Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Simple, nutritious smoothies and juices

The recent spell of fine weather has inspired me to get back into smoothie-making mode.  Summer months are an ideal time for smoothies as the seasonal berries provide a tasty addition, though this week I have been using the end of last year’s blackberries and loganberries from the freezer.

Smoothie and juice making can be as simple or as complicated as you make it, and the fruit (and vegetables) that you use is only limited by your imagination.  Rolled oats, ground almonds, sesame seeds, and peanut butter are just some of the other ingredients that you can use.  Milk, yogurt, coconut milk or almond milk can be used to add extra smoothness and increase the protein content, and nutmeg or ginger will give an extra kick to any juice.

Smoothies are high in vitamins and minerals, a great way of getting some or all of your 5-a-day, and are higher in fibre than traditional juices because they retain the pulp and skins.  They are also easier to make, and don't produce waste.  Smoothies are a particularly easy way of getting vital calories and nutrients in after a hard session on a hot day when you might not feel like eating food, and they can help to rehydrate you (read last weeks blog about hydration here).  Many fruits also contain natural chemicals which help increase appetite.

This is my basic go-to smoothie recipe
  • Apple (cored and quartered) and/or banana to give it a nice texture and adds thickness
  • Orange juice to make it more runny.  You can also use pineapple or apple juice, and if you have a juicer you can make the juice yourself.
  • Frozen raspberries, blackberries, loganberries or similar berry to give it taste.  The frozen fruit means that the smoothie is already cool.  Add some ice cubes if the fruit is fresh.
  •  Blend all the ingredients together in a blender for 30-40 seconds.Server more or less immediately.  Mind the brain freeze.
Like all my recipes, I don’t get too hung up on measurements.  I go with what I think is roughly right, and if it’s too thick, I just add more orange juice. If it's not thick enough, I add another apple or banana.

You don’t have to follow any particular recipe to make a great post-training snack or a nutritious drink to kick-start to the day.  Add something to give it texture, something to give it juice, and something to give it taste, and focus on what’s available to you at a reasonable price.  

And smoothies don’t have to be expensive.  Pick blackberries in the late summer (they’re free in most hedgerows!) and freeze them to use throughout the year.  Because any fresh fruit you add will be high in vitamin C, you can use 'from concentrate' juices to keep the cost down.

Smoothies are a great way of using up ripe fruit.  If you have bunches of bananas that are getting ripe, you can peel them and freeze them for use in future smoothies.

Juicing require more cleaning up afterwards.  Fruit and vegetables need to be very ripe, and some produce little juice, creating a lot of waste.  If using frozen fruit, ensure that you let them thaw first, or you'll end up with a lot of waste and practically no juice at all.  Juices can be diluted with refrigerated mineral water or sparkling water.

Any sort of blender will suffice for making smoothies, though there is a range of juicers and smoothie machines on the market.  Smoothie machines have some additional features over traditional blenders: a pouring spout, durable blades for crushing ice, and a pusher to ensure that the fruit and vegetables are all blended properly.  Juicers actually separate the juice from the pulp, skin, seeds and other debris, creating a large amount of waste, but providing a great way to make your own orange, apple or pineapple juice. Masticating and hydraulic juicers are more efficient (i.e. produce more juice) than centrifugal juicers, but are also more expensive. A number of other fruit and vegetables work well as juices, and in most cases, combining juiced fruit with blended fruit will give the best results.

Fruit
Apples - blending and juicing
Bananas - blending
Blackberries - blending
Blackcurrants - blending and juicing - strip from stalks
Blueberries - blending
Cherries - blending and juicing
Coconut flesh - blending
Grapefruit - juicing - peel before use
Grapes - blending and juicing
Kiwis - blending and juicing - peel before use
Mangos - blending - great for taste and texture
Melon - blending and juicing
Oranges - blending and juicing - peel before use
Papaya - blending - great for taste and texture
Passion fruit - blending and juicing - peel before use
Peaches and nectarines - blending and juicing
Pears - blending
Pineapple - juicing - remove plume, skin and core before use
Plums - blending
Raspberries - blending and juicing
Strawberries - blending and juicing - remove stalks before use
Watermelons - juicing

Vegetables
Avocados - blending
Beetroot - blending and juicing (cooked or uncooked)
Broccoli - blending and juicing
Carrots - blending and juicing
Cucumber - blending and juicing (adds a great kick to any drink)
Celery - juicing
Peppers - blending or juicing
Spinach - juicing (great for adding colour)
Sweet potatos - blending
Tomatoes - juicing

We'd love to hear what your favourite smoothie or juice recipe is, or if you have any special 'secret' ingredient.  Add your suggestions as comments below.

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