Nutrition that Goes Down Easy: Stir Up a Healthy Smoothie
Freeze the fruit and boot up the blender—summer is the perfect time to develop a taste for smoothies. With the right ingredients, a day’s worth of vitamins and minerals can be packed into a remarkably healthy breakfast or working lunch. Smoothies can be found everywhere from juice bars to yogurt shops, but the best way to ensure nutritious value is to make them yourself.
Be mindful of your choices…calories can add up despite healthy ingredients, and even if used as a meal substitute, smoothies containing liberal amounts of fruits and nuts can be more caloric than you may suppose. Check your totals on one of the many calorie tracking apps available online (www.myfitnesspal.com) to make certain you stay within your ideal amount. Ideally, all well-balanced smoothies should include the following:
Fruit: Berries are a wonderful source of antioxidants. Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries for variety. Including half a banana not only adds thick texture, but also generous amounts of potassium known for normalizing blood pressure and heart function. Kiwi is a powerful source of Vitamins C, E, A and fiber. Avocado makes a creamier smoothie while also adding healthy amounts of Vitamin E. Avoid high sugar fruits such as grapes, oranges and dates, and limit the pineapple.
Vegetables: The founders of Simple Green Smoothies.com recommend a ratio of 40 percent greens to 60 percent fruit. Green your smoothie with a generous handful of nutritional powerhouses such as spinach, kale, chard or arugula. These dark leafy greens contain phytonutrients that support your immune system, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and virtually every ingredient found in a daily multivitamin.
Liquid: Use between ½ to one cup of liquid. Healthy options may include coconut water, high in potassium and electrolytes, or calcium-rich, low-fat almond or soy milk. Go easy on the fruit juice because of the high sugar content and added calories. Ice can be added to your smoothie to pump up the volume.
Proteins: Greek yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese are natural protein ingredients. Additionally, protein powders can be added to boost nutritional levels.
Fiber: Add healthy crunch with nuts and seeds. Raw walnuts and seeds such as flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are loaded with fiber, protein and essential fatty acids. Try a spoonful of uncooked steel cut oatmeal or a teaspoon of nut butter, both containing plenty of fiber to keep you full.
Spices: A healthy flavorful addition to the smoothie—try cinnamon, cumin, vanilla, ginger, or even cayenne pepper.
For smoothest blending of the nuts and veggies, top-end commercial models make the process effortless, but less expensive models work too—look for one with an 800-watt or higher motor.
Smoothies are incredibly versatile and are only limited by your imagination and willingness to experiment.