There’s nothing like a cold smoothie to kickstart your morning on a refreshing note, keep those hunger pangs at bay between meals, or re-fuel right after a grueling workout. For some, a smoothie is a beloved part of their daily routine—and it makes sense when you consider their convenience: You can quickly whip one up before heading out the door to run errands, or grab one on the way to the work to power you through those morning meetings. But what happens to your body when you drink a smoothie every day? Is this a healthy habit, or no?
The beauty of a smoothie lies in the endless possibilities: You can incorporate whatever fruits or veggies you like, and then customize the blend to fit your needs at the moment with add-ins like protein powder, seeds, nut butter, or whole grains. That means that how healthy your smoothie habit is will depend largely on the ingredients you include.
That said, there are a number of clear health benefits—and risks—to sipping on a smoothie daily. Here’s what you need to know before you fire up that blender. And for even more healthy eating tips, check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Seeing as the base for a smoothie typically includes at least one serving of fruit (and sometimes vegetables as well), it’s no surprise that a smoothie is often chock-full of vitamins and minerals.
“Drinking a smoothie daily is a great way to pack a ton of nutrients in one convenient way,” says Vive Nutrition founder Andres Ayesta, MS, RD, LD, CSCS, CSSD.
Think of it this way: How likely are you to eat a whole bowl of spinach, a cup of yogurt, and a banana in one sitting? On the other hand, you can toss all those ingredients into a blender, sip them through a straw, and get your daily recommended intake of fruit and veggies for the entire day.
The average vegetable only has about 2.5 grams of protein per serving. But if you add other ingredients—say, a tablespoon of almond butter or hemp seeds—you can boost the protein by a significant amount.
Ayesta suggests adding a clean, high-quality protein powder to complement your daily needs, especially if you’re physically active three or more days a week, or trying to build muscle. He also notes that Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein to add to your smoothies—and as an added bonus, it’ll make your blends a whole lot creamier, too. In order to cut down on the sugar content, opt for unsweetened Greek yogurt rather than the flavored kinds.
Without a doubt, the main drawback of drinking smoothies on the regular is that they’re often loaded with sugar. Ayesta says this is especially true of bottled store-bought smoothies since they often contain added syrups to enhance the flavor.
Fortunately, if you make your smoothie at home, you can minimize the amount of sugar by reaching for ingredients like whole fruit (rather than sweetened juice) and unflavored yogurt. Ayesta recommends using water or unsweetened non-dairy milk to reduce the sugar content and overall calories in your smoothie.
Speaking of the sweet stuff, did you know that it causes spikes and drops in your blood sugar that can actually make you feel hungry? Not only that but since you’re liquifying the fruits and vegetables, you’re missing out on some of the fiber, which is what makes food satiating.
“Smoothies are bypassing an important part of the digestive process which is mastication or chewing,” says Ayesta. “Foods are therefore absorbed more rapidly—so you may be hungrier a lot faster depending on what ingredients you are using.”
Ayesta advises incorporating a protein and/or fiber source if you drink a smoothie every day so your stomach won’t be rumbling an hour after you finish it. Since fiber fills you up, too, he suggests chia seeds or ground flaxseeds, which can add some texture to your smoothie while also making it more filling.
“Always remember that a smoothie is not meant to replace every single meal in your day, but rather be used as a complement to your diet,” says Ayesta. “If you are going to use it as a meal replacer, ensure that it packs all the components of a healthy meal (Protein, fruits/veggies, and whole grains).”
A smoothie can quickly become a secret calorie bomb, especially once you start adding calorie-dense foods like dried fruit. So, keep in mind that it is possible to add too much of a good thing—even when it comes to healthy fat sources like peanut butter, avocado, and shredded coconut.
“Be careful with nuts, nut butters, and seeds,” says Ayesta. “You may add these options but remember they pack a lot of calories in small amounts.”
Because it can be easy to go overboard if you’re just eyeballing the amounts, consider measuring these ingredients out with a tablespoon.
According to Ayesta, there’s one rule to abide by if you want to make your smoothie as healthy as possible: always make it yourself. When you blend it up at home, you have more control over not only the specific ingredients but also the portion sizes of each. A daily smoothie can offer a super convenient way to get your fruits and veggies in while also nourishing your body with many essential vitamins and minerals. The key is to maximize those benefits by focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods while avoiding added sugars as much as possible.