The Vegetable Smoothie 

In general, very few of us consume enough veg. This can be for a number of reasons but typically the target set by the government of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, tends to lean more towards fruit and actual portions of veg.

For example, the lettuce or spinach that is added to a typical coffee shop or supermarket sandwich is about 10 grams. A portion of veg is classified as 80 grams. Bear in mind, most bags of spinach weigh 100g.

Here we will look at some of the benefits vegetables bring (fruit is covered in another article) and how to increase consumption with my daily smoothie.

Before we start though I must mentionFODMAPs.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym, and it stands for ‘Fermentable Oligo Di-and-Monosaccharides and Polyols.’ In laymen’s terms, these are a collection of sugar-based carbohydrates (including glucose, lactose, fructose and others) that are easily fermentable but typically, not wholly absorbed when you eat them.

Many FODMAPs are naturally present in foods, while others are added during processing to enhance their texture or flavour. These compounds are common in a variety of foods, and many people are sensitive to them without realising it. If you continuously deal with a bloated, uncomfortable stomach for no real reason, a FODMAP sensitivity might be to blame.

The main groups of FODMAPs include the following: 

  • Oligosaccharides: Consisting of carbs like fructans (fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin) and galacto-oligosaccharides, dietary sources of oligosaccharides include wheat, rye, certain fruits and vegetables, and legumes.
  • Disaccharides: Disaccharides mainly include lactose, and familiar foods that contain them are milk, soft cheeses, and other dairy products.
  • Monosaccharides: The categorisation for fructose, monosaccharides consist of fruits, agave, and honey.
  • Polyols: This group’s carbs include sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol, which are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and sweeteners.  

Interestingly, some people suffer an upset stomach after consuming protein shakes. They wrongly assume an intolerance to lactose is to blame when in fact they are reacting to a FODMAP sensitivity caused by the sweetener. I have worked with people that have opted for a flourless milk based protein powder and then add flavour in the form of berries blended in a smoothie.

I always advise speaking to a professional nutritionist if you think you are intolerant to a food group and if you would like to be referred please contact me.

Why veg?

Feedback from clients that start consuming more vegetables is always the same. An instant increase in vitality and health is felt and this is for clients who already consume a fairly balanced diet. I like to base what I write on scientific facts but the following physiological effect is difficult to study. The ‘feel good’ factor after starting your day with a freshly prepared vegetable smoothie doesn’t just last until you leave the house, in some cases, it changes your day. I’m in 100% agreement with those that have said “it just makes me eat cleaner for the rest of the day”, and “I have more motivation to stay on track and go to the gym”.

Of course, I can’t prove any of this, only that ‘you’ll know what I mean‘…

The benefits of vegetables.

The best analogy that I can give about the importance of vegetables is this.

Imagine you have a lego set. You have the bricks (protein), the energy to build and put the bricks together (carbs and fat) and then the instruction –VEG!

Without decent instructions, you’d still make a go of it and it may resemble what you were trying to build but it wouldn’t be quite right. It wouldn’t function as well as it could. Not having proper instructions or, sufficient consumption of vitamins and minerals that are responsible for almost every single metabolic process in the human body, you won’t function as well as you could either.

Of course, many aspects go into being healthy such as mobilising, stretching, sleep, recovery, mindset, exercise social connection and relationships, etc but increasing your veg consumption is an excellent start.

Veg can provide…

Indoles

  • Indoles are disease-fighting compounds called phytochemicals and preliminary research suggests that they may decrease the risk of developing diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer, according to Stanford Medicine.

Lutein

  • Lutein is a type of vitamin called a carotenoid. It is related to beta-carotene and vitamin A* and can be found in foods rich in broccoli, spinach, kale along with other foods such as egg yolks, corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, and squash.

*Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin along with vitamin D, E and K. This means that fat needs to be present for optimal absorption. This is one of the reasons avocado is included in this smoothie as you’ll read below.

Fibre

  • Fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate that is found in all types of plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables and grains. Fibre doesn’t get broken down and absorbed in your small bowel like other types of food. Instead, it passes undigested into your large bowel. You might sometimes hear fibre referred to as soluble and insoluble. Recent reports now claim there’s no longer thought to be much difference between the two. 

