/ Food & Drink, Health

Does your smoothie contain more sugar than Coca-Cola?

Four glasses of different fruit smoothies

Different nutrition advice may come and go, but getting your five-a-day is always going to be important. If you’re grabbing food on the go, you want something quick, convenient and healthy – but are smoothies the answer?

As a busy girl on the go, certain things need to be squeezed in as conveniently as possible. I’ll send a text to my mother instead of calling and hang my clothes up instead of ironing them. This same need for convenience extends to making sure I have five portions of fruit and veg every day.

Fruit vs smoothies vs Coca-Cola

Smoothies vs Coca-Cola on sugarSmoothies are certainly a convenient way of getting a fruit fix. But how many of your five-a-day can you really get from them? When we asked this question to more than 2,000 smoothie drinkers, three in 10 believed they could get more than two portions. One in 10 believed they could get all five!

Although smoothies can help towards your five-a-day, they can only count for a maximum of two portions. And when we took a look at 52 smoothies on the market, 22 contained just one of your five-a-day.

An M&S mango, pineapple and passion fruit smoothie had the highest calories and sugar of the 250ml bottles we analysed – 163kcal and 34.5g of sugar. So are you better off grabbing an apple or banana with your lunch?

No-one wants to spend more money than they need to. Personally, if a 30p apple versus a £1.99 takeaway smoothie gives me the same nutritional benefits, I know which one I would be reaching for.

If you want a nice set of pearly whites, it may interest you to know the effect of smoothies on your teeth too. Once fruit is juiced or blended, the sugar in the fruit is released and is as damaging to your teeth as the sugar in fizzy drinks. Nearly half of the smoothies we looked at contained 30g or more of sugar in a 250ml serving – that’s the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar. And eight in 10 smoothies contained more sugar than a 250ml bottle of Coca-Cola.

There’s something about smoothies…

So should you swap your favourite strawberry and banana smoothie for an apple instead? Not necessarily. Some smoothies do contain two of your five-a-day, so it’s worth taking a look at the packaging to see which of them are going to deliver. The sugar in your smoothie is also natural and from the fruit, as opposed to Coca-Cola.

But do remember that you cannot get any more than two fruit portions from a smoothie (and that’s the case however much you drink!). And do supplement them with a variety of whole fruit and vegetables too.

Which are you more likely to reach for – a smoothie or a piece of fruit? Do you know how much sugar is in your smoothie?

Comments
Member

Fresh fruit juice is a very easy way to consume lots of sugar, so it is hardly surprising that smoothies are loaded with sugar. Though I don’t drink fruit juice often and I’ve never had a smoothie, I eat far too much mango, pineapple, passion fruit, etc. to be good for me. Perhaps we should be concentrating on vegetables rather than fruit for our ‘five a day’. Carrot smoothie, anyone?

Florence wrote: The sugar in your smoothie is also natural and from the fruit, as opposed to Coca-Cola. This implies that natural sugar is better. I’m not sure about that.

Member
BenJie says:
15 December 2012

I completely agree Wavechange. Fruit and vegetable families differ enormously. I suspect there is very little evidence for public health recommendations on number of portions and the vague advice on ‘variety’. Gram for gram, or indeed per volume unit, berries cannot be equated with cruciferous veg. The old advice to ‘eat your greens’ might be better advice, and a lot less costly. It also concerns me that companies can put ‘counts as 1 of your 5 a day on their product labels. Since the 5 a day message relates to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, I hope that these claims will also have to be approved by EFSA and on the health claims register before they can be used.

Member

Many avoid fruit and vegetables and it is not just children, so encouraging consumption is beneficial for them. Unfortunately it is easy to get carried away with the fruit and consume rather more sugar than is good for you. In addition to smoothies and fruit juice, supermarkets stock a range of prepared fruit, making it very easy to eat a lot of sugar even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of performing surgery on a pineapple or trying to decide when a mango is ripe.

I take your point, BenJie, but the advantage of the current ‘five a day’ advice has the advantage of simplicity. Perhaps three portions of vegetables and two of fruit would be better advice.

