My thoughts on life

August 19, 2013 Health , , ,

Morning Smoothies

Recently I started having a smoothie for breakfast several days a week. I’ve tried doing this before, but I’ve never kept it up more than twice, before forgetting about my plans and going back to cereal or oatmeal every day. It always started the same way: I would buy a bunch of bags of frozen fruit and maybe some juice, and tell myself I was going to start having fruit smoothies for breakfast. Because I’ve done this repeatedly, and I don’t have many other uses for frozen fruit, we had quite the stockpile going in our freezer.

What changed recently was that I wasn’t trying to make a smoothie for any special purpose, I just wanted to use up some stuff in the freezer. I started with some frozen overripe bananas, a bit of applesauce, some freezer-burned frozen berries, and a handful of nuts. This time I didn’t include any dairy, while previous versions always included yogurt or kefir, or maybe ricemilk. The results were quite good. Then I mastered the other secret to regular smoothies: I promptly washed the blender.

Our blender is just an average kitchen blender. It’s not special or particularly expensive. To clean it you have to separate the blades from the jar  and wash them separately. When the blender has just been used, this takes about 5 minutes. When you are lazy and procrastinate and clean it three days later, when the blender contents have dried up, it takes much longer. By cleaning the blender right away, I was able to make another smoothie the next day, without having the barrier of cleaning the day-old blender mess first.

Having had several smoothies a week for the last few weeks, I’ve done a little experimenting, and I have a pretty good formula as well. Depending on what’s on hand, I start with either two bananas, one banana and half a cup (approximately) of applesauce, or one cup of applesauce. To this I add about a cup of frozen berries, half a cup of nuts, a heaping spoonful of flax seed, and possibly some spices. If the mixture is too thick, I add water a couple tablespoonfuls at a time, until it is thin enough to blend properly.

The frozen berries most commonly available at my local grocery store are raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, mixed berries and (while not technically berries) cherries. I also sometimes get frozen peach slices. I’ve been sticking to berries most of the time, because they are full of healthy nutrients, and more and more studies are showing that they can prevent or halt cancer. Look on NutritionFacts.org if you don’t believe me.

The nuts I use are either raw almonds or a mix of raw cashews, dry roasted peanuts and other nuts and seeds. This is just what we keep handy in the house. I might try other nuts in the future. I feel like the nuts really round out the taste, and they also add some protein, fiber and fat to the smoothie. Since protein and fat take longer to digest than the simple carbohydrates in the fruits, it keeps me feeling full longer and prevents a sugar crash in mid-morning.

I add flax seed because it has lots of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for heart health. Flax seeds have also been shown to have a variety of positive effects on health and they are really inexpensive! The one downside of flax seeds is that you have to break them up to digest the properly. Since my kitchen blender isn’t powerful enough to break all of the flax I put in it, and the seeds are cheap, I throw extra in. I could buy flax seed meal instead, but you have to be careful when buying that to make sure the oil hasn’t been removed, it’s less shelf stable, and it’s not available at my grocery store.

For spices, so far I have only tried cinnamon and cocoa powder and I find these to both be good, especially in combination. I was surprised, when I looked at the nutrition information for cocoa powder, to find that it is high in iron, protein, and fiber! For such a delicious addition, it has a lot of nutritional benefits, and a chocolate banana strawberry smoothie is damn delicious for something with no added sugar or added fat.

So far I’ve only strayed from this formula a little when tried adding dried fruit and frozen peas to my smoothie. The dried fruit was to add a bit more variety of flavor, but my blender couldn’t integrate it well. I could probably add dates, but that would mostly add sugar, and I find them to be sweet enough as is.  I added a cup of frozen peas to add protein, and they worked pretty well. I could taste the peas, but they weren’t overpowering, and integrated pretty well. I might try them again with a stronger flavored berry (I was using strawberries) and only half or 3/4 cup this time, so see if they’re a little more subtle.

Other things I’m planning to try are adding spinach or other veggies (raw or frozen) to the mix and see which work and which don’t. I do eat a lot of vegetables on a daily basis though, while I struggle to get in plenty of fruit, so if I fail to find many veggies that work well in a breakfast smoothie, it won’t be the end of the world for me.

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