Are Smoothies Healthy? 4 Ways to Make Them Work
Plus, a peaches 'n cream smoothie recipe.
Every Ayurvedic practitioner’s seen it. A Vata client with a breakfast smoothie habit. With her curiosity and creativity, she’s learned about all the “super” ingredients and whips up a colorful concoction each morning. Thinking this is a healthy start, it is actually contributing to imbalance and chronic concerns.
What’s a Vata? And why is something healthy unhealthy?
Vata is a dosha, a mind-body type, considered to have air and space qualities dominant in their body and personality. Vata people love to move. Like the wind, they flow, they fly, they soar. They are bird song and butterflie—inspired and inspiring, enlivened and happiest when untethered. Swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in jar, explore all the things of wonder near and afar, that is our beloved Vata.
As the wind can be erratic, cold, drying, scattered, ungrounded, so Vata digestion can be irregular and often weak. We encourage Vata people to take their meals at regular times, and to enjoy them lightly cooked, served warm, lightly spiced to aid digestion, and unctuous, with good healthy fats to lubricate and nourish deeper tissues.
While it may be a perfect example of how far “health trends” sometimes take us from nurturing, intuitive, personalized wellness habits, a smoothie can be good for Vata in a few ways. It can be nourishing. It can be hydrating. It can be sweet—sweet being a taste found in nature versus processed or synthetic sugars, and sweet being a taste which can be balancing for Vata. Finally, it is good that our Vata is having something for breakfast as they can be fast as lightning, too quick to stop for regular meals.
But smoothies often contain things that are not ideal for Vata: Ice, dried powders, raw, rough, hard-to-digest greens, and a variety of ingredients that don’t combine well according to Ayurveda, further weakening digestion, which in Vata’s case may show up as bloating, gas, constipation.
Here’s how to make a smoothie healthy:
1. No ice. We use ice to staunch bleeding. The gut needs blood and energy to digest. Ice with your meals is a great way to diminish digestive power. Think of digestion as a fire. We want to add fuel to a fire, not extinguish it with ice.
Plus, your body is already adjusted to room temperature. Sure, you are a self-regulating all-star, but why waste that energy to readjust when cold also diminishes flavor and digestion?
2. No powders. Enjoy nature's bounty. Include foods you could have picked yourself if you lived in a lush Shangri-La where nomads once boldly tread.
3. Avoid crazy blends. Combine ingredients you would enjoy together, whole in a bowl.
4. Spice it up. Spices strengthen digestion. They can also have medicinal benefits. Cardamom has been shown to reduce blood sugar, while turmeric is widely studied for its anti-inflammatory powers. Above all, spices enhance flavor.
Not only do these suggestions turn a smoothie from Vata imbalancing to Vatalicious, they are good suggestions for Pitta and Kapha too. Below is an example of right combining for a smoothie to feed and nourish, balance and delight, whatever your dosha.
Peaches ’n’ Cream Summer Smoothie
2 ripe peaches
1 ripe banana
1 cup coconut yogurt
3-4 basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon cardamom, or to taste
1 hearty dash turmeric
Optional: mint, aloe vera juice
Put the peaches, banana and yogurt in a high speed blender. Before you cut the lime in half, zest about half of its peel and add. Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice of one half into the blender. Add the basil, cardamom and turmeric. Optionally, you could add a couple of mint leaves and/or a 1/2 cup of aloe juice. Blend on high until it is creamy. Serve at room temperature.
Vata: Lemon can be used instead of lime
Pitta: Can swap the coconut yogurt for coconut milk or cream
Kapha: Omit the banana, add cinnamon to taste, mix in 1/2 cup hot water
In my course, The Medicine In Your Kitchen: Ayurveda Cooking For Beginners, you learn about food combining and the six tastes, which tastes are best for each dosha, and how to blend them for balance, health, and a symphony of flavor - because delicious is our first taste to inspired living.