Yep, you guessed it. I’m not a great fan of smoothies. And yes, that includes the ones made purely with fresh fruit. Well the truth is fruit is full of sugar and if you blend it all up, chances are you will eat a lot more than you would manage under normal chewing circumstances – with the added disadvantage that the broken down fibre will accelerate the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream. So in the end, smoothies are good intentions that don’t quite materialize. Ok, if you use it to replace a high street milkshake that would be full of artificial flavours and added sugar, I’d say it is an improvement. But talking about improvements, let’s go straight to the mother of all smoothies!
When eating something as filling as a smoothie, I like to make sure I’m getting a balanced meal. A food that will fill you up providing that comfortable feeling of satiety but make you tired shortly after, hungry again or craving the opposites (i.e. a sweet that will lead you to crave a savoury item and vice-versa) is just no good. These feelings result from the imbalance of nutrients. Despite filling your stomach to the top, the meal hasn’t provided you with a full nutritional spectrum. You’ve filled up on too much of one thing and left other nutrients out that should have been part of your meal. A good simple strategy to evaluate what you eat at any one time is: does it provide you with some fat? Does it provide you with some protein? Does it provide you with some carbs? P.S. the carbohydrates are the ones normally present in excess in most cheap processed foods and, ironically, they are the ones you could more easily go without. I’m not saying you don’t need carbohydrates. What I’m saying is: don’t settle for a carb-loaded food because you will be getting very poor nutrition out of it.
Of course, if you want to elaborate on that rule a bit more, you should make sure that the fats you are getting are natural fats which haven’t been processed, the protein you are getting is in its natural state (and therefore not denatured) and the carbohydrates are not a sole source of sugar. In other words: stick with natural fats (as in how you find them in nature), unprocessed free range meats, nuts, eggs, etc and wholesome foods naturally high in fibre.
But what about the superior alternative to your average smooth? Before we go for it, allow me to introduce avocados to you in a different way. Avocados ARE fruit not vegetables. They have indeed very low sugar content but that just puts them above your “average” fruit in the world of nutrition. It is no aberration to make an “avocado smoothie”. In fact, in Brazil (and I suppose other tropical countries too) avocado smoothies are a real treat! Try it for yourself:
Smooth but whey beyond smoothies
1 avocado (sliced in half, stone removed with a knife and flesh spooned out into a blender)
1 (or 2 according to personal taste) tbsp honey or xylitol
1/2 tin of coconut milk
1 tbsp raw chocolate powder
3 tbsp whey powder
A few ice cubes if you have them available and fancy it cold
100ml filtered water (or about 150ml almond or rice milk)
Put everything in the blender in whatever order you prefer and blend until smooth. Drink immediately as the avocado starts to oxidise once it’s been exposed to the air and the nutritional value of the whole thing tends to decrease if you leave it sitting for longer than a few minutes.
This is a deliciously lush drink that will ravel any shop-bought milkshake with the tremendous advantage of providing a whole spectrum of nutrients that can easily make this into a whole meal on its own – great for supper or breakfast. The whey protein provides highly absorbable quality protein, the avocado and coconut milk provide highly beneficial types of fats and the agave syrup will not upset your blood sugar balance, which means you won’t suffer from energy dips or weird cravings for a long time.
P.S. the whey protein in this smoothie is not as you would find it in nature, I do realise that. However, it is a quality protein supplement that has several health promoting properties and the best quality products will ensure the protein in it is NOT denatured and not submitted to high temperatures. Whey protein is an excellent way of obtaining safe high quality protein from milk without the lactose, which is the most common problem for those who have difficulty digesting dairy products.
This smoothie can be tinkered and changed so much that I must say you will be missing out if you don’t try to experiment with your favourite (healthy) ingredients to discover one of your best creations here.
The avocado provides superb texture which is very difficult to replace with the same level of smoothness. But if you keep the coconut milk, you can still achieve great texture with different combinations. Just remember not to add too much sugary fruit or you could end up upsetting the nutritional balance of the whole thing.
Great combinations in my opinion are: coconut milk and banana (with the whey protein included) or coconut milk and frozen cherries! (this one is superb for hot summer nights when you simply don’t fancy a hot dinner) – leave the water out to improve consistency but keep the honey and whey protein as part of it).
To all of these you can add natural vanilla extract (or the real pods if you can afford them). This is not essential but just adds a touch of luxury.
As a rule of thumb, try to stick to one type of fruit only (unless you make a combination of avocado and another fruit) – avocado is so low in sugar that it easily allows an extra fruit to sneak in without problems.
Finally, once you get acquainted with avocados as fruit, the simplest and most traditional smooth (featuring in the picture with my son above) is simply a whole ripe avocado blended with some rice or almond milk (traditionally milk in Brazil) with some honey or xylitol (to avoid the sugar). Try it!