Would you shell out $200 for a daily smoothie you had to blend at home?
Probably not. What about a $10 equivalent that comes in a bottle?
If the answer is “yes,” or even “mayyyybe,” please read on.
Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow recently shared the recipe for her daily breakfast smoothie on her blog Goop.com. And Daily News writer Micaela Hood called out its hefty pricetag: about $200 per glass.
At first, the GP smoothie sounds fairly typical as far as smoothies go — almond milk, almond butter, a pinch of optional vanilla powder — but then you get to the hard-to-pronounce ingredients, which include things like ashwagandha, cordyceps, and mushroom powder.
Before we get to those odd additions to her morning beverage, let’s nip a blossoming but nasty health rumour in the bud.
First things first: Swapping out a regular meal for a liquid blend does not necessarily make it healthier.
Here’s what you might be thinking: OK, so Gwyneth’s smoothie is bogus and overpriced; no surprise there. But smoothies and juices overall are super-healthy, right?
After all, they pack the vitamins and nutrients in whole fruits and veggies without the added inconvenience of (loudly) chewing your way through them.
While the gist of this is true — liquid fruits and veggies will still contain the vitamins and nutrients as the whole versions — blending them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting more of the good stuff and eliminating the bad stuff.
On the contrary, juicing up a fleshy orange or starchy carrot merely removes most of its fibre, the key ingredient that helps keep us feeling full and also aids in digestion. Meanwhile, it leaves us with the full sugar content of the original food — this is why a glass of orange juice can pack nearly the same sugar content as a glass of Coke.
But what about all those mysterious, fancy-sounding ingredients in Gwyneth’s breakfast blend?
Turns out they have zero proven health benefits. In fact, most of the research on them has been done in mice. And mice, as we know, are not people.
The ones Paltrow says she adds are mostly powders called Moon Dust — yes, Moon Dust — or tonics, and they’re made by a company called Moon Juice. The blends are available in over a dozen varieties and claim to help improve everything from sex to sleep.
As Domingo J. Pinero, the Director of Undergraduate Studies at New York University’s School of Nutrition and Food Studies and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Nutrition, put it recently to Business Insider:
“From the perspective of nutrition, there’s nothing special there. Almond butter is what it is. Vanilla mushroom powder … the ingredients are ‘activated brown rice protein’ with a mix of mushroom, so even the name is misleading. And coconut oil. Those are the only things with nutritional value; the rest are dietary supplements that you can buy in Chinatown for a fraction of the cost (and probably with adequate instructions for use). I’m not impressed.”
With that in mind, we took a look at some of the most popular ones Paltrow includes in her daily smoothie. Here’s the low-down on each:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Allegedly helpful for soothing anxiety, improving sleep, and boosting virility. According to the research though, there’s just not enough evidence — aside from some promising studies in animals — to say it does any of that yet.
- Ho Shou Wu (Fo-Ti root): Allegedly helps boost “youthfulness,” reproductive function, and sex drive. But experts say there’s not enough evidence to verify any of these claims.
- Cordyceps (a special type of mushroom that attaches itself to a caterpillar and uses its carcass as food): Allegedly boosts strength and energy. Evidence of this, though, is limited. A study from Brigham Young University researchers of endurance-trained cyclists found that cordyceps did not increase aerobic capacity or physical performance, while other studies have suggested potential benefits in mice, but not people.
- Vanilla mushroom (brown rice protein + some of the other ingredients above): Allegedly boosts the immune system, builds muscle, supports the liver, nourishes the heart and spirit, relieves stress and imparts “feelings of centeredness.” The brown rice protein should help build muscle — protein is key for muscle maintenance and growth — but the other ingredients are likely unecessary.
So there you have it. You don’t need a $200 smoothie to get healthier. Or a $10 one, for that matter.
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