Member

The 5 a day message is really only an encouragement to eat a reasonable range of fruit and vegetables regularly.
I am sure there is no scientific evidence for or against having to be 5 every day rather than 10 every 2 days etc. and that 2 portions of say apples on 1 day is worse than 1 portion on 2 consecutive days.

Leaving aside dental health, most fruit contains large amounts of sugar whether bound up if whole fruit or released into fluid if juiced. It will feature in your calorific intake just the same either way and no differently than the equivalent amount of refined sugar added to other foods or drinks.

Member

Absolutely, but the advantage is that ‘five a day’ is simple and most know about the advice even if they don’t follow it.

I have already asked for an explanation of the why natural sugar is better than added sugar. Whether the body is presented with fructose or sucrose it will produce glucose. In fact, whatever we eat will produce glucose. Sucrose is probably worse for the teeth.

Member
hoppingpinkrabbit says:
16 December 2012

Glad you’ve brought up the 5-a-day vs smoothie issue, the sheer volume of people who are so easily duped by the idea that they can swig a sugary often yoghurt added plastic bottle of smoothie and get in enough nutrition to keep themselves cancer free and healthy enough to bypass the take away they’ve decided to eat for lunch…

I think the only thing you’ve not mentioned is that so many smoothies have honey added to them. Just because it’s made by a bee does not mean its automatically better then sugar. Its just the same as sugar when it comes to what your body does with it. The reason so many smoothies are so high in sugar is because they have added sugar and it’s normally derived from honey or concentrated fruit juice.

Member

This surely comes down to eating (and drinking) a balanced diet of largely unprocessed foods. The danger comes when one part of the diet, or a “treat”, is taken in excess.

Member

If trying to cut down the amount of sugar , in whatever form, one consumes, the range of non-sweet non-alcoholic drinks available is dire.
I know that diet versions of many drinks are available but that isnt really the answer.

Member

Hi Wavechange – apologies for the implication about sugar. You are right, there is no difference between how your body reacts to natural sugars as opposed to added. The difference I was trying to put across is that smoothies are still the healthier alternative to Coca-Cola, because of the nutritional value from the fruit.
Hoppingpinkrabbit – some smoothies do have added sugar or honey in them, but these tend to be the yoghurt-based smoothies, which we did not look at in this instance. In this case, all of the sugar from the 52 smoothies we looked at was from fruit, with no added sugar or honey.

Member

Thanks Florence. I’ve lost count how many people have tried to persuade me that natural sugar is better.

Member
Iain McIntyre says:
8 January 2013

Oh dear, am I damaging our children’s teeth and not providing a balanced diet? For a number of years, and to make sure the youngest has fruit, I have been making smoothies in a blender. I put in a couple of bananas, a couple of handfuls of frozen berries, and a quarter of a pineapple to which is added some skimmed milk all of which makes a couple of pints of, as I believed, good nutritious drink. However, having read the article and comments above, I wonder if I am in fact doing the wrong thing and should instead persevere in getting them to eat natural, un-blended fruit? I would be interested in views about home-made smoothies.

Member
Evelyn Papp says:
17 March 2016

I am still confused. I make my own smoothies: 50% raw vegetables i.e.: kale, spinach, carrots, peppers, lettuce, beetroot, any 50% combination. 50% fresh fruit i.e.: raspberries, blueberries, banana, passion fruit, kiwi, strawberries etc. any combination. Plus about 17g of chia seeds and 5-10 almonds. Adding water to the max line and blitzing. Does this mean that instead of believing I am making a healthy slimming type of smoothie I am actually doing the opposite because I am adding fresh fruit?

Member

It’s all a matter of how much you eat or drink. Some fruit does contain a lot of sugar as pointed out by Florence in her introduction. It’s best not to think about a food as slimming. It will only do that if it replaces food that is more fattening.

Member

In ignorance, I would (and do) eat whole fresh fruit rather than going to all the trouble of making a smoothie, or spending money on a manufactured one. Nothing nicer than mango, a ripe pear, a Cox’s or an orange – why mess around with them?
But Coke vs smoothie? No choice – one is a sugar-laden profit centre, the other contains much more than just sugar. Surely natural is better than artificial.

Member
Issy says:
2 November 2017

HOW is fibre lost by making veggies into a smoothie?