Let's Shake Things Up...In The Blender!
If you followed me on my trip to Costco, you’ll have noticed that I talk a lot about smoothies, and since that post, I’ve been getting requests from people asking what I put into mine.
I’ve been making smoothies for my breakfast for years, and lately I’ve started making a vegetable smoothie as an afternoon pick-me-up, or as a snack, or as an addition to lunch. Today, I get to share with you how I make my smoothies (Green smoothie video below) and why I choose the ingredients that I put into them.
Now, if you’re a newbie to smoothies, please be forewarned that there a lot of “weird” ingredients I’ll be adding to my blender. I have come a long way since my early smoothie-making days, so don’t be discouraged if my favourite recipe seems a bit overwhelming. You can start slow, and I have a recipe for you, too. 🙂 So, for any newcomers to the smoothie world, this is for you:
Sarah’s Newbie Smoothie
1 cup of water, milk or almond milk
¾ Cup plain, organic Greek yogurt (look for about 19 grams of protein)
1 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon
One frozen banana (if you don’t have a high powered blender, slice into coins before freezing for easier blending)
1 cup of fresh or frozen berries
A very good handful of spinach (it will turn your smoothie green, but it just adds sweetness, not a veggie taste)
Blend and enjoy!
Or, try this recipe from one of my favourite bloggers, The Detoxinista!
But before I get to MY favourite combination, let me share WHY I love smoothies so much!
Why I Love A Breakfast Smoothie
Health: I love a morning smoothie because I can cram a whole lot of goodness into my blender and…voila! A nutrient-dense meal that would take me forever to eat is now a grab-and-go breakfast. I don’t like taking vitamins…I’d much rather eat (or drink) them!
Hydration: Using water as the base and adding water-dense fruits and veggies means I am naturally hydrating first thing in the morning (I have warm water and lemon right when I wake up and then my smoothie shortly after).
Taste: I think a smoothie is absolutely delicious. For people who don’t like the taste or texture of vegetables, this is a great way to get the nutrients while being able to mask the flavour with fruits and natural supplements. The combinations are endless…
Variety: There are as many smoothie combinations as there are people in the world! Seriously, I love to use seasonal fruits and veggies in my smoothies, I vary the greens, and mix up the add-ins and frozen elements.
Digestion: Smoothies are easy on my digestive system and they really fill me up. I can easily go a few hours after my breakfast smoothie before needing a snack or meal.
Convenience: I am in a rush in the morning! A smoothie takes mere minutes to whip together, and if I plan ahead and make up smoothie packs, it’s even faster. Having a smoothie allows me to sip away while I get ready, or else it can be taken in a portable container with a lid and enjoyed in the car.
Clean Up: I love any meal that allows me to clean up in minutes, without a bunch of dishes in the sink or the need to clean before leaving the house.
Straws!: I get to drink it with a straw! Call me crazy, but I love drinking things with a straw! It makes me think of being a kid and drinking a milkshake. Whenever I go to a juice bar or restaurant and order a smoothie, I get a straw…so why not at home? I also like that it helps reduce teeth staining. Plus, you get to enjoy the whole thing. I don’t like to waste a drop, and since my smoothies are always pretty thick, if I drink it from the glass, lots gets left behind on the sides. If you do decide to use a straw, I suggest buying the re-usable glass kind found at most health food stores to reduce waste.
Batch Size: I make a double batch every day (to feed 2 people) and it takes no more effort to make smoothies for more people (other than some extra blending), so families can enjoy smoothies together!
So now that you know WHY I love a breakfast smoothie so much, let’s look at WHAT the ingredients are along with some reasons for including them.
Sarah's Breakfast Smoothie
(Makes 2 x 16-ounce smoothies)
1 cup water WHY? Natural, easy hydration.
2 cups fresh or frozen berries Why? High in antioxidants and so very tasty!
½ a frozen avocado: Why? Healthy (monounsaturated) fat and fiber…plus, it makes for a creamy, “milkshake-like” texture that I love! NOTE: When I don’t have frozen avocado, I substitute for a frozen banana, which is high in potassium and adds natural sweetness.
2 teaspoons Organic spirulina: Why? Spirulina is known as a superfood as it has a very high concentration of chlorophyll, one of nature’s most powerful detoxifying agents. It is a blue-green freshwater algae that helps to remove toxins from the blood. It’s high in plant-based protein and many vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Although the taste may take some getting used to, I highly suggest giving it a try!
1 Tablespoon each of freshly ground chia seeds and freshly ground flax seeds: Why? Chia and flax both contain protein, fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids. Chia seeds have high levels of calcium and flax seeds contain lignans, which provide antioxidant protection and are linked to lower levels of breast- and prostate-cancer.
2 teaspoons organic maca powder (I like the Organika brand): Why? Maca can naturally increase energy and improve blood circulation. In this way, maca can improve libido for both men and women. It can also help people with acne-prone skin, due to its hormone-balancing effects, and it can help with skin tone. Maca has a slightly sweet and caramel-like taste. It blends in easily to a smoothie. Note: Research shows that people can develop a tolerance for maca or can develop insomnia if they don’t take days off, so take 1-2 days off per week, or just use it every other day.
3-4 tablespoons Hemp Hearts: Why? Hemp “hearts” are hulled hemp seeds that are high in omega 3’s and protein as well as fiber. They are an excellent source of the mineral magnesium, of which we are often deficient. They have a mild, nutty flavour (think pine nuts or sunflower seeds) that blend easily into smoothies.
1 teaspoon of turmeric: Why? Turmeric is the spice that gives curries their yellow colour. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric, and it has extremely high anti-inflammatory properties. Most so-called “Western” diseases can be attributed to chronic inflammation, hence a natural anti-inflammatory can improve our health. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper to make the turmeric more bio-available, as well! Buy organic turmeric at a great price here!
