Graceful Health: Healthy fast food — smoothies

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Who doesn't love a smoothie? They're easy to make, so they can give a new, healthy meaning to the words "fast food" — if you choose good ingredients.

You probably already know how to make a smoothie: just chop up the larger ingredients, throw everything into a blender, and turn it on. Super easy.

Here is a list of my top favorite smoothie ingredients to inspire you. Organic options are always best, but do what you can. Mix them up and have fun creating!

Start with a base. Here are some healthy ideas: Nut or seed milk (almond, hemp, cashew), unsweetened coconut water, plain yogurt or kefir (if you tolerate dairy; good for probiotics/cultures!), cooled green tea, or pure water.

Bananas. Use half of a ripe banana to sweeten any smoothie. Affordable and full of potassium.

Liquid essential fatty acids: Consider cod liver oil, liquid fish oil (made from salmon, sardines, anchovies), or flax oil. These EFA's have numerous health benefits. Choose a quality, pharmaceutical grade oil that is third-party tested for removal of contaminants and toxins (no mercury, PCBs, binders, filler, dyes, etc.). These are required to be 99 percent pure.

Extra virgin coconut oil: A healthy fat that contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), found to have benefits to weight loss, decreases in abdominal fat, increased metabolism, increased HDL (good cholesterol) and helpful for the brain and thyroid gland.

Fresh or frozen berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, and tart cherries are all good choices, full of health promoting substances and antioxidants. Berries are a low glycemic fruit.

Protein powder: Options include unsweetened hemp protein, pea protein or whey protein powder. Choose brands with only one or two ingredients. Avoid sweetened and artificially sweetened products (especially sucralose, which has found its way into many sports drinks, flavored waters and whey protein powders).

Raw nuts and seeds: Great source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Try raw walnuts, almonds, cashews or pecans. Raw seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin, hemp and sunflower also deliver a healthy serving of essential fatty acids.

Apples: green apples are a low glycemic fruit that are a great source of fiber.

Powdered green superfoods or green algae: Wheat and barley grass, chlorella and spirulina all have health-enhancing benefits, if you are brave enough to add them!!

Leafy greens: Consider adding romaine lettuce, spinach or kale. All are nutrient dense. Add mint for flavor.

Avocados: These add healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. They also can add thickness without an overbearing taste.

Raw cacao nibs or powder: unsweetened cacao powder gives a chocolate taste to your smoothie; it will be bitter without a sweetener, so complement it with half a banana or a bit of raw honey. It contains magnesium and other essential minerals and vitamins. It also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidant rich flavonoids.

Cheryl Shaw is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant, Certified Wellness Coach, and Certified Exercise Physiologist with more than 17 years of fitness and wellness experience. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Fitness from Springfield College.


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