The terms soluble and insoluble refer to whether or not the fibre dissolves in your small bowel. In the past, soluble fibre was generally thought to have more effect in your small bowel, and insoluble fibre in your large bowel. However, studies and experts now say that this isn’t always the case as most food that is high in fibre has a mixture of both types.

Putting the two types aside, Fibre is very important for your digestive health. It helps to bulk up the stools in your large bowel and move it along your digestive tract more quickly, helping to prevent constipation. Fibre also makes your stools softer, which helps with this process.

There’s also good evidence that fibre can help to reduce your risk of the following serious diseases:

  • -Heart disease
  • -Stroke
  • -Type 2 diabetes

Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C has long been known to provide many health benefits. Here are some of the major ones:
  • Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can boost your blood antioxidant levels. This may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
  • It has been found to lower blood pressure in both healthy adults and adults with existing high blood pressure, been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. These supplements may lower heart disease risk factors, including “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides. These factors have been proven with additional supplementation of Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin C may boost immunity by helping white blood cells function more effectively, strengthening your skin’s defence system and helping wounds heal faster.
  • Low vitamin C levels have been linked to an increased risk of memory and thinking disorders like dementia, while a high intake of vitamin C from foods and supplements has been shown to have a protective effect.

Other Benefits of Veg

Vegetables can increase satiety, meaning they keep you feeling full longer. They help control hunger pangs thus aiding weight management. Green veggies help your body absorb nutrients and essential fatty acids better to improve organ functioning and enhance metabolism (think ‘lego instructions’). This in turn helps the body burn fat more effectively and maintains

The Ingredients

You can use fresh or frozen ingredients. Personally, I like to use frozen as they will last longer and are easier to store. I often find that when you go through the fridge before your weekly shop, you end up throwing away bags of wet salad leaves, carrots that look more like rounders bats and shrivelled up soggy avocados.

Frozen vegetables do not lose nutrients and here is an article supporting this. The disadvantages of frozen veg are that the majority is not organic. It is also packed when frozen so the water content is higher. This is another crafty move by the supper market because 1kg of frozen broccoli is not 1kg of actual broccoli. This brings me on to portion size.

This also needs to be taken into consideration when actually making your smoothie because frozen products don’t need as much added water as fresh. It’s also an idea to allow frozen products to thaw slightly before making your smoothie as this can blunt and limit the life of the blades.

Portion size.

As already mentioned, a portion of fresh veg is considered to be 80g. However, a portion of frozen veg I have made 100g to account for the added water.

Below is a list of ingredients split into 3 sections.

  • Fats
  • Veg
  • Flavouring

Fat

You may be wondering why you should add fat to a vegetable smoothie? Well, if you are consuming this with a meal, as long as the meal has fat it might not be necessary but if you are using the veg smoothie as a snack or meal replacement, then it does become important. This is due to the vitamins A, D, E and K which are all fat-soluble vitamins – FSV.

For these vitamins to be optimally absorbed, fat needs to be present. Ideally, a good quality monounsaturated fat like avocados or an oil such as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, almond oil or even a flaxseed oil.

Adding avocado or oil to your smoothie, not only do you provide better means for the FSV to be absorbed but you also change the constancy of the smoothie for the better. Without fat, you’ll find it a bit grainy but the added will soften the texture and make it far more palatable.

Avocados can be very hit and miss with their consistency and, ripeness and flavour. They are also expensive and often end up being thrown away. This is why I recommend frozen avocado. I have used the brand below for years. Not only are they well sourced, but the bags also come in handy when you bulk prepare as you will see.

 

I advise using 60g (frozen avocado typically come in 300g bags so this will provide 5 portions) which is the average weight of flesh for a small avocado or a tbsp of oil which is roughly 14g of fat and is equal to the same fat content as the small avocado.

The oil is good to have in the pantry anyway as it can serve as a worst case scenario if you’re caught short with no avocado.

To summarise, here is a list veg friendly fat:

  • Fat
  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil (extra virgin cold pressed)
  • Almond Oil (extra virgin cold pressed)
  • Flaxseed Oil (cold pressed)
  • Peanut or Almond butter (1.5 tbsp – roughly 15g total fat)

Veg!

The list is not limited, you are encouraged to use as many variations and concoctions week on week as possible. This is because having a diverse intake of veg help promote a diverse garden of the microbiome in your stomach. The microbiome is the good bacteria in your digestive tract that is gathering a significant amount of media and scientific attention and has been for several years now. Again, I will cover this in depth in another article but the message here is, eat as many different types and combinations of veg as you can. Mix it up, experiment and enjoy. If you are doing this with your family, you could even have a family member design ‘this week’s smoothie’.

