Smoothies are a great, healthy option for any meal or snack of the day, and they seem to be sold, or promoted on every street corner and coffee shop. But have you been doing your smoothies all wrong? Here’s how to avoid a sugar filled icy beverage and build a healthy smoothie which can act as a nutrient dense meal, filling you with energy and improving your health and wellness:
- Cut out the fruit juice – Relying on fruit juices as the liquid component of your smoothie is not the healthiest option. They are high in sugar and are not as beneficial to you as simply eating the whole fruit. Given that smoothies typically already contain a lot of fruit, removing the fruit juice component ensures you don’t end up with a sugar-loaded drink instead of a healthy refuelling option. Instead of fruit juice, opt for water, coconut water, or non-dairy milks as liquid bases for your beverage. Non-dairy milks, such as almond or coconut have the added benefits of a dose of protein, provide healthy fats, and help thicken your beverage, while coconut water is a great option for post-workout smoothies to replenish electrolytes.
- Add in the veggies – Don’t feel like you have to load your smoothie with only fruit. Not only does it result in a bigger dose of sugar than you think, but fruit does not have the nutrient profile of vegetables and is lacking in several vitamins and minerals. Add vegetables such as zucchini, cooked squash, sweet potato or beetroot, and of course don’t forget your greens (see below)! Zucchini, squash and sweet potato don’t alter the flavour much, but act as a great way to thicken your smoothie and make it extra smooth. Beetroot lends a great earthy flavour, creates a beautiful colour and pairs well with berries, collectively offering a great antioxidant boost.
- Get your greens – Whether you choose to add spinach, wheatgrass powder or a combination greens powder, there is no better way to get a health boost than by adding a dose of greens. Loaded with antioxidants to aid in detoxification, greens are incredibly nutrient dense, providing heaps of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin K, Vitamin A, your B vitamins, Magnesium, Iron and Calcium, among others. They are great for boosting energy and are an additional source of protein, especially sea greens such as spirulina and blue-green algae.
- Remember your superfoods – If you want to maximize the benefits of your smoothie, start playing around with superfood powders. Each superfood offers different benefits, and you can cater your smoothie to treat whatever component of your health that is lacking. For example, maca powder is great for the endocrine system, helping with adrenal function, while baobab powder is rich in magnesium which helps reduce muscle cramping and prevents adrenal fatigue. Moringa and matcha are both great for a natural energy boost and aid in detoxification, while macqui and camu camu berries are rich in Vitamin C and support healthy immune system function. Adding a small amount of superfood powders to your smoothie doesn’t alter the flavour, but it certainly increases the health benefits!
- Add protein – When using your smoothie as a post-workout method of refuelling, the addition of protein is very important. Protein is necessary for repair of muscles and helps facilitate recovery, preventing soreness. More than that though, protein is essential for hundreds of bodily processes and failure to consume enough will leave you sluggish, and constantly lacking in energy. While adding whole food sources of protein such as nuts and seeds is a good method of protein consumption within your smoothie, protein powder is a great way to get an effective protein boost. Be sure however, to choose natural, plant based proteins that are not loaded with added sugar and fillers, as this negates their healthy properties.
- Heal with Food - Functional foods are foods that have incredible benefits to the body and help with certain specific functions. Smoothies are a great way to incorporate these foods into your diet and to help you reach your health and weight loss goals. For example, foods that fight inflammation, promote muscle recovery and aid in circulation are all great choices for optimal post-workout smoothies, and these include things such as turmeric and beetroot. Foods like ginger and lemons help with digestion and promote detoxification. Choose your smoothie ingredients to heal your body and change them up based on what your body needs.