The smoothie is one of the hallmarks of a health-conscious diet. In a regimen that includes small but frequent meals and a dedicated workout routine, the smoothie serves many purposes: meal replacement, post-workout recovery agent and guilt-free dessert among them. Making it with the right ingredients is the key, however, and it’s something that a lot of people fail to consider. Just because it’s a smoothie doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy; ice cream is still ice cream, and chocolate doesn’t magically lose calories just because you blend it with ice and milk.
With the correct blend of ingredients, a smoothie can be exactly what the doctor - or fitness trainer - ordered. It’s the perfect vehicle for downing supplements like protein isolate and creatine, as well as a great way to turn boring fruit or bland milk into something tasty. Not every smoothie has to be milk-based, either. Many of the recipes here start with 100% fruit juice as the base, making them ideal for the lactose-intolerant.
Traditionally, smoothies have been fruit- or fruit juice-based. In recent years, the rising popularity of protein shakes has led to many smoothies starting with a milk base (often skimmed), with a protein supplement and fruits added just for flavour. Some of the most delicious smoothies are semi-frozen, made by throwing ice and fresh fruit into a blender. You can add a bit of fruit juice if you want something that’s a little more liquid, or toss in a scoop of fat-free ice cream for a creamier consistency. Milk is best left for protein shakes and outright frozen milkshakes; the blend of acidic fruit and basic milk can create a pH imbalance in the stomach if either ingredient isn’t absolutely fresh. If you still want a dairy base, try skim yoghurt with a dash of vanilla extract.
There are umpteen ways to flavour a smoothie. Acidic fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, kiwi and passion fruit are favourites. Not only do they add a dose of sweetness, they’re all high in antioxidants and several vitamins. A small fruit smoothie, therefore, makes a wonderful pre-workout snack. These types of fruits are also popular because you can juice them fairly easily, allowing for a consistent flavour when you want to add that component. Bananas, with their alkaline nature, are a great counterbalancing flavour to many citric fruits; they work especially well with berries.
Considering something not so fruity? Go for a caramel or chocolate base. A modest amount of dark cocoa powder or a tiny bit of caramel flavouring can go a long way. A base of fat-free ice cream or skim yoghurt with plenty of ice works best here. If you’re taking the chocolate route, adding banana creates a different and intensely delicious flavour. It’s okay to indulge in milk chocolate now and again, but if you’re going to make this a daily affair, stick to dark cocoa on most days.
Smoothies are popular with gym jocks because they’re perfect for drowning supplements. Protein isolates (whey, casein) are especially popular choices for smoothies. Creatine, a mass builder popular with those seeking to gain muscle, is another supplement that’s often put into smoothies. Açaí berry powder, with its cleansing effect and high antioxidant levels, is gaining popularity in India after becoming a mainstay in the West. Other supplements that often go into smoothies include: ginkgo biloba, taurine, green tea extract, chromium, bee pollen, aloe, B-complex, vitamin C, wheat germ and omega acids.
Try one of these smoothie recipes, depending on your tastes and what you’re looking for:
• To bump up your metabolism, mix the fruit of one mango with 200 ml of unsweetened cranberry juice and 200 ml of peach-flavoured yoghurt. The immunity-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C content of the cranberry are priceless, and the yoghurt is rich in vitamin B12. Yoghurt also revs up the body’s fat-burning engine. Mango is low in calories and high in potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene.
• Suffering from indigestion? Add the fruit of half a mango, a small tub of unflavoured skim yoghurt, 100 ml of skim milk and half a tablespoon of rose water into a blender. If you’re really unwell, skip the milk. Sprinkle some crushed, unsalted pistachios on top when you’re done. The digestion enzymes in the fruit and the probiotics in the yoghurt go a long way to restoring balance to the stomach.
• Hitting the gym to bulk up? Toss 450 ml of cold water, a handful of ice, a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, a medium banana and a scoop of banana-flavoured protein isolate into a blender. Alternatively, try a large banana and 250 gm of fresh berries with a few mint leaves, 200 ml of your favourite unsweetened fruit juice, a scoop of protein isolate and a few ice cubes.
• Need to grab a quick breakfast but don’t have the time for eggs and toast? Blend 100 gm of uncooked, unrefined oats with a tablespoon of peanut butter, 150 gm of berries, a scoop of vanilla protein isolate, two tablespoons of unflavoured skim yoghurt, 100 ml of skim milk and a tablespoon of flaxseeds. Chug.