Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Everyone knows how to make a smoothie including my 9 year old son.  And it's easy enough to make them taste great.  But how do you make a healthy smoothie?  Mastering the art of smoothie making comes down to dialing in high doses of nutrition, with long lasting energy, AND still have them come out tasting great.  
I've been on a smoothie kick since the beginning of the year; which may have a lot to do with two good friends who started their second 30 day dietary "cleanse" which relies on a LOT of smoothie consumption.  But it really has more to do with wanting to kick start my 46 year old body into a healthier gear.  As we age the odds just keep going up that we'll encounter one of those nasty life changing health crises.  I'll save those fears for another blog.  
At the crux of my new found smoothie prowess is ultra-runner Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run where he espouses multiple smoothie recipes for ultra-performance.  I'll save my review of Jurek's book--which I couldn't put down--for another time too.  His recipe for a green smoothie made with spirulina is a real winner.  Turns out the spirulina smoothie is a great way to get that superfood into my diet.  Yeah, spirulina is that green, dried health food powder made from a green algae that smells pretty earthy.  Jurek even has a recipe that utilizes edamame--a.k.a. cooked soybeans--for a green protein punch.  I'm still perfecting my green smoothie recipes as I look for ways to optimize my health.   And I just came across another green pre-race smoothie on Outside Magazine on-line that uses spinach for a nutrient punch.  This suggestion definitely further stretched my capacities as a smoothie maker.  
Adding green to your smoothies raises the nutritional bar higher than simply replacing electrolytes like potassium with the standard banana.  Most smoothie lovers are also familiar with other ways to boost the protein intake.  Yogurt and protein powders like those available at General Nutrition Center make it easy.  But plant based protein like silken tofu nicely create a neutral foundation for most any smoothie.  I've started using raw chia seed regularly which acts both as a thickener and nutritional supplement.  A good source of protein and healthy fat, chia seed also adds interesting texture to your glass; although my kids would generally not agree.  I've found that plant-based smoothie components are easier on my stomach and leave me feeling ready to head right out on the trail without the normal wait times recommended between eating and exercising. 
I've discovered lots of great new smoothie components in the past 3 months.  Coconut in it's varied forms--milk, butter, even oil--is right there in the top five on my list.  Coconut makes for a great way to build your smoothies' flavor profile while getting all the benefits of a well rounded nutrition supplement.  Other additives like ginger, papaya, and tumeric can add distinctive flavor while contributing digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits.  The list goes on and so should you as you look for great new smoothie combinations to spice up your palate and your performance.  

And since this is an outdoor gear blog after all, we should note that the route to the highest state of smoothie bliss can be found by blending your beverage under your own power with GSI's hand-cranked Vortex blender.  If nothing else the Vortex allows you to take your smoothies to the campground or other outdoor venue. 

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