07 Jul The Benefits of Adding a Smoothie to Your Diet
I only just got the hang of smoothies about a year ago. It sounds silly, like what is there to grasp about throwing fruit in a blender, but it’s a bit of a science, and I did it wrong for years. When I was in college I went through a phase where I would have a pineapple and mango smoothie, in a base of orange juice, for my breakfast. I loved it so much, the sweet refreshment of it, and loved also that I was skipping the carbs of my usual breakfast cereal, and eating light. Weight loss would be a piece of cake. But my goodness, by 11am I was in the throws of hunger, cravings, moodiness, and fatigue. A 3pm slump mid morning! I didn’t understand. Coffee and a scone were the only things that righted me again, and maybe a few squares of chocolate. Looking back I was simply in denial about the cause of all this energy fluctuation, but I did eventually renounce my smoothies for good old fashioned porridge, and the blender gathered dust for years.
Of course, what I was experiencing was blood sugar fluctuation, brought on by ingestion of simple sugars in vast quantities. My blood sugar would spike, my insulin would respond and try to stabilise things, only to over-compensate and cause a reduction in blood sugar that left me faint, moody and in need of instant pick up in the form of more sugar and caffeine. Up and down I went, 3 or 4 times a day, in this seesaw. The body is adept at finding homeostasis, but man you’ll feel like crap in the process.
Calories aren’t meant to be drunk. That’s an old saying that definitely holds a lot of sway. Particularly if metabolism, blood glucose, or weight stagnation is an issue for you, your calories should be eaten as food, chewed, broken down, digested and eliminated, with the nutrients absorbed. But there can be room for a smoothie in a well balanced diet, and the key is to get all the macronutrients in, in the correct proportions.
Carbohydrate forms the base of your smoothie, and the best way to approach the carb-load in your smoothie is to use twice as much veg as fruit. For example, use one cup of kale for half a banana, or 2 cups of spinach for one cup of blueberries. By being mindful of the glycaemic load of your carbohydrates, you will minimise that burst of glucose coursing through your body. Incidentally, the best way of balancing the glycaemic load of a meal is by consuming quality protein with your carbohydrate.
The handiest way of adding protein to your smoothie is through a scoop of high quality protein powder. I use Vega because I’ve found it to be the best quality, but I have to import it in from the States and sometimes customs give me hassle about it! It’s worth the effort, but juuuuust about. Hemp protein powder is readily available and a great source of plant protein or plain old hemp seeds, those perfect little bundles of protein and polyunsaturated fat, are the job.
Fat. Fat. Fat. I love fat. Every smoothie I have now, I add 1-2 tablespoons of seeds, either hemp of flax, to get that heart-healthy, skin-glowy, hair-shiny, memory-boosting dose of polyunsaturated omega 3, 6, and 9. These fats absolutely have their place in a well-balanced diet
Finally, a nice little add in to a smoothie can be a tablespoon or two of a superfood. Spirulina, cacao, and maca are my interchangeable favourites that I add to my smoothie. Spirulina has a complete amino acid profile, making it a lovely plant-based protein source. It has a nice little dose of iron too. Cacao is a gentle stimulator, great for use instead of caffeine. It has antioxidant properties and has a little boost of magnesium in it too. Maca is an adaptogen and a great asset in times of physical and emotional stress, through it’s balancing effects on the adrenals. These add-ins aren’t essential but every once in a while give a nice burst of energy and nutrients to your smoothie if you’re in need of it.
Recipe for Baby Green Monster
I made these for St Patrick’s Day, hence the whiskey glasses:
Blend and serve. Makes 2 (whiskey) glasses worth.
Drinking one’s calories is not ideal for everybody, but as part of a well-balanced, health-promoting diet, smoothies can offer a handy, nutrient dense, fibre-packed burst of nutrition when you get the science right.
Let me know what your go-to smoothie recipes are. Are you a superfood fan? What blender do you use?