Smoothies are immensely popular, especially around summertime … and for good reasons!
Smoothies are refreshing, quick, and easy to prepare. There is no need to turn on the stove to cook, and they can deliver a meal-sized jolt of vitamins, healthy fats, and natural sugars.
But did you know that not all the smoothie recipes you find on the Internet are necessarily good for you? Maybe your favorite smoothie isn’t nourishing you the way you thought.
There are a bunch of ways that smoothies can damage your health. I am going to list them all, and then give you 5 Tips and 9 Tricks that will turn you into a healthier smoothie rockstar.
In this post, you will learn how to get all the benefits of consuming a healthier smoothies, and how to avoid all the mistakes that could lead to adverse health affects.
This wisdom comes from Ayurveda, which is a traditional system of medicine from India. Ayurveda’s evolved dietary system is designed to optimize digestion and promote mind-body balance. Its advice varies for different individuals, depending on their constitutional make-up.
For those of you who have iron stomachs, this advice probably isn’t going to change your life in a big way. It can help you reduce your sugar intake in smoothies though, and help you to imagine exciting new smoothie recipes.
However, for the majority of people, Ayurveda’s knowledge of healthier smoothies can make a big difference in how you feel.
5 Tips For Healthier Smoothies
1. Avoid Too Much Sugar
Fruit contains a lot of natural sugars, and this isn’t a bad thing, but did you know that when you blend fruit into a smoothie, your body’s reaction to the sugar changes?
When you eat a fruit whole, there is a buffering effect in the digestive tract from the fiber, or cell walls of the fruit. This buffering effect slows down, and regulates the body’s metabolism of the sugar, making the whole fruit easier to digest and assimilate.
When you blend or pulverize fruit, it breaks down the cell walls and releases the sugars into the liquid, turning your smoothie into a sugar bomb that can easily overwhelm your system, and throw you out of balance.
The key to a healthier smoothie is to avoid putting too much fruit into a single smoothie.
2. Avoid Too Much Cold
Most people add ice, ice cream, sorbet, or frozen fruit to a smoothie. This means the drink is ice cold when drunk.
Drinking cold liquids is a big no-no in Ayurveda because it risks putting out your digestive fire. Ayurveda views digestion in the belly as a fire that needs to be stoked in just the right way so it burns at the proper intensity.
Further complicating this issue, one’s digestive system is actually weakest in the summer, compared to all the other seasons. The hotter it is outside, the more tenuous the digestive fire becomes.
While you may be consuming a smoothie elixir filled with nutritious goodies, your body will be unable to absorb anything. Even worse, your poor digestion could result in unwanted toxins.
The key to a healthier smoothie is to drink your smoothie at room temperature.
3. Avoid Too Much Raw
I am sure you can’t imagine making a smoothie with cooked food. I am not going to suggest that either. But too much raw food consumption can be extremely unbalancing for some people.
The test is to see how you feel after consuming your smoothie. Does it make you feel lightheaded, a little woozy, a bit unstable? This is how I tend to feel.
To compensate for this, I only drink smoothies when I am feeling very grounded to begin with, like after eating well prepared food for a while.
The key to a healthier smoothie is to enjoy one a few times a week as your digestion allows, rather than daily.
Another key is to invest in a good blender that will pulverize the raw food very well. Blending pre-digests the food, making it more digestible.
4. Avoid Too Much Quantity
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to make a small smoothie? A bit of this and a bit of that, and before you know it you have a big gulp on your hands.
The amount is probably too much for a single serving … for all the reasons already mentioned. But also because consuming food in the liquid form can interfere with your body’s ability to recognize when it has had enough.
So watch out that you don’t overeat your liquid food. Too much liquid can also impair digestion, because it dilutes the gastric juices in your body, preventing them from working optimally.
Moderating liquid intake to suit the individual is another key principle in Ayurveda. You won’t hear any Ayurvedic practitioner advising that everyone drink a set number of glasses of water per day. This ancient science recognizes that some people need more liquid, and others less.
The key to a healthier smoothie is to consume smaller amounts at a time.
5. Avoid Too Many Ingredients
I saved the best for last here. Proper food combining is a core principle in Ayurveda, and food combining is a concept that many people in the West have never even considered.
I would like to put this lightly, but there is really no way to do it, so here it goes:
From the perspective of Ayurveda, bad food combining taxes your digestive system, whether you know it or not. Regular suboptimal digestion breeds a toxic atmosphere, which is how disease takes root.
The crazy thing is that we eat the wrong food combinations all the time.
Milk and fruit is a classic problem when it comes to smoothies. Yogurt and fruit is another. Ayurveda recommends never mixing milk or yogurt with fruit, except under very particular circumstances.
