Healthy, delicious drinks that provide a nutrient boost while tempting your taste buds.
We know we need them. We know they help prevent a host of modern diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The National Cancer Institute recommends that you eat five servings of fresh vegetables and three servings of fresh fruit daily, but research shows that significant numbers of people are not meeting these dietary objectives.
One of the easiest ways to consume your fruits and vegetables is to drink them. And every year, more and more people are doing just that. According to the California–based Juice and Smoothie Association, by July 2002 the juice and smoothie business topped $1 billion in sales. Fast and easy to make, smoothies are also becoming the beverage of choice at home, where you can choose the ingredients you use, ensuring their freshness and quality.
Children are among the biggest fans — and beneficiaries — of smoothies, which deliver phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals so essential for growing bodies. Teaching them how to make their own satisfying and nutritious drinks will build a healthy habit that will last a lifetime. By 9 or 10, children are capable of learning the basics of operating a blender safely and cleaning it when they’re finished. So there’s really no reason why children shouldn’t be drinking much of their nutrition.
People at every point in the life cycle, from singles to empty nesters to the elderly, are discovering the simplicity and nutritional benefits of smoothies. Because the beverages are so quick and easy to make and require minimal cleanup, smoothies are ideal to prepare in the small quantities that suit one or two people. They are also a delicious medium in which to take herbal medicines and nutritional supplements. Whisking in other healthful ingredients, such as protein powder, ginseng or wheat germ, boosts smoothies’ already high nutritional value.
Smoothies came to us via the beaches of California, where warm weather and cool, healthy drinks are part of the culture. With the introduction of blenders, Californians could buy blended thirst-quenching drinks made with orange juice, bananas and strawberries (with or without ice) right on the beach. It wasn’t long before other combinations were created and a whole new category of beverages came into existence.
Smoothies can be made from fruits, vegetables, herbs and/or a variety of other healthy ingredients. Smoothies require a liquid base — anything from juice or milk to broth or herbal tea. They can be served hot, cold, at room temperature — even frozen. During the heat of summer or after an intense workout, there is no better way to lower your body temperature than with a refreshing, cold smoothie.
A nutritious diet includes protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals, fiber and water in proportions that promote growth and maintain healthy cells. It also includes ample quantities of vegetables and fruits. In fact, the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables hold the key to preventing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, and debilitating conditions, such as asthma, arthritis and allergies.
The problem is, even the most disciplined person can find it difficult to consume the quantities of fruits and vegetables health professionals recommend. Adding a daily smoothie or two to your diet is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you eat enough fruits and vegetables to promote good health.
Our bodies thrive on food that is close to its natural state, which means that we should eat as much whole, fresh — and preferably organically produced — food as possible, while avoiding processed or refined foods, which contain artificial preservatives and additives. Two daily smoothies, brimming with fresh fruits or vegetables and juice, will help improve your immune system, boost your energy, strengthen your bones, clear your skin and lower your risk of disease. Consuming different kinds of smoothies made from a wide variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables will ensure that you receive a broad range of nutrients, which will help you achieve the best health possible.
• Measure the ingredients into the blender jug in the order listed in the recipe, pouring liquid into the jug first. This is essential for the blender to work properly.
• Blend on the "Low" or "Mix" setting for 10 to 30 seconds, then increase the speed to "High," "Puree" or "Liquefy" for another 10 to 30 seconds. This allows the blades to chop the bigger chunks finely before they spin faster and lift the mixture up and out of range. This method actually shortens the time needed to liquefy the ingredients for drinking.
• Always chop ice with some liquid in the jug.
• Smoothie too thin? Add a couple of ice cubes, a banana or frozen fruit.
• Smoothie too thick? Add more liquid — juice, soy milk, milk or water.
• Smoothie too sweet? Add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until taste is corrected.
• Smoothie too sour? Add chopped sweet fruit (banana, apple, grapes, pineapple, dried apricots or dates) in 1/4-cup increments, until desired sweetness is achieved.
Bursting with flavorful sweetness and nutrition, smoothies made from fruit are the most popular variety. Filled with healthful antioxidants and other vital phytochemicals, they are a great way to start the day. If you make them with milk, yogurt, tofu or fortified soy milk, they also add bone-building calcium to your diet.
Fruit smoothies are also a great source of fiber. Unlike juices, which lack insoluble fiber, smoothies deliver all the natural fiber that’s present in whole, raw fruits. Use fresh or frozen fruit, or a combination, in smoothies.
For all the smoothie recipes that follow, process as directed in the instructions mentioned earlier.
Serves 3 or 4
Serves 1 or 2
Try adding vegetable smoothies to your diet — as lunchtime beverages, mid-afternoon pick-me-ups or pre-dinner cocktails. They’re easy to grab on the go and are a good alternative to salads — and much easier to eat at your desk or in the car!
Because cooking vegetables destroys some of their nutrients, experiment with smoothies made from milder-tasting raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant or zucchini, first. Then try stronger-tasting raw vegetables, such as cauliflower, peas or broccoli. If you find their flavor too strong, you’ll know that you’ll want to cook these vegetables before or after blending. Cooking softens the taste and the texture of vegetables.
Some vegetables, especially hard root vegetables — like beets, potatoes and parsnips — must be cooked well before you can use them in smoothies.
Serves 1 or 2
Serves 2 or 3
Serves 1 or 2
Like fruits and vegetables, many herbs are high in antioxidants, which counteract the free radicals that can cause cellular damage, aging and susceptibility to cancers. Each medicinal herb has unique active components that offer specific health benefits.
Fresh, whole herbs — preferably organic— provide the maximum range of nutrients. Grow your own or look for fresh herbs in supermarkets and at farmer’s markets. Use dried herbs in smoothies when fresh herbs are not available. If you’re using dried herbs, use one-half to one-third less dried herb than the quantity of fresh called for in a recipe. Crush or grind dried herbs to a powder, then add to smoothie ingredients before blending.
Herbal teas (infusions) may be substituted for all or part of the liquid in any smoothie recipes. The issue is whether you like the taste — some, such as mint and chamomile, are quite pleasant.
Excerpted with permission from The Smoothies Bible (Robert Rose, 2003) by Pat Crocker, with health information by Susan Eagles.
Pat Crocker is a culinary herbalist and professional home economist. She has written and lectured about herbs and health issues for more than 25 years. The Smoothies Bible is her fourth cookbook. Visit her website at www.riversongherbals.com.
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