Sunday, March 25, 2012

Healthy Fruit Shake

Most people believe that smoothies are 'good for you', but like anything else, there is a wide range of concoctions that qualify as a 'smoothie'.

Many are actually quite terrible for you - specifically high in sugar, devoid of fats, proteins and essential vitamins and minerals. For example, the McDonalds smoothies get almost all their calories from sugar - the 'puree' they use contains added refined sugars and processed apple juice. They contain only 1g of fat*, only 2g of protein (in the 16oz size) - essentially, they are 85% sugar.

*fat is not bad. you've just been told it is by the processed food industry. I need to create a whole post on this - but it will just take a bit of effort to ensure that all of my points include the proper citations from peer reviewed studies and research. In the mean-time, I encourage you to do some of your own research into the matter. What you'll find will probably surprise you.

Other healthier smoothies out there add these back in supplements, but many are not whole food based supplements and as with all 'non-whole-food' sources - you don't really know what you're getting, including added chemicals.

Many smoothies use cows milk, soy milk or fruit juice as the major (by volume and often calories) part of the mixture. If you're unsure why these are not the best for many people in large quantities, do some searching out there from reputable nutritional websites. (i.e. search "soy milk healthy"). Decide what's right for you after doing some reading - don't just buy into 'sound-bytes'.

Ok, so I'm off my soap box now. On to the recipe.

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Healthy Banana / Blueberry Smoothie Recipe:

Prep / Cleanup time:
Less than 5min total

Ingredients (~18oz shake):
1.5 cups almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1 medium to large banana
1/2 cup blueberries (organic)
2 Tblsp coconut (unsweetened, desiccated)
1 Tblsp ground flax seed
1/3 cup walnut halves / pieces
2-3 ice cubes

btw - Try adding in 2 cups of baby spinach (stems and all). Believe me, you won't taste it - it just cuts the sweetness a bit and 'pow' there's a couple servings of super-veggie in your gut.

Tools:
Good quality blender( I love our Kitchen Aid model - it's a workhorse )
(optional) Chopper / Grinder( Here's the one we use )
Spatula

Directions:
#1 - Put the walnuts, coconut and flax seed into the grinder / chopper and blend until the mix is fine grained. If you don't like ANY grittiness at all, then you can go all the way until it's a thick paste, using a dash of almond milk to water it down a bit. If you have a good quality blender - you can try just doing this in the blender (and have one less thing to clean up).

#2 - Use the spatula to spoon the above mixture into the blender.

#3 - Add all other incredients into the blender. Start with a 'Chop' setting and move up to a 'Frappe' setting. Make sure you frappe it long enough to really make it smooth. You can add water (or coconut water if your'e into that recent trend) to thin the mixture to your own taste.

Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!

Why it's healthy:
The nice thing about a blended smoothie like this is that it's pretty easy to divine the health benefits by simply looking at the individual health benefits of each ingredient. Feel free to look up each of the ingredients.

In short though (I could write a post on each of these to espouse on why they are super-good for you):
  • This combination provides a healthy balance of all the good kinds of carbohydrates, fiber, fats and proteins, while minimizing the hollow calories of refined / simple sugars. 
  • The (healthy) fats ensure the shake will keep you satiated much longer than it's evil sugar twin.
  • The banana and nuts provide a whopping potassium boost.
  • Flax seed is probably the most dense source of Omega-3 fatty acids you can get. Walnuts come in at a close second. 
  • Most of the ingredients are strong in anti-oxidant and natural anti-inflammatory power.
  • Almond milk avoids the saturated fat of coconut milk, the hormonal issues with soy and the sugar based calories (and other negative side effects) of modern cows milk. 

Nutritional Information (based on the labels of my ingredients):


Calories:  585
Protein:    11.5g
Carbs:      58.6g
   Sugar:   27.6g (20% calorie-wise - AND also from whole fruits)
   Fiber:    14.2g
Total Fat: 34g
   Sat Fat:   5g

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