Smoothies – The Good, The Bad, and The Green

Whether or not you partake, you’ve probably heard about smoothies and how healthy they are as a breakfast option. Many of you already rely on smoothies or  or shakes for a quick breakfast or mid-morning snack. In general, smoothies are great for a couple reasons:

1. Liquid food is easier on the digestive system, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. This also frees up some energy for other important functions – mental alertness, physical activity, and detoxification.

2. They’re quick – if you’re rushed in the morning, a smoothie is a great option. It provides a megadose of nutrition, without a lengthy or complicated preparation.

3. You can create a nutritionally complete meal – protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber – all in one glass. To get all that nutrition out of solid food, you’d have to eat much more than is realistic or desirable.

That brings me to the biggest challenge most of you seem to have with smoothies: variety. In my experience as a health coach, I’ve seen a lot of morning shakes, many of which look something like this:

  • Banana
  • Peanut butter
  • Blueberries or strawberries
  • Milk or yogurt
  • Protein powder or other supplement

There’s nothing wrong with this type of shake, per se. But it could do so much more for you. You can cram so much nutrition into a smoothie, why waste the opportunity? Once you understand the basic components of a tasty, healthy smoothie, you can create any combination that appeals to you. Here are a few basic tips:

  • A handful of mixed baby greens or spinach will blend right in to any smoothie, and you won’t even taste them. This is a great place to start – just add some greens to your existing smoothie.
  • Bananas are a go-to ingredient for creaminess and sweetness. BUT (there’s always a but) – they’re high in sugar compared to other fruits, and can also contribute to excess mucus in the body. If you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, cut your banana in half, or see the next tip.
  • Avocados are a great substitute for bananas. Add about 1/4 an avocado (less if you’ve got a big one) to a single-serving smoothie. You can make up for the missing sweetness by adding a little raw honey, agave nectar, or other natural sweetener. Note: too much avocado = gelatinous smoothie. A little goes a long way.
  • Frozen berries and other fruits are a kitchen staple. Produce is frozen at peak freshness, so you can have berries in the middle of winter. Frozen fruit also eliminates the need to add ice to the smoothie.
  • Dairy alternatives: Plain, whole milk yogurt is fine to add to a smoothie, but for many people this can create digestive problems. Any unsweetened nut milk will work (almond tastes the best), or regular milk if you can tolerate it. Try to avoid soy if you can.
  • You can add nuts, dates or whole oats to a smoothie to create different textures and flavors. It’s best to soak these ingredients to aid digestion and promote better blending. Soak dates or oats for at least 30 minutes prior, and nuts at least two hours.
  • You don’t need to supplement protein. If your smoothie contains yogurt, nut butter, flaxseeds or whole nuts, you have plenty of protein and fat. It’s better to get your nutrients from real food whenever possible.
  • Let your smoothie blend for about two minutes – this guarantees a smooth texture.

Now that you have some ideas, get creative! Mix up healthy versions of your favorite drinks – piña colada, mint chocolate chip, oatmeal cookie….the possibilities are truly endless.

Have a great smoothie recipe you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Sam

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