What are Smoothies?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Smoothies, also known as smoothees, are blended frozen drinks made from various combinations of fruits, fruit juices, yogurt, supplemental powders and ice. They are often sold in health food stores and fitness centers as healthier alternatives to fat-filled milkshakes or sugary soft drinks, or as meal replacements when nutritional powders are added. Traditional ones sold in the United States are relatively free of dairy products, relying on fruits such as bananas to provide thickness and sweetness. Smoothies produced in other countries often contain yogurt as a thickener and honey as a natural sweetener.

Smoothies are created using a variety of fruits, juices, and ice.
Smoothies are created using a variety of fruits, juices, and ice.

There is some controversy over the origin of smoothies. A blended drink called an Orange JuliusĀ® first appeared in the 1920s, but it did not have all of the characteristics of a frozen fruit smoothie. The introduction of the Waring blender in 1939 created a consumer fascination with all things blendable, including recipes for fruit and vegetable drinks called smoothees. These were popular homemade alternatives to baby formulas and commercial fruit juices.

Smoothie blenders mix ice, fruits, and juices together to make a smoothie.
Smoothie blenders mix ice, fruits, and juices together to make a smoothie.

Modern commercial smoothies are said to have originated with a drugstore employee in California who wanted to create a healthy and delicious milkshake alternative for those who could not tolerate lactose or other dairy by-products. This former soda jerk developed a wide range of drinks, eventually creating a chain of specialty stores known as Smoothie KingĀ®. The popularity of the franchises prompted others to invest in the specialized blending equipment and produce blended drinks of their own invention.

A strawberry smoothie.
A strawberry smoothie.

Today, smoothies can be found in a number of outlets, including malls, health food stores, specialty ice cream shops and gymnasiums. Recipes run the gamut from berry blends to chocolate and frozen yogurt blends. Supplemental powders can also be added to enhance certain health qualities of the drinks, including weight loss, protein boosts and multivitamin supplements. Many consumers drink nutritious smoothies as either a meal replacement or a pick-me-up following a workout. They are also popular alternatives to elaborate coffee-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.

Bananas, which can be used to make smoothies.
Bananas, which can be used to make smoothies.
Many smoothies contain honey as a natural sweetener.
Many smoothies contain honey as a natural sweetener.
Wheatgrass juice is often added to smoothies for a nutritional boost.
Wheatgrass juice is often added to smoothies for a nutritional boost.
Spinach can be used to make healthy, green smoothies.
Spinach can be used to make healthy, green smoothies.
Cocoa powder gives a chocolate taste to smoothies.
Cocoa powder gives a chocolate taste to smoothies.
Yogurt can be used in smoothies.
Yogurt can be used in smoothies.
Protein powder can boost the nutritional value of a smoothie.
Protein powder can boost the nutritional value of a smoothie.
Some green smoothies feature avocado, kale, or other nutrient-rich green vegetables.
Some green smoothies feature avocado, kale, or other nutrient-rich green vegetables.
Most shopping malls have a food court that sells smoothies and other quick meals.
Most shopping malls have a food court that sells smoothies and other quick meals.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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