Perryman Nutrition Column: Smoothies are Summer’s Delight

Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.

Malt shops were the rage in the 1950s. Whether you sat at the soda fountain or had your order delivered by a car hop, the frozen blended ice cream concoctions were a treat. Today smoothie shops are everywhere, serving a range from healthful fruit-based smoothies to calorie-dense frozen yogurt drinks.

A smoothie can replace a meal and is easy to make at home. Let your imagination be your guide to this nearly fool-proof, cold, blended beverage. The basic ingredients are a small amount (about one-half cup) of liquid plus fruit, plus other ingredients you could add, such as nuts, tofu or soft cheeses. In addition to utensils a blender is the only required equipment.

Fruit smoothies are a favorite of mine because they offer a variety of flavors depending on the ingredients you choose.

• Use washed fresh or frozen fruit. The benefit of using frozen fruit in place of some of the ice to thicken your beverage is that it adds more nutrients, but it also bumps up the calories. When fresh fruit is in season freeze some to have on hand for a future craving and save some money, too. Berries are a snap to freeze. Wash them, spread in a single layer on a tray, freeze, then scoop into a plastic bag for longer storage.

• Unsweetened fruit also adds sweetness without adding a sweetener, which keeps the calories lower.

• Have you ever looked at that bowl of ripening bananas and wondered what else you could make besides banana bread? Making smoothies is a great way to use fruit that is at its peak ripeness before it spoils.

• Low fat milk, either dairy or non-dairy, and juices are all good choices for the liquid portion of the recipe. When choosing non-dairy beverages select those with added calcium to get the benefit of helping your bones.

• If you choose 100 percent juice, sugar is ‘naturally’ present in the fruit used to make the juice. Choosing juice drinks, ades or punches means added sugar.

• Fruit flavored yogurt with added sugar also has more calories than plain yogurt. Choosing yogurt with live and active cultures offers some health benefits.
• Get a protein boost by using Greek yogurt or dried powdered milk.

• For the antioxidant benefit use green tea for part of the liquid.

• If you’re looking to minimize calories, you can even use water.

Other ingredients:
• Increase fiber by leaving skin on fruit,except for bananas. Other high fiber additions include wheat germ, ground flaxseed or wheat bran.

• Nuts and seeds along with nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter and sunflower seed butter, contribute protein, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Along with these great health benefits come more calories, too.

• For variety make green smoothies. To get your greens blend green, raw leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, avocados, parsley, broccoli and celery with fruit for natural sweetness.

• Flavorings can add a new twist to smoothies. Experiment with extracts, spices such as pumpkin pie, cinnamon and nutmeg, or cocoa powder. A little bit can go a long way so start with a pinch or a few drops.

The caution flag should come out with certain ingredients:

• You’ll bump up calories by adding chocolate, honey, maple or agave syrup, and turbinado (sugar). Use these in moderation to temper the extra calories.

• For those looking to increase the protein with eggs, avoid a food safety fiasco and use only pasteurized eggs or a pasteurized egg substitute.

• What about those add-ins that are promoted as a way to increase the nutritional value of your smoothie? Some smoothie chains use these as a marketing gimmick to help you “burn fat,” “cure a hangover,” or “increase immunity.” Turning your smoothie into a vitamin pill will put a dent in your wallet.

Blue-green algae, bee pollen, and many other supplements do not have to be preapproved by the Food and Drug Administration and have not demonstrated significant health benefit. These options may be an unnecessary addition and some could have harmful side effects.