I love smoothies! I find them to be a great breakfast option, post-workout re-fuel or mid-morning snack! But not all smoothies are created equal - in order for a smoothie to be suitable for a meal or snack, it must meet certain requirements of components it should and shouldn't contain.
Here is the breakdown to follow to build the perfect smoothie!
A blender is an essential kitchen tool to make smoothies. Blenders vary greatly in prices and you will find a difference in the texture of your smoothie depending on the blender you are using. Of course a Vitamix is a fantastic blender, but it doesn't fall into everyone's price range. You can make an excellent smoothie with most blenders - the greatest variation may be the blending time required or how smooth it turns out.
In order to a smoothie to be considered as a meal, it MUST contain protein. If it doesn't you will be missing out on important health building blocks - amino acids, your blood sugar will rise higher more quickly, causing increased insulin production which will then lead to inflammation and a raise in cortisol, which we want to avoid! Adding protein is actually quite easy, you can choose a protein powder or nut butters and seeds.
When choosing a protein powder, AVOID the following ingredients:
Note: Stevia and Xylitol are ok!
Avoid dairy based (whey) protein powder if you have an intolerance. You can choose a vegan protein (pea), animal based protein (collagen or beef peptide).
Some of my favourite protein powders include:
Pure Paleo by Designs for Health
Collagen Powder by Vital Protein
Genuine Health Vegan Fermented Protein
There are many to choose from on the market. If you're new to protein powders, try small packets before committing to a large container, just to make sure you like the flavour and texture.
A note on Whey Protein and Whey Protein Isolate: Whey protein is extracted from dairy and although this is a great source of protein, it can be inflammatory and disruptive of metabolism and hormone balance for many people. If you choose to use this source of protein, choose the cleanest source possible - use a whey protein isolate and organic when possible.
Another option is adding nut butter and/or seeds to your smoothie. Add a few tablespoons of almond butter, if tolerated, or 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts. These add both protein and healthy fats, which are also a great addition to your smoothie.
For flavour, antioxidants, nutrients and fibre, add 1/2 cup of berries to your smoothie. Choose between or a combination of fresh or frozen:
Other fruit are also great to use, but berries are the most nutrient dense and lowest sugar content for the flavour they provide, compared with tropical fruit such as mango, papaya, oranges, etc.
A note on bananas: A popular smoothie thickening agent and a great source of potassium and sweetness. Zucchini or frozen cauliflower are great alternatives as they thicken your smoothie without the sugar, and are easily disguised!
A note on dates: Dates are a popular way to add sweetness to a smoothie. Dates are a great source of nutrients, but remember that they are high in sugar!
Yes, add vegetables to your smoothie! Depending on the smoothie you're making, leafy greens are a great option. They can be used fresh, but frozen greens tend to blend better.
Add 1 cup of:
Spinach (mildest flavour)
Kale (if you have hypothyroidism, lightly steam and the freeze your kale in order to eliminate goitrogens - substances that disrupt the production of thyroid hormones).
Zucchini or cauliflower (as mentioned about)
The best liquids to use for your smoothie are water, unsweetened nut milks and coconut water. For added health benefits, you can use cold chaga or nettle tea. Start with 1 cup of liquid and blend. Add more liquid as needed to reach your preferred smoothie consistency.
Adding a healthy source of fat to your smoothie is essential for creating a hormone balancing (especially insulin) and filling smoothie. Some of my favourite options are:
1 Tbsp almond Butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp flax oil
1/4 avocado (this is also a good source of fibre)
Never add sugar (natural or artificial sweeteners) to your smoothie, including fruit juice, sweetened nut milk or sweetened protein powders. The added sugar will negate the health benefits of your smoothie by causing a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Warming spices: The liquid nutrition from a smoothie can facilitate the digesting process for some foods, especially leafy greens, but eating too many cold and/or raw foods is hard on the digestive system and can cause cramping and indigestion. In order to balance the coolness of a smoothie, add one of the following warming spices:
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (anti-inflammatory and gentle liver detox)
1/2 tsp dried ginger or 1/2" piece of fresh, peeled ginger root (anti-inflammatory)
1 tsp cinnamon (helps improve insulin sensitivity)
Omega 3 rich seeds: Flax and chia seeds are great smoothie boosters to add anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and fibre. These will also thicken up your smoothie, so don't let it sit around too long before drinking it! Try adding a few teaspoons of these little seeds to your smoothie!
Maca: A root that is grown in the Andean region, especially Peru and is used as an adaptogenic herb. This root is traditionally used to increase energy and stamina, libido, mental clarity and to help balance hormones, including estrogen and progesterone in post-menopausal women. Use 1 Tbsp maca root powder.
Others: You can also boost your smoothie nutrition by adding greens powders, Spirulina, powdered supplements you are taking including L-glutamine and inositol, ashwaganda, reishi, lion’s mane, etc.
Note: Remember that your smoothie is full of protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Serve and enjoy it fresh to get the maximum benefit from all these amazing ingredients. Remember to savour it slowly to allow your digestive system to absorb it all effectively (you'll be skipping the chewing part of eating, so your body needs time to catch up on enzyme and stomach acid production!)