7 Healthy Smoothies: Recipes and Benefits

Ingredients matter

It’s easier than ever to grab a smoothie in the drive-thru, health club and even grocery store, like the viral $19.00 Hailey Bieber “skin glaze” smoothie at Erewhon in Los Angeles.

But are smoothies really healthy? Is it good to have a smoothie every day?

There is no need to curtail your smoothie habit, especially if you make them yourself, says Boston-based registered dietitian Liz Weiss, creator of Liz’s Healthy Table.

Making your smoothies at home means you have control of what goes in the blender, she says. Prepackaged and ready-made smoothies often contain added sugars and may be packed with more calories than you may realize. For example, the Hulk Strawberry at the Smoothie King chain is made with butter pecan ice cream and contains 1,330 calories for the medium 32-ounce smoothie.

To make nutrient-dense homemade smoothies, Weiss recommends adding an array of fruits and vegetables and a source of protein and healthy fats.

“I make smoothies almost every day and enjoy them with breakfast or as a snack,” says Weiss, who also recommends being mindful of portion sizes. “I usually stick to an 8 to 12-ounce portion.”

Unpacking smoothie health concerns

Does blending a smoothie remove nutrients?

You may have heard that blending fruits and vegetables destroys fiber and other nutrients. That’s not true. A review of studies on smoothies found that the fiber remains intact and concludes that smoothies can be a valuable way to increase fruits and vegetables.

“Obviously the form of the smoothie ingredients change when blended, but since you are drinking all that goodness, you are taking advantage of all the nutrients, including the fiber,” says registered dietitian Dana Angelo White, author of “Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.” “This is different from juicing where the pulp is extracted and so there is fiber loss.”

One study even found that blending could help enhance the absorption of some nutrients. Researchers found an increase in the bioavailability of beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) in liquefied spinach in smoothies compared to whole-leaf spinach.

Is drinking your calories a problem?

Some people may be concerned about drinking your calories instead of eating the whole food. Why use a straw to drink strawberries, yogurt and oats instead of sitting down to eat those foods in a bowl? For starters, maybe it’s more convenient and you need to eat on the go. Or perhaps it’s easier to tolerate after a strenuous workout.

Another concern related to satiety or a feeling of fullness is true: A smoothie may not be as filling as eating whole foods. One study found that a fresh fruit salad was substantially more filling than a smoothie made out of the same fruits. However, study participants did not consume more calories after drinking the smoothie. You can increase the satiety of your smoothie by starting with a protein base like Greek yogurt, kefir or cottage cheese and adding healthy fats like avocado and nut butters.

Is it bad to add bananas to a smoothie?

Maybe you also heard about bananas “destroying” or “ruining” your smoothie, but you can check that worry off your list as well.

The banana bashing started with a study that set out to explore the impact of a banana vs. a berry smoothie on the absorption of certain flavanols in cocoa extract. The smoothie made with bananas (high in an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase or PPO) resulted in 84% lower levels of flavanols absorbed in the body compared to the mixed berry smoothie. The study did not look at the combination of bananas and berries on flavanols, the beneficial plant compounds in cocoa, tea and colorful fruits linked to heart and brain health.

No need to stop adding bananas to your smoothies because of this study. Bananas are nutrient-dense, and when you toss in chunks of frozen banana, it can add rich thickness to smoothies.

Blueberry bliss smoothie

This blueberry smoothie is a favorite of registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist Kelly Powers, who describes herself as a smoothie connoisseur. Powers created a “Smoothie School” e-book that features her formula for building balanced, nutritious smoothies.

— 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened, vanilla

— 1 banana

— 1 cup blueberries

— 2 cups spinach

— 1 scoop collagen peptides

— 1 tablespoon almond butter

— 1 tablespoon hemp seeds

— Dash or more cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Strawberry banana smoothie

This “old faithful” combination of strawberries and banana is a go-to smoothie for Kailey Proctor, an oncology dietitian at City of Hope in Southern California. The addition of yogurt and peanut butter helps boost the protein content.

— A handful of strawberries

— 1 banana

— 1 small container of vanilla Greek yogurt

— 2 tablespoons peanut butter

— A handful of spinach

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.

Sunrise super smoothie

Brighten your morning with this citrusy smoothie by registered dietitian Stacie Hassing of the Real Food Dietitians. It’s packed with nutritious immune-supporting ingredients.

