When you think smoothie, do you think of those monster Jamba Juices? They’re healthy, right? Made with real fruit and all those optional add-in boosts like sorbet and non fat yogurt (sarcasm)? Here’s a reality check for you: most of the Jamba Juice classic smoothies contain over 100 grams of sugar. THAT IS 23 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR. And we wonder why there’s a diabetes crisis in this country.
Ok, so maybe you’re blending your own fruit smoothies at home and leaving out the sorbet and high-sugar yogurt. You’re using delicious mangoes, pineapples, and bananas. That’s healthy, right? No added sugar. Well, the tropical fruits are very high in sugar and with no protein to balance the sugar, you’ll get a hefty sugar high followed by a crash. Sure, fruit is healthy and contains antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, but it’s still sugar. And we tend to cram the blender full of 3 or more servings of fruit per smoothie. This is not a way to start your day–you’re programming your body to release a surge of insulin (the fat storage hormone) and setting yourself up for blood sugar fluctuations, cravings, and increased hunger for the rest of the day. But smoothies can be done the right way. Want to know how?
How to Build a Better Smoothie
First tip: DON’T PACK YOUR SMOOTHIE WITH FRUIT. Seriously, one of the most common mistakes I see people make is grazing on fruit all day long because it’s healthy. Yes, fruit is a healthy treat, but it’s still high in sugar, and it’s still possible to overdo it. Limit fruit intake to 2-3 pieces max per day (1/2 cup or 1 piece is a serving), and if you have a smoothie, be mindful of how many servings of fruit you’re adding. You can make your smoothie fruitless by using 1/2 avocado to make it creamy. Avocados are a great source of fiber and glutathione, a necessary antioxidant for liver cleansing. Limit fruit in a smoothie to 1 piece or even 1/2 piece or 1/2 cup berries.
Secondly, DON’T ADD FRUIT JUICE TO YOUR SMOOTHIE. Fruit juice is just fiberless liquid sugar. Use coconut milk or almond milk as the base. Coconut water is ok, too.
Third, PACK YOUR SMOOTHIE WITH SUPERFOODS. Add a fiber source for satiety and digestive cleansing: I like a combo of ground psyllium/chia seeds. The chia provides some omega 3s, too. I’ll also add walnut or almond butter for good fats + fiber, or tahini (sesame paste). It’s very high in calcium. Add a superfood blend that contains spirulina and chlorella. I like Amazing Grass and PaleoGreens. Sometimes I also add a high quality unsweetened cocoa powder for an extra feel-good antioxidant boost. You could also add bee pollen for immune boosting, raw local honey if you desire a bit of sweet, various spices (cinnamon is good for blood sugar balance), grated ginger root to enhance circulation and improve digestion, or powdered vitamin C or probiotics. If you raise chickens or get your eggs from a local farm, crack a raw egg in your smoothie occasionally.
The final item to remember is to USE A PROTEIN IN YOUR SMOOTHIE, especially if you’re using it for breakfast. A protein-less smoothie will not sustain you. For a light meal or snack, coconut butter or nut milk may be enough, but I like smoothies for breakfast, and that a’int gonna cut it. Your smoothie should be a mix of good fats (from nut butters, avocado, coconut milk, butter, or oil), protein (from protein powder or gelatin), and carbs (from fruit, veggies, or sweet potato). I typically recommend gelatin or a no whey protein powder like pea or rice protein because most whey protein powders are highly processed, and many contain fillers, sugar, and junk ingredients. I also LOVE LOVE this gelatin-rich delicious paleo protein powder.
Avoid soy protein at all costs. It is also highly processed and usually includes soy protein isolates that can cause problems with hormones and thyroid. Click here for my thoughts on protein powders. The less processed the better. If you can handle dairy, I like the Designs for Health PaleoMeal whey protein because it is cold processed (the heat in processing/pasteurization destroys the delicate proteins) and is made from raw whey. There is also a dairy free PaleoMeal. Grass fed gelatin is great too.
Here’s my basic smoothie recipe
- 1-2 scoops Protein Powder as appropriate for you and/or 1-2 tbsp Great Lakes gelatin. If you tolerate dairy, try a raw unprocessed whey protein like PaleoMeal or PaleoMeal Dairy free or PurePaleo. I like Vega vegan protein powders too.
- 1/2 cup seasonal berries, a banana, a couple raw figs, or 1/2 pear (if it’s autumn). OR 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato (steamed ~20 minutes or roasted), mashed; OR 1/2 avocado; OR You could get super creative here and use green apples, kiwi, carrots, beets, or anything that appeals to you, especially if you have a VitaMix. I use a mix of fresh and frozen fruit to give my smoothie some thickness.
- 1 Tbsp. tahini, almond butter, walnut butter, coconut butter, coconut oil, or handful raw nuts
- 1 Tbsp. combo of flax and chia seeds, ground, and/or psyllium husks
- Handful spinach (optional)
- 1/3 cup coconut milk (lite ok) or almond milk.
- 1 scoop Amazing Grass, VitaMineral Green, or PaleoGreens
- pinch of sea salt
- water as needed to desired thickness (usually about 6 more ounces)
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder, or more if you like it spicy, or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened, best quality you can find
1 tsp maca root
Dump everything in blender and blend. If you have a VitaMix (lucky you), you can use chunkier stuff. See below. You can adapt this by leaving out the sweet potato/avocado and using only nut butter, coconut or almond milk, cocoa powder, and spices.
2 scoops protein powder
1/2 Tbsp. psyllium/chia/flax blend
1/2 small Fuji apple, chopped
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut milk
6 oz. filtered water
3 – 4 fresh mint leaves
Pinch of sea salt
2 scoops protein powder
1/2 ripe pear, cored
1/2 green apple, cored
1 kiwi, skinned
1 very large chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1 lemon, juiced
water to desired thickness
Luxurious Creamy Carob Smoothie
1 sliced frozen banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 rounded tablespoon carob powder
2 scoops protein powder
Vanilla extract to taste (if not using vanilla protein powder)
Cinnamon if desired
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