There is a lot of personal preference involved in making the perfect smoothie. Rather than devoting this section to specific recipes, I am providing a basic formula that you can experiment with to develop smoothies that work for your loved one. Not all ingredient categories are necessary in every smoothie. Fruit alone with liquid or ice makes a great, light dessert but you can also add vegetables, protein and a healthy fat for a more substantial meal-like smoothie. The ratios will depend on how thick you want your smoothie to be. *If smoothies are being used for a Dysphagia diet you will likely need to add a thickener.
Smoothie = Liquid + Fruit + Vegetables + Add-ins + Ice
Hint: Add ingredients to the blender in the order listed in the formula.
LiquidEven if you prefer a thicker smoothie, you will need some liquid to effectively blend the other ingredients. As mentioned above, there is no exact ratio but as good way to start is by filling your serving cup about half way with liquid and go from there. Count on using at least 2-3 times that amount in other ingredients depending. Remember some fruit and vegetables have more water than others. That may be taken into consideration.
|Water||• This is an inexpensive and light tasting base.
• Because water doesn't have much taste on its own, it allows the natural flavours of other ingredients to shine through.
|Milks||• Using a milk base will add extra calories and make your smoothie a bit creamier than water. Some milks are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and other nutritional extras.
A few choices:
• Almond Milk: Unsweetened almond milk is typically the lowest in calories. For the low calorie count, it is quite rich tasting. It is high in magnesium, protein, and vitamin E. It is also available sweetened and flavoured with vanilla or chocolate.
• Soy Milk: Soy milk usually has about the same calories as skim dairy milk. Many people claim soy milk has a neutral taste but, personally, I find it the most distinct tasting of all the dairy-free options. This is great if you like the taste, not so great if you don't.
• Rice Milk: This is probably the least likely to cause allergic reactions and is high in niacin and vitamin B6, which is great for blood pressure. However, it is also the highest in sugar so that is something to consider.
• Coconut milk: There is a wide variety of coconut milk on shelves. Viscosity-wise, you can find a low fat watery version all the way to a full fat creamy variety, usually in a can. If you are looking for a very rich, decadent smoothie, this is an option. Because it is so high in saturated fat, you may consider mixing it with another milk or reserving it for smaller dessert servings. I find some brands have very little coconut flavour and others are quite strong.
• Hemp Milk: High in omega 3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats, this is a great option if you are looking for extra creamy. It is also a good alternative for people with soy or nut allergies. Hemp milk does have a fairly strong nutty flavour.
|Soy Yogurt||• A creamy dessert-like smoothie is especially delicious and simple to make just by blending yogurt with your favourite fruit. There is also the added benefit of probiotics.|
|Coconut Water||• Very hydrating and effectively replaces electrolytes.
• Often used to settle the stomach.
• An easily digested carbohydrate.
|Homemade Juices||• If you have a juicer, try juicing various vegetables for your liquid base to add extra nutritional value and flavour.
• Some great juicing veggies: carrot, celery, ginger, cucumber, and lettuce.
• Especially good for veggies which are too fibrous to use whole, such as celery.
FruitYou can add pretty much any fruit to a smoothie, here is a short list of common ones along with some of their key benefits. If you are searching for specific nutrients, you may like to do a separate google search as I have only highlighted the most prevalent for each.
|Apple||• Contains insoluble and soluble fiber (including pectin which helps lower cholesterol) and high amount of Vitamin C
• The skins add extra fiber and nutrients but they will likely give your smoothie a rough texture
|Avocado||• High amounts of monosaturated fats, mainly oleic acid
• Helps body to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
• More potassium than banana
• Significant levels of pantothenic acid, fiber, vitamin K, copper, folate, vitamins B6, E, potassium, and vitamin C
• Creates a rich, creamy smoothie
• Good contrast to most carbohydrate-rich fruits
• A great way to add nutrient-dense calories for a poor eater
|Banana||• High in vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, and fibre
• Probably the most common and versatile smoothie ingredient
• Great for thickening smoothies
• Use extra ripe bananas for added sweetness and increased antioxidants
• Use green bananas for someone with Type 2 Diabetes and to add probiotic bacteria and increase calcium absorption
|Berries||Every berry has a world of its own unique gifts. Properties of berries in general include:
• High fiber
• High level of antioxidants which help your body reduce free radicals and inflammation (including arthritis)
A few to take note of:
• Strawberries – high in folic acid and a handful contains more vitamin C than an orange
• Blueberries – contain 20 types of anthocyanin, the antioxidants that give them their blue, purple, and red colours (most berries contain only 3 or 4)
• Cranberries – are a natural probiotic and help prevent urinary tract infections by preventing e. coli bacteria from sticking to cells inside the urinary tract
• Gogi Berries – contain 18 essential amino acids, 21 trace minerals, vitamins B1, B2, B6, E, linoleic acid, selenium, geranium, and more beta-carotene than a carrot – WOW!
