Smoothies are appealing on many levels. They are full of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are raw, vegetarian or vegan, low-fat and low-calorie. Smoothies are quick, easy to make and take on the go, which makes them a perfect option for breakfast before work or snack in the office. They can be infused with all kinds of herbs or supplements. They are sweet and tasty; even kids love them. Smoothies are fresh, fun and healthy, right?
Your Doctor Likely Supports Your Smoothie HabitsMost doctors today encourage smoothie habits for most patients. Smoothies make great sense from a Western Medicine standpoint. Your doctors want you to eat lots more fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots less fatty foods. They want you to have a low-fat, high protein diet, with lots of fiber from veggies and whole grains. So, if you ask them if you should switch from bacon and eggs to smoothies for breakfast, they will likely give you an enthusiastic “yes!”
Qualities of Smoothies from a Tibetan Medicine PerspectiveAre smoothies healthy according to Tibetan Medicine dietetics? The answer is a rich blend of yes, no, and maybe. There are some great benefits, and also some important cautions that offer helpful insight into your dietary awareness. Let us examine the qualities of some common smoothie ingredients.
Frozen FoodsMany people add frozen fruit, berries, juice or even ice to their smoothies. In Tibetan Medicine, this is almost never a good idea. Frozen foods are very cold and heavy in nature. They dampen the digestive fire, and can imbalance all three nyepa (elemental functions). So instead of frozen fruit, use fresh ingredients served at a mild cool temperature. Protect your digestive fire!
Raw VegetablesRaw, bitter greens are cool-natured, so they help balance the fire tripa nyepa. This means they are anti-inflammatory, help soothe the liver, the eyes, and help soothe irritable, vexing emotional stress. Raw vegetables are also rough and light, so they can help balance the earth/water pekan nyepa, by breaking up stagnation and draining it away. This is beneficial for weight loss, feeling invigorated and energized. These are the benefits of raw vegetables. However, according to Tibetan Medicine, because of their rough and cool nature, raw vegetables can be difficult to digest. They may exacerbate symptoms of indigestion, bloating, loose stool or constipation. They also have limited nutritional richness, because our digestive system cannot extract as much nutrient content from rough, raw foods. The bitter taste of the food (such as bitter greens) is formed from the elements wind and water. This means that bitter foods are light, cool, and rough, all qualities that increase the wind element or loong nyepa. Increased loong nyepa can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, poor mental focus or feeling ungrounded.
Fresh Fruits and JuicesFresh fruit is awesome, however extra juicy fruits and especially fruit juices are heavy, sweet and cooling in nature. The sweet taste is formed from the elements earth and water. This means that sweet foods are heavy, cool, and difficult to digest. These qualities increase the earth/water badkan nyepa. Increased badkan nyepa can lead to weight retention, indigestion, feeling cold, dull or heavy.
Dairy ProductsYogurt and other dairy products are common ingredients in smoothies. Traditional Tibetans thrive on fresh yogurt; in Tibetan Medicine it is considered quite healthy and nutritious. Dairy products are generally sweet, heavy and nutritious in nature. However, dairy that is processed and stored in the fridge becomes very heavy, cool natured and therefore difficult to digest. This means that drinking cold, processed dairy products can imbalance the earth/water badkan nyepa, increasing symptoms of indigestion, weight retention or lethargy. Fresh yogurt is a great choice because, since it is fermented, it is more light and warm in nature, with a slightly sour taste. This helps to make it easier to digest, with more bioavailable nutrients.
Herbs and SupplementsMany people add various supplements to their smoothies, such as vitamins, protein powders, or herbal energy tonics. There are several important factors to consider with such supplements. Vitamins and nutritional powders are often very heavy and difficult to digest. They are usually made with unhealthy ingredients such as refined sugar, processed soy powder, and industrial stabilizers. These are sweet, heavy additives which can contribute to indigestion and increased pekan nyepa. One should likewise use caution with herbs and energy tonics. These can be potent ingredients, best suited for prescription by a qualified healthcare provider. If you are interested in herbal supplements and tonics, consult with an herbal medicine professional such as a Tibetan doctor, Acupuncturist, a Naturopathic doctor or Nutritionist.
Smoothie Alternative: Soup!Fresh soup broth is a great alternative to raw smoothies. Soups can be easily made with all manner of lovely veggies, herbs and spices. Of course one may add nutritious meat and dairy as well. Soup is much easier to digest, and offers a greater amount of bioavailable nutrients than raw smoothies. A thermos of fresh hot soup is ideal for the winter season, or any cool, windy or damp weather. Warm soup is the best choice for people with symptoms such as indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, loose stool, people with a sedentary lifestyle, those who tend to feel cold and heavy, or who tend to feel cold, anxious and ungrounded. If your tummy likes warm and gentle things, then soup is good for you!
In SummaryRaw blended smoothies are best suited for people who have strong digestion, are generally healthy and physically active. They are best in warm, dry climates, in the summer and autumn seasons. Warm soup broths are a better choice for winter and spring, for cold weather, for many people with sensitive digestion and cool-natured constitutions. An ideal smoothie should be balanced in the qualities of the three nyepa: loong, tripa, and pekan. Use fresh, locally grown ingredients instead of frozen fruits, and serve them at a mild cool temperature. The best veggie choices are light, bitter greens. The best fruit choices are seasonal berries which are vitamin rich, yet not too heavy. The best dairy to add is fresh yogurt, especially goat or sheep yogurt because they are lighter in nature. It is a good idea to add some common household herbs and spices, to aid in digestion and balance the cool, heavy nature of the smoothie. Great choices include a small piece of fresh ginger, a dash of cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, or clove. Spicy fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint or basil are also good. One may also add a small amount of citrus peel such as tangerine or orange, to provide aromatic bitter oils to the blend.
Sample Smoothie RecipeHere is a basic recipe for a fresh smoothie, light and nutritious:
- 1 hand full of fresh spinach
- 1 hand full of fresh arugula
- 1 large pinch of fresh parsley
- 2 hands full of fresh blueberries
- 1 tangerine
- ½ cup of yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of almond butter
- 1 small piece of fresh ginger (no bigger than the tip of your pinky finger)
- 2 pinches of cinnamon
- ¼ of a tangerine peel
- all ingredients should be organic, and sourced locally whenever possible
- serves two…blend to perfection and enjoy!