Smoothies are frequently used in naturopathic medicine as an easy and tasty way to get fruits and vegetables into your diet. They are an exceptionally good meal option for anyone who is sick, recovering from an illness or going through various forms of cancer treatment.
|Photo courtesy of Erica Hranicka|
The only warning is that you must balance your sugars with proteins. Fruits are loaded with antioxidants as well as sugars. Even though they are naturally occurring sugars, they will still raise your blood sugar and compound any glucose dysregulation that may be occurring. Anyone suffering from a Candida (yeast) overgrowth, metabolic syndrome, diabetes etc., need to be extra careful and are often not good candidates for smoothies. With that said, being mindful and adding good proteins to balance the natural sugars or using more vegetables than fruits can make smoothies a healthy choice for most people.
A good resource is “The Ultimate Smoothie Book” by Cherie Calbom. She has many recipes with a lot of variation and provides the nutritional breakdown for each drink. There are numerous books and online resources if you want more options. In regards to nuances, I recommend talking to your naturopath to select the best choices and combinations specific for you and your health.
Simply, you need to create a tasty meal that balances sugars with proteins and provides important vitamins and minerals. Start with a liquid carrier, I recommend a milk substitute as regular cow milk stimulates mucus production thus aggravating allergies, asthma and is linked to Type I diabetes. Your options can include raw goat milk, rice, almond, coconut, hemp or other nut milks. I discourage soymilk as we tend to get enough phytoestrogens in our diets from other sources and soy is usually a genetically modified organism (GMO).
Once you’ve decided on the liquid medium, you need to pick a protein. There are rice, soy, hemp and whey protein powders in most health food store. My thoughts on soy are mentioned above, rice and hemp are great, whey is good for helping the liver detoxify but can be difficult to digest at times and may aggravate anyone who has a dairy allergy. You can also add whole nuts or nut butters to the smoothie for protein that not only provides excellent minerals but are a whole and unprocessed food.
Next, choose your fruit. In this area I recommend local as your first choice. Berries are excellent as they have a low glycemic index (less negative effects on your blood sugar) and are high in antioxidants. Fresh or frozen are both good options. Bananas tend to be a common addition and if you are not going through chemotherapy or recovering from an illness I recommend avoiding them or use sparingly. They are very high in sugars, have a very high glycemic index and are not even in the top 10 foods for potassium content (I know, marketing is not always truthful. Avocados rank first for potassium content). Use minimally with children who have asthma as banana’s can trigger an attack. Ultimately, choose fruits that you enjoy, the more colorful the better. All citrus fruit is higher in sugar than non-citrus fruits.
Other great additives include ground flax seeds 1-2 tbsp (high in fiber and help regulate hormones). Try to buy whole seeds and grind them yourself to reduce oxidation. Flax oil is not the same and does not contain fiber or lignans, which is what makes flax seeds such an amazing food. Cinnamon ¼ tsp (helps regulate blood sugars) and turmeric ½ tsp (anti-inflammatory) are also great additions.
You may want to consider adding vegetables, seaweeds or coconut. If you are using coconut milk or for some reason find your smoothie not to be sweet enough (the fruit should take care of that) add a tablespoon of honey. Honey has excellent anti-microbial properties and can help with upset stomachs. Do not give honey to children under one year of age!
So there you go, a lot of information to get started on introducing smoothies into your diet. If you feel overwhelmed at all the options, get a smoothie recipe book or keep it simple – use what you have in your kitchen first, then expand out. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to fit your taste buds and enjoy.
2 cups liquid
½ cup protein
1 cup fruit
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
Blend until smooth.
By Marsha Hamilton