• Blackberries – high in anthocyanin, vitamins E, C ellagic acid, and peptin
• Cherries – Contain melatonin (which helps to regulate circadian rhythms) and are high in quercetin and ellagic acid (known to promote cell and tissue health), as well as anthocyanin.
|Cantaloupe||• High in vitamin C, beta carotene, and potassium|
|Kiwi||• Very high in vitamin C (approximately 5x that of an orange), as well as significant amounts of vitamins K, A, E, and B6.|
|Mango||• High in fiber, beta carotene, and vitamin C
• Also high in calories when compared to fruit with similar nutrient profiles (eg cataloupe)
|Papaya||• High in calcium, folic acid, fiber, and carotenoids
• Contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest protein
|Watermelon||• Top fruit source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps to strengthen cell walls (think of cell walls as guards that decide what goes in and out of a cell). In a world full or pesticides and contaminants, this is a valuable function.
• High in water, it can be blended on its own for a refreshing summer cocktail or replace some of the liquid content in other smoothies
• Be sure to get all the seeds out
Vegetables (aka Green Smoothies)Some things to remember:
• While green smoothies are a bit of a health fad at the moment, not everyone will enjoy the benefits equally. If a person is going from a 'normal' diet to an abundance of smoothies, they may need a transition period. This food is very different for your digestive system and can cause bloating, cramps, and gas if taken on too quickly.
• Many vegetables are too fibrous for smoothies (unless you like them really pulpy), but they make a great liquid base as long as you juice them yourself (commercial juices just aren't the same).
• A high speed blender is definitely a bonus when it comes to green smoothies, but you should do okay with a regular blender as long as you blend your water and fruit first, then add the vegetables. You should also chop before blending and remove hard stems.
• Always remember: Green + Red = Brown! It's a great idea to sweeten up your spinach with some berries, but be warned it will look like something you've fished out of the toilet. Many people won't care what a smoothie looks like, but if you're already dealing with someone who has a finicky appetite it may not go over so well.
• If you drink a lot of green smoothies, be sure to rotate your greens from week to week to avoid alkaloid build-up caused by the small amount of toxins in plants that protect them from animals and pests. This is very rare and you have to eat a LOT of greens, but to be on the safe side just switch them up!
Here are a few veggies that go well in smoothies:
|Beet Greens||• Contain protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamins B6, A, C, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and more iron than spinach. Don’t throw them out!|
|Beet Roots||• Highly regarded for their detoxification properties and helping to purify your blood and liver due to the betalin pigments.
• A source of betaine, which helps reduce inflammation
• Contains naturally occurring nitrates, believed to lover blood pressure
• High in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese, and folate.
• If you are new to raw beets, start slow (1/4 per day a couple times per week) and build up. Your tummy will thank you!
• One other warning for beet newbies: when you go to the washroom, don’t panic! The red colour doesn’t change a lot during digestion and can look a little scary if you aren’t expecting it.
|Kale||• High in vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, folate, and many minerals.
• 11x more lutein than broccoli (known for protecting eyes, skin, and heart health)
• Be sure to break or chop kale before blending and remove the stem. This is likely the most difficult ingredient to use without a high speed blender.
|Romain Lettuce||• High in vitamin C, K, A, and folate
• May lower cholesterol
• High water content (easier blending)
|Spinach||• High in vitamins A, C, and E
• Source of choline, calcium, potassium, and folic acid
• High in protein per calorie and 14x the iron per calorie compared to red meat
• Contains lutein, glutathione, and alpha lipoic acid (aka.. an antioxidant powerhouse!)
|Swiss Chard||• High in vitamins E, K, B6, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, fiber, iron, and zinc.
• Contains 13 different polyphenol antioxidants.
Add-InsDepending on the purpose of your smoothie, there are some miscellaneous ingredients you may want to add. They are often for nutritional value, but could also be for taste, appearance, or any reason you come up with. The list below will give you some ideas, but feel free to be creative!
|Protein Powder||• Protein becomes important if you are using smoothies as a dietary supplement. Most commercial protein powders will have a measured scoop, remember your aging loved one will not likely need as much as a regular adult unless they are very large or very active. • Shoot between 10 and 20% of their daily calories calories (closer to 10%).
