Smoothies are a delicious and easy go-to snack, post workout meal, or even breakfast; but creating a healthy and balanced smoothie can be difficult! To have a healthy smoothie, you need the perfect balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats. We are going to break down what each of these are, how much you need, and what foods will help you maintain balance!
VITAMINS are substances your body needs in order to grow normally. You can meet your daily vitamin requirements by simply eating vitamin rich foods! The exception is vitamin D, which you obtain from the sun! The vitamins you need are A, B (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate), C, D, E, and K. Each vitamin is responsible for different bodily functions. In a nutshell, vitamin A keeps your immune system, vision, and cellular communication healthy; vitamin B keeps your blood and genetic material healthy; vitamin C helps repair tissue, aids in the absorption of iron, and helps decrease bad cholesterol (LDL); vitamin D keeps your digestive system and skeletal system healthy; vitamin E helps boost your immune system; and vitamin K regulates blood clotting.
MINERALS are compounds found in nature required to keep the body functioning healthily. Mineral functions include, but are not limited to, bone health, heart health, muscle health, organ health, and enzyme and hormone production. There are two types of minerals: macrominerals and microminerals. Your body requires more amounts of macrominerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur) and small amounts of trace minerals (iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium).
PROTEIN is found everywhere in the body and makes up the enzymes responsible for carrying out all bodily functions. Proteins are made of amino acids (the building blocks of tissue, muscle, organs, hair, and skin, and are responsible for all metabolic functions), and amino acids are either made in the body or must be consumed. Essential amino acids are those we must consume through foods such as meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and grains; however, only meat contains all essential amino acids. Vegetarians must eat a variety of these other foods to get all of the amino acids they need.
FAT is essential to have a healthy body, though some fats are healthier than others. Healthy fats, or unsaturated fats, help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats can be divided into two categories: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats include both omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Both are healthy, but increasing your omega-3:omega-6 ratio is recommended. A great way to know if a fat is unsaturated is if it’s liquid at room temperature! Bad fats, or saturated fats, are found in dairy, fatty meats, coconut, palm oil, and most manufactured and packaged foods. Trans fats, another bad fat, are unsaturated fats that have been processed to behave like saturated fats. They are found in processed and packaged foods. Both of these types of fats should be avoided or eaten on occasion. Also, saturated fats are solid at room temperature!
CREATING THE PERFECT SMOOTHIE
BASE (½-1 cup) The base of your smoothie is essentially the liquid ingredient in your smoothie. Great options include 100% fruit juice, milk (regular, almond, soy, rice), coconut water, brewed tea, etc. Try to use a base with no or low sugar content. If your smoothie is too thick, try adding more base!
FRUIT (1-1½ cups) Choose complimentary fruits for both flavor and sugar content. Almost all fruits contain vitamins A-C (remember you get vitamin D from the sun!), and a mix of minerals. We add fruit to our smoothies for both yummy flavors but mostly for the vitamin content! Be cautious of the sugar content in the fruit you are adding. If using a fruit juice as a base, or fruit high in sugar (bananas, apples, pineapple), try balancing with another fruit lower in sugar such as berries! If using frozen fruit make sure there is no added sugar.
VEGGIE (1-2 cups) Veggies are the greatest source of minerals for your smoothie! Go-to veggies should be kale or spinach. Both are high in iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, E, and K! Carrots, squash (butternut and pumpkin), and sweet potatoes are also amazing sources of vitamins and minerals. We love spinach in our smoothies because it is essentially flavorless compared to all of the other ingredients and blends into tiny pieces that don’t thicken up the smoothie! You can also use veggie juices (no added sugars), to smooth out your smoothie and add more flavor!
PROTEIN (varies) The amount of protein you need in your smoothie depends on why you are drinking one. If it is just a snack, you do not need more than 10 grams of protein, just enough to fill you until your next meal. If your smoothie is for breakfast you need between 15-25 grams of protein. If it is a post workout meal, your protein intake should be much higher, between 20-40 grams to help build and maintain muscle mass. Great sources of protein are cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, silken tofu (vegetarian), or protein powder. For breakfast or a snack, Greek yogurt is our protein of choice! For a post workout meal, we like using both protein powder and Greek yogurt; the yogurt plays a huge role in the smooth and thick consistency of the smoothie! Again be wary of the sugar and fat content in your protein. Choose a protein low in fat and with no added sugar.
HEALTHY FAT (varies) Healthy fats are often forgotten when making a smoothie but they are equally important as any other ingredient! Great healthy fats include ¼ avocado, 1-2 tbsp. seeds (chia, flax, hemp), or 1 tbsp. nut butter. Our favorite fat to add is chia seeds. Chia seeds are packed with omega-3’s, and are additionally full of protein, fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, and calcium!
EXTRAS (varies) Give your smoothie some extra flavor with cocoa powder (80%+ dark), extracts (vanilla, almond, mint), herbs and spices, fish oil, etc. Make sure these extras are low in sugar and only add flavor or more nutrients!