As you are drinking your “healthy” smoothie, do you wonder why you’re not feeling that vibrant health that they promised?
Or have you started wondering how a smoothie can be healthy when almost half the ingredients are ice and sugar?
You follow those recipes, right? You tried them for at least a month. Your smoothies look just like those gorgeous ones in the pictures.
And that is exactly why nothing is happening. Their stuff is all about tasting good and looking pretty.
A healthy smoothie can still taste good, but for maximum health, it’s not going to look very pretty. Maximum health means maximum intake of healthy fruits and veggies, with maximum variety of colors. Mix them together, the more the merrier, and you’ve got something that looks like greyish-brown mud. For the healthiest smoothies, you need to aim for maximum ugly.
Here are 8 steps for making a truly healthy smoothie.
1. Copy the color-mixing experts: four year olds
Remember how they mix paint colors? They want lots of pretty colors. They start with a nice green, then add a little blue, then maybe some red, and more, and more, and more. And end up finally with a vibrant…brown!
You want lots of pretty colors in your smoothie, too. Different colors indicate different health benefits. The more colors you mix in, the more health benefits you get. Plus you can add enough to get the minimum recommended daily servings of your fruits and veggies.
2. Use the new alphabet: -als, -anes, -ols, and -oids
Look beyond the Vitamin A, B, and C labels. You are also after some additional nutrition. You want nutraceuticals — the things in foods that have some special heart properties. Things like cancer-fighting sulforaphane, found in members of the broccoli family, including kale.
Inflammation-fighting resveratrol is good too, found in blueberries and cranberries. (You may know that it is also found in red wine and red grape skins, but we’re not trying to create a wine smoothie here.)
Heart and blood vessel-protecting bioflavonoids are found in citrus fruits, including the membranes. Strawberries have some good bioflavonoids, too.
For the health of your eyes, carotenoids from carrots fill the bill.
3. Go for maximum nutrition: no sugar added
Get the sweet taste from fruits, not sugar or honey or any of the other high-sugar “natural” sweeteners. The best stuff is fresh, frozen, dried, and powdered whole fruits. (But not the seeds.)
Juices are ok, but you will be missing out on some of those –oids that come from peels. And absolutely do not choose the high sugar juices like grape juice. That’s like adding liquid sugar.
Even worse are canned jams and jellies. The ones made with fruit juice instead of sugar are only a little bit better. Those juices are still concentrated sources of sugar.
4. Apples and pears: seriously?
The government isn’t the smartest kid on the block when it comes to nutrition. They keep talking about apples and pears as their first go-to fruits. Maybe the apple lobby is stronger than the orange and berry lobbies — I don’t know. While apples and pears do have some health benefits, they aren’t nearly as concentrated as what you can find in berries.
Speaking of berries — every so often some great “new” kind of foreign berry is touted as king of the nutrition heap. At the same time, the previous “new” king is deposed, and either the price goes down or it disappears from the shelves.
If you like one of them and have them on hand, fine, add some to the mix. But don’t feel bad if you don’t. And don’t make a big effort to go hunt them down. With all the colors you are adding to your concoction, you will have a nice, wide variety of healthy goodies in there.
5. Be like a gopher: use roots and shoots
My favorite root: the carrot. It’s a nice source of carotenoids and add some sweetness to the mix. A million rabbits can’t be wrong!
The human version of shoots is sprouts — unless you have some other way of getting shoots. Sprouts have more nutrition per ounce than the grown version of the same thing. All that goodness comes packed in nice little packages so you just need a small handful. to get the same benefit that a full serving of the same mature veggie.
Choose for health benefits but also choose for the flavor. Apologies to all you lovers of weird sprouts out there, but there are only a few kinds of sprouts that do not mess up the flavor of my smoothies. This smoothie that you are making is only going to be healthy if you actually drink it.
6. Don’t forget the smoothie backbone: leaves
This is another item where you need good taste — even more than the sprouts. Over half of your smoothie is going to consist of dark green leafy stuff, and if the flavor turns you off, the drink will go down the drain.
I may be picky, but I have never understood why so many people are enthusiastic about chard. To me, it tastes like dirt. I want my smoothie to look like dirt, but not to taste like dirt.
But if tastes delicious to you, by all means, go for it.
As for me, kale is my go-to green for a smoothie. I am ok with collard greens also. Spinach starts tasting a little like a salad, and so does lettuce. I am after a more fruity taste. For me, the berry flavor along with a little orange hides any objectionable taste the kale might have.
But as long as it is dark green leaves that are meant to be eaten somehow, it is legal. So if you love the taste of some other green leaves, go for it.
Just be sure that they are at least half of whatever is in your blender. As for the maximum, make sure you leave a little room for a layer of each of all those other colors.
7. Go beyond vitamin C and apple pectin: peels
If possible, when using any fruit, include at least part of the peel. Why? Because that’s where the nutrition is packed a little more tightly.
This includes apple peel and pear peels, in case you have decided to ignore me because you just have to have one of those things in your smoothie.
Warning: those things can be bitter. Especially grapefruit. My advice for grapefruit: if you don’t like it, why include it? Because some health nut said you are supposed to have some every day? Ignore that. We’re trying to have some fun here. As far as I’m concerned, good health should taste good.
8. Put it all together: the final ingredients
Unless you want to eat your smoothie with a spoon, you need some kind of liquid. You have several choices, but the one thing to remember is we are trying to make every ingredient count. Each one should add something to your health.
You could use juice, as long as it is not a high sugar type. So, no apple juice, no grape juice, and no pineapple juice. If you can’t remember that when you are out shopping, just look at the “healthy” candy and cookies sweetened with fruit juice, see which kind of fruit it is, and avoid that.
If you like goat milk, go for it.
You can certainly use things like almond milk or other not-real milks. Just make sure you are using the unsweetened kind.
If you need it to be sweeter, go for things with a low glycemic level (which don’t cause an insulin spike). Stevia is good. Agave syrup is ok. Fresh squeezed juice can fill this need.
And then there is ice. If you use frozen berries and frozen kelp and frozen not-real milk, you might not need any ice. If you really need the ice to get the consistency you want, go for it. But experiment with freezing other ingredients and see if you can stay with high nutrition instead of zero calorie stuff like water.
One BIG warning: never freeze the carrots. I did that once and it was just totally wrong for a smoothie. My horse wouldn’t even eat them. Frozen carrots are for stews, if you insist on doing that to them.
So now you know.
Your suspicions were correct. Those smoothie recipes you have seen aren’t the world’s best for your health.
You know the ingredients that are good for your health, and they don’t include white sugar.
You know that pretty ingredients are not always healthy.
Healthy food is dark green.
And light green.
And includes lots of fruits and veggies.
Mix all those colors together, and you get muddy brown.
So now you can go shopping for the healthy ingredients that will make your smoothies shine like mud.
Steer your grocery cart to the produce section. Go wild. Buy something for each color of the rainbow.
Pile your cart high. Take it all home.
Stuff your blender.
Watch that blender change good colors into ugly mud.
Stuff your face.
Watch your body change ugly mud into good health.
Have fun making mud!