The Vegan 101 Series is back! Last year I started the 101 series to celebrate one year of being vegan. I’ve just hit two years as a vegan and wanted to bring back, perhaps less frequently, posts for the series.
Today’s post has been a few months in the making. I met Tess Masters last summer at the annual BlogHer conference and it was love at first sight! We had been Twitter and blog buddies but there’s nothing like mutual admiration in real life! After a few months of talking about working together it finally dawned on me. No one can take on the issue of smoothies like my pal, Tess, The Blender Girl. Sit back and enjoy!
Tess Masters is an Australian actor, presenter and voice over artist living in Los Angeles, CA. Her alter-ego “The Blender Girl” writes a quirky blog called Healthy Blender Recipes, sharing super quick and easy vegetarian, vegan, and raw recipes using a blender, mixer or food processor.
Tess uses blending as a metaphor for life: combining different ideas and concepts; notes and flavours; and philosophies and cultures in order to find a healthy balance for happiness. So “blend and live” was born, and she started blogging two years ago.
All of her healthy recipes are gluten free, and utilise whole foods and natural flavourings and sweeteners. Many of the recipes are also dairy free, egg free, nut free, and soy free. You can search for recipes for specific diets or food allergies by using the handy clickable icons on her website.
I was thrilled when JL asked me to write a post about vegan smoothies for her amazing 101 series. We had such fun together at BlogHer11, and there is nothing I love to talk about more than my blender!
Blenders are the ultimate culinary gifts from the gods, designed to make our lives easier. They level the playing field in the kitchen – making anyone an instant veganista! I think smoothies and soups are the easiest way for people to transition into a vegan lifestyle. We use our blenders to make all kinds of vegan dips, spreads, sauces, dressings and cheeses. But people want to have fun when they eat, and smoothies hit a sweet spot with most new vegans. It has been my experience that smoothies are the quickest way to show vegan skeptics how sensational vegan food can taste. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a vegan smoothie. Not only are vegan smoothies quick and easy, they are satisfying, nutritious, and absolutely delicious. The flavor combinations are endless, and it is easy to be creative and gain confidence in the vegan kitchen. They make a wonderful healthy meal or snack, and are the quickest yummiest way to sneak a huge dose of fruits and vegetables, healthy nuts and oils into kids, “healthy-phobic” adults, and busy people on the run!
Furthermore, when you blend whole foods, they become easier to digest and are gentler on the body, because most of the cells are ruptured, making the nutrients easy for the body to assimilate. But just remember that the first phase of digestion begins in the mouth. So “sip and swish” instead of gulping!
Now, I don’t believe in debating about “blending vs juicing”. I think there is a place for both in any healthy eating regime. I certainly blend and juice on a weekly basis. But I will say, that one of the great benefits of blending whole fruits and vegetables is that you are retaining all of the healthy fiber, as well as all of the nutrients found in skins and piths. Smoothies are a low GI alternative to juices. The fiber in the whole foods slows down the assimilation of sugars into the bloodstream and can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Furthermore, smoothies also help with bowel regularity. The fiber in raw greens, fruits and vegetables moves food through the intestinal tract and helps rid the body of toxins by binding and bulking them, and eliminating them through our very own garbage disposal. In addition to this, blending takes less time than juicing, and there is less clean up! Just throw everything into your blender and devour. Smoothies are also a great “take away” meal that you can take with you in the car, and on location.
I enjoy all kinds of vegan smoothies every week. I love sweet smoothies as a treat. But I start my day with an alkaline vegetable green smoothie every morning. I know a lot of children and adults are “allergic” to greens, but I find that blending greens with fruit, vegan milks, vegetables, nuts, seeds and natural flavorings creates all kinds of delicious combinations that make it incredibly easy and enjoyable for anyone to get their daily dose of greens!
Green smoothies were the missing link for me in my health regime. After having embraced many whole foods principles from Macrobiotics, Ayurveda, Chinese theories of Yin and Yan, Veganism, Vegetarianism, Raw Living Foods, Body Ecology, and Acid/Alkaline Principles, I had still not found my “perfect blend” – the right eating regime and balance that kept my body at optimum health all year round. I still struggled with candida and lethargy. Green smoothies brought me back to optimum health. I have never been healthier or had more vitality.
Here are my top tips for making delicious nutritious vegan smoothies
Start with vegan milks, coconut water, coconut kefir, or water as a base
We are so fortunate to have a wide variety of commercial vegan milks available for purchase to use in vegan smoothies. Milks such as soy, almond, hemp, rice, oat, coconut, and quinoa milks are wonderful for convenience. I find that a quick glance at the ingredient list on the packaging speaks volumes about the integrity of the product. As a general rule, I always look for products that use organic ingredients and have as few additives, preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners and sweeteners as possible.
I make my own raw milks wherever possible by soaking nuts, seeds and grains (which I discuss later) and pulverizing them with water in my Vitamix. They are absolutely delicious, fresh, and free from any additives. That way I have complete control over the quality of the milk and can blend it up for specific needs. Variety is the spice of life! I use different vegan milks depending on my flavor and texture preferences. Some of my favorites for use in smoothies include: raw almond milk, Brazil nut milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, macadamia milk, rice milk, and soy milk.
