Thumbs up or down on Smoothies?
What do you think of these smoothie additives: spirulina, bee pollen, royal jelly, and ginseng? I've started drinking a lot of them, but don't know much about them.
The use of these superfoods in smoothies is, I'm sorry to say, just an eye-catching promotional device - more marketing than nutrition. "Ginseng madness," I call it. These drinks look great, taste great, and seem very good for you (and they are better for you than diet sodas and caffeinated beverages). But, as with many natural products, there's a lot of hype. Certainly, there's no harm in adding any of these substances to your drink, but their nutritive value is negligible. Let's take a look at each of them.
Spirulina is a form of freshwater algae that has been marketed as a wonder supplement. The original source was Lake Texcoco, a polluted lake outside of Mexico City, but the algae are now cultivated in clean ponds. It's mainly a source of protein, which you probably don't need. But it may also provide trace minerals. The miraculous claims for this product (unlimited energy, effortless weight loss) have not been substantiated by research.
I know of no need for bee pollen in human nutrition. However, I've met a few people who claim to have lost pollen allergies by eating small amounts of bee pollen before the onset of the allergy season. You have to use caution as you can stimulate a violent reaction if you are strongly allergic (an early-warning symptom is itching in the throat). And, the pollen must be from local bees. Royal jelly is a concentrated protein and mineral source. I also know of no need for it in human nutrition.
Ginseng is a powerful herbal remedy. But if you want to experiment with it, I think there are better ways of doing so than taking it as an additive in a smoothie. Panax pseudoginseng, native to northeastern China, is a stimulant and sexual energizer. Be aware that it can raise blood pressure and cause insomnia and the jitters in sensitive individuals. American ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, is greatly valued in the East as a tonic for the elderly. It can improve appetite and digestion, skin and muscle tone, and general vitality. Ginseng extracts can vary wildly in their concentration of the active ingredients, compounds called ginsenosides. Look for an extract standardized for ginsenoside content in health-food stores. Take it for a couple of months and decide whether it improves your general health and energy.
I know these drinks are very popular now - and not inexpensive. Many are also quite high in calories. But, Dave, if your diet is mostly donuts, anything you put in your smoothie would be helpful. Salud!