1 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon: Why? Ceylon Cinnamon is “true cinnamon”. It is extremely high in antioxidants, it is an anti-inflammatory spice and is a natural sweetener. It improves heart-health and circulation. Plus, I love the taste of cinnamon in my smoothies! Buy organic Ceylon at a great price here!
1 ½ cups Organic Plain Greek yogurt : Why? Natural source of protein; Healthy dairy source; Probiotics
2 big handfuls of organic pre-washed greens (kale, spinach, chard, parsley etc.): Why? Leafy greens are high in antioxidants and the vitamin “folate” and are a nutrient-dense source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Blend until smooth and creamy and enjoy!
For The Love Of Green (Smoothies)
There are days when I just can’t fit in the number of vegetables I want, and so I also LOVE having a veggie smoothie to ensure that I get my daily dose of nutrients. It also gives me an awesome boost of energy that I need sometimes. I use the 80/20 rule in my veggie smoothies: I like to use 80% veggies and 20% fruits. Check out my recipe for my go-to veggie smoothie here:
Why I love Veggie Smoothies:
Economical: Great way to use up fruits and veggies in the fridge: If anything is getting close to (or just past) its prime, a veggie smoothie is a great way to clean out the fridge and boost your health at the same time!
Easy: Less work than traditional juicing! Being able to just pop things into the blender and blend away is easy, fast and the cleanup is way easier than with a juicer.
Energy Boost: I used to juice in a juicer, but I hated wasting all of that amazing fiber, and I didn’t want the blood sugar spike. So, blending a veggie juice keeps the fiber intact which slows down the release of insulin, maintaining stable blood sugar levels while still giving you a great boost of energy.
Portable: I often make a veggie smoothie the night before I have a busy day to ensure I have a healthy option in my cooler the next day. A green smoothie along with some hummus and crackers; a couple of hard boiled eggs; and some trail mix, and I am good to go for a whole day on the road without the need for coffee shops or drive-thrus.
Skin: Ever since I have been enjoying regular veggie smoothies, my skin is much more clear with fewer breakouts (even hormonally) and it has more of a glow. I attribute it to the many nutrients I am ingesting plus the fiber that helps me to eliminate toxins, which brings me to my next reason for loving green smoothies…
Poop!: All that fiber means that I am eliminating toxins through my bowel movements, which feels great (sorry if this is TMI)! With all that extra fiber in the smoothie, you have to be sure to drink at least 8 tall glasses of water each day, or else you can become constipated. If you hate the taste of plain water, you can flavour it with fruits or else drink herbal tea.
Satisfying: Green smoothies are a great snack or addition to a meal because they really fill me up. I love the way it feels to give my body so many nutrients at once, and the fiber and water content keeps me feeling full.
Sarah’s Green Smoothie (makes 2 x 16 ounce glasses)
1 cup fresh water
Juice of one lemon: Why? Detoxifies the liver, high in vitamin C
1-inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled) Why? Aids in digestion and is high in antioxidants
Bunch of parsley: Why? The flavonoids in parsley have been shown to function as anti-oxidants and parsley can improve cardiovascular health, plus parsley’s healing and “blood purifying” benefits classify it as a superfood. Parsley is very high in vitamin C and it just tastes great. Not just a garnish anymore! 🙂
Note: Be sure to rinse your parsley well before adding it to the blender to remove any dirt.
Handfuls of leafy greens: Why? Because they are awesome! See my notes on the breakfast smoothie, above.
Carrots: Why? They contain beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A improves our immune system, is good for bone health and helps our skin and eyes. Carrots are high in fiber and they add a natural sweetness to your smoothie. I use organic carrots and do not peel them.
1-2 Beets: Why? Beets contain betalains which are phytonutrients that have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Beets are high in antioxidants and may help ward off cancer or tumour growth. Although raw beets may have a higher concentration of betalains, I typically use cooked beets in my smoothies. I have been buying the organic pre-cooked beets in the package at my local health food store or at Farm Boy (in Ottawa). You can also find non-organic pre-cooked beets at Costco in the fresh pasta section. I also love the sweetness that beets add to a veggie smoothie.
1 Apple: Why? Apples are high in fiber and quercetin, which is an antioxidant that may improve circulation and heart health while lowering our risk of cancer. Apples can be used as a natural pick-me-up instead of caffeine. Digesting an apple helps to wake up your body and then keep it that way for about as long as it takes for you to process it. Who needs coffee? 😉
Zucchini (or summer squash):Why? High in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins, I love adding zucchini to my veggie smoothie because it adds nutrients and a nice, creamy texture with a very mild flavour that blends in easily. Zucchini are also high in potassium.
If It Came From A Plant, Eat It; If It Was Made In A Plant, Don't. ~Michael Pollan
The Bottom Line
Please remember that I am not a nutritionist or even an expert in food, so although I have offered some generally accepted nutritional benefits of the ingredients I use in my smoothies, my philosophy is really quite simple; if it comes from a plant, it is a pretty safe bet that it’s good for me…and so, I’ll eat it.
I regularly change up the fruits and veggies I use in my smoothies to get a wide range of vitamins and nutrients. The whole point of having daily smoothies is to increase my fiber and improve my nutrition as I try to eat all the colours of the rainbow.
Smoothies really work as a strategy to help me to crowd out the bad stuff by adding in tons of good stuff.
So, I hope I have encouraged you to try smoothies if you haven’t already, and I hope the videos show you how easy it can be to start your day with one and enjoy a healthy afternoon pick-me-up!
Because I want you to love your life one bite (or one sip) at a time.
P.S. What is YOUR favourite smoothie combo? Share below so we can all give it a try! 🙂