February is American Heart Month. A great way to take care of your heart is to live a healthy lifestyle which includes what you eat and drink. If you want a way to add more fruit, veggies, and fiber to your day try an option beyond what’s on your plate. Sip and slurp your nutrients through a yummy and heart-healthy smoothie.
As a registered dietitian at the Rockford, Illinois VA Clinic, I encourage Veterans to eat and drink things that are heart healthy. A great way to get in a lot of produce is through a smoothie. There are many ways to make a smoothie: most recipes use a milk or yogurt base, or a milk-substitute such as almond milk or soy yogurt. The next step is to add fruit and/or vegetables. If your smoothie is your breakfast meal or if you are trying to get more protein into your day, you can add peanut butter or other nuts, oats, seeds like chia or flax or even protein powder — the possibilities are endless. But beware – not all smoothies are truly a healthy choice. Some bottled and fast-food smoothies contain lots of hidden sugars and calories.
No blender? No problem. Use soft fruit such as ripe banana, ripe mango or berries. You could steam vegetables and include those, too. Mash the fruit as much as you can in a bowl with a fork. Then add liquid gradually continuing to whisk it with the fork until it’s all blended up.
It’s important not to confuse smoothies with juice drinks or “juicing”. The juice of fruits and vegetables contains nutrients, but it lacks a very important item: fiber. Smoothies generally have the whole fruit or vegetable pureed into the product. This texture and fiber helps you stay full. For more information on this potential benefit, please see the following study in the medical journal Appetite.
Many recipes for home-made smoothies exist, and your VA dietitian can share ideas as well. Take a look at page 67 for a smoothie recipe from our Yummy Benefits Cookbook, Vol. II and consider making an appointment with your PACT team dietitian, to customize your smoothies to meet your individual health goals.
Anne L. Koth, is a registered dietitian at the Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.