I came late to the smoothie craze. In fact, by the time I’d really noticed it is a thing, doctors and nutritionists were warning us off them – citing sugar spikes and rotting teeth as payback for too many fruit-filled smoothies. If only I could make my own, I sighed, and pack in some veg, and other nutritious ingredients, along with the fruit. Surely that wouldn’t be so bad?
At Christmas, my dream came true. Under the tree was a Nutribullet. And, I have to say, it’s pretty life changing. At Kale and Cocoa, we don’t get paid to endorse anything, but if we find something that aids our quest to eat well and age well we’re going to tell you about it. And the Nutribullet is just such a thing. It’s a small, powerful motor, with a fearsome blade and a selection of smoothie cups. The principle is ridiculously simple – stuff a smoothie cup with a selection of veg, fruit and anything else you fancy, top up with liquid, attach the blade and screw the whole thing onto the motor. Within seconds, you have a nutrient-packed smoothie. The instructions suggest that each cup is half filled with veg, half with fruit and then a ‘booster’ added on top. This can be anything that ups the nutritional value – nut butters (or whole nuts), flax seeds, chia seeds, ‘supergreens’ like spirulina or wheatgrass. I try to add healthy fats and protein to each smoothie, so the nuts and seeds are brilliant for that. This method works for any smoothie, and by making it 50% veg plus the nuts/seeds that whole fruity sugar rush issue is dealt with.
These smoothies are very easy to chuck together in the morning and a great way for everyone in the family to pack extra fruit and veg into their day. It makes me smile in the morning when my children are happily drinking kale and cucumber AND THEY DON’T EVEN REALISE! Ha! Get the fruit right and it will disguise the taste of veg they profess not to like – genius. Almost every day more research appears indicating that the more fruit and veg we eat, the healthier we’ll be. At Kale and Cocoa we’re aiming for seven portions of fruit and veg a day (read why here) and this week new research in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that daily fibre intake of 30g can improve blood pressure and insulin resistance. A homemade smoothie contains all the fibre of the whole fruit and veg – unlike juice.
A smoothie a day also makes ‘eating the rainbow’ easy. It’s a rather cheesy expression, but it does have a point. The more intensely coloured a fruit or veg is, the more powerful its phytonutrients. So the bright orange of carrots and sweet potato, the deep red of tomatoes and watermelon, the dark green of leafy veg and the indigo of blueberries and blackberries are nature’s way of telling us that this plant is worth eating. The phytonutrients that give the fruit and veg their colour are also the plant’s defence mechanisms so, simply, the chemicals that help the plant fight disease help us do the same thing.
In a week of contradictory headlines about tackling dementia – on Tuesday it was ‘Alzheimers’ Breakthrough Paves Way For New Drug’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2955976/Alzheimer-s-breakthrough-scientists-discover-stop-disease-earliest-stages-paving-way-statin-like-drug.html and on Wednesday it was ‘Dementia Research: Drugs Companies Despair of Finding Cure’ http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/dementia-research-drug-firms-despair-of-finding-cure-and-withdraw-funding-after-catalogue-of-failures-10052467.html – it’s worth remembering that a healthy lifestyle is the only known way to secure a healthy old age. We were cheered by this article in the Wall Street Journal about the power of the brain to renew itself and the beneficial effects of diet and exercise http://www.wsj.com/articles/our-amazingly-plastic-brains-1423262095
So smoothies are a fool-proof way of upping nutrient intake – you barely need a recipe, but let me suggest a few. Each one emphasises one particular phytonutrient, and the bright colours make them look as gorgeous as they taste. A few points: I add bananas to everything to give texture and make them taste good. Larger supermarkets have a really good selection of prepared frozen fruits – I found mango, cherries and a banana strawberry mix on special offer in Sainsburys. I put something frozen into each smoothie to keep it cool – nothing worse than a room temperature smoothie. The quantities below are pretty rough – you’ll quickly get to know your own machine and how much liquid to add. And, of course, this can all be done in a blender too.
ORANGE SMOOTHIE (serves 4)
4 tbs butternut or pumpkin puree
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 tbs almond butter
Frozen mango chunks
1 tsp ground or whole flaxseeds
Juice of 2 oranges
Carrot juice or water to top up as needed – add as much as you need to your Nutribullet/blender to get the consistency you need.
GREEN SMOOTHIE (serves 4)
2 handfuls leafy greens eg spinach, cabbage, kale, spring greens
Chunk of cucumber
2 kiwi fruit, peeled
Half an avocado
2 small bananas
1 tbs cashew butter and 2 tbs whole cashews
Water to top up
PURPLE SMOOTHIE (serves 4)
2 small beetroot, chopped
2 small handfuls of greens (not too much or the whole thing will go sludge brown)
2 handfuls frozen berries and /or cherries
2 small bananas
2 tbs natural yoghurt
1 tsp cinnamon
12 walnut halves
Milk, non-dairy milk (I like almond) or water to top up