I also often use coconut water and coconut kefir in my smoothies. Coconut kefir does not contain any sugar and is absolutely loaded with pro-biotics. I will slowly blend that through at the end as it has a lot of natural fizz. It adds a nice spritz and tang to vegan smoothies. Coconut water adds a natural sweetness and is great for energy. I very often just use plain filtered alkaline water too.
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables in season
Most delicious smoothies contain fruits or vegetables. I use fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in season. I will often buy fresh local produce in season and either freeze, dry or stew it for use later in smoothies. So, I always a variety of organic options on hand every week. I love making quick raw applesauce, apricot butter, or mango sauce in my Vitamix. Using dried and stewed fruits adds a rich depth of flavor to smoothies.
Add avocado, coconut, banana, tofu, or nut butters for decadent creamy textures
My favorite way to “cream up” vegan smoothies is with avocado, fresh coconut meat, pure creamed coconut, or raw cashews, macadamias and almonds. I also like to use a tablespoon of tahini, or almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, and sunflower seed butters for a decadent flavor and texture. You can also use banana. But I find too much banana overpowers the flavor of the other ingredients, and really spikes the sugar levels of smoothies. I don’t like to eat too much soy because of the phtyo-estrogens, but silken tofu works a treat too!
Add a flavor boost with natural sweeteners, flavorings, herbs and spices
I typically maintain a vegan alkaline diet and do not eat fruit, sugar, or acid on a daily basis. I most often sweeten my smoothies with stevia. But I am not a monk, and I do enjoy a sweet smoothie as a treat! When I do indulge, I like to use pitted dates, coconut crystals, maple syrup, fruit juice, yacon syrup, blackstrap molasses, and pomegranate molasses.
I will often enhance the flavor of my smoothies with alcohol-free vanilla and almond extract, as well as raw cacao powder or nibs, carob powder, celtic sea salt, garlic, ginger, and other fresh herbs and spices such as paprika and chili. I also love to add a nip of pure rosewater for really exotic smoothies.
Boost the nutritional density of smoothies with raw nuts, seeds and grains
I always use raw organic nuts and seeds in almost all of my smoothies. I use different nuts and seeds throughout the week in order to maintain a balanced diet. Some of my favorites are: raw almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseeds, macadamias, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
Raw cashews, macadamias and pecans bring a rich, creamy, buttery texture and taste to smoothies. I use these nuts for decadent “sweet treat” vegan smoothies. Other nuts and seeds I use for texture and nutritional density. I very rarely make a smoothie without adding raw flaxseeds. Raw nuts and seeds are loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and healthy fats and oils. They are known to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, assist with heart health, bone density, regulate blood sugar levels, hormone levels. Nuts and seeds also have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, that help neutralize free radical damage and promote cellular renewal. They assist with colon health and encourage detoxification and elimination of wastes; and I could go on and on. Just a handful is all you need for a fantastic energy boost.
Add some insulation with healthy fats and oils
I add a teaspoon of coconut oil to a lot of my smoothies. It has a deep rich flavor, and the health benefits are extraordinary. Coconut is absolutely loaded with antibacterial and antiviral properties. It has lauric acid which has a powerful antiviral effect on the body, and caprylic acid which is a potent anti-fungal. Coconut oil is fantastic for boosting immunity and staving off illness. If I am around anyone who is sick, I hop into the coconut. Some of my other favorite raw oils for adding goodness to vegan smoothies are: olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia oil, pumpkin seed oil, and avocado oil. I always use cold pressed unrefined organic oils and store them in dark glass containers in a cool pantry.
Smoothies are the quickest, painless way to load up on your daily dose of greens. Unless I am having a sweet treat, I always add leafy greens to my smoothies. Greens give you energy and vitality. They are rich in vitamins and minerals; contain powerful antioxidants and vital live enzymes, are loaded with amino acids (protein), and are low in calories. They also contain natural anti-inflammatory agents that can assist with aches and pains, and vast amounts of chlorophyll. A molecule of chlorophyll closely resembles a molecule of human blood. Greens are incredibly alkalizing, and boosting your alkaline buffers helps to reduce the stress on tissues and organs, and helps combat disease and infection. Greens also assist with healthy nails and hair, as well as improve skin tone and reduce blemishes. Some studies even suggest that greens increase your sex drive. Now, if that doesn’t make you grab for your blender, I don’t know what will! Yes, greens really are the perfect food!
If you are concerned about the alkaloids in some leafy green vegetables like the oxalic acid in spinach, do not be concerned. The key to avoiding any possible toxic influences of excessive alkaloid intake is to use different greens every day. Rotate greens such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, silver beet, parsley, basil, cilantro, beet greens, turnip greens, parsnip greens, carrot greens; and other phenomenal greens like wild edibles.