— 8 to 10 ounces unsweetened almond or coconut milk

— 2 small carrots

— 1 medium orange

— 1/2 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen

— 2 tablespoons hemp hearts

— 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (may substitute ¼ teaspoon ground ginger)

— ½ teaspoon fresh turmeric, minced (may substitute ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric)

— 1 to 2 scoops protein powder of choice

— 1 cup ice

Place ingredients in a high-powdered blender and blend until smooth.

Roasted pineapple with cottage cheese smoothie

Enjoy a taste of the tropics with this smoothie recipe courtesy of White that contains cottage cheese for added protein.

— 2 cups fresh pineapple

— 1 ½ cups coconut water

— 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

— Ice

1. Preheat your oven to broil. Place pineapple in a broiler-safe pan and broil until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pineapple from the pan and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

2. In a blender, combine cooked pineapple, coconut water, cottage cheese and as much ice as desired. Blend on high speed until smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into two chilled glasses and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Mighty vanilla chai smoothie

Andrea Mathis, a registered dietitian and author of “The Complete Book of Smoothies,” created this smoothie that turns a chai latte into a protein smoothie that’s perfect for a quick, on-the-go beverage.

“Chai is great for adding a little energy to help you jump-start your day, and it can also help boost your immune system,” she says. The neutral-tasting cauliflower provides fiber, vitamins C, K and folate.

— 1 cup steamed or frozen (thawed) cauliflower, chilled

— 2 scoops vanilla pea protein powder

— 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

— 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

— 1 cup brewed chai tea, cooled

— 1 cup unsweetened plain oat milk

— 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

— ½ cup ice

Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Green smoothie

Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner created this green smoothie with baby spinach, although she also recommends kale, collard greens, arugula and other leafy greens. If you want the leafy greens and not the color, Blatner developed another version in her Smoothie School series with blueberries and unsweetened cocoa powder that covers up the green color.

— 8 ounces plain low-fat kefir

— 1 banana

— 2 cups baby spinach leaves

— 3 tablespoons chia seeds

— 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

— 1/4 cup cold water

— 1/4 cup ice

In a blender, puree kefir, banana, spinach, chia, cinnamon, water and ice until smooth.

Peanut butter and banana smoothie bowl

Smoothie bowls have less liquid and are thicker than a drinkable smoothie. Eaten with a spoon instead of sipped through a straw, smoothie bowls lend themselves to multiple toppings: nuts, fruit, seeds, coconut, whole grain cereal and more. This version is courtesy of Weiss, who authored Color, Cook, Eat! Smoothie Bowls.

— 1 cup plain soymilk (or milk of choice)

— 2 frozen bananas

— 3 tablespoons peanut butter

— 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

— 1 tablespoon chia seeds

— ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

— Optional toppers: O-shaped whole grain cereal, crushed graham crackers, chopped peanuts, chia seeds, coconut chips, sliced banana

Place the soymilk, frozen bananas, peanut butter, cocoa, chia seeds and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into individual bowls and garnish with your choice of optional toppers.

Adding protein to smoothies

Adding a source of protein to smoothies can make them more satisfying, says White. Options include:

— Greek yogurt

— Kefir

— Dairy or soy milk

— Cottage cheese

— Silken tofu

— Nuts

— Peanut butter and other nut butters

— Powdered peanut butter

— Protein shakes

— White beans

Protein powders are another option, including whey protein powder or plant-based blends. “I typically recommend protein powders with simple ingredient lists and products with third-party testing, especially for competitive athletes,” says White.

Collagen peptides are also a popular smoothie ingredient, although keep in mind that collagen is not a complete protein. It does not include all nine essential amino acids.

You may also see recipes for bone broth smoothies, however, if you’re looking for a collagen boost you might be out of luck. Bone broth is not a reliable source of collagen, research indicates. The amount of collagen in bone broth can vary significantly depending on the brand or how it’s made at home.

Low-calorie and keto-friendly smoothies

“Experimenting with a new type of frozen fruit blend, adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom, or tossing in a few handfuls of greens are just a few of the ways you can elevate your smoothies,” says White. “To boost the nutrition, I will often add ingredients like chia seeds for healthy fats and protein, oats for fiber, or coconut water and a sprinkle of sea salt for extra electrolytes.”

To trim calories in smoothies, use water, coconut water or unsweetened plant-based milk instead of fruit juice or regular milk, advises Mathis.

You could also try a coffee smoothie with cold brew, protein powder, unsweetened almond milk and ice.

If you’re trying to eat fewer carbs, go for frozen berries and dark leafy greens instead of bananas and mangos. Add in healthy fats like avocado, almond butter and other nut butters.

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7 Healthy Smoothies: Recipes and Benefits originally appeared on usnews.com

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