Your body is a magnificent machine and good food is the fuel that will keep it running at its best. One of the smartest–and easiest ways to support your body and all the important functions it performs is to ensure a steady diet of life-giving foods. Starting your day with a smoothie is a great way to ensure that no matter what happens with the rest of your day, you've given your body what it needs to thrive.
My smoothie is a late-morning breakfast/early lunch. I don't follow a recipe but I'm sure to include key ingredients because science that says this is good stuff! Add and subtract based on what you like and what's available but if you strive to include these in your rotation on a regular basis, you too, will reap the benefits.
Fruit - this is not an exhaustive list, just a few of the heavy-hitters:
Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat, protecting your cells and reducing the risk of disease. They're high in fiber which can help you feel fuller longer. Berries are heart-healthy and may help prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized–or damaged, which is believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease. Think blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Fresh or frozen is fine but frozen is convenient and keeps the smoothie frozen.
Bananas provide easily digestible carbs and potassium, perfect after a workout. Bananas also create a more substantial smoothie and lend a gentle sweetness.
Mangoes may protect the body from chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and certain forms of cancer. They're also loaded with important vitamins and minerals. Mangoes also contain fiber, which helps keep you regular. Frozen is the easiest for smoothies.
Avocados are a source of healthy monounsaturated fat and are said to help raise your good cholesterol (HDL) as well as protect your eyes. Because they're calorie dense use about 1/4 of one avocado per two smoothies.
Watermelon contains high levels of antioxidants like vitamins A and C, beta carotene, and lycopene. Watermelon is actually one of the top sources of lycopene which is linked to lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation. Lycopene may also decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer which are two more good reasons to include in when it's in season.
Dark, Leafy Vegetables
Doctors who specialize in clinical nutrition, like Dr. Michael Greger recommend we eat 3 servings of dark green leafy vegetables every day. Yes, every day! Including them in a smoothie is the perfect way to knock a serving or two off your daily to-do list. Dark, leafy greens, like kale, chard, and spinach, are an excellent source of nutrients including folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They have the potential to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
A fancy word for the category that includes fresh ginger root and turmeric. Toss a knob of fresh ginger and a knuckle's worth of fresh turmeric and you'll be helping to shut down inflammation that can lead to chronic disease. Studies have shown that daily consumption of ginger can reduce inflammation in osteoarthritis patients. Ginger also appears to lower blood pressure by acting as a natural calcium channel blocker and dilating the blood vessels. Turmeric has been found to be as effective as common anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen. If you can't find fresh turmeric, use 1/4 teaspoon of dried turmeric which you can find in the spice aisle. Add a good pinch of ground black pepper and you'll help your body absorb the best of what turmeric has to offer.
As far as whole grains go, oats are one of the best foods you can eat. Loaded with important B vitamins, minerals like iron and zinc, fiber, and protein, you might be surprised to know you can add uncooked oats to your smoothie. A few tablespoons should do it! Oats have compounds that lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and promote healthy gut bacteria which benefits your immune system.
Nuts and Seeds
While there are lots to choose from, these are a few powerhouses to consider:
Ground flaxseeds are so important that some doctors recommend you have 1 tablespoon every day. Flaxseed is an important source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health, and lignans–a compound with potent anti-cancer properties.
Brazil nuts can help regulate your thyroid gland, reduce inflammation, and support your heart, brain, prostate, and immune system. Just 1 per day is sufficient. More is not necessarily better when it comes to Brazil nuts.
Walnuts are reported to have more antioxidants than any other nut. Antioxidants can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by dangerous free radicals. Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce heart disease risk. And walnuts may help manage type 2 diabetes and lower your risk of developing it.
Chia and hemp seeds are both rich in antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and protect against chronic disease. They're also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids–again, good for your heart. And both seeds are excellent sources of protein.
Once you've got everything in the blender...add your juice, coconut water, or water and some ice. Blend and enjoy the benefits of starting your day with food that fuels you.