Healthy Eating. McDonalds McCafe Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothies

I don’t know if you’ve seen the commercials for the new McDonald’s McCafe Smoothies? There’s one where a runner puts down two pieces of fruit on a park bench, a mango and pineapple, bends down to tie his shoe, goes back to grab the fruit and presto, chango – there’s now a mango pineapple smoothie. The implied message is clear, McDonald’s new smoothie is just like eating real fruit…

Smoothie undressed

Once you get past the slick marketing of the ad and take a closer look, things, as the saying goes, are not always as they appear to be. The small Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie [the others version are essentially the same] has 210 calories with 52 g of carbohydrate, 47 g of sugar, 3 g fiber and a whopping 4% of the daily value of vitamin C [i.e. why bother? that much vitamin C is negligible].

47 g of sugar = 11.75 teaspoons of sugar, the same as a can of pop. It’s true that some of that sugar comes from the fruit puree that’s listed in the ingredient list, but how much of it is really from the fruit? You know you know the answer. This is essentially a nicely coloured sweetened beverage. If McDonald’s wants us to believe this is on par with real fruit, how does real fruit compare?

Blueberries vs the smoothie

Consider that 2.5 cups of fresh blueberries only has 85 calorie and 22 g of carbohydrate, of which, 15 g, or 2.5 teaspoons, are naturally occurring sugar. Sugar from fruit is ultimately the same as refined sugar from a physiological/biochemistry point of view but the reality is, it’s nearly impossible to get too much sugar from whole fruit since whole fruit is what we referred to as ‘self-limiting’. Because whole fruit is bulky, full of water and fiber, and takes time to chew, you’ll get too full to over consume sugar and calories – you’d have to eat about 8 cups of fresh blueberries to get the same amount of sugar from one of these new fancy smoothies.

Not only that, the real berries would fill you up more so than the highly processed smoothie version and provide infinitely more antioxidants.

What to do

Intake of refined sugar is at an all time high, it is literally added to everything. This is a problem for everyone, not just those with diabetes. Refined sugar is associated with an increased risk for developing diabetes, weight gain, heart disease and there’s robust evidence that higher intakes can aggravate our already low intake of magnesium and chromium; the two key minerals that are needed for carbohydrate metabolism and insulin utilization.

Eating lots of sugar while not getting enough magnesium and chromium is like adding gasoline to a fire. It’s a perfect recipe for metabolic syndrome.

Ultimately is a personal choice, but as usual, the key is to be able to make informed choices, to know what it is you’re reaching for. I suspect most would not fully appreciate that these new fruit smoothies are essentially sugar sweetened beverages that just happen to be in pretty, eye catching packages; the image of the Blueberry Pomegranate sure looks pretty don’t it?