Forget the sugarbombs you find on the shelves. Make your own and give it wings with a few of the following nutritious additions…

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From  tooth decay  to diabetes , commercial juices and smoothies are on the health hitlist according to experts , and the red light beaming at us from supermarket packaging serves as a warning and sure fire STOP sign to anyone watching their sugar intake (that should be most of us then). Despite the fruit juice backlash, however, fruit is not inherently to be feared , and neither is whizzing it up in a blender: it’s just best to DIY that part. Just as a homemade curry is always going to be nutritionally far superior to a ready meal version, without any weird preservatives, additives or stuff you don’t actually like, so a bespoke blended smoothie has the power to energize, satisfy and give you a serious, IV drip like nutrient hit. Here’s how to give your smoothie extra health credentials...

Veg out

According to nutritionist  Amelia Freer , to get real goodness from a smoothie,  it needs to be vegetable based . That way you get the speedy vitamin and mineral blast with minimal buzzkill from too much sugar. Trouble is, a cup of chard is hardly likely to set your tastebuds alight, especially if you’re more familiar with banana based smoothies that green ones. Try a 50/50 fruit to veg ratio to ease yourself in gently, moving on to 70/30 in favour of veg if you can handle it. Mix it up quite literally too by adding in a few of the suggestions below and tinkering with the ratios when it tickles you. Woman cannot survive on 100% kale alone (nor should she).

Big up the berries

If the thought of forgoing fruit makes you want to blow up your blender, take comfort in the berry aisle.

Dermatologist  Dr Stefanie Williams MD  sings the praises of skin-friendly berries in  Futureproof Your Skin! :

“Berries of all types, including blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries are great choices. They are high in antioxidants while not containing disastrous amounts of sugar [...] Most berries contain highly beneficial compounds such as anti-inflammatory anthocyanin (the compound behind the red and blue colour of berries), anti-cancer pterostilbene ( a compound related to anti-aging ‘miracle’ compound  resveratrol ) and phenol antioxidant ellagic acid. Both fresh and frozen berries are fine to use.”

Ellagic acid helps to protect collagen, so you’ll get a nice side helping of smooth skin with your smoothie if you blitz berries regularly. Another skin-saving smoothie addition coming up…

Make a cup of coco

Coconut that it, not Cadbury’s. Adding a teaspoon or so of  coconut oil  to a smoothie can have multiple benefits, as nutritionist  Vicki Edgson  highlights in  Gut Gastronomy:

“Coconut is being heralded as the best vegetarian fat for all of the following reasons:”

“It helps to balance blood sugar levels by slowing down the release of glucose into the bloodstream.”

“It reduces cravings (for sweet foods).”

“It supports immunity as a potent antibacterial/ antifungal treatment.”

“It supports thyroid function, elevating metabolic rate, and producing more energy.”

“It helps to reduce blood pressure and supports heart health.”

“It improves the suppleness of the skin, and increases hair volume and shine.”

Basically, coconut oil has got it going on. Leave your fat fear in the 80s. Dr Stefanie will back me up on that one:

“It’s worth noting that not all saturated fats are equal. I am a big fan of coconut oil, for example, which contains more than 90% saturated fatty acids. I bet you were always told that saturated fat will raise your bad cholesterol level, right? But in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coconut oil has been confirmed to raise the level of good, protective HDL cholesterol. The study also showed that coconut oil induced these beneficial changes to the same extent as our friend olive oil.”

Adding olive oil to a smoothie doesn’t strike me as delicious, whereas a smidge of coconut oil is very moreish indeed, and might even help you to obtain even more nutrients from a green based blend, as the  fat-soluble vitamins you’re glugging will be more easily absorbed . What’s more, adding coconut oil will help to keep you satiated for longer, as will a little of this…

Nudge in some nut butter

Admittedly an either/or situation, as you probably shouldn’t go coco and nutty at the same time (a little fat is good, a ladle not so much). Alternatively scrap that and combine the two by whizzing in  Pip & Nut Coconut Almond Butter . Almonds provide the kind of sustaining protein and fibre that’s lacking from your average shelved concoction, and magnesium can help to lower inflammation and soothe muscle ache, meaning that an almond coconut blend is ideal both pre and post a big day. You’ll also benefit from antioxidant, skin-boosting vitamin E, not to mention a creamier finished product. Talking of which…

Avo great day (sorry)

If neither of the above fats takes your fancy, but you want a silky smoothie that will take you through the morning without any risk of biscuit tin sabotage, the much adored avocado could be the answer. In  Plenish , nutritional therapist  Gabriela Peacock  underlines the advantages of adding in an avocado every now and again:

“Avocados can’t be juiced but they are great for creamy smoothies or shakes. While they are relatively high in calories, more than two-thirds of those calories come from monounsaturated fat oleic acid. Studies have demonstrated that monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid are much more likely to be sued by your body as a slow-burning energy source, keeping blood sugar levels balanced.”

Whoever said that smoothies leave you hungry clearly hasn’t tried a  creamy green combination.

Add a bit of algae

Because frankly, when else are you going to eat the likes of spirulina and chlorella? These antioxidant rich, pollution fighting freshwater greens are incredibly nutritious but not so delicious, which is why combining them with other goodies, as in  Pukka Clean Greens Powder , and squirreling them away in a smoothie is the best way forward. Your body will thank you, your blend will look suitably green and virtuous and you’re likely to actually enjoy the entire experience.

Go down the spice route

Herbs and spices aren’t just for stews; they can incorporated just as successfully into smoothies, and they have the capacity to enhance your face as much as they do flavour according to Dr Stefanie:

“In a study done in human skin fibroblasts, curcumin (compound in turmeric) was confirmed to stimulate antioxidant defenses. Fibroblasts are one of the most important cell types in our skin as they produce our collagen and elastic.”

“Cinnamon is also beneficial. It is not only high in nutrients but has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce bad cholesterol and have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Best of all, it can replace some of the sugar in sweet dishes."

“Ginger is also anti-inflammatory, and an immune system booster.”

All of the above (and many more beneficial botanicals) can conveniently be found in Pukka’s aptly named  Vitality Powder , so try mixing a sachet into a smoothie and see how you feel. If you feel like a Spice Girl in her heyday, it’s doing its job.

Give it lift off

Think a smoothie can’t rival a good cup of char? It just might if you give it a caffeine injection by way of green tea. Follow the  Plenish  team’s lead on this one:

“Add green tea to a juice or a smoothie. It’s a rich source of phytonutrients called catechins, which can increase the hormone responsible for making you feel full.”

Fuse green tea with a little fat and protein and you won’t even look at a croissant on your way to work.

Knock up nature’s energy drink

Energy drinks don’t just come from a can (in fact, better that they don’t obviously). Nutritional therapist  Eve Kalinik  has some natural highs to hand in Plenish:

“Cucumber is hydrating with its high water content and contains electrolytes lost during exercise. Coconut water is another source of electrolyte replacement, helping to rebalance post-activity. It also contains readily available natural sugars for refuel {...} ginger can also promote circulation to help reduce muscle-soreness post exercise.”

Icing on the cake

Okay no cake and no icing should be going in your blender, but ice really could be the ideal final step in your smoothie making endeavours. Not only will blending your mixture with ice help it to resemble a frappuccino (cookie cream?!), but the cool temperature of the smoothie will encourage your body to use more energy and up that fat-burning potential of whatever you’ve whipped up. We know winter is coming and all that, but  keeping cool within reason has its benefits .

Don’t forget your chaser…

To keep bloating at bay and gut bacteria in balance all day, a  post-smoothie probiotic  could be a good move. Probiotic plus nutrient dense smoothie is akin to putting your insides through a carwash, in the nicest possible way.

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