Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Make Delicious, Nutrient-Dense Smoothies


Having a smoothie for breakfast can be one of the healthiest habits you develop, if it consists of the right ingredients.  Most mornings my breakfast consists of about 2 pint glasses worth of blended vegetables, fruit, seeds, herbs, grass-fed whey protein and various superfoods.  It only takes 3 to 5 minutes to make, assuming all of the ingredients are handy.  Though it is a liquid, it fills me up for 4 or 5 hours until lunch.  Most importantly, I know that I will always have at least one meal every day that is loaded with lots of superfoods known to support sustained energy levels, a strong immune system, vibrant looking, clear skin and general vitality.  Plus, many of these ingredients have potent anti-inflammatory effects and are known to decrease your chances of getting cancer and other major illnesses.

This article offers guidelines and specific foods I recommend using, not a specific recipe.  Make sure your kitchen is well stocked with the necessary fresh ingredients once a week, and then have fun combining them each morning.  Simply add 1 or 2 ingredients from each of the seven categories below to a high-powered blender.  You will learn quickly how much of each ingredient to add to create a well-balanced smoothie that tastes great.

1) Vegetables

1. Celery
2. Fennel Root
3. Cucumber
4. Baby Greens Mix (arugula, chard, spinach, kale)
5. Spinach


These are my favorite vegetables to add, but get creative and use whichever vegetables you enjoy.  I usually choose both a watery vegetable like celery or cucumber, along with a leafy green vegetable like spinach or the baby greens mix.  Two large celery sticks or a 1/2 cucumber along with a large handful of greens is an example of what I typically use. I usually don't add root vegetables, but you can!

2) Fruit (frozen or fresh)

1. Wild Blueberries
2. Strawberries
3. Raspberries
4. Blackberries
5. Boysenberries
6. Acai Berries
7. Marion Berries
8. Cherries
9. Pineapple
10. Pomegranate


As you can see, I love berries. And the fruit component of my smoothies often consists solely of them. Berries, in many ways, are the most nutritious fruit because they are loaded with a variety of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and blood sugar regulating nutrients, without a lot of extra fructose.

I prefer frozen berries, for 3 reasons:

1) They are affordable!  Fresh berries are very expensive, so if I am eating them every day cost is a major deterrent.
2) Berries are usually frozen very close to the time they are picked, which preserves many of the healthy constituents until the time you eat them.  Often, by the time you eat berries from the store, they have been picked a week or more in the past, losing vital nutrients with each passing day.
3) They help create a moderately cold, more drinkable smoothie without having to add ice.

Keep in mind; organic berries are a must, as conventional berries are high on the list of most pesticide-laden fruits.

3) Seeds & Nuts

1. Pumpkin Seeds
2. Black Sesame Seeds
3. Sunflower Seeds
4. Chia Seeds
5. Flax Seeds
6. Macadamia Nuts
7. Brazil Nuts


I usually add a medium handful of 1 variety each morning.  My refrigerator is stocked with all, so I will rotate through them each week.  Seeds have a broad spectrum of nutrients that are linked to vibrant health.  They are especially loaded with minerals that are easily absorbed, plus healthy fats, protein and fiber.

4) Herbs & Spices

1. Turmeric Rhizome
2. Ginger Rhizome
3. Fresh Basil
4. Fresh Cilantro
5. Fresh Parsley
6. Fresh Mint
7. Clove, Cinnamon, Fennel, Cardamom and/or Ginger (powdered)



Turmeric and ginger are so healthy that I include a thumb worth of each in my smoothie every morning.  I almost always include a handful of fresh basil or cilantro since they are such potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer plants.  In the winter, I add a teaspoon of combined powdered spices to support digestive fire.  All of the above ingredients add a very unique and, in my opinion, pleasant taste to the smoothie.

5) Protein

1. PaleoMeal by Designs for Health


PaleoMeal is a grass-fed whey protein powder that also includes many other metabolism boosting, blood sugar regulating nutrients, like L-Glutamine, Creatine, Zinc, Magnesium and Chromium.

