One of the 21st century's greatest health food trends would have to be the (not-so-humble) smoothie. It seems like every cafe and health food Instagram account has been swept up by this phenomena. There's more reasons than not to love the smoothie though and there's no shortage of people willing to shout its praises as their preferred way to start their day. A smoothie is a fantastic and easy way to get extra nutrients into your diet, a convenient meal option for those short on time, and the easy clean up makes it a no-brainer. Furthermore, as the whole food is blended, you're getting wholefood nutrition, and it's generally easier for your body to digest.
It is, however, all too easy to turn a healthy smoothie into a sugary calorie bomb, lacking in any notable form of nutrition. There's a 'better' way to make them that will avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster and keep the sugar cravings at bay. This is done by carefully selecting additional 'smoothie boosters' to maximise the nutrient density, while keeping the sugar and calories in check. The result? Your body gets an extra kick of vitamins and minerals and you'll have more sustained energy and longer-lasting satiation.
The first health boosting ingredient on the list is Maca Root. This ancient root vegetable sourced from the Andes Mountains in Peru, is often referred to as a ‘superfood’ for its range of medicinal and nutritional qualities. It's dehydrated and ground into a powder and commonly added to smoothies and baked in treats. Maca has an almost butterscotch-like flavour with earthy undertones. It's traditionally used to help stabilise blood sugar levels, balance hormones, support memory and enhance mood/energy levels.
You’ve probably seen acai bowls doing the rounds on your Instagram feed or gracing the menu of your local hipster cafe alongside the matcha green tea latte. It's for good reason though. This Amazonian berry bears much fruit in the way of health benefits. It's a radical source of antioxidants, containing more than three times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries (source). These antioxidants help to protect the body from harmful “free radicals” which otherwise damage cells and can lead to cancer. Not only this, acai powder is low sugar and provide a delicious flavour for smoothies.
While everyone is grabbing for the latest 'superfood,' an easily overlooked health food booster for your smoothies are simple fresh vegetables! The best part about this is, if you aren't a fan of vegetables but you know you need to eat more (because they're good for you!), it's a sneaky way to get more into your diet (or your family's) without tasting them. Most vegetables can easily be masked when added alongside natural sweeteners. Some old time favourites include fresh greens (like kale or spinach), zucchini, celery, cucumber and yes, even cauliflower and broccoli. This may seem strange to some, but you'd be surprised what you can get away with!
We all know protein is an essential building block for life. It also helps you feel satiated for longer and keeps the sugar cravings at bay. But no one wants to blend up a chicken breast or steak into a smoothie! While you can still add some wholefood protein sources, like raw eggs, to your smoothie, just the thought might make some people's stomachs turn. The easiest way to get a boost of protein in your smoothie is by adding a scoop of high quality protein powder. Whey protein concentrate is one of the most popular forms of protein powder available on the market. In this instance, you'll want to make sure it's sourced from grass-fed cows that have been ethically raised. If you don’t tolerate dairy or are vegan, there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives available on the market today including, hemp, rice and pea protein powders.
Low Sugar Sweeteners
Rather than stuffing your smoothie with extra sugary fruits, think about adding low sugar sweeteners. Since you are feeding your body with 'pre-digested' foods through a smoothie, it's easier for your body to access the energy and nutrients. By reducing the sugar load, you'll help to stabilise your blood sugar response when consuming the liquid meal. Some simple replacements for high sugar fruits and sugary sweeteners include lucuma, monk fruit, stevia and fresh berries.