Samui Wining & Dining
Smooth Operator

Smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices. Are these just a passing fad, or do they offer real health benefits?


4Their claim to fame is ‘healthy fast food’. Smoothies are popular as they only take a few minutes to prepare and make a quick and tasty breakfast or snack. This meal-in-a-drink is also customisable, with only your imagination limiting the flavour combinations. And, like fresh juices, smoothies are a great way to get more raw food into your diet.

      So what is the difference between a smoothie and a juice? Well, let’s clear that up right away. A fresh juice is made in a juicer using fruit and vegetables. Juices are high in enzymes and nutrients, but don’t contain any insoluble fibre, as the juicer spits out the pulp. Juices are simple for the body to digest, and obviously, if you can get organic fruit and vegetables, even better.

      Smoothies are different – they’re made in a blender, not a juicer, so they contain fibre. Smoothies include fresh fruit and also veggies, such as carrots and leafy greens, but you can add plenty of other ingredients too. Some of these additions are healthy, and some not so much. For instance, if you make a smoothie with frozen yoghurt, store-bought juice, and a bit of fruit, you’ve inadvertently incorporated added sugars and possibly additives and preservatives too, creating a smoothie that is super high in sugar with few nutrients.

      On Samui, you’ll find fruit shake and smoothie stands all over the island – a perfect way to cool down in the tropical heat. The shakes are made to order, but, if you’re watching your sugar intake, ask them to leave out the sugar syrup that is automatically added.

       So let’s focus on how to make a truly healthy smoothie. If you’re planning on making your own, the first step is buying the best blender you can afford. You’ll find industrial (pro) or economical ones available. The pro ones are powerful and can blend just about anything – even golf balls – not that we recommend them, as they’re a little bland! The cheaper models will unfortunately limit you to using softer fruits and vegetables in your combinations. A high-speed blender allows you to incorporate healthy frozen fruits and ice, and lets you blend them with ease, creating a creamy-textured smoothie. A high-speed blender is also good if you’re adding greens, because it breaks them down and blends them into the mix completely – nobody wants chunks of spinach stuck in their teeth after drinking a smoothie…

       You can have single fruit, mixed fruit or even fruit-and-veggie combinations in a healthy smoothie, and to make it as cold as possible, blend in a few ice cubes at the end. If you’re making a smoothie for one to two people, you will need anywhere from one to two cups of fruit – fresh or frozen. There aren’t any limitations but remember that blending anything without removing the pips will create a grainy texture, such as with passion fruit. Frozen fruit is very convenient as you can keep a variety in the freezer and take out handfuls as required – it also makes a creamier smoothie than fresh fruit, and you can even freeze whole peeled bananas.

      Once you’ve decided on your fruits, you might want to consider adding some greens – although this isn’t to everyone’s taste. Perhaps start by adding carrot to your pineapple or orange smoothie and ‘condition’ yourself into adding greens. Leafy greens are low in carbohydrates, but are very high in vitamins and minerals, balancing out what can be a lot of natural sugar if you’re making a fruit-only smoothie. Choose mild greens that won’t affect the flavour of your smoothie, such as a small head of baby bok choy, or a few handfuls of baby spinach.

      Something else to consider is the addition of protein to your smoothie. The most appealing way to do this is by using natural yoghurt. Or perhaps try adding peanut butter to your banana smoothie for a great taste and extra vegetable protein. Hardened smoothie-drinkers sometimes add raw egg yolk or protein powders, but again, this isn’t to everyone’s liking.

      Luckily, on Samui we have an unlimited supply of coconut water and coconut milk, both of which are known for their health benefits and make a great liquid base for a smoothie. Fresh herbs such as mint or basil go well with fruit too, and for added fibre, raw oats can be blended in. If you have a sweet tooth and must add sweetener, opt for honey rather than sugar. Juice or smoothie? Which should you go for? Well, both have their benefits so why not try to incorporate both into your diet. Here’s a rundown on the benefits of each.

         Juices provide quick nutrition as the nutrients in freshly-pressed juice enter your bloodstream almost immediately after consumption, as there’s no fibre for your digestive system to deal with. Because of this, they’re also easier to digest so juices are better for those needing to cleanse or heal. Also, because of the quick absorption, juices offer an instant energy boost. You won’t feel bloated after a glass of juice; it’s light, and you won’t ruin your appetite. There’s less oxidation involved in juicing. With blending, air is whipped into the drink, exposing it to a greater level of oxidation, which can destroy some nutrients. You are however more limited with juicing as some fruit and vegetable are simply too hard to juice.

         The benefits of smoothies include the addition of fibre, as blending retains the fibre rather that ejecting it. Smoothies can be a complete meal by adding proteins and fats such as coconut milk, yoghurt or peanut butter, and satisfy your appetite for two to three hours. There’s no wastage when making a smoothie and you don’t need to feel guilty about tossing the pulp as with juicing.

         So are there any negative points to juices and smoothies? Well, yes actually. As with everything, moderation is key. Smoothies often contain ‘hidden’ sugar and calories in the form of sugar syrups, sweetened yoghurt, ice-cream, and even peanut butter – which although healthy, is high in calories. Even without added sugars, smoothies and juices can be high in sugar from the natural fructose found in fruit. Again, this is only a bad thing if you’re watching your sugar intake for either weight management or if you’re diabetic. Some dentists say that too many smoothies can be bad for your teeth due to the high concentration of fruit acids and sugar – but brushing your teeth after drinking a smoothie can help counteract this problem.

         If you’re new to the smoothie scene, Samui is a great place to start. Either try out the numerous fruit-shake stands – you’ll soon find your favourite ‘shake lady’ – or visit the local markets and stock up on a selection of tropical fruit, and start experimenting with delicious flavour combinations.


Rosanne Turner


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