I’m a big fan of breakfast smoothies. I love that you can pack so much goodness into breakfast. A morning smoothie can keep me full and my blood sugar levels stable right through to lunch. All I can say is (if you haven’t already) give them a go.
There are many ingredients you can add to a smoothie to make it a nutritionally balanced health packed powerhouse. The following are all ingredients I use on a regular basis. You don’t need to use them all at once. Start by finding some smoothie recipes you like and then experiment with ingredients until you find flavours you love.
Nuts & nut butters are a great way to increase the protein content of a smoothie and help make up a delicious flavour. Placing a handful of raw nuts in water and soaking overnight breaks down the complex protein chains into separate amino acids, which makes the protein easier to digest and the nutrients easier to absorb (this applies to all nuts you eat as well). Remember to rinse nuts after soaking. My favourite nuts to use are almonds, but macadamias, brazil nuts and cashews also work well. I don’t add a milk to my smoothie because the combination of nuts and water makes a milk in itself. Nut butters can be used in place of soaked nuts and also help create a delicious nutty flavour.
Protein Powder: You don’t need to add protein powder to smoothies – there are many other ingredients, which can contribute to the protein content, but they can be beneficial when you feel your body needs a boost of protein or if your diet has been low in protein on a particular day. Choose a good quality plant based organic rice, pea or hemp protein powder and always check the ingredient listing for additives, or ingredients you don’t know.
Chia seeds are high in dietary fibre, Omega 3, vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium and antioxidants, and contain all the essential amino acids so are a great way to add protein to a smoothie. They give the smoothie a lovely thick quality so I tend to use no more than a tablespoon for two serves.
Hemp seeds (hulled). Hemp contains all of the essential amino acids so it’s a great protein source for vegetarians or vegans. It’s also highly digestible which means its easily absorbed by the body. Hemp also contains the correct ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids needed by the body. You can add hemp via the hulled seeds or a in a protein powder form.
Leafy greens add a boost of vitamins, minerals & phytochemicals to a smoothie and are some of the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. Kale & spinach break down better than other veggies in smoothies and add to the protein content as well. Bonus!
Bee pollen is a highly absorbable protein that contains all the essential amino acids. About half its protein content is free amino acids that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. It also contains a rich source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Follow guidelines on the packet as to how much you should include and start small (half a teaspoon) and work your way up as it’s a very powerful food source.
Maca root powder is also known as the superfood of the Incas and has long been used for medicinal purposes and to promote endurance & stamina. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and all the essential amino acids. You only need to add a small amount of maca to a smoothie, one teaspoon is plenty. Note: Maca has an effect on the endocrine system, helping to balance it. If you are receiving treatment for hormonal issues or are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with a naturopath or medical practitioner before taking it. It is not recommended if you suffer from any hormone related cancers (breast, prostate, ovarian etc).
Spirulina & Chlorella are both algae with a high protein content which are a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They don’t taste great on their own so I tend to include them in green smoothies or juices made with coconut water as this helps disguise the taste. Follow instructions on the label as to how much you should use and start small (i.e. a teaspoon) and build up to one teaspoon.
Flaxseeds are high in dietary fibre, magnesium, phytochemicals and omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds when ground or in oil form are prone to oxidation meaning they go rancid quite quickly. It’s best to buy the whole flaxseed, keep them in the fridge and grind them fresh.
Berries are a rich source antioxidants and vitamin C and have a low glycaemic load, meaning they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. They also add a beautiful flavour and sweetness to a smoothie. I include berries in my diet daily. A sprinkling of Acai or Goji berries can also add to the antioxidant content of the smoothie.
Cacao (the raw & unprocessed form of cocoa) is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium. It adds a chocolatey flavour to a smoothie and including 1/2 a teaspoon can provide an energy boost in the morning.
Other ingredients that can increase the nutrient and flavour content include whole grain rolled oats (soaked first to increase digestibility), which can add to the protein content and thickness of a smoothie and coconut milk and coconut water can be used with, or in place of water.
If you want to sweeten a smoothie add a banana, a little stevia, rice malt syrup, pure maple syrup, raw honey or some other types of fruit.
One important thing to remember when having smoothies is this. The chewing process kicks starts salivation, which contains enzymes that start to breakdown carbohydrates and fats in the mouth. So when you’re having your smoothie (as silly as it looks) chew a little to make sure this process starts. Chewing also notifies the brain that the stomach is about to receive food and that we are contributing to our energy intake. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, oats and nuts all add to the thickness of a smoothie, making it easier to chew.
Below are two of my favourite morning smoothie recipes. I just throw the ingredients into a blender and wiz them up for 30 seconds. You can also make extra and put some in a flask for morning tea. Enjoy!