Don’t let your blended breakfast drink be just an excuse to indulge in a morning dessert. Fresh and frozen fruits are healthful foods, but packing your smoothie with tons of fruit doesn’t do your body good. Too many people assume that their morning smoothie is nutritious when it’s not. Let me explain.
Delicious smoothies are made by blending a mixture of fruits, nuts or seeds, and raw leafy greens. Blending raw vegetables is an efficient way to increase nutrient absorption. Many beneficial micronutrients and phytochemicals in vegetables are bound to fibers, proteins, and starches. Using a high-powered blender crushes these cellular structures so much more efficiently than we can do by simply chewing, making the nutrients more accessible, and therefore making it easier for your body to absorb them. However, it also makes it easier for your body to quickly absorb the sugars from the fruit, leading to unfavorable blood sugar elevations if the smoothie is mostly fruit.
The popularity of smoothies has led to experimentation with recipes and different flavor combinations, and some smoothie lovers add way too much fruit, more fruit than they would comfortably chew and eat in a sitting. A blood sugar spike from a drink loaded with fruit or fruit juice is the exact opposite of what you want to start a busy day. Make the leafy greens the centerpiece, with some healthy fat and a little fruit for flavor – this will maximize nutritional value and limit the blood glucose rise from the smoothie. Too much fruit turns a healthy smoothie into a high-calorie, high-glycemic drink.
Try my recipes for four incredibly healthy smoothies. Use these recipes to get your day off to a better start, and keep in mind the following tips when you prepare your next blended drink.
Smoothies can offer a lot of nutritional value when made well. Here is my formula to make your next one nutritiously perfect:
- Add mostly vegetables with some whole-food fat and a limited amount of fruit for flavor. Use at least two packed cups of greens per single serving of your drink. Although spinach is tasty, don’t use more than 1 cup, as high levels of oxalate limit calcium absorption from spinach compared to other greens. To make the most health-promoting smoothies, rotate your greens and mix them up. Try other dark lettuces or kale.
- To blunt the bitterness of the greens and add flavor your smoothie, use ½ cup to one cup of low-glycemic fruits like berries, kiwi or oranges. Berries support heart health and brain health, reduce inflammation, and have anti-cancer effects. Pomegranate ariels and juice are also a good choice. Pomegranates have been associated with protection against heart disease, cancer and cognitive impairment and the reduction of oxidative stress.
- Add a nuts and seeds. Despite their high-fat content, nuts actually promote weight loss when eaten as part of a meal (though snacking on nuts may lead to overeating). Nuts provide sterols, stanols, fiber, minerals and other health-promoting nutrients, and protect against heart disease. Flax and chia seeds provide similar advantages, plus they are high in omega-3 fats and anti-cancer lignans. Use a small amount; 1 tbsp. of flax seed or 2 or 3 tbsp. of nuts or other seeds. Nuts and seeds help make the smoothie a more filling meal. The presence of fat is known to increase carotenoid absorption from leafy greens, enhancing the absorbtion of protective nutrients into your body.