term.

So my suggestion for smoothies is to drink them after a workout. For a well balanced smoothie, follow the guidelines below:

6 oz. of any flavor of yogurt
1 to 1.5 cups of fresh fruit
6 oz. of crushed ice

With these guidelines, the only added sugar in your smoothie comes from the yogurt, but it is worth it. Yogurt contains protein, calcium, and good bacteria that can benefit gastrointestinal health. If you are really feeling healthy, you can add 2 Tbs. of ground flax seed. You can barely taste it, and the omega-3 fatty acids in flax seed are great for your brain and body. Also, if you absolutely need to load up on protein, adding a serving of protein powder to a smoothie doesn’t change the flavor too much. So the point is, a smoothie can be a very healthy and delicious part of your daily diet. As long as you add the right ingredients and are drinking it at a beneficial time, a smoothie will allow you to look and feel healthy and satisfied.