Linda Crampton is a former teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about nutrition and the culture and history of food.
I love making and drinking smoothies. They’re quick and easy to create, and it’s fun to experiment with new ingredients and flavors. With the right ingredients, a smoothie can be delicious and nutritious. It can be an enjoyable addition to a meal or even a meal in itself.
The smoothie in my recipe contains blueberries, which are said to have great health benefits, and cashew butter, which gives a delicious flavor to the smoothie and contains healthy fats. It also contains salad greens, making it a green smoothie. The apple, banana, and carrot provide nutrients and natural sweetness. The milk provides protein. Non-dairy milks like soy milk or hemp milk would also be a good source of protein.
I like to make each of my smoothies a balanced meal, with protein, carbohydrates, good fats, and a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytonutrients (or phytochemicals) from both fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients are chemicals in plants that aren't essential to keep us alive but are thought to have important health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of certain diseases.
Like other smoothies, the recipe in this article isn't low in calories, but it does contain healthy ingredients and is loaded with nutrients. It's great to drink as a meal, as a meal accompaniment, or as a snack, depending on the quantity that's drunk.
Green Smoothie Recipe
Yield: 2 servings (as a meal accompaniment) or 1 serving (as a meal)
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 medium-sized ripe banana
- 1 cored apple with its peel
- 1 cup dark green salad greens (such as romaine lettuce)
- 1 small carrot
- 2 tablespoons of cashew butter
- 1 cup milk or enriched non-dairy milk
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend. (Note: If your blender isn’t very powerful you might want to chop the larger fruits and vegetables into small pieces and blend the ingredients in more than one stage, gradually mixing them together.)
- Pour into glasses and serve.
I make this smoothie quite often. I love its taste, and drinking it is a good way to make sure that I get some useful nutrients. The drink is mildly sweet, which I like, but if you'd like more sweetness you could add a healthy sweetener. Extra smoothie keeps well in the refrigerator, at least until later in the day. I enjoy drinking it so much that I never leave it to the next day.
Healthy Fruits in the Recipe
All berries are very healthy, but blueberries seem to have special benefits. Surveys and experiments suggest (though don't prove) that blueberries help to prevent memory loss and even improve memory, especially as we age. The berries are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese and contain smaller amounts of many other vitamins and minerals.
Apples are also a good source of vitamin C. Apple skin contains polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. These polyphenols may reduce inflammation in our bodies, although more research needs to be done to confirm this. Bananas are a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, folate, manganese, potassium, and magnesium.
I try to include whole, unpeeled fruits in my smoothies instead of using fruit juices so that I obtain both the soluble and the insoluble fiber from the fruit. Each type of fiber has its own health benefits. Soluble fiber helps to lower the blood sugar level and the level of cholesterol in the blood. Insoluble fiber, which is generally found in the peels of fruits, is beneficial for gut health. Whenever unpeeled fruits are eaten they should be washed thoroughly. I make sure that I buy organic fruit if I'm going to eat the peel, even though I always wash the fruit.
Facts About Wild and Cultivated Blueberries
Both cultivated and wild blueberries are good in smoothies. Although the term "wild blueberries" implies that people go into nature and forage for the berries, this image isn't correct. Wild blueberries are not planted and are wild in origin, but they are also a managed crop. They spread by underground rhizomes. Land is cleared for the blueberries to allow them to spread, they are pruned as necessary, and weeds and pests are removed.
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The production of wild blueberries has become a major industry in the northeastern section of North America, including in Maine and New Brunswick, where the berries grow naturally. Wild blueberries are also known as lowbush blueberries.
Both wild and cultivated blueberries are very nutritious fruits. Research has shown that the wild berries contain more antioxidants than the cultivated ones, however. Antioxidants are substances that prevent a chemical reaction known as oxidation in our bodies. This may reduce damage to our cells.
I nearly always have frozen blueberries in my freezer so that they can be added to multiple meals and hopefully provide me with health benefits. I buy fresh ones when I can, though.
Health Benefits of Wild Blueberries
Carrots are extremely rich in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A. Our bodies change beta-carotene into the form of vitamin A that we need. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and several B vitamins. They contain a useful amount of several minerals as well, especially potassium and manganese.
I add green vegetables such as the darker salad greens to all my smoothies. Nutritionists tell us that we should have at least three to five servings of vegetables each day, so I like to add them to as many meals and snacks as possible. Salad greens contain beneficial nutrients, especially beta-carotene, vitamin K, and folate, and are much lower in sugar than fruits. Researchers have found that the darker greens are richer in nutrients than the lighter ones.
Since the green vegetables are mixed with fruits and nut butter in the recipe above, they don’t overpower the taste of the smoothie. If you'd like a stronger taste, you could add more greens and/or less fruit or choose a different variety of leafy green. This change might also reduce the number of calories in the drink, depending on whether other alterations are made. Smoothies can easily be adapted to one's preferences.
Cashew butter is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Researchers have found that these lower the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This is the so-called "bad" cholesterol. When it's present in an excessive amount, it contributes to the buildup of plaque in the linings of our arteries and increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Cashew butter also contains protein and useful quantities of minerals. It’s a good source of magnesium and copper and contains a significant amount of zinc and iron.
There are two additional benefits of adding a good fat to a smoothie. It helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the fruits and vegetables and helps us to maintain a stable blood sugar level after the ingestion of the fruits. There is sugar (mainly in the form of fructose) in both the fruits and the carrots.
Health Benefits of Cashews and Other Nuts
Both dairy and non-dairy milk work well in the recipe. I like to use a milk that contains some protein to add to the protein in the cashew butter. I also like to use a milk that is low in fat, since there is already fat in the smoothie from the cashew butter.
Dairy milk and enriched non-dairy milk provide the vitamin B12 and vitamin D which the fruits, vegetables, and cashew butter lack. It's a great idea to add as many nutrients as possible to a smoothie.
A scoop of protein powder would also enrich the smoothie. Protein powder may not be natural, but it is nutritious. Both whey and vegan protein powders are available. They come in different flavors, including chocolate, which is my favorite. It pays to check the label on the container carefully to discover what is in the protein powder and how it is prepared.
A Versatile and Delicious Beverage
Smoothies are versatile drinks. I love the fact that they can be very rich in nutrients as well as delicious, depending on their ingredients. Experimenting with different recipes is fun. Mixing some ingredients into the blend can add a large number of calories as well as nutrients, so some planning is needed if smoothies are a regular part of the diet instead of a special treat. I think creating, tasting, and analyzing different smoothie recipes is definitely worthwhile.
- Blueberries may boost memory in older adults from the U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Blueberries and cognition from the American Chemical Society
- Colorful fruits and antioxidants from WebMD
- Cholesterol information from the Mayo Clinic
- Nutrients in raw cashews from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture); the database also shows nutrients in the other items in my recipe. Click on "Food Search" and enter the name of the desired food.
- The importance of eating vegetables from the MyPlate USDA site
- Nutritional benefits of dark green vegetables from the USDA
- Facts about monounsaturated fats from the U.S. Library of Medicine
- Soluble and insoluble fiber facts from WebMD
© 2012 Linda Crampton