_2 Health Benefits of Smoothies

Serves: 5



With today's trend toward a healthier lifestyle, it comes as no surprise that smoothies are so popular. Whether these delectable concoctions are made with a simple combination of fruit and fruit juice, mixed with a creamy dairy product, or supplemented with a variety of health-enhancing boosters, the end result is always a nutritionally enriched drink with major health benefits.

One of the major reasons smoothies are so good for you is that they are made with fresh fruit. For many years, health authorities have encouraged us to enrich our diets by including two to three servings of fruit each day. Even with a hectic lifestyle, this lofty goal can easily be achieved simply by including a smoothie or two in our daily diet, and the health benefits can be substantial. Because fruits contain a bounty of antioxidants, complying with this recommendation reduces the risk of a wide variety of serious ailments, such as cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. What's more, these nutrient-packed powerhouses are also a rich source of fiber and minerals.

While fruits make up the largest portion of a smoothie, there are a wide variety of other ingredients that can be included to gain an additional healthful boost. Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, can be added to provide additional calcium and protein. For those who are lactose intolerant, a product such as Rice Dream, a delicious nondairy beverage possessing the same calcium and protein value as milk, can be combined with traditional smoothie ingredients to enhance their nutritional value. Incorporating high-protein ingredients such as soy milk, soy yogurt, or tofu into a smoothie provides the opportunity to benefit from their health-enhancing properties while at the same time enjoying their unique flavors. An added benefit is that soybean products such as these are rich in calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber and are cholesterol-free, lowfat, low-sodium, and low-calorie. The addition of herbs and extracts is still another way to heighten a smoothie's health-enhancing potential. Finally, simply by including nutritional additives, such as breakfast powders or protein supplements, a smoothie can quickly be elevated to whole-meal status. Clearly, smoothies, one of the most naturally healthful menu items, can be made still more beneficial to you with a touch or a teaspoon of the right additive. The following brief descriptions will help you better understand and effectively use these health-enhancing ingredients and wellness-promoting boosters.

Soy Milk and Soy Yogurt
Soy milk is a rich, naturally sweet beverage made from soybeans that have been finely ground and strained. Soy yogurt is made from soy milk. These products are high in protein, B vitamins, and iron. They also are low in saturated fat and packed with fiber. A diet that is low in saturated fats and rich with soy foods is believed to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. Soy milk is packaged in aseptic nonrefrigerated containers or in ordinary quart- and gallon-size milk containers found in the dairy case of most supermarkets. Soy yogurt is packaged the same way as other yogurt products and also can be found in the dairy case.

Silken Tofu
Silken tofu, with its creamy, custardlike texture, can be found in both soft and firm varieties. The former is much softer in consistency than ordinary firm tofu, making it an ideal ingredient to add to a smoothie. Silken tofu can be found in the produce section of most supermarkets as well as in the dairy or deli section. It's sold in water-filled tubs, vacuum-packed containers, or aseptic brick packages. Because it's ultrapasteurized, it has a long shelf life, but once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within three to four days.

Rice Dream
Rice Dream is a dairy-free alternative to milk that has just as much calcium and vitamins A and D. It's made from certified organic or premium California brown rice.

Bee Pollen
This natural substance is rich in ordinary and essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Moreover, it contains 28 minerals, most of the known vitamins, 11 enzymes, and 14 fatty acids. All these nutrients, in just the right proportions, support the body's own healing and rejuvenation mechanisms and increase energy, stamina, and endurance.

Brewer's Yeast
Brewer's yeast, sometimes called nutritional yeast, is different from baker's yeast in that its live yeast cells have been destroyed, leaving only their nutrients behind. This single-cell organism is an excellent source of vegetarian protein and is rich in major B vitamins. It also contains 16 amino acids, 14 minerals, and iron. Because Brewer's yeast is such a rich source of B vitamins, it's believed to help relieve stress, depression, irritability, and fatigue.

Ginkgo Biloba
This extract comes from the fan-shaped leaf of the ornamental ginkgo tree, a species that is reputed to be almost 200 million years old. The leaves are divided into two lobes, which accounts for the term "biloba." Ginkgo biloba will not stop the aging process, but it's thought to increase blood flow to the brain, thereby enhancing several of the brain's functions and possibly improving some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as memory loss.

Another herb, ginseng is considered by many to be one of the best supplemental and restorative agents that nature provides. Among its attributes, it's reputed to be capable of increasing mental alertness, restoring vitality, relieving stress, and enhancing immunity.

Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid used as a source of energy. ALA is a member of a healthful family of fats called omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, oils derived from corn, safflower, sesame, cottonseed, and sunflower are rich in less healthful omega-6 fatty acids. It's important to keep a balance of omega-3 and omega- 6 fatty acids in the diet to prevent health problems. Because American diets tend to be high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega- 3 fatty acids, adding an omega-3 supplement, such as flaxseed oil, to a diet helps balance the two fatty acids.

This bluegreen algae (single-celled plant) is named for its spiral shape. It's a tiny aquatic plant that contains easy-to-digest, all-vegetable protein, essential vitamins, iron, phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, as well as vitamins B12 and B complex. Spirulina gets its rich green color from its rainbow of pigments, including chlorophyll (green), carotenoids (orange), and phycocyanin (blue), all of which harvest the sun's energy.

Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is the germ, or "heart," of the wheat kernel. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and is packed with nutrition. Not only is it rich in insoluble fiber, but two tablespoons will provide 10% of the recommended daily requirement of folate, zinc, and magnesium and 15% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E and thiamine.

Oat and Wheat Bran
Fiber is an important dietary constituent found in plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. Bran, the outer part of grains, is richly endowed with fiber. Wheat bran has a higher concentration of fiber than oat bran. Dietary fiber is divided into two categories: soluble fiber found in such foods as oat bran, oatmeal, strawberries, and beans, and insoluble fiber found in foods such as wheat bran, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots. The American Heart Association suggests eating a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol but rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Each form of fiber has specific health benefits. Soluble fiber in the diet helps lower blood cholesterol, while insoluble fiber plays an important role in maintaining normal bowel functions.

Protein Powders
Most often, soy-based protein powders provide a natural source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and iron.

Green Tea
Green tea contains a chemical called polyphenol, which is a potent antioxidant. Among the many health-enhancing qualities that have been attributed to green tea, it's reputed by some to protect against esophageal cancer, control high blood pressure, lower bloodsugar levels, and reduce cholesterol levels.

If instant refreshment packed with nutrients is what you're craving, you need look no further than your own kitchen countertop. Simply add one or more power boosters, protein powders, or soybean products to your next smoothie, and you can enjoy an energy-packed glassful that is as nutritious as it is delicious. Here's to your health!

From SUMMER SMOOTHIES: more than 130 cool and refreshing recipes. Copyright © 2002 Donna Pliner Rodnitzky. All Rights Reserved.

This _2 Health Benefits of Smoothies recipe is from the Cook'n Summer Smoothies Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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