How much?

How much veg you use is dependent on a few things but the main one is the cistern size of your smoothie maker. Smoothie makers are covered below but from experience here are some guidelines.

3 x 100g portions frozen (or 80g fresh) will yield about 1 litre of fluid with a thick consistency. This can be watered down into more serving but you will obviously be decreasing the nutrient value. Good for you, not so great for other family members. For this, you will need a smoothie maker with a 1l cistern.

If you want to use 4 types of veg (recommended), you will need a cistern 1.5 litres in size. Again, they can be watered down to make 4 x 500ml servings. This will obviously provide 2 additional portions of veg a day for 2 people, or 1 additional portion for 4.

This might not seem a lot but the density of nutrients, the fact your ingredients are raw and not damaged by cooking and that you’re consuming several different types of veg significantly increase the bang for your buck per portion.

Types Of veg

There are loads. Hundreds in fact so I’m going to keep it simple and stay with items that are normally found frozen and/or in local supermarkets.

Please be experimental with your choices as this list is by no means limited and keep in mind that a portion of fresh veg is 80g and frozen is 100g when purchasing.

  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Sweetcorn
  • Beetroot
  • cavolo nero
  • Rainbow chard
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale (various)
  • Watercress
  • Lambs Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Watercress

Flavouring

These are optional as some might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The first two have been added not just because of their taste but also their fantastic immune boosting and antioxidant properties. They are:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

You can use one or the other, or both, it’s up to you.

Side note, I used garlic once. Only once. This is because my wife didn’t talk to me for a week. Neither did anyone else come to think of it…

20g per smoothie is recommended and if using both 10g each. Any more and the flavour can be somewhat overpowering.

Here are some other items you can use to add flavour. Experiment with quantities to taste but I have added rough guidelines.

  • Mint (a few sprigs)
  • Lime (juice of 1)
  • Lemon (juice of 1)
  • Cucumber (whole or half – depending on cistern size.

Other flavouring and sweeteners

You may find the taste of the smoothie a bit strong, especially when using peppery watercress so to flavour it you can use a cordial or some apple juice. If using cordial I have found the best to be lime or Elderflower.

You can also use a good quality (not from concentrate) apple juice which seems to be used most from the feedback I’ve had. When using juice, dilute it to 50:50 juice: water to keep the sugar content down.

You can also use frozen berries to add some sweetness. Here I’d recommend dark fibrous berries such as blueberries or a summer berry mix.

Taste is a personal thing and it may take a few attempts to find the right balance of flavouring. When starting this process, make a note of how you are making it should you need to change something.

Water

Adding water is a personal preference as some like the smoothie to be thicker than others. I would try a few methods of recording how much water you use so that you can find what you prefer.

Smoothie hardware

You will need the following:

Smoothie maker or blender

I advise using a machine with a cistern of no less than 750ml and a motor of at least 600 watts. This will be if you want to make 1 or 2 500ml smoothies with the latter needing to be watered down. The wattage stated here is an absolute minimum. The higher this is, the smoother your drink.

I highly recommend the NUTBiBULLET RX because I have had one for over 4 years. I use it every day and it’s still on the same set of blades which now need replacing (£25). It also comes with a metal container which I urge you not to use because the lid cap isn’t the strongest.

Smoothie Maker

I have had a veg smoothie open itself into the contents of my bag while on public transport. This is not much fun for you. Only those watching you try and save electrical devices and clean underwear for the gym.

*Please note to avoid using a juicer. Juicers extract juice from the fruit or veg removing the fiber which is an essential part of this smoothie.

Funnel

When pouring the smoothie from the cistern into your bottle or canister it can spill a bit. And if there is turmeric present, you’re in trouble if it gets on clothes. From experience, done use tea-towels to mop up spillages either. Unless they are black.

Bottle or canister/flask

containers

To ensure your smoothie stays cold throughout the day you will want to use a metal bottle, canister or flask such as a chilli bottle or thermos flask. I advise against using a bottle such as a protein shaker as it will not stay as fresh and also has a much higher risk of spillage. Speaking from experience, you DO NOT want this to spill ion your bag.

