1. Replace Fruit with Cooked Veggies
Smoothies are more than a bunch of fruit that took a trip around a blender. Consider replacing fruit partially, if not completely, with cooked vegetables. Cooking before blending (I prefer steaming), makes them easier to digest and easier to blend.
Proper digestion is the root of health. No matter how many nutrients you consume, they are useless unless properly assimilated. Imagine your digestion as a fire which cooks your food down to an absorb-able form. The last thing you want to do to your internal fire is douse it in ice water. Excessive consumption of fruit juices and frozen foods is like ice to that flame. Fruits in general have a cooling energy and hypo effect on the body, while vegetables have a more neutral and balancing effect on the body. Fruit in your smoothie is most appropriate during summer, and least appropriate during winter.
My current favorite veggie addition is organic carrots, which are readily available and quite affordable. Carrots also have a sweet taste, making for a smoother transition to veggie based smoothies. Other possibilities include beets, cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli.
Proper elimination, like proper digestion, forms the basis of good health. Adequate fiber in our diet helps keep our elimination regular, and the extra roughage acts as an intestinal squeegee. Great sources are cooked veggies, powdered slippery elm bark, nuts, and seeds.
Fat makes our smoothies delicious, and actually filling for more than 15 minutes. This is especially useful when we are replacing a meal with a smoothie. Fat is deeply nourishing and grounding for our nervous system. My favorite sources are coconut oil, culinary coconut milk (the stuff you get from a can), coconut manna, butter, ghee and whole plain yogurt. I like to use as many of these fats as possible, all together, making for a creamy and satisfying beverage.
Why do people think they need to starve themselves when they replace a meal with a smoothie? Protein is the essential building blocks of our body. We need it to make muscles, tendons, skin, organs, hormones, and neurotransmitters. It is important to regularly eat complete protein, that is a source that has all the essential amino acids, without which the protein is unusable by our body. The reason why beans and rice are traditionally prepared together is because either one on their own does not form a complete protein, but when paired together, they contain all the essential amino acids. Meat, dairy, and grain paired with legumes all form complete proteins. For smoothies I use whey protein, eggs, walnuts (not a complete protein), whole milk, and whole plain yogurt.
5. Alternative Sweeteners
Smoothies don't have to be a blood sugar roller coaster ending with a crash and ravenous hunger. That is one reason why we replaced fruit with veggies and now sugar with natural alternatives. Stevia and xylitol are two great choices. It is important to teach ourselves that these delicious and healthy beverages don't have to taste like candy. We can learn to appreciate the more subtle and complex flavors of veggies and herbs, and the creaminess of coconut, dairy, vanilla and carrots.
Eliminate ice from the equation. Ice slows down the digestion, or in Traditional Chinese Medicine terms, it weakens the Spleen Qi. Water can be used, but isn't very exciting and doesn't add to the nutritional density. Instead try whole organic milk, especially if you are going for a creamy flavor profile, or are interested in the extra protein. Green tea is a great addition if caffeine is desired. I like to add a warm tea of previously decocted tonic herbs, like gynostemma, codonopsis, astragalus, eucommia, and goji berries. Try to add a base with a warm temperature. With all the awesome that can be packed in a single smoothie, we want to do all we can to help it be sufficiently utilized by the body.
Add warm spices to feed the digestive fire (notice a theme here?). They promote circulation, awakening our mind and senses. They also taste good and help create a complex beyond-your-average-smoothie flavor. Some choices: cayenne powder (experiment with a tiny pinch and work your way up, according to taste), ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and fennel seed, but any carminative spice will do.
8. Tonic Herbs
Tonics are special herbs that feed our organ systems and optimize their functions. They prevent and can even reverse the aging process. For those seriously interested in longevity, tonic herbs should be considered an essential food group and consumed daily (unless suffering from an acute illness). Liquid decoctions can be used as a base, but they take forethought to prepare. Powdered and liquid extracts are a powerful and convenient alternative.
Recipe- Some categories cross over. Adjust measurements to taste and daily activities.
Base: About a cup of liquid from previously decocted tonic herbs- 5 grams codonopsis, 5g astragalus, 2 jujube dates, 4g wild asparagus root (Asparagi cochinensis), 3g chrysanthemum flower, and 3g ginger.
Fat: 1 tbs of culinary coconut milk, 1 tbs of coconut manna, 1 tbs of coconut oil, 2 tbs of whole plain yoghurt.
Fiber: 1 tbs of powdered slippery elm bark, 1 tbs of powdered flax seeds, and veggies.
Protein: Whey protein, small handful of walnuts (also a tonic herb), and half a cup of organic whole milk.
Veggies: A cup of steamed carrots.
Spices: a pinch of cayenne and 1-2 squirts of liquid vanilla extract.
Sweetener: 3 drops of stevia extract.
More Herbs: 60 drops of Dancing Spirit Herbs' Joy Juice, and a tsp of Dancing Spirit Herbs' He Shou Wu extract.
Caffeine (optional): A tbs of cacao powder, and include bag of green tea in your tonic herbal tea blend.