Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spinach-Berry Smoothie

A few times a week I make one of these smoothie concoctions for breakfast.  It fills you up and it's a great way to get more leafy greens and fruits into your diet without even thinking about it.  It may seem odd at first to include spinach in a smoothie, but fresh baby spinach has a very mild taste, so the rest of the fruits you add will flavor your smoothie and you won't even know the spinach is there.  I've experimented in the past with fresh broccoli and, well, I don't use it anymore.   I love broccoli but it doesn't make for a desired smoothie ingredient...at least not for me.

Besides being incredibly healthy, a smoothie allows you to be creative by customizing it to fit your tastes and to use up whatever you have on hand.  I tend to use raspberries and blueberries quite often but really any fruit will work - from strawberries to avocados.  One of my favorites is cocoa powder, banana and peanut butter.  You can also change up the liquid you use - water, milk, almond milk or juice works just fine.

A couple things to keep in mind when making a nutrient-rich smoothie-

Protein powder:

I use this as an opportunity to add to my days' worth of protein needs. I use an unsweetened, vanilla protein powder which is a whey concentrate from grass-fed cows.  A lot of protein powders out there contain artificial sweeteners so make sure to stay away from them. You can find protein powder in most grocery stores or health food stores, or you can buy them on-line. You can also use one cup of Greek yogurt to increase the protein content if you don't want to use a protein powder.

A banana makes it better:

Because the protein powder is unsweetened, it's important to include a banana or some other sweet fruit like mango or pineapple.  I add berries - raspberries, blueberries or strawberries - which add some sweetness but I've found that in addition to the berries,  a banana really adds to the overall taste.  I keep peeled, sliced bananas in the freezer to use in my smoothies.  This also helps with the "creaminess" factor.

Of course you don't need to add greens to make your smoothie taste good, but why not bump up the nutrient factor while you're at it?  You could use kale in your smoothie, which is another excellent "green" but I prefer baby spinach because of the mild taste.  And, spinach juice is loaded with great health benefits:  it's a great source of vitamin A, C, K, fiber, iron, folate and lutein.

Please note, the color of your smoothie will no doubt vary with the fruits you choose and the amounts.  If you use a chocolate flavored protein powder and add blackberries or blueberries, you're going to end up with a brownish colored smoothie which really doesn't look that appetizing, but will still taste good I assure you.  Whenever I make one of these my husband gets a bit squeamish (he hasn't yet embraced my spinach smoothie adventure) which prompts me to enthusiastically ask him every time if he wants some.  (I terrorize, why? because I love.)

Here is my recipe for the Spinach-Berry Smoothie I make most often.  Please know this is not an exact science.  Add more fruit, liquid or ice to suit your preferred taste and texture.  Enjoy!

Spinach-Berry Smoothie

1-2 cups fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 scoop vanilla flavored protein powder or yogurt
3/4 cup water (or milk)
handful of ice

In a blender add the ice, frozen berries, protein powder (or yogurt) and banana.  Add spinach last.   Pour whatever liquid you are using to cover the ice - you may need more if you've added extra ingredients.  If your blender has an ice crush button, press that for 30 seconds, then mix & puree. 

If the spinach doesn't blend in by itself, remove the lid and push it down with a spatula. 

A few more seconds of liquefying and you're good to go.

"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

"Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food." - Hippocrates

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