Sandwich bags

Sandwich bags are useful for batching ingredients to store in the freezer. You can also use the bags frozen avocado comes in as these are re-seeable.

Digital scales.

Get a set big enough so that a mixing bowl can be sat on them and you can still see the display.

Bulk Preparation

Making a smoothie every day can be time consuming and it will be the last thing on your mind if you are late for work and running out of the door. The best thing you can do to limit leaving the house vegless is bulk prep and make it the night before.

I have been prepping smoothies for years and have tried every conceivable method of weighing out, prepping and storing. So far, the quickest routine I have is this:

If time allows, let frozen produce thaw for about an hour. This will stop your hand from totally freezing but also allow you to break big chunks of cauliflower and broccoli to make weight.

prep

Get your storage bags ready. I do 10 at a time. This is because most of the main frozen ingredients come in 1kg bags and half full bags of veg in the freezer annoy me.

  1. Place a mixing bowl on the scales and reset to 0 (make sure the display is in ‘grams’.
  2. Empty the contents of the veg bag into the bowl and take 100g out and put into each bag.
  3. Do this with all ingredients from 1kg bags. I use 4 different types of veg but one of them is always smaller such as sweetcorn, baby carrots or diced beetroot. This is because the sandwich bags can become quite full and then the contents wont fit into the smoothie maker in one go. This is a pain…
  4. Add the other contents in even amounts and then blend and decant. 

Storage

Using a decent thermos or chilli bottle the smoothie can last up to 36 hours but ensure the liquid is cold when it goes in. Some flasks are so good that if the liquid is at room temperature, even when placed in the fridge they don’t cool.

Words of advice

If you hear a ‘pfff’ when you open your flask, it’s of or on its way. If you hear a ‘pop’, it’s definitely off and you are going to get spattered with rancid veg. You have been warned….

Veg meal replacement

These smoothies can serve several purposes such as increasing natural vitamin and mineral intake, a nice refreshing addition to a meal, a snack and also a meal.

To make this a meal, simply add some protein powder. I do this from time to time using vegan protein sources such as hemp and pea. I’m not a vegan I just find putting mixing an animal based protein with plants a bit odd. I also avoid soy. I’m not telling you to do this as the science is mixed but if you want to know more, you can start withthis bookand watchthis podcastwith it’s author being interviewed from 2020.

I tend to add 40/50g of powder which yields around 25g of protein depending on the source which I advise mixing. Animal sources of protein tend to be more ‘complete’. This means they have a good amino acid profile. Plant based sources aren’t as good so mixing them will enhance the amino’s you will get.

WARNING!

Plant based protein powders don’t tend to be flavoured. Drink unflavoured at your peril!

To add flavour I’d advise a good quality drinking chocolate powder such as Green & Blacks. When you add protein powder to your smoothie the constancy becomes very think. This is a personal preference but I find it nicer to feel like I’m drinking a thick chocolate milkshake than an elderflower one.

Other info 

Supermarket and coffee shop veg drinks

I’m often asked if veg smoothies from Tesco etc or Pret are any good. My answer:

Value for money, NO.

As a worst case scenario, yes.

Firstly, I’ve only ever seen one or two that include a type of fat.

Secondly, next time you buy one, look at the percentage of ingredients.

The food and drug administration stipulates that ingredients need to be in the order of quantity starting with the largest first. However, what is written on the front of the bottle doesn’t constitute an ingredients list so manufacture’s can and do write the list of ingredients in any order they wish, often to mislead the consumer. This often starts with the ingredients that have the least presence such as kale or ginger and finishes or even fail to mention the amount of apple juice concentrate or added sugar.

When something tastes too good to be true, 99% of the time it is. Hidden sugars are everywhere and food producers know every trick in the book on how to hide them.

To help you, buy veg based products that don’t get advertised such as the main ingredient. The veg!

Naturally produced food doesn’t get advertised. The only food that has been processed does.

Summary

Aim for at least 500ml of veg smoothie 5 days a week.

Use between 300 and 400 ml of vegetables before adding fat and flavourings.

Drink within 24 hours even when refrigerated or 36 if you have a very good flask.

Get the family involved, especially kids. When you give a child something and you tell them to eat or drink it your chances of success are slim. However, if you involve them when designing what you’re going to have, get them to help you make it so that they ‘own’ it, you’ll find your success rate increase.

For more advice info on family nutrition,click here.

Good luck, have fun and eat well.

Jamie