Smoothies change lives. Really. Now, we’re not referring to those milkshake-like monstrosities that are basically like dessert and contain sweetened fruit juice, sugar and even ice cream (those are nice for a once-in-