Ingredients for a smoothie lifestyle

Smoothies 101 - the why and what of smoothie ingredients - lovely matters blog by Heather Walker

I don't think I've ever followed a smoothie recipe in my life.  I do a combination of what I like and what I know is good for me.  The "what I like" part is easy but the "what is good for me" is, and should be, in question constantly.  Therefore I'm constantly doing my researching.  I'm especially interested in researching real food and the power behind it.  In our home smoothies are consumed daily.  In the morning by most of my people, and often another in the afternoon.  It's a lifestyle that I didn't find until pregnant with my 2nd baby in 2008.  I call it a lifestyle because it was LIFE CHANGING!  As a stay at home mom I rarely make myself a salad or add greens to my breakfast or lunch.  Once I realized I could just dump all the "good for me stuff" in a smoothie and hide it with the sweetness of fruit or chocolate, I never looked back.  AND, this was quick, easy, and something I could consume on the run.

There's so many great recipes out there that can help if you are new to the smoothie lifestyle.  I encourage you to start with your favorite flavors for the base.  My favorite base is almond butter, cacao, banana, and almond milk.  My older two prefer mixed berries and yogurt/kefir as their base.  Then add in the high power minerals and nutrients (aka, superfoods).  With lots of research over the past 9 years, and many conversations with specialists in this field, here's a list of my favorite smoothie add ins.  My disclaimer is I'm obviously not the scientist conducting the nutrition research... and bottom line is most scientists don't have the funds to back up the appropriate research that is needed on many of these superfoods...  Therefore I practice moderation and variety after doing the research and reading all the warnings and disclaimers.  

Acai. I often hear this fruit being called the healthiest berry in the world.  Most things found in the Amazon rain forest are.  Its fruit has been called healing, immune-stimulating, energy-boosting. Research also reveals this antioxidant-rich berry to help suppress and repair oxidative damage.  How crazy awesome!  Yes, this one is a family staple at our home.  

Shelled Hemp Seed.  Yes, it's true, hemp seeds come from the same plant that produces marijuana, but they are cultivated and processed differently.  This is my go to superfood because of the many benefits.  It is almost tasteless (a soft nutty taste) so your children would never know you snuck this in their smoothie, or muffin or protein ball.  A recently study from Spain’s University of Seville found that hemp has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.  You can read why this is so important here.  In addition, hemp is a plant based protein.  With everything, even superfoods, I emphasize on the word "moderation" especially when reading the warnings of "contain trace amounts of THC".  

Goji Berries.  I once suffered from dry eye so bad that my eye lids were literally scratching my eye balls and eye specialists had no answers for me.  I saw a natural path Dr. and along with acupuncture she suggested I eat a handful of goji berries a day to help balance hormones after having my 2nd baby.  Dry Eye was gone in a week.  I still consume a small handful every day.  These amazing nutrients have been used for centuries in Asian cultures to strengthen eyesight, fight against viruses, balance hormones (worked like a charm during my 4th pregnancy), and even to assist with longevity.

Chia seed.  Unlike flax, chia seeds don’t need to be ground in order to enjoy their nutrients.  If you soak almonds you can add directly to that and they almost dissolve.  This is another superfood high in Omega 3s therefore I wouldn't necessarily use with the hemp.  Doesn't hurt to do so, I just like variety.

Spirulina.  I have another personal success story with this superfood and a homeopathic Dr who suggested this.  I don't eat much meat (mainly just because I prefer the taste of vegetables) and this is said to be a great addition to a vegetarians diet because the two main ingredients are protein and omega fatty acids.  You can read more about the amazing Spirulina benefits from Dr. Axe.  

Camu Camu.  This has one sour punch but the highest content of vitamin C found today so It's something I keep on hand.  I'm always cautiously curious about something being labeled as a "new superfood".  Camu camu is a good example of why one must research foods and portions before consuming.  The reported health benefits of Camu Camu are impressive but it also comes with many warnings given the extremely high concentration of vitamin C.  It's rare for me to give this to my children and when I do it's only a tiny pinch.  Still I keep it as an occasional superfood for my family when I feel we need an additional boost.  One tablespoon a week is the most I've heard recommended.  If you like reading the research you can read about the benefits and warnings here.  

Maca.  This superfood is known for balancing hormones and reversing hypothyroidism. It is an endocrine adaptogen, meaning that it does not contain any hormones, but rather it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production.  

Cacao.  Two words: Antioxidants and deliciousness!  The difference cacao and cocoa is cacao is raw and unprocessed.  When you hear studies on the benefits of chocolate, although still good for you, they are not often referring to cocoa.  

Greens (spinach, Kale, etc).  Enough said - you've heard the research.  I prefer frozen greens to keep my smoothies icy cold.  

Nuts (soaked almonds are my preference).  The list is long on the healthy benefits of Almonds.  Beyond the benefits, my reason for including them in most of my smoothies is because they fill me up until my next meal.  

Pumpkin seeds.  Just read this article and you'll be convinced.  

Carrots.  Make sure you are working with a good quality smoothie blender to puree the carrots well.  I use the Blendtec and I've never had chunky carrots in my smoothies.

Sweet Potato.  This is one ingredient your kids won't notice.  When I cook sweet potatoes for a meal I bake an entire bag to have left overs for smoothies.  It is a great way to thicken up a watery smoothy with a smooth texture.  There's a great deal of research on sweet potatoes and their health benefits ranging from heart health, immunity and cancer prevention - here's a great article from Live Science.

Avocado.  Not only will avocado make your smoothie perfectly creamy, but you will benefit from almost 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

Tip: when you make a less than tasty smoothie, please do not toss it.  Smoothie ingredients can be expensive.  It's a great idea to experiment, but when doing so the outcome can go wrong.  Instead, I pour the mistake into an ice cube tray like this and next time I make a smoothie I toss in a cube or two - you won't taste the mistake in a new mixture.

I hope you are encouraged to experiment with some new ingredients.  I definitely don't use all these ingredients at once.  Variety and keeping things interesting is very important in a diet, so I like many options.  Smoothies are how I stay balanced, because I love a chocolate indulgent desserts and pizza nights!  I plan to share examples of my recipes but I felt it important to start with the fundamentals.  

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