Americans love smoothies — the industry has grown more than 85 percent in the last five years. Maybe it's because these nutritious drinks not only taste like milkshakes but are good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks.
Better yet, you can easily boost your smoothie's health benefits by adding "superfoods" such as blueberries, walnuts, yogurt or chia seeds — all of which are believed to lower cholesterol, reduce cancer and heart disease risk, and even boost your mood.
Yes, We Have Frozen Bananas
For a thick, rich-tasting smoothie, start with frozen fruit. Just about any fruit will do, even those that don't freeze well, like apples. I always use frozen bananas and keep a gallon-size bag in my freezer at all times. Offering subtle flavor, great texture and natural sweetness to the smoothie, bananas are good for you too. They give you energy — both immediate and prolonged — and they offer significant health benefits, the big ones: heart, blood pressure and bones, to name a few.
The Soy Solution
A good smoothie needs liquid. Because soy milk is lower in calories and naturally sweeter than regular milk, I prefer it. But any milk, dairy or nondairy, will work. In fact, my daughter has recently switched to Coconut Dream, a nondairy drink very high in calcium.
For thickness, I add a big spoonful of zero-percent-fat plain Greek yogurt. Low in calories and high in calcium, this dairy contains the good bacteria your digestive system needs. I've also started adding ground chia seeds, a wonderfully invisible way to get fiber in your diet. And if you don't eat a lot of fish, they're a great way to get your omega-3.
Agave: Not Just for Tequila Anymore
Smoothies need just a touch of additional sweetener, and I'm using agave nectar more lately. Not only does it dissolve better than sugar, agave also has a lower glycemic index, which means it won't cause your blood sugar to spike and fall.
The Best in Zests
Just for fun, I like to add a little extra flavor. Depending on your drink's flavor, consider finely grated citrus zests and extracts like vanilla, almond and coconut. And if you're making a chocolate smoothie, boost the chocolate flavor (and improve your memory and blood flow while you're at it) with unsweetened cocoa powder.
Then complete your smoothie with a little crunch. Top smoothies with nuts and granola in the morning; in the afternoon/evening maybe graham crackers, chocolate wafers or gingersnaps.
Here are three of my favorite "Superfood Smoothies" that are as decadent tasting as they are good for you.