Alberta Cancer Foundation

How Smoothies Give You a Nutrition Boost


Do you like to drink your fruits and veggies? Freshly pressed juice and thick and delicious smoothies are on trend right now — you can grab a cup of drinkable fresh fruit and veg at your local mall or gym, and even at most airports these days.

The ease of getting all of the vitamins and phytonutrients that come with fruits and vegetables in an easy-to-grab beverage is irresistibly convenient, and these tasty drinks can also encourage us to consume nutrient-rich veggies that we may not otherwise enjoy.

The difference between a juice and a smoothie is fairly straightforward. Juice is liquid that is squeezed out of the fruit or vegetable; the solid part of the food is left behind. Smoothies, on the other hand, involve pulverizing the entire fruit or vegetable (with the possible exception of the peel or seeds) in a blender. From a nutritional point of view, smoothies are usually a better choice, especially when less sugary vegetables are used in the mix, because they incorporate the food’s nutritionally important fibres, are more filling, and represent more of a whole-food option.

Raina Rusconi the operations manager of The Funky Banana, a Calgary-based smoothie and fresh-food bar, says that many of her customers opt for smoothies because the right combination of fruit, vegetables and add-ins like protein powder or flax seeds can make the less-tasty elements in the mix taste more palatable.

“A lot of people don’t like the taste of kale or spinach and have a difficult time working it into their diet or cooking it,” Rusconi says. “When you blend it up with fruits like bananas or blueberries, you can’t really taste those vegetables, so they become almost like a hidden ingredient.”

For patients undergoing cancer treatment, smoothies are also valuable when solid food becomes hard to manage due to mouth sores, loss of appetite or difficulty chewing. Jennifer Black, a cancer care dietitian with Alberta Health Services, likes to recommend smoothies to her patients to help them sneak in some veggies and fruit that they may not be up for eating in solid form, but also to incorporate additional ingredients like nut butter or yogurt that can provide a source of protein and fat.

“I tell my patients that they can’t just blend fruits and veggies, they have to add a source of calories and protein,” Black says. “They need more calories and protein than your average person to support them through treatment, especially since they tend to take in less food because of all the side effects. I definitely recommend smoothies often to my patients.”

Kale Smoothie Recipe

An easy and convenient way to incorporate key nutrients into your diet.

2 cups fresh or frozen cubed mango
1 cup coarsely chopped kale
1 medium banana, sliced
1 cup apple juice
1 cup plain yogurt

Place all ingredients in a blender;
purée until smooth. Pour into glasses. Serve immediately. Serves 3.
– Recipe courtesy of ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen

More on Smoothies with Jennifer Black

Drinking smoothies can be a nutritionally sound choice for those undergoing cancer treatment, or for anyone else looking to maintain a healthy diet. Alberta Health Services cancer care dietitian Jennifer Black explains how to get the most from liquified fruit and vegetables.

Do you always recommend smoothies over juice?

With juice, you are left with vitamins, minerals and some plant nutrients, but your gut really needs the healthy fibres from the fruits and vegetables because that’s what the good bacteria in your gut feed off of. With juices, you’re really doing yourself a disservice by eliminating those fibres.

Are there some ingredients you recommend over others when making a smoothie?

There is no one better ingredient for smoothies when it comes to choosing what fruit or vegetable to add. It really comes down to what you like. I encourage people to experiment. Avocado is one exception due to its high fat content — use more or less depending on whether you’re watching calories or needing to sneak more in.

What do you recommend people blend in for extra protein and calories?

Any type of nut butter is going to add some flavour and good, healthy fats. A plain Greek-style yogurt or cottage cheese also blends in nicely and reduces sweetness while adding really good protein. If meat is a challenge to incorporate into the diet, protein powder is one of our best sources of protein for patients.

Can people prepare smoothies ahead of time for added convenience?

Yes! You can put together the ingredients for smoothies ahead of time and put them in freezer bags. So, if a patient is trying to conserve their energy, they can just reach into their freezer and get these bags, put them in the blender and add a liquid and then they’re good for a quick snack.