• It’s a good idea to vary your sources of protein. Some excellent sources include: hemp, pea, pumpkin, and brown rice. You can buy these individually or as a blend (easier).
|Nut Butters||• Add protein, fiber, and other nutrients
• Act as a binder or thickener
• Avoid for Dysphasia diet thickening as they are a bit too sticky
• Try peanut butter and banana!
|Chia Seed||• Can be sprinkled into a smoothie (unlike flax, they can be absorbed by the body as seeds)
• To add less texture you can make chia gel by adding a tbsp. of chia to 9 tbsp. of water and letting it sit a few hours
• High in omega 3 fatty acids – usually the most difficult to obtain of the essential fatty acids
• Also high in fiber, protein, and antoxidants
• Consult a physician before using if you take medication for high blood pressure or blood thinners, or if you have allergies (especially to sesame or mustard seed)
|Flax or Hemp Seed||• High in omega 3 fatty acids (a common deficiency)
• Also high in B1, copper, manganese, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous
• Preferably use ground for easier absorption, though shelf life is shorter than when purchased whole (If you have a high speed blend you can grind them at home).
|Spirulina||• Highest protein and beta carotene levels of all green superfoods
• High in gamma linoleic acid
• Highest known vegetable source of vitamin B12 (often deficient if not taken as a supplement)
|Cocao Powder||• Chocolate smoothie!
• High in fiber, iron and magnesium
• Contain the neurotransmitter, phenethylamine (natural antidepressant)
• High in flavonoids (a group of antioxidants)
• May lower bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, and also reduce risk of blood clots
• Contains caffeine
• Do not use if you are prone to kidney stones
|Fiber Powder||• Can buy commercial products to add fiber to a smoothie if it is deficient in the rest of the diet|
|Vanilla & Other Extracts||• A drop of your favourite extract can liven up any smoothie|
|Cayenne Pepper||• Often used for cleansing and known to boost circulation
• Capsaicin (the spicy part) is the active ingredient in many over the counter arthritis and muscle pain medications, it’s also a powerful decongestant.
• Be cautious with the amount, some people don’t tolerate spice well
Try pre-mixing it with your liquid or mashing it into some banana to avoid getting a surprise lump of spicy torture
|Walnut Oil||• High in omega 3, copper, manganese, and biotin
• Contains melatonin (helps regulate circadian rhythms)
• High in antioxidants
• Known to have positive effects on skin (particularly for people suffering from eczema), blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular health
• There are many oils to choose from that will add nutrient rich calories and a creamy texture to smoothies, I prefer walnut oil (or flax oil) because they are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 6 and 9 tend to be easily found in most diets, but the ideal balance is to consume double the amount of omega 3 to each of the others. Any place to boost that ratio closer to ideal should be taken advantage of.
|Coffee Syrups||• I'm straying from health food here, but you can get bottles of coffee syrup in many flavours that are just delicious in a smoothie (or warm milk). A few of my personal favourites: almond, vanilla bean, cookie dough, banana, eggnog, white chocolate, caramel... we could be here a while! These come in full sugar or sweetened with Splenda. Again, I'm not promoting this as anything but tasty 🙂|
To Ice or Not To Ice
- Ice is basically just extra water in your smoothie. For many people it turns a smoothie into a delightful summer treat, but there are other people who actually have difficulty swallowing cold liquids.
- If you want a more slushy style smoothie without the added water, try using frozen berries or freeze your bananas (it's easier if you peel them first). You can also make ice cubes out of juice (careful of having too much sugar if using commercial fruit juice).
- Some blenders don't tolerate ice well. One tip is to blend all other ingredients first, then add and blend in your ice.
Information on this page came from my own personal knowledge, training, and experience, and the following resources:
Balch, Phyllis. (2003). Prescription for Dietary Wellness 2nd Edition. New York, NY:Penguin.
Gunnars, Kris. 12 Proven Health Benefits of Avocados. Retrieved from http://www.authoritynutrition.com
31 Favorite Fruits and the Nurtrients they Contain. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.askdrsears.com
The World's Healthiest Foods. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com
The Health Benefits of Berries. (2017, March). Retrieved from http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis
. (2015, October). 7 Berries You Should Eat Every Day. Retrieved from
Health Benefits of Lypocene. Retrieved from http://www.fitday.com
Healing Ingredients. Retrieved from https://rawjuiceguru.com
Mercola, Dr. Joseph. (2014, January). Benefits of Beets. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com
Mercola, Dr. Joseph. What is Spinach Good For? Retrieved from http://foodfacts.mercola.com
Ashton, M. (2013, December). Cocao Powder Health Benefits. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com
Heathier, James. (2010, August). Seven Great Benefits of Walnut Oil. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com
What's New and Beneficial About Walnuts? Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com