The Power of Smoothies

I used to be a juicer. It’s good for you, and does a body well. But it got to be expensive. And time-consuming. Buying all those ingredients, prepping, and mixing together, and from all that effort getting what seemed like just a half glass of nutrients.

But about a year ago I switched from juicing to blending, and it’s made all the difference. Sure, it’s hard to argue with the health benefits of juicing, but it’s a big production. Loading up veggies at the grocery store in a swarm of plastic bags takes a lot of time and labor and is likely to lead to disgruntled murmurs from both cashiers and bagging clerks.

Baby Bok Choy and Spinach Soup

Then there is all the trimming, slicing, deseeding, and washing required to prep the entire bounty of fruits and veggies into grinding into just a smidgen of juice. It just didn’t add up. If you got the time, for sure, but who does? And how many juicers have gone abandoned on some bottom shelf?

But with a blender, the entire health-drink making process is bound to go much more smoothly. You don’t have to pile up a whole bounty of vegetables at the grocery store; you don’t have to do all the slicing and peeling and rinsing. In short, a blender is the quicker and easier path to a delicious and healthy beverage.

Blenders vs. Juicers

One possible shortcoming of the blender is that it is limited to making predominantly fruit-based drinks, whereas the juicer can deliver the powerful one-two health punch of both fruit and vegetable nutrients. But juicers can’t handle everything either; many have trouble processing bananas, for instance, their constituency being just too rough for the juicer’s metal blades. (There is a little trick we can use to still get some veggie nutrients when blending, and we’ll take a look at that a little later below the smoothie recipe.)

Health Benefits of Smoothies

You get a powerful punch of health benefits when you down a smoothie. It’s probably pretty obvious to mention all the vitamins and nutrients we get from fruit. But what’s also true, as pointed out by Pat Crocker in “Juicing and Smoothies for Dummies,” is that you get a higher portion of fiber when drinking smoothies as when drinking juice. This fiber is beneficial to help rid the body of toxins. And it’s likely more advantageous to get the body’s daily vitamins and minerals from traditional food sources rather than from a multivitamin pill, as the dosage and quality can vary from brand to brand. (The FDA provides some helpful information on choosing whether to take vitamins, minerals, and supplements on its website here.)

What’s cool about the smoothie is we can use it as part of our workout routine. Besides providing great nutrients for the body, we can use the smoothie as a mental trigger, a cue, that helps remind us to put in our exercise time. Blend up a delicious beverage just before or after a workout, and we’ll actually look forward to getting in exercise. Go ahead, trick your mind: “Get in this workout, and you can enjoy this delicious beverage!” Just like Pavlov’s dog licking his chomps at his next piece of steak, we’ll be salivating to get in our workout time.

You can get real advanced with smoothies and make them from recipes that feature ice and all sorts of flavors, supplements, and ingredients, or you can go the route of the go-to daily smoothie, which provides a consistent fruit punch of nutrients day after day and a pretty good, though not going for any award-winning, taste.

Buying a Good Blender

There’s a ton of different types of blenders with various features out on the market, so let’s take a look at some considerations to help you choose the right one. Many blenders feature the familiar large rectangular shape with lid style, which has surely secured its place as the favorite small kitchen appliance gag routine for comedies and sitcoms everywhere. These blenders are generally pretty strong and can handle all sorts of other food preparation uses.

There are also blenders made more specifically for making drinks and smoothies. These blenders are designed so you can drink your smoothie right out of the container and not have to pour it into a separate glass. This cuts down on the amount of cleanup time and dishes you have to wash.

Note that many blenders don’t chop up ice very well. If you like your smoothies brain-freezingly cold, it’s probably best to get some chopped-up ice from your refrigerator or be sure to buy a blender that can handle mashing up ice cubes. I simply drink my smoothies au naturel and without ice; you sacrifice a little on taste but gain in simplicity and saving your blender’s motor.

Speaking of the motor, it is important to buy a blender that has a good one and that will last. Once you start drinking your own homemade smoothies, you’re likely to get hooked, and this means you’ll be using the blender nearly every day to make your smoothie. My sister-in-law got me a terrific blender about a year ago, one designed specifically for smoothies. I used it so much that the motor eventually went out. (I would also use the blender to make batches of delicious homemade hummus every few days, but that’s a topic for a later newsletter.)

Basic Fruit Smoothie Recipe

So now you got a blender and are just wondering what ingredients you need to make the perfect smoothie that is just right for you. You can buy a smoothie book or check one out from the library that has a bunch of delicious and healthy recipes. Or you can just start with this reliable go-to smoothie recipe:

1 banana
1 handful strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a mix
1 scoop of peanut butter
1/2 cup of soy or almond milk
1 scoop of protein powder or green powder*

Directions: rinse the fruit under cold water; if using strawberries, trim the tops; combine all ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth.

Protein and Green Powders

We could spend a whole newsletter on drink powders (and we probably will). But let’s just mention a few things here. If you’re lifting weights, many experts recommend boosting your protein intake just before or after your workouts to restore your muscles after working them so hard. The verdict is still out on protein powders. Some swear by them; others think they are unnecessary as long as you get enough protein from your diet.

The good thing about protein powders is they will add some nice thickness to your smoothie, resulting in a better and more satisfying taste. And these protein powders are readily available at any grocery store in the health-foods aisle. Muscle Milk makes a good product and tastes great, though if you’re watching your money you could go with a generic brand as well.

If you’ve made the switch to blending and miss the vegetable nutrients you used to get from juicing, here’s a trick: add a scoop of green powder, which has many of the valuable nutrients extracted from vegetable sources and usually also features wheat grass and other beneficial greens. These green powders are a bit more expensive and usually available only at specialty and organic grocery stores. There are many varieties available, but one good one we’ve tried is Amazing Grass‘s Green Superfood with Goji and Acai.

So give smoothies a try. It’s a great way to get your daily vitamins and minerals. They taste great and give you something to look forward to in your day. And by associating your smoothie with your workout time, you’re bound to better stay on track with your exercise program.

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If you feel that you have a health problem, you should seek the advice of your Physician or health care Practitioner.

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