I know buying organic greens every day can get very expensive. Here’s a great tip to make your smoothies more affordable! Most people ask to have the greens cut off of their beets, turnips and carrots etc at market stalls. Simply ask the vendors at your farmer’s market if they have any tops they have cut off for other customers. These beet greens, carrot greens etc make wonderful additions to green smoothies and they are loaded with nutrients. Best of all, they are free!
There are tons of phenomenal recipes for green smoothies out there. Check out other people’s yummy recipes and find your perfect blend! Try some unusual combinations and see what works for you. If your green smoothie is too sweet, add in some more greens. If it is not sweet enough, add in some more fruit! Ease into green smoothies by starting with sweet smoothies. Use mild tasting greens such as spinach and romaine lettuce that are easily masked with fruit and other flavors. As your taste buds become accustomed to the taste of greens, start reducing the amount of sugar and increase the amount of greens and vegetable alkaline green smoothies. I talk more about the benefits of green smoothies on my Why Make Green Smoothies Page.
Wild edibles such as grasses, dandelion greens, pigweed, lambsquarter, stinging nettles, plantain, hota cola, hibiscus, and nasturtiams, give us a wonderful opportunity to expand our food resources and bring incredible variety to our diet.
They also level the healthy playing field. Buying large amounts of organic green vegetables can get really expensive! Being wild sets a whole new standard for fresh healthy food, and it is available to anyone! Forget the notion that “you are not allowed to be healthy unless you are wealthy”. “Wild” goes one step further than “Organic”, because they are free, they have longer roots, they are healthier and heartier, and you are eating locally!
I love wild edibles. But always arm yourself with knowledge before blending them up! Research the poisonous wild edibles in your local area, and do some research before picking and eating anything. Introduce new wild edibles slowly, and in small amounts. Adopt the “look, listen and learn” approach. Look for signs of intolerance, listen to your body’s reactions, and learn what works for you.
So where do you find wild edibles? Well, it will depend on where you live. The best place to pick wild edibles is in the most secluded locations that have had minimal exposure to pollutants. A pristine environment like a wild forest is ideal, as the plants have not had to “weather” the elements of human pollutants. Never pick edibles right by the side of the road. There is a saying “all roads lead to dirt”. No mater how gorgeous the road looks, anything growing near it will be contaminated with pollution. Most experts agree, that “the safe zone” is between thirty and forty meters away from the road. A lot of organic farms are located close to roads. So that is food for thought! You can wild edibles in your backyard, as long as you don’t spray. Most parks are also safe, as long as they are not high traffic environments. You can easily harvest your own wild edibles in your backyard, a balcony, or window sill. These plants are so hearty! It is literally like “Jack and The Bean Stalk.” You can just soak the seeds and throw them out, and they will grow wherever they land. That might just be the only gardening I can handle! Check out Seeds of Change. This is a fantastic website to source great quality non-radiated seeds with which to harvest your very own wild edible garden. I talk in more detail about Wild Edibles on my Make Green Smoothies Page.
Soak, dehydrate and sprout your nuts, seeds and grains
Nuts, seeds, and whole grains are nutritional powerhouses that provide a wealth of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to feed the human body and soul. But in order to capitalize on their nutritional profile and protect ourselves from natural toxins that protect them but harm us, they need to be soaked and dehydrated or sprouted.
Some of the principle reasons why soaking is beneficial to our health: it removes anti-nutrients like phytates, tannins and goitrogens; it helps to neutralise enzyme inhibitors; it increases the potency of nutrients such as Vitamin B; it makes proteins more readily available; it eradicate toxins contained in the colon and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli which we know is vital for intestinal and colon health; and it promotes the growth of healthy enzymes vital for healthy digestion.
Different nuts, seeds and grains require varying degrees of soaking. I explain this in more detail in my Why Soak Nuts, Seeds and Grains page. But just quickly, if you are using them in raw smoothies you can just soak and rinse. I do it all the time to make raw almond milk, raw cashew milk or raw macadamia milk for smoothies. You can also just throw a handful into the blender with some water and the rest of your smoothie ingredients. Alkaline grains like millet, quinoa and amaranth make fantastic vegan milks or bases for smoothies too! I discuss soaking in more detail in my Why Soak Grains, Nuts and Seeds Page.
Transform any smoothie into an instant pudding!
Just remember you can make any smoothie into a pudding by thickening with sprouted silken tofu, avocado, or chia seeds! Just stick the smoothie in the fridge for about an hour or until set.
Some of my favorite vegan smoothie recipes
Decadent Vegan Sweet Treat Smoothies
Creamy Raw Vegan Pistachio Ice Cream Kale Smoothie
Raw Vegan Strawberries and Cream Smoothie
Vegan “Apple Pie In a Glass”
Vegan Maple Pecan Pie Smoothie
Vegan Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie
Raw Vegan Coconut Date Shake
Raw Vegan Body Ecology Cranberry Smoothie
Raw Vegan Chocolate Cherry Ripe Smoothie
Raw Vegan Mango Coconut Bliss Smoothie
Thank you, Tess! There is so much great information here! My blender is going to be very, very busy this week! Readers, if you have questions for Tess, go for it!