There's nothing more guiltlessly satisfying than a freshly blended concoction of your favorite fruits and veggies, deliciously cold and packed to the brim with the nutrients that the body craves.
But, though it doesn't make sense, you may have a hard time creating this magic in your own home. Your smoothies are either too green, too icy, or too ... something not quite right. So, in our search to craft a variety of the healthiest, most delicious green smoothies around, our HuffPost Hawaii editors turned to smoothie-making expert and owner of Hawaii's Leahi Health Beverages, Jason Coleman.
Coleman, a vegetarian bartender from the Aloha state, entered the business of health drinks after years of making home-made kombucha -- a raw, fermented, probiotic tea that boasts a wide range of health benefits, including improving digestion, boosting the immune system and improving joint health.
He owns two farm-to-table health food shops in Honolulu that specialize in surprisingly delicious vegan drinks and meals using simple, all-natural ingredients. Needless to say, when he offered to share his tips for crafting the perfect drink, our editors took scrupulous notes.
Behold, the 9 secrets for making the tastiest and healthiest smoothies, ever.
1. Use the freshest ingredients possible.
Fresh fruits and vegetables will always taste better than older ones. Coleman likens it to eating sushi made with fresh fish versus "previously frozen" fish -- the difference is in the taste.
Using fresher ingredients also maximizes your smoothie's nutrient-rich potential. Diane M. Barrett Ph.D, director of the Center for Excellence in Fruit and Vegetable Quality at UC Davis, notes that when fresh fruits and veggies are consumed significantly later than their harvest, they lose quality and nutrients. The rule of thumb is to buy locally grown produce when possible and to use fruits within two to three days of purchasing and vegetables within four to five days.
2. Use a restaurant-grade blender.
Unfortunately, the hand-me-down blender you got in college doesn't cut it any more. A high performance, multi-speed blender will guarantee a well-blended beverage and allows you to use hardier, more delicious, ingredients like granola and almond butter. Thick, well-blended smoothies taste more like milkshakes, after all. Coleman's weapon of choice: Vitamix.
3. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of fruits and flavors.
The drinks at Leahi Health Beverages have an eclectic and ever-evolving list of ingredients, which is suspicious at first, but turns out to be oh-so good. Leahi's Green Monster, for instance, blends a mix of greens with almond milk, organic peanut butter, honey, and bananas. The result? A creamy, perfectly sweet nutrient packed smoothie that's wonderfully guilt-free.
4. Proportions, proportions, proportions!
At his drink shop, Coleman uses the blender's blades to determine how much liquid base to add to his smoothies. He recommends pouring the liquid up to the tip of the blades, filling the middle of the base with desired fruits, veggies and natural supplements, and topping it off with ice.
5. Use one cup of dark leafy greens in every smoothie.
Everyone knows that dark leafy greens are good for you, but it's hard to pinpoint how many greens to add before getting a hard to drink, mud-like concoction. Coleman adds one cup of greens for each of Leahi's 20 oz. beverages.
His number one seller is King Green, a blend of homemade kombucha, raw ginger, a mix of locally grown greens, pineapple, banana, and lemon. The result is uniquely tangy and refreshing.
6. Know your dark leafy greens and mix them up!
While there's nothing wrong with throwing a simple cup of spinach into your blended treat, not all greens are created equal. Using more than one leafy green in your mix, as Coleman suggests, gives your smoothie an extra boost, as different plants have different tastes and benefits.
Bill Howes, farmer and owner of Hawaii's Kolea Farms, suggested using chaya -- also known as Mayan spinach -- over kale because its slightly sweeter taste better compliments fruit. Studies also show that chaya leaves contain substantially greater amounts of nutrients when compared to spinach. Bele, a leafy vegetable commonly grown throughout the Pacific Islands, is another nutrient-rich green Howes recommends. When blended, bele gives smoothies a creamy texture.
7. Choose your superfoods for nutrition and taste.
Leahi's menu lists an arsenal of exotic superfoods, all of which boast potential health benefits. Maca root, for example, is supposed to regulate hormones; goji berries provide ultra high boosts of antioxidants; and chia seeds are supposed to protect the heart and other vital organs. Coleman points out that these superfoods are also great tools for adding taste and texture to your drinks.
Dry chia seeds, for example, become gelatinous when combined with liquids, giving the drink a thicker texture. And if you love chocolate, try adding raw cacao -- which many believe is rich in antioxidants and has cancer fighting qualities -- to the mix.
8. Make it into a milkshake! Sort of...
Let's face it: secretly, we all want our smoothies to taste like the creamy, indulgent milkshakes of our childhood. Ingredients like bele, organic peanut or almond butter, coconut milk or granola can turn any green smoothie into a guiltless mock-milky treat. Adding maca root, which is usually sold in powder form, can also contribute to a creamy taste and texture.
Leahi's Ulu Watu blends almond milk with apple juice, raw cacao, almond butter, apples, banana and honey, for a dessert-like treat. Similarly, the Jack Johnson -- another customer-favorite -- mixes tangy kombucha with greens, almond milk, banana, apple, and honey for a perfect mix of citrus, creamy, and sweet.
9. Add a slice of lemon.
"Vitamin C helps make plant-based iron more absorbable," nutritionist Stacy Kennedy of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute told Men's Health Magazine. That's why Coleman adds a slice of lemon to each of his green smoothies. (Oranges and other citrus fruits work, too!) Not only does it enhance the nutritional value, a dash of citrus makes for a yummy addition.
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