Diets and health are complicated.
One day experts tell you that fat-free is the way to go, and the next day you’re told that you can eat all the fat you like, but it’s actually grains that are to blame for your symptomatic woes.
Thankfully there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on in the midst of this kerfuffle, and that’s that fruit and vegetables are healthy.
While I’m glad that there is at least some consensus in the health-care community, this article is intended to show you that nothing is healthy for everyone all the time, and that no blanket statement about nutrition is specific enough. This is why salads and smoothies aren’t always as healthy as you might think they are.
The fact is, every individual has different dietary needs, and your needs change as the state of your body changes.
The old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies to food, too.
For example, while one person needs to eat a lot of meat for their vitality, another individual doesn’t do well with lots of protein. Someone’s body may extract a lot of nutrients from an eggplant, but it might cause headaches in their friend…you get the idea.
Conventional “wisdom” says that salads and smoothies are the golden standard for nutritional excellence, but the sad truth is, salads and smoothies aren’t always as healthy as you think.
Some people present with certain signs and symptoms that make salads and smoothies a very healthy choice for them, but for many people salads and smoothies can actually be a detriment to their overall health.
I know, I just threw another curveball into the already confusing nutritional landscape, but hear me out.
Your understanding of food is about to shift to a whole new dimension.
This article will teach you how to read your body’s signs and symptoms. When you understand what your body is telling you, you will know whether or not indulging in a salad or smoothie is a good idea.
I’ll also explain the surprising ways your metabolism reacts to salads and smoothies.
Finally, I’ll show you how you can expand your understanding of healthy food as a whole, so you can be more creative with your meals without getting bored.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
The Problem with Cold Food
Cold foods are generally frowned upon in Chinese medicine, and salads and smoothies undoubtedly fall into this category.
When you eat cold foods, your body has to work extra hard to warm it up so it can be digested. Over time, this extra work can weaken your digestive system’s ability to transform and transport nutrients, which can lead to a nutrient deficit throughout your body.
But salads and smoothies are extra problematic from a Chinese medicine perspective. Chinese medicine evaluates the temperature of food not just in terms of the temperature you feel in your hands, but also by the food’s impact on your body.
Unfortunately, the ingredients in salads and smoothies (such as lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, other fruits and berries, etc.) are cooling in nature. This means that the effect they have on your body’s physiology is to slow down and congeal your internal processes, eventually rendering your metabolism sub par.
Sometimes this cooling process is exactly what your body needs, but most of the time it’s not.
When to Avoid Salads and Smoothies
Generally speaking you should avoid salads and smoothies in all but the hottest weather.
If you can’t wait until it’s 95°F outside, it’s still a good idea to at least limit your consumption, especially if you’re experiencing signs and symptoms that indicate cold in your system.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Fatigue after eating
- Loose stools
- Feeling of generalized cold
- Foggy headedness
- A dull headache that wraps around your head
- The sensation of heavy limbs
- Reading, studying, or thinking too much
- Worry or obsessive thoughts
- Lack of appetite or irregular appetite
- Dull or aching pain that comes and goes
- Pale, puffy, scalloped tongue
If you experience any of these, you will be better off avoiding salads and smoothies for a while.
Smoothies, Sugar, and Metabolism
Smoothies are made from lots of blended fruit, so they must be healthy, right?
While fruit is generally a healthier choice than chocolate cake, the truth is that fruits still contain a good deal of fructose, which is a form of sugar. In fact, one smoothie can contain as much sugar as a large coke, or a candy bar.
And that’s talking about a smoothie made entirely of fruits and nuts.
All too often smoothies are made with non-natural ingredients, such as ice-cream, sherbert, chocolate syrup, added sugar, artificial protein powders (which have relatively low nutritional density compared to real food), etc.
I’ll assume that you’re not adding any junk to your smoothies and instead only use fruits, vegetables, nuts, and superfoods as ingredients. Even so, smoothies still aren’t the healthiest option, and here’s why:
First off, all that sugar you’re consuming in that short amount of time leads to a sugar-high followed by an inevitable energy crash. This isn’t just uncomfortable, but adds extra stress to your system which always strives toward balance and homeostasis.
Secondly, studies have shown that when you consume foods in liquid form you feel less full. This means that you’ll end up eating more calories when you have a smoothie than you would have if you had just eaten the smoothie ingredients unblended.
So are smoothies totally unhealthy? No. They still contain a lot more nutrients than regular junk food, but you might want to enjoy them as a special treat rather than a stable part of your diet.
So Aside from Being Cold, What’s the Big Deal About Salads?
Just like smoothies, salads can be a more nutrient-dense option than some alternatives, but they’re still not necessarily the best choice.
First off, most store-bought salad dressings contain a good deal of sugar and/or cheese, automatically turning your healthy vegetables into candy-covered crunch.
If you’re going to eat salad, make your own dressing with good olive oil and vinegar. For extra flavor you can experiment with chopped herbs, garlic, mustard, egg yolk, and different oils and vinegars. It’s a lot easier than you think!
Secondly, many salads aren’t actually as nutrient dense as you might think. Iceberg lettuce, for example, contains significantly less nutrients than its dark-leafy counterparts.
Third, just like smoothies, salads leave you feeling less satisfied. Eating salad as a snack or an addition to a heartier dish isn’t so bad, but salads shouldn’t replace more balanced meals.
When the weather is less-than-hot, and when you’re experiencing cold signs and symptoms, its better to avoid salads and smoothies.
But you don’t need to distress, because they’re far from the only option. Whole, cooked ingredients are almost always a better choice.
Break away from cold food by experimenting with different easy ways to cook vegetables.
My family enjoys sautéed or steamed dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and collards almost daily. They take only 10 minutes to cook, and they taste delicious with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper sprinkled in.
Baked root vegetables with rosemary and thyme are another good option. Sweet potatoes are a really good idea, especially if you’ve got some of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. Mashed cauliflower with fennel is also great, as are spinach and sundried tomato-stuffed mushrooms, or garlic buttered baby broccoli… The possibilities are endless!
Although fruits are part of the now infamous food-pyramid, the truth is, you don’t need them to be healthy. If your meals consist of mostly vegetables, there’s a good chance you are getting all the nutrients you need.
But if you do want to eat fruit, and you don’t have any of the signs and symptoms listed above, consider eating whole fruit instead of blended. You’ll feel more satisfied, and you’ll benefit from the extra fiber too.
I hope this article inspired you to consider what’s going on in your own body before blindly reaching for foods you just assume are good for you.
To learn more about adjusting your diet to help heal your symptoms, read this.
What are your experiences with salads and smoothies?
Have you noticed times when your body reacts worse to them than other times?
Leave a comment and join the conversation below!