By Angela Onsgard, R.D.
Smoothies can be a nutrient dense and convenient way to start your day or a healthy option for a snack, but choosing the wrong ingredients or forgetting about important combinations may result in a less than ideal meal replacement.
One item to steer clear of when choosing smoothie ingredients would be soy protein isolate powder. Soy protein powder is considered a fractionated soy food and these foods are highly processed in a way that denatures the proteins. You’re also missing out on all of the other synergistic components of the whole food when you choose a powder for your protein source. A better choice would be organic soy milk, which would also contain calcium, vitamin D, and a healthy dose of cancer protective isoflavones.
Another mistake that people often make when preparing a smoothie is forgetting to add healthy fat and protein. Vitamins A, K, E, and D are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that they need some form of fat to be fully absorbed by the body. Adding nut butter, avocado, or seeds to the smoothie will provide a good dose of heart healthy fat. Yogurt, organic soy milk, or a half brick of soft organic tofu would all provide good sources of protein to add to a smoothie. Balancing these macro-nutrients in your smoothie will create a well-balanced meal replacement, and will also prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar levels.
You’ve likely heard of the amazing anti-inflammatory and health benefits of turmeric. What you probably aren’t aware of is the fact that we absorb very little of this beneficial seasoning if we don’t give it a boost. As you sprinkle this seasoning into your smoothie make sure that you add in some healthy fat, such as ground flax seed, and some fresh cracked pepper. Turmeric, also known as curcumin, is fat-soluble. The fat in the ground flax seed will act as a carrier for the turmeric assisting in absorption. The active compound piperine in fresh cracked pepper acts as a potent inhibitor of metabolism in the liver. Consuming the fresh cracked pepper with turmeric slows the rate of metabolism, therefore boosting levels of turmeric in the body and increasing it’s benefits.
Adding too much sugar to a smoothie would counteract it’s health benefits. Fruit juice is very concentrated fructose. A better option would be to include fresh or frozen fruit in it’s whole form. This would increase the fiber content of the smoothie and greatly reduce the sugar content. Also avoid adding sweetener such as agave syrup. Agave syrup is processed very similar to the way that high fructose corn syrup is processed. A better option would be a light drizzle of raw local honey for it’s ability to increase immunity to local allergens or pure grade A maple syrup.
Finally, not paying attention to serving sizes as you add ingredients to a smoothie could easily result in excess calorie intake. Watch portion sizes on nuts, seeds, nut butters, oils, dairy, and soy products. Keep fruit amounts to no more than 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit. For increased fiber try blending in an ounce of organic steel cut oats. Feel free to add in as many greens or other veggies as you find palatable.