It is the best protein powder on the market that I have seen, so I use it every morning. If you do not tolerate dairy, Designs for Health has non-dairy options.  I do not recommend any protein powder containing soy protein isolates or whey from cows that are not grass-fed.

6) Fat

1. 1 to 2 tsp. Coconut Oil
2. 1/2 Avocado
3. Yogurt (full-fat, non-sweetened)

 

A large body of research now tells us how important fats and oils are in helping our body absorb and utilize the nutrients in fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.  Adding a good amount of olive oil to salads, sautéing spices in ghee, adding butter to steamed broccoli, turmeric powder in whole milk, and adding fat to your smoothies can greatly increase the percentage of nutrients absorbed.  Plus, each of the above 3 foods has many additional health benefits.

7) Superfoods & Adaptogenic Herbs

1. Matcha (powdered green tea)
2. Maca Root Powder
3. Goji Berries
4. Spirulina, Chlorella and/or Blue-Green Algae Powder
5. Ashwagandha Powder
6. Royal Jelly or Bee Pollen
7. Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)


There is enough research showing benefit for each of the above to warrant the cost.  Add a decent amount of 1 or 2 each morning.  Again, vary the ingredients each day so that you are getting some of each, each week.

The sweetness factor!

Most people will not want to drink a smoothie that is not at least mildly and pleasantly sweet.  If you have plenty of protein, fat and fiber in the smoothie, then sweetening your smoothie moderately is perfectly healthy.

One or two of the following ingredients, added to taste, will do the trick:

1. Tart Cherry Concentrate (it's actually very sweet)
2. Fresh Pineapple (if any juice has separated out, that will be especially sweet)
3. Pomegranate Juice
4. Cherry Juice
5. Fresh, In-Season, Juicy Stone-Fruit (especially nectarines and peaches)

Combine, Blend and Drink!

As mentioned, all you need to do is choose 1 or 2 ingredients from the seven categories above.  Add them to a high-powered blender, pour and drink.  I use a Vitamix blender, but you can probably get by with a less expensive model.  Again, think of this as a full meal.  For me, that means I will want to drink 2 or more pint glasses each morning.  Some experimentation is in order, and the only way for you to find the perfect smoothies with the right flavor and consistency for you, is to do it a few mornings in a row.  I bet, your first smoothie will be delicious, and they will just get better over time.

Here's an example of my breakfast this morning:

1/2 Cucumber
1 stalk Celery
1 large handful Baby Greens (chard, spinach, arugula)
1 small handful frozen, organic Boysenberries
1 small handful frozen, organic Strawberries
1 handful Pumpkin Seeds
1 thumb Ginger Rhizome
1 thumb Turmeric Rhizome
1 handful fresh Cilantro
1 scoop PaleoMeal
1 rounded tsp. Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp. Maca Root Powder
1 small handful Goji Berries

Plus: a long squeeze of Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate for sweetness, and enough Coconut Water to result in the desired consistency.

This yielded 2.5 pints of smoothie, which was the perfect amount to last me 5 hours until lunch.

Final Thoughts

1. I go shopping each Sunday to make sure I have enough of all of the above ingredients to allow for varied smoothies throughout the week.  Keeping your kitchen well stocked is essential.  Once the ingredients are there, it only takes a few minutes to blend them.

2. If your fruit, vegetables or added sweetening agents didn't include enough liquid, as is usually the case, you will need to add enough water, coconut water, chilled green tea or juice to find the right consistency.

3. All smoothies are not healthy!  Compare the smoothie I've described to a typical smoothie consisting of banana, apple juice, ice and a soy-based protein powder and the difference should be apparent.  The ingredients I've mentioned above are the best anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and general health promoting foods on the planet.  Your smoothie should have no fillers. A breakfast consisting of nothing but those foods is the best thing you can do for your health.  In addition to exercising regularly, sleeping enough and having fun, of course! 

4. And finally, breakfast is the easiest meal to make into a routine.  Anything that becomes a routine part of life is easy to maintain for the long-term with very little effort on your part.  Buy the ingredients this coming Sunday, do it three mornings in a row, and you'll be hooked!!



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