How to Build a Healthy Smoothie, According to Nutritionists

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People are all about drinking to their health. Water, tea, immunity shots, lemon-infused H2O, and of course smoothies. Oh plant-based smoothies, how we love thee. (So much so, you can sign up for a “Smoothie of the Day” delivered to your inbox here).

But what’s the perfect formula for making a plant-based smoothie? If you’re thinking heavy on coconut milk, plant-based yogurt, cacao powder, and vegan caramel, we hate to break it to you, but you’re doing it wrong. To make a balanced, nutrient-dense plant-based smoothie, “the perfect recipe includes sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fats,” says Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD, who runs her own private practice Within Nutrition.

Here’s how Ivanir breaks down the perfect plant-based sipper:

Fiber

“For fiber, you should include a minimum of two fiber sources equaling about two-to-four cups,” she says, noting that one source should be a seed (chia, flax, hemp) or a fiber powder (acacia or psyllium husk) and the second should be a vegetable of choices such as spinach, cauliflower rice, sprouts, or zucchini.

Protein

Ivanir says to shoot for around 20 grams of protein per smoothie. Not sure what to pick? Check out our guide to the 10 best protein powders. Nuts and nut butter also pack plenty of protein (and fat too, see below).

Healthy Fat

“For fat, choose one-to-two tablespoons of nuts, nut butter, or avocado,” she says. We love the velvety texture avocado gives smoothies (and Kate Hudson puts avocado in her go-to smoothie recipe so there’s that, too.)

Try to keep fruit servings around 1/2 cup

“If you decide to include fruit try to keep it no more than ½ cup,” she says. “The reason we want to keep fruit to a minimum, and then add fiber, protein, and fat is that typical smoothies add a ton of fruit. Lots of fruit causes your blood sugar to spike and crash which can lead to cravings later on.”

Now, onto the benefits of drinking a plant-based smoothie as part of your daily diet.

1. It keeps your blood sugar in check

“When following the method listed above for making a smoothie, you are better able to balance your blood sugar levels. This is important for metabolism and energy,” shares Ivanir. “Because there is a balance of carbs, fiber, fats, and protein, you won’t have a huge spike in blood sugar that leaves you feeling tired and lethargic later in the morning.”

2. You get your greens in without even trying

“Greens are full of nitrates which are transformed into nitric oxide (NO) during metabolism. NO is crucial in keeping your arteries healthy and protecting you from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease or stroke,” explains Jorg Wijnen dietitian and author of Immunity Hi, Virus Bye-Bye: Proven Strategies to Improve Your Immune System During Pandemic Times. Wijnen says to include at least five ounces of green and is a fan of boiling them for smoothies “so that they reduce in size and their flavor improves.” Weigh them raw, boil them for a minute, and then rinse with cold water before adding to the blender. “More greens = more nutrients!”

One caveat: “I’d like to caution against using certain greens on a daily basis due to their extremely high oxalate content: spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard,” he says. “I’d recommend using them only two times a week tops, because the high amount of oxalates can cause several health issues over the long-term, e.g., increased risk for kidney stones.”

3. You’re flooding your body with antioxidants

Score for your immune system: “Plant foods are a great source of phytonutrients, including antioxidants. Antioxidants can help protect us from everyday toxins and stressors, help our immune system function optimally, and aid in the prevention of chronic disease,” offers Alida Iacobellis, RD, MHSc, a dietitian and creator of “The MORE Method,” she continues ticking off a few examples of various antioxidants smoothie add-ins provide like quercetin from raspberries, beta-carotene from mangos, and anthoxanthin from cauliflower.

4. It’s an easy way to get more raw fruits and vegetables into your diet

Let’s be honest: Chomping on celery and carrot sticks throughout the day and eating a giant salad for dinner with a dessert of berries and more berries isn’t always realistic. But when you eat your fruits and vegetables in the form of a shake, it tastes so good you barely notice you’re loading up on fruits and veggies. “Plant-based smoothies are a great way to increase the number of raw fruits and vegetables in your diet,” shares Kat Burris MS, RDN, of KB Nutrition. “Eating produce in their raw, natural state maximizes nutrient intake since the cooking process destroys some of the nutrients and enzymes that are heat sensitive or can leach into the cooking water.”

5. Your gut will be singing with joy

All that fiber in your smoothie is good news for your tummy. “The fiber provides a source of food for gut microbes and helps to remove toxins from the body and also provide micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that help your body detoxify and thrive,” comments Ivanir. “It optimizes your gut health which is crucial for blood sugar balances, energy, and weight loss.”

6. You’ll be less likely to overeat later

Drinking a daily smoothie is a simple, effective tool if you’re looking to nix a pesky snack-too-much habit or general overeating. “The healthy fats will help curb cravings later in the day,” says Ivanir. “They also help provide a more stable source of fuel throughout the day allowing for better mood stability and prolonged focus.”

7. You enjoy plenty of versatility in your diet

“You can never get bored with making a smoothie because the flavor combinations are endless,” says Burris. “Having a well-stocked freezer is key to whipping up smoothies on the fly,” she adds.

From a mango and banana smoothie topped with mint to a golden milk immune-booster with turmeric and cinnamon, a friendly reminder we’ve got you covered with our Smoothie of the Day program here.

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