The Anatomy of a Smoothie
There's no better feeling than getting in several servings of leafy greens before 9 a.m.—even if your day devolves into a beer and pizza-filled happy hour debacle. At least you’ve filled yourself with more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than many people have in a whole day. And as mentioned above, when you start off your day with a delicious, wholesome smoothie, you’re less likely to go buck-wild! Smoothies are also fantastic delivery systems for post-workout refueling!
To make a smoothie, you don’t even need a recipe; you just need a basic formula. Follow these SIX steps to blend up any delicious, nutrient-packed, and satiating smoothie. Additional suggestions & recipes follow:
1. Start with a few heaping handfuls of leafy greens.
IMPORTANT: all greens have nutrients & anti-nutrients (designed to keep animals & other organisms from grazing on them exclusively, into extinction).
So just rotate them every so often, to get all the benefits and none of the setbacks. Change it up periodically among: arugula, spinach, chard, kale, parsley, cilantro, basil, dandelion greens, beet greens, romaine, and so on.
2. Toss in a banana (or maybe half) – preferably frozen.
I keep an ongoing bag in my freezer so I don’t waste the over-ripe ones, plus they’re more easily digested AND sweeter than their yellower counterparts! They’re my base for ice cream, muffins, & lots of other healthy treats.
They add enough sweetness and they bind together the other ingredients to provide a creamy texture.
3. Add some fat.
Fat acts as a binder to keep your ingredients together, rather than separating into lumpy/watery mush. More importantly, it promotes absorption of many of the greens’ vitamins, like A, D, E, and K.
The fat and fiber together are the most powerful way to truly be satiated well into your morning. And it keeps your blood sugar stable!
Examples: 1/3 to 1/2 an avocado, heaping tbsp of nut butter, heaping tbsp of hemp, flax, chia seeds, cacao nibs (this gives a unique crunch).
4. Sprinkle in some mineral/sea salt.
This also promotes absorption of nutrients, and can be a subtle flavor enhancer. Just a pinch will make all the difference!
5. Supplement with protein.
As part of any healthy and physically active lifestyle, it’s important to support lean muscle mass, especially on days during intense workouts. While many whole foods provide ample protein, it is helpful to supplement with isolate forms, to ensure maximum absorption and uptake.
I prefer plant sources, such as pea and hemp. There are many delicious flavored protein powders; just make sure that the sugar is low (less than 5g).
6. Blend with liquid of choice.
Water works great, although I like nutmilks the best (think hemp milk, almond/coconut blend, pea milk (brand is called Ripple), etc. of the UNSWEETENED variety).
THINK ABOUT FLAVOR
Now that you have your basics down, think about flavors: fresh herbs, citrus (lemon & lime), fresh jalapeno, vanilla extract, etc.
Add frozen fruits like organic blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, etc. (just be cognizant of sugar, and don’t exceed 1/3 cup each).
Use spices like cinnamon, fresh ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and cayenne!
TAKE IT A STEP FURTHER, WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Adding a tbsp of superfood powders like maca (balances hormones), cacao (powerful antioxidant), acai (also powerful antioxidant), moringa (great for energy boosting), spirulina (complete food, rich in protein, minerals, etc.) can boost your smoothies’ health impact even more!
NOTE ON FLAVOR COMBOS & OTHER VEGGIES
Stronger, more pungent greens need stronger flavors to balance them out. For example, arugula would work great in the Mexican Hot Chocolate smoothie, since its bite is complemented by the cinnamon, cacao, and cayenne. Blueberry Basil could go with pea shoots or spinach, which have mild flavors.
Feel free to add other vegetables for even more nutrition! I like to shred zucchini and store it in individual pouches in the freezer. And I also add riced cauliflower and cooked rhubarb.
MMM... PIE SMOOTHIES: TRY OUT THESE PUPPIES!
Greens, cooked pumpkin or sweet potato, heaping tbsp almond butter, tsp vanilla extract, generous sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), coconut milk, & scoop of protein powder. If you need additional sweetness, I recommend a drizzle of raw, local honey or stevia extract (if you want 0 sugar).
Greens, banana, coconut milk, salt, chopped apple, generous sprinkle of cinnamon, tsp of vanilla extract, scoop of maca & protein powder, for good measure. BONUS: instead of apples, try cooked chayote! A member of the gourd family and related to melons, cucumbers, and squash, chayote is full of water & is great for folks who are watching their carbs.
Greens, banana, avocado, salt, frozen blueberries, handful of basil leaves, water + scoop of protein. Add some strawberries too, to adjust flavor.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Greens, banana, 2 heaping tbsp of hemp seeds, salt, 1 heaping tbsp of almond butter, 2 heaping tbsp of cacao, generous sprinkle of cinnamon, cayenne, & scoop.
Mint Chocolate Chip
Greens, banana, avocado, generous handful of mint leaves (or a couple drops of mint oil), coconut milk, a few heaping tbsp of cacao, & scoop of protein powder. I also like to add a tbsp of cacao nibs, for added texture & crunch.
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