Top 3 Ingredients for a Healthy Smoothie

467220117How do you fit healthy eating habits into a packed schedule? The answer doesn’t seem to come easily to the average person, especially when it comes to getting the right foods your body needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends serving guidelines of two to four fruits, and three to five vegetables on a daily basis, and other experts suggest seven to 10 servings. These standards might seem impossible, unless you are able to spend hours of your time mapping out each and every meal. Not so!

Adding a homemade smoothie to your day, with your own fruits and veggies, makes it that much more convenient. Smoothies are full of fruit which is part of what makes them healthy; however, the natural sugars in fruit will also add extra calories. For this reason, fruit really shouldn’t be the only source of nutrients in your smoothie. You need something to boost the nutrient content without the natural sugars.

For the ultimate power-packed smoothie, here are my Top 3 go-to ingredients that will really help to give you the energy (and flavor) you need to start your day or pick you up.

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Sprouted Brown Rice Protein Powder

Protein powders are commonly used for smoothies, but it’s always a challenge finding the right one. I am sensitive to dairy, hemp and gluten, which means many protein and nutritional powders on the market won’t work for me. It is also important to remember that some protein powders are processed products, and can contain chemical ingredients, and whey protein isolate powders should be avoided because they lose important vitamins and minerals during processing. If you do buy whey protein powders, look for minimally processed, grass-fed, organic and hormone-free versions.

My protein powder of choice contains one ingredient: Sprouted organic brown rice. It has 16 g of protein, which is less than other powders on the market, but you are getting sufficient protein from the other smoothie ingredients anyway, so the slightly lower amount won’t make a difference. Brown rice has more amino acids, which is what makes a complete protein. Brown rice protein powders are considered hypoallergenic, so a good choice for people avoiding dairy or gluten. And for vegans and vegetarians, it provides a fantastic source of fiber.

Nuts for Protein and Healthy Fats

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Want even more protein in your morning smoothie? Nuts are a great addition! Try a tablespoon of almond or cashew butter for great texture and taste. I also like to throw in some raw whole cashews or almonds as well. A quarter cup of almonds contains 7.62 g of protein, while a quarter cup of cashews has 5.24 g of protein. Both nuts contain a healthy amount of monounsaturated fat with 11.61 g in a quarter cup for almonds and 9.36 g for cashews.

Monounsaturated fats are the good kind of fats that promote heart health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. People tend to avoid all fats when trying to lose weight, but some are actually good for you, so don’t avoid your nuts. Another benefit is that cashews and almonds are easy to digest because they have lots of dietary fiber.

Healthy Dairy Alternative: Ghee

Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It supports any healthy eating practice by providing a great source of energy. The oil is not an option for vegans; however, it is nutritionally comparable to coconut oil. I’m sensitive to coconut oil, which makes ghee a good alternative. Add one tablespoon of ghee into your smoothie to boost your levels of vitamins A, D, E and K, all essential to your immunity and bone health. Ghee is a good dairy alternative, too, because it doesn’t contain the common dairy allergens found in butter, such as whey and casein.

If You Decide You Need Something More…

One of the big benefits of a smoothie is there is always room for more nutrition. So if you want to fill up your smoothie with more flavor and energy, consider making it “green.” Half an avocado, a handful of spinach or kale can be tasty green options. Add a little bit of frozen mango, a handful of blueberries and a fresh banana and then mix it all up with a cup of water. Delicious and super healthy!

Who said you can’t fit in your seven to 10 servings?!

Sources:
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 534, 538, 548. 
“Monounsaturated Fats: How Food Affects Health,” Joy Bauer web site; http://www.joybauer.com/food-articles/monounsaturated-fats.aspx, last accessed April 21, 2014.
Kelly, T., “Smoothies are Bad for you: Fruit juices are packed with sugar and we would be better off having vegetable drinks, say scientists,” Mail Online web site, Sept. 9, 2013; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2414871/Smoothies-BAD-Fruit-juices-packed-sugar-better-having-vegetable-drinks-say-scientists.html.
Herrington, D., “15 Amazing Benefits of Ghee,” Care2 Healthy Living web site, April 13, 2014; http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-amazing-benefits-of-ghee.html.
Pearson, M., “Sprouted Brown Rice Protein Powder: Health Benefits, Tips and Product Picks!” GreenPlanet.org web site, April 11, 2013; http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/sprouted-brown-rice-protein-powder-health-benefits-tips-and-product-picks/.
“Whey Protein Isolate: The Protein Powder You Should Never Buy,” Mercola.com web site, May 11, 2011; http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2011/05/11/whey-protein-shown-superior-to-other-milk-proteins-for-building-muscle.aspx.