Ice cold smoothies are a hot trend. In the restaurant arena, 66 percent of nearly 1,600 chefs surveyed in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast” said smoothies were either a hot or perennial trend. At home or in the galley, the popularity of smoothies is boosted by their easy-to-make, fast-fixing, versatile, delicious, nutritious and tummy-filling nature. If you haven’t tapped into this trend yet, read on. If you’re a smoothie aficionado, read on too, to find out how to make this favorite even better.
Blending vs. juicing
In its simplest form, a smoothie is a blend of fruits and vegetables often with added ice. Blend is the operative word. That is, whole or cut-up fresh fruits and vegetables, are put in a blender and pulsed until smooth. This is different from juicing. In juicing, only the liquid part of a fruit or vegetable is extracted leaving the fiber-rich pulp behind. You specifically need a juicer to accomplish this. The nutritional superiority of a smoothie is that all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and dietary fiber in the fresh produce ingredients end up in your glass rather than in the trash can.
Researchers at Texas A&M University confirmed the nutritional benefits of blending over juicing in a 2012-published study in the Journal of Food Science. The food scientists took Texas ‘Rio Red’ grapefruit and prepared them in three common household practices: blending, juicing and squeezing by hand. Results showed that blending resulted in higher levels of disease-preventing nutrients called flavonoids than either of the other two methods.
Have It Your Way
Bananas and berries have long been some of the most popular fruits used in smoothies. Nowadays, ‘green smoothies’, those with vegetables like kale and spinach in the mix have become commonplace too. In fact, this is a great way to ‘eat’ your veggies, something most people don’t get enough of on a daily basis. If you really want to change it up, try adding a variety of other colorful veggies. Beets, carrots, pumpkin and cabbage are poised to take off in acceptance in 2016, according to the ‘Top 10 Smoothie Trends’, published in December 2015 by the Blendtec Corporation, the Orem, UT-headquartered manufacturer of high-speed blenders. On the fruit side, interest in tropical fruits like dragon fruit, mango, papaya, star fruit and goji berries makes them a ripe addition. Best of all, whatever leftover bits of fresh produce is in the refrigerator or fruit bowl can be blended up to make a smoothie.
Smoothies are no longer two-dimensional concoctions of fruits and vegetables. Blendtec says ‘functional add-ins’ are gaining traction. These are ingredients like protein, superfoods and healthy fats that transform smoothies from a mere thirst-quencher or snack into a well-balanced meal. Protein ingredients include milk, yogurt, milk alternatives like soy, almond, rice, as well as nuts and seeds. If you are going to add nuts, such as cashews, almonds or walnuts, you need to have a blender strong enough to pulverize these or they will simply float to the bottom. Or, stir in an already-ground nut butter. Superfoods include quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries and wheat germ, while healthy fats are found in avocados. Give your smoothie an international taste by blending in in cilantro, basil, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne or turmeric.
Smoothies are a great way to gulp down lots of nutrients while on the run. However, like any food or beverage, smoothies can add up to too many calories and weight gain if you overindulge. Therefore, choose ingredients carefully, leaving out items like sugar, syrup and chocolate sauce, and figure a 2-cup portion for a meal replacement. Be sure to add protein to the smoothie if drinking as a meal replacement as this will keep you feeling full longer.
Finally, for those who like smoothies but miss the sit-at-the-table type of dining, the next craze forecast by Blendtec is smoothie bowls. These are super thick smoothies, topped with granola, dried or fresh fruits, and nuts, that are served in a bowl and eaten like a soup. Straw or spoon, smoothies are good food.
Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Contact her through www.the-triton.com/author/carol-bareuther.