Another one to avoid is adding oils, fats, nuts, and seeds to fruit smoothies. This includes nut milks and nut butters. Ideally, they shouldn’t be combined.
You also want to be careful when combining fruits. Too much variety of fruit isn’t good, and fruit with complex vegetables also isn’t ideal.
The reason fruit is difficult to combine is that it digests very quickly, like in 30 minutes. But most other foods take much longer, like 3 hours. What happens is the other foods interfere with the digestion of the fruit, which can cause the fruit to ferment and produce toxins in your digestive tract.
The key to a healthier smoothie is to follow Ayurveda’s food combining rules.
Building The Perfect Healthier Smoothies
My dear smoothie lovers, I suspect I’ve made your head spin with all this information, and that you are dying to know what kind of smoothie you can have, so here it is:
The 4 Best Smoothie Ingredients, According To Ayurveda
The key is to mix the right kind of fruit with simple vegetables like kale and other leafy greens, fresh herbs and spices like peppermint, and water.
Why fresh herbs and spices? Adding a bit of spice or an aromatic helps to stimulate digestion, making it easy for the body to assimilate the smoothie. It also tastes great!
--> Fruit (never melons)
--> Simple vegetables
--> Fresh herbs and spices
Food Combining Highlights For Healthier Smoothies
- Do not combine yogurt with most fruits
(sweet fruits like date, figs, and prunes are okay, but no mango or banana.)
- Do not combine milk with most fruits
(sweet fruits like date, figs, prunes, mango, and banana are okay.)
- Do not combine milk with yogurt
- Do not combine melons with anything (spices are okay)
- Do not add oils, fats, dairy, protein powders, or seeds to smoothies
- Do not combine too many, or too much, raw fruit in a single smoothie
Best Ayurvedic Smoothie Fruits
Apples, apricots, avocados (yes!), cherries, cranberries, fresh figs (if you can get your hand on them), grapes, lemon, lime, oranges, pears, peaches, plums, pomegranate, and sweet berries (especially blueberries)
Best Ayurvedic Smoothie Vegetables
Greens of all types, bell peppers, celery, cucumber, and sprouts. Small amounts of beetroot, carrot, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes are okay
Best Ayurvedic Smoothie Herbs
Aloe vera, basil leaf, cinnamon, coriander leaf, fennel, ginger, mint, or turmeric
9 Tricks to Making Healthier Smoothies
- Keep your smoothies simple; five ingredients or less is a good rule.
- Use room temperature water, and no other liquids, to make your smoothies. (Some people may be able to enjoy coconut water.)
- Avoid protein and multivitamin powders. To get your nutrition, focus on consuming good quality, well prepared food instead.
- Drink your smoothie as a meal for breakfast, or even better, make it a light lunch on an especially hot day.
- Do not combine your smoothie with any other food. Enjoy on an empty stomach (3 hours or more after your last meal) and give yourself at least 30 minutes or more before eating again.
- Try adding a tiny pinch of salt to your smoothie to replenish your electrolytes. This is common practice in India, where a bit of salt is added to lemonade or sugarcane juices.
- Use fresh fruit and vegetables wherever possible. If you need to use frozen fruit, defrost it first.
- Enjoy your smoothies a few times a week in the spring or summer, and never in the fall or winter.
- Notice how you feel after consuming your smoothie. If it affects your digestion negatively, or it makes you feel ungrounded or agitated, smoothies may not be good for you right now. Wait a bit and try again when you feel the desire.
Recipe Ideas For Healthier Smoothies
After reading this post, I hope you understand that Ayurveda is not really about rules. It is more about guidelines, and looking within to determine if you should make a change.
If you enjoy your smoothies, and you don’t feel like they affect your digestion negatively, then go ahead as before, or maybe try one of my recipes for healthier smoothies and see if you notice a difference.
Ayurveda’s guidelines can be challenging to sort through at first. This is why I have tested a bunch of tasty Ayurvedic healthier smoothie recipe combinations for you that really work. You can also use the guidelines above to explore, and create your own.
And don't worry if you don't follow every rule. Diet and lifestyle is a constantly evolving thing, and I don't think perfection should ever be the goal.
Go ahead and grab my 5 Ayurvedic Smoothie Recipes. Below is a preview of these very, very tasty smoothie recipe combinations. A friend tried the one with apricots and basil leaf, and she couldn't stop talking about how much she was enjoying it.
Apples, Pineapple, and Kale Smoothie
Apricots, Cherries, Basil Leaf Smoothie
Blueberries, Strawberries, Banana, and Cardamom Smoothie
Apple, Lime, and Arugula Smoothie
Watermelon, Lime, and Cardamom Smoothie
Cheers to enjoying healthy, nourishing smoothies all summer long!
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