A few weeks ago we started our Anatomy of A Smoothie series with a look at choosing a liquid base, and talked about some of the benefits and drawbacks of certain options, covering everything from almond milk to dairy milk, to coconut water. In this new installment, we are going to look at what is arguably the "meat" of the smoothie (however ironic that may sound) - fruits and veggies.
Now, it would quite literally be impossible to do a comprehensive look at all the possible fruits and veggies you could include in a smoothie - there are simply too many. So for this entry, we focused on some of the major players for each - from berries, to citrus, to avocados and coconut. Keep reading below for a deeper look at each and what they provide.
Note - we are going to do a deeper dive specifically into "adding sweetness to your smoothie" and "superfoods" you can add to your smoothie - so some of those may not be covered below in our fruit and veggies section.
How much and fresh or frozen?
Let's start with the basics - when it comes to adding fruit to a Primo Smoothie, we tend to use about 1/2 to 1 cup total per smoothie. This depends on the type of fruit and how much carbohydrate we want in our smoothie total, but this is a good starting point. When it comes to most fruits, particularly seasonal ones like berries, we like to use frozen! For one, they just make your smoothie taste better as they help make it cold, but frozen fruits are generally picked at the peak of their ripeness, which makes them tasty year round, and also higher in key nutrients. On top of that, they are just convenient. Instead of going to the store and having to constantly buy fresh fruit to keep on hand, you can always keep frozen fruit in the fridge and it won't go bad. it is definitely the way to go.
Berries and fruits
Strawberries. Strawberries are one of our go-to frozen fruits for smoothies. They are tried and true and blend well with so many other fruit combinations. Compared to some other berries like blueberries, they also tend to add a decent amount of sweetness to your smoothie. Our favorite combinations are strawberry banana and strawberry mango. Strawberries are high in Vitamin C.
Strawberry nutrition (1 cup, whole) 47 cal, 11 grams carbs, 7 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber.
Raspberries. Raspberries are another one of our go-to berries. They also add quite a bit of sweetness without adding too many calories. Consider mixing raspberries with banana and / or pineapple. They also add (in our opinion) great texture to your smoothie. Raspberries are particularly high in fiber and Vitamin C.
Raspberry nutrition (1 cup) 65 cal, 15 grams carbs, 5 grams sugar, 8 grams fiber.
Blueberries. Blueberries round out our top 3 go to berries when it comes to making a smoothie. A cup of blueberries has a bit more calories than a cup of strawberries or raspberries, and a bit more sugar. But, blueberries are notoriously high in antioxidants, particularly resveratrol, which we often hear so much about found in red wine and chocolate. This makes them fantastic for daily consumption, and especially after a training session to help reduce the harmful metabolic effects of training. Careful, they also tend to get stuck in your teeth, so blend your smoothie well! Blueberries are also high in Vitamin C and a decent source of the mineral potassium.
Blueberry nutrition (1 cup) 85 cal, 21 grams of carbs, 15 grams sugar, 3 grams of fiber.
Bananas. Bananas are kind of the elephant in the room when it comes to smoothies. Some people avoid them at all cost, which we think is a bit of an over reaction. Yes, bananas have sugar, but so do all other fruits. If you are a banana-phobe and are active, your fears may be a bit unjustified, particularly if you are eating bananas before or after exercise, to help with either fueling or recovery. Your body depends on carbohydrates to fuel performance, and bananas provide this. One study even showed that bananas help athletes fuel and recover as well as Gatorade or another carbohydrate sports drink.
So what about when it comes to your smoothie? We like bananas because they add both sweetness and texture, but will admit that of typically will use a half banana instead of a whole. In addition to all of the above, as we all are probably well aware of at this point, bananas are also a great source of potassium, and also vitamin b-6.
Banana nutrition (1 medium) 105 cal, 27 grams carbs, 14 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber.
Oranges. Oranges and other citrus fruits are great to add to your smoothie...but be careful as a little goes a long way. Occasionally we will use orange juice in our smoothies, but will typically do it half and half with either milk or almond milk - it can be very sweet and acidic and can totally take over the flavor of the smoothie. If you have the option, use whole fresh oranges so you get the benefit of all the fiber from the fruit. Check out our healthy "Orange Julius" recipe if you'd like to try a quick, simple, and tasty orange-based recipe. Oranges are a great source of Vitamin C.
Orange nutrition (1 small) 45 cal, 11 g carbs, 9 grams sugar, 2.5 grams fiber.
Avocado. Avocados are a bit of a darling in the world of nutrition these days, but they have been a staple in Latin America (and thus, Souther California) for as long as any of us have been alive...and a lot longer. They are fantastic in smoothies because of their creamy texture. But do keep in mind that although avocados are high in "healthy fats," they are also pretty high in calories, too. Although they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, they have no omega-3 fatty acids, which are arguably more important. Typically you want to keep your ratio of omega-3's to omega 6's as about 2:1, so if you are getting a bunch of omega 6's from avocado, be sure you are ingesting omega-3's elsewhere.
Consider adding avocado to a smoothie with a bit of cocoa powder for a rich, chocolate-y shake. Avocados are very high in fiber, and are also high in potassium and Vitamin C.
Avocado nutrition (1 average) 320 cal, 17 grams carbs, 27 grams fat, 13 grams fiber.
Coconut. Coconut is another "fatty darling" of late. Though we love coconut and it's oh so many uses, like avocado, keep in mind that it is high in fat and high in calories. As with most things, moderation is best when it comes to eating coconut, particularly due to its saturated fat content. We will admit, we often add a bit of coconut to our smoothies, but it is mostly for flavor and texture.
Coconut nutrition (1 cup) 280 cal, carbs 12 grams, fat 27 grams, fiber 7 grams
When it comes to adding vegetables to our smoothies, we really have two main staples - spinach and kale. We all know the benefits of eating leafy green veggies are abundant, and we should all try to find more occasions to slip more vegetables into our diet, and tossing a handful of spinach or kale into a smoothie is a great way to do it. As with fruit, you can keep frozen spinach and kale on hand for convenience. Our go to is spinach as we find it has a slightly less "grassy" flavor than kale, and can even add a tiny bit of sweetness.
Other vegetables to consider adding to your smoothie are yams, sweet potato, and squash like pumpkin - just make sure it's cooked. A good rule of thumb is that if there is a desert made with a vegetable, it's probably good in a smoothie, too!
Spinach nutrition (28 g) 10 cal, 1 g carbs, 1 g fiber and high in vitamin A, K, folate, minerals and phytonutrients.
Kale nutrition (28 g) 14 cal, 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber and high in Vitamin A, C, K and many minerals and phytonutrients.