SHAKE UP YOUR SMOOTHIES

By Athena McKenzie 

Whether you’re looking for a breakfast on the go, a pre-workout boost or a quick and easy meal in a glass, a homemade smoothie can be a convenient and healthy option. They are also a great way to get in some extra helpings of fruit and vegetables.

Perhaps most importantly, a smoothie is the perfect vehicle for many of the “superfoods,” those naturally nutrient dense and calorically low wonder foods. From cacao to coconut oil, and chia seeds to spirulina, your options to give your smoothie that healthful burst are endless.

Building Blocks
Part of the beauty of smoothies is that they are easy to make and can be tweaked and tailored to suit your own tastes. According to Chef Erin Holm, co-author of the LifeDiet cookbooks, once you’ve made a few, you’ll get a feel for how you individually prefer them to taste — and look. Appearance and texture can be as important as the nutrients inside; after all, what’s the point if no one enjoys drinking it?

“When considering actual likes and dislikes, people can be turned off by colour,” Holm says. “When you’re mixing different ingredients together they can end up looking muddy or dark, which might be a turn-off, especially for kids.

“And texture is a big thing for people. Some like them thick, like a milkshake, where you can almost eat them with a spoon, and others like them more liquefied or drinkable. Temperature is also a consideration.”

To make your smoothie into a balanced meal, you need a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Then you can add those superfoods and ingredients to achieve your desired flavour profile.

Truly, your smoothie is only limited by your imagination.

Building a Healthy Base
According to Holm, all smoothies should start with a liquid base, so “things blend up well.” She recommends using:

  • nut or seed milks
  • water
  • coconut water
  • green juice
  • fresh-pressed apple or orange juice
  • cold green or matcha tea
  • unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • coconut yogurt or kefir

Another tip from Holm is to avoid relying on a lot of fruit juices as your base, as it adds a lot of unnecessary sugars and can spike the calories.

Mind Your Carbohydrates
“Your carbohydrates are usually your fruits or veggies,” Holm says. “The best things are any kind of berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai or cranberries). And pomegranate seeds or a bit of pear or apple, lemon or lime juice.

The better choice for veggies — rather than beets, carrots or sweet potato, which Holm says are harder to blend, are higher in sugar, and harder to get a good flavour profile with — are things like cucumber, celery, sprouts, pea shoots, and leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and arugula.

“You can also add herbs like parsley, which are really good for you because of their micronutrients,” she says.

Protein Power
If you’ve used Greek yogurt or a nut milk or seed milk as your base, those can also serve as your protein.

You can also use a protein powder, but use sparingly and be aware of what it contains. Sometimes protein powders have fillers and sweeteners and extra ingredients you might not want to be ingesting.

“There are some good protein powders [Vega, pumpkin seed and hemp seed powders] out on the marketplace but even the good ones shouldn’t be ingested every day,” Holm says. “If you are going to add protein powder to your smoothie once in a while, which is perfectly fine, it may have a form of sweetener, so compensate by not adding other sweet things. They are also a powdered form of nutrition, not a whole food form of nutrition. There are other pure forms of protein and it’s better to have the real thing in your smoothie.”

Options include seeds and nut butters, and, depending on your blender, even whole nuts.

Fat Matters
Some people don’t think about adding fat to their smoothies, but it can aid in digestion.

If you’ve added nuts, seeds or nut butters to your smoothie, you’re covered, but if not, add a bit of avocado, some Udo’s oil or coconut oil.

Fun with Superfoods

Holm refers to the superfoods as the “fun” part of the smoothie assembly, but she does give a caveat:

“The thing about superfoods is that you should be careful about how much you add,” she says. “If you are concerned, especially about what you are giving your children, check with a doctor or naturopath first.”

Superfoods to add to your smoothie include:

  • cacao
  • bee pollen
  • camu camu (very high in Vitamin C)
  • chlorophyll
  • spirulina
  • blue/green algae
  • any coconut products

If you do need a little a bit of sweetener, Holm recommends adding a little bit of raw honey, a piece of banana or a dried date to naturally sweeten it up.

Some people also use Stevia because it doesn’t affect your blood sugar.

Chew on This
When it comes to the ingestion and digestion of smoothies, there are a couple trains of thought.

It is believed that when you chew your food, you secrete enzymes in your saliva to help with the proper breakdown and digestion of the food in your system.

“When you’re blending everything up, you’re taking it one step closer to digestion, but you still want to activate the release of those digestive enzymes for your stomach,” Holm says. “So, you don’t want to chug back your smoothie really quickly. You might want to swish it around your mouth a little bit, at first. Sometimes, people will pour their smoothie in a bowl and sprinkle a bit of granola, nuts or cereal [like Holy Crap] and, because you are chewing the nuts or cereal, it gets the digestion going.”

Holm says it’s important to realize the fibre of the fruits and vegetables does get broken down when you put it through the blender. You can’t get all your vegetables through juicing and smoothies, although smoothies are better than juice for fibre. For the best health results, you need a variety of fruits and veggies, raw, cooked or steamed.

Super Smoothie Recipes
Included here are a few of the recipes from the upcoming book LifeDiet by Holm and Rita Thomas. Ranging from a fruity blueberry option, to a green-packed powerhouse, to a cacao-infused chocolatety delight, they are sure to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. If you don’t have all the ingredients, don’t be afraid to experiment and make substitutions.

You should also have fun with creating your smoothies with the building blocks detailed above. Don’t get into the boring routine of making the same old smoothie every day — get blending and mix it up!

Super Smoothie recipes courtesy of Chef Erin Holm

Pure Green Smoothie
Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale or mixed baby greens like spinach, beet greens or Swiss chard
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/4 cup cucumber
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon chlorella or spirulina powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey to sweeten (optional)
    Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for two minutes until smooth and serve. Add water to your desired consistency.

 

Blueberry Avocado Smoothie
Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup almond, hemp or rice milk
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 2 dates, pits removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
    Blend all ingredients together well.

 

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Choco-Nut Butter Smoothie
Serves 2

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 2 dates, pits removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 2 heaping tablespoons favourite nut butter: almond or cashew
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup ice
    Blend all ingredients together.

 

Green Tea Antioxidant Smoothie
Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup brewed green tea (chilled or at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup coconut water or water
  • 1 small beet (if you don’t have a Vitamix blender, the beet should be chopped up first)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 mint leaves
  • 1 scant teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey (or a little green apple) for sweetness (optional)
    Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes until smooth and serve. Add water to your desired consistency.