My exchange with Rio, promising this article…
A while ago, I received a Facebook message from Rio…
He was concerned.
Here’s what he wrote:
Wishing that all is well and beautiful in your days!
Because I value your opinion so highly, based on the personal research that you have done… I would like to ask your for your personal opinion and thoughts on this article. It does’t seem to be the entire truth. I do agree with parts of it, but certainly not all. If and when you have time, can you take a moment to offer your thoughts on this please ?
“much gratitude for all you do!
He had just read on someone’s blog that they had stopped eating green smoothies because Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn stays it’s a bad idea. Rio also linked to an article written by the woman who decided to give them up that has actually since been removed, so I can’t share it with you.
Anyway, even though it’s not there anymore, the gist of it was simple.
The blogger read something somewhere on the Internet that was written by Dr. Esselstyn about the negative effects of eating green smoothies and took it bait, line and sinker. Then she posted her decision publicly.
It created quite a stir.
In this post, I’m going to breakdown all aspects of this green smoothie, Internet fever, and the Dr. Essy debate.
First up, let’s not take anything away from Dr. Esselstyn.
This guy, if you don’t know who he is, has revolutionized the way people at the Cleveland Clinic look at heart disease. He’s the type of guy that we love at Renegade Health.
He’s helped hundreds of thousands of people get better when everyone else was telling them that it wasn’t possible.
He also recently (and publicly) helped Bill Clinton lose a ton of weight and look better than he ever did — just by changing his diet.
So, again, I don’t want to take anything away from Caldwell Esselstyn by any means…
I just want to redirect his thought process a little.
So let’s not waste any time, are smoothies not really healthy?
First, let’s look at Dr. Esselstyn’s argument…
“Avoid smoothies. The fiber is so finely pureed that its helpful properties are destroyed. The sugar is stripped from the fruit, bypasses salivary digestion and results in a surge of glucose and the accompanying fructose contributes to inflammation and hypertension.”
So here it begins, with a statement that applies to all people, in all cases.
Fire alarm number 1. (Yes, pun intended, for those who’ve red his son’s book, The Engine 2 Diet.)
Nothing applies to everyone — with the exception of birth, death and breathing. (The rest can be debated.)
Dr. Esselstyn comes in with a hard line that basically classifies all humans as one very simple machine that functions similarly in all cases — like a Ford Mustang or a Ferris Wheel.
Unfortunately, while I wish it were true, it is not.
We’ve all come into finding better health with certain circumstances that may require different plans than the factory specific guidelines.
So for instance, if your digestion is poor or you have gut inflammation, then you may not absorb your food and nutrients appropriately. In this case, it might be beneficial to have a smoothie — which is finely “pre-masticated.”
Secondly, someone in this case may get even more benefit from drinking a smoothie with fresh aloe that can soothe their gut. So in this case, the smoothie goes from villain to hero quite quickly.
But I’m not going to dwell on the “everyone is different” clause so deeply here. There are other things to address, like “what about the people who get great results by drinking smoothies?”
Clearly all people who drink green smoothies have inflammation and hypertension, don’t they?
I’d like to cite Victoria Boutenko’s work with green smoothies.
In her book Green for Life, she — with a doctor — fed about 40 patients green smoothies every day. This was the only change that was made in their diet. They were allowed to eat whatever else they wanted the rest of the day.
All patients were medically examined before and after.
Besides weight loss, better sex drive and lower cholesterol, they all had lessened inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Apparently, the fructose in their smoothies wasn’t enough to cause them to have the negative health benefits Dr. Esselstyn mentions.
Now, it’s true that fructose alone (and lots of it) can contribute to fatty liver and metabolic disease — see: high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar — but when you have a smoothie, you do retain the fiber and accompanying nutrients. (More on the fiber issue later…)
Even Dr. Robert Lustig, the fructose avenger himself, says low to possibly moderate fruit sugar is ok.
It’s also true that Victoria’s study isn’t a double blind clinical trial either — so tread at your own risk — but all in all I think it’s worth paying attention to.
If smoothies were so incredibly unhealthy, we’d be seeing the evidence.
We’ve taken thousands of people through the Weekend Cleanse program and inflammation is not a side-effect. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They almost always lose weight, their blood pressure drops, their blood sugar levels drop and — with all this — their inflammation levels drop as well. The biggest complaint we have from participants is that they’re bowels are more regular and it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else!
On an even more personal note, my blood pressure is perfectly normal, my inflammation markers perfect and my liver enzymes and markers are stellar. I’ve been drinking green smoothies almost every morning for 6-7 years.
I’m also young, but it’s still a little more evidence to show that the doc is a little off base.
So now we’re left with a few more questions…
Does fiber actually get destroyed?
Doesn’t fruit sugar bypass salivary digestion anyway?
Can smoothies elevate blood sugar?
I’m going to start with the fiber issue.
I think a lot of people give blenders more credit than they should.
Yes, high speed blenders like the Vitamix and the BlendTec make really smooth smoothies, but they don’t chemically alter the molecular structure of fiber — or at least enough of it to make it suddenly ineffective or destroy it’s helpful properties.
At a very non-molecular level this is untrue. Just ask anyone who drinks green smoothies regularly if they have a lack of fiber issue — or if they are having a problem with their regular BMs. I’m sure they’ll gladly engage and tell you that they are quite regular and haven’t had any negative side effects from unhelpful fiber.
Now, Dr. Esselstyn is correct about the blender separating nutrients from the fiber and making them more readily absorbable.
But this isn’t always a negative thing — as referenced before for someone who needs more nutrition — which actually may be all of us. (Our food has less mineral content than ever before, so couldn’t it benefit to mechanically separate the minerals from the fiber?)
Moving on to the second question, fruit sugar has different rules than complex carbohydrates, so I think Dr. Esselstyn is actually incorrect in his statement about the sugar bypassing the salivary digestion process.
The saliva does little — if nothing — in the fruit sugar digestive process (or at least this is my understanding.)
So I’m wondering how Dr. Esselstyn is coming to this conclusion.
Enzymes in the saliva work to break down complex carbs, not sugars that are already in their simplest form.
If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me here, but I’m pretty sure that fruit sugar and saliva have no interest in each other.
So, if I’m not completely incorrect, this part of his argument is somewhat false.
Now, the third question…
Will drinking a smoothie elevate blood sugar?
In this case, Dr. Esselstyn is 100% correct.
Drinking smoothies will elevate blood sugar — and for some people this is not a good thing — particularly diabetics and pre-diabetics who aren’t able to keep their serum glucose levels in check.
But for those who are healthy — and don’t eat a lot of fat in their smoothies — their blood sugar will drop quite quickly after eating their smoothies. (Fat will slow the effectiveness of insulin in the blood stream and cause blood sugar levels to stay higher for a longer period of time.)
So, again, not a black or white issue, just somewhere in between.
I think it’s safe to say, Dr. Esselstyn — on this issue — is…
… a purist who’s oversimplifying the complexity of modern human nutrition.
I say “modern” human nutrition, because we’ve never before had as many health changing factors as we have around us now — excess stress, chlorinated water, medications, EMFs, toxic chemicals, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with being a purist and only wanting to eat whole foods, but in many cases, there are certain hacks that can bring you better results even if they’re not as natural as you’d like them to be. See: B12 shots, Vitamin D3 drops and countless others.
Maybe smoothies and juices are just another shortcut to getting the results we really want. (Yes, he recommends not drinking juices either.)
So what’s the final verdict?
As you know, my mission is to help you find what works best for you… not for me, Dr. Esselstyn or anyone else.
So the best way to prove if someone is right or wrong is to show them your own medical history through your blood tests — and I’m sure the doc would agree with me.
If you’re drinking smoothies and your blood tests look great, keep doing it. If they’re not looking so hot, you may want to consider switching it up — whether it’s the smoothies or something else.
This is almost always the best way to cut through any confusion and actually find the long lasting health you’re searching for.
Otherwise, you’ll end up reading (or writing) a blog post, panicking, making a rash decision and then taking away a factor that was actually contributing to your health in a positive way.
Wouldn’t that be a shame…
Beware of the green smoothie, my friends.
Known health risks: Mineral saturation, phytonutrient overwhelm and taste bud explosion.
Stay tuned, the rest of the week I’ll address how blending destroys 90% of all nutrients, how salad can kill you, and the negative health effects of taking a walk in the park on a beautiful day.
Your question of the day: Smoothies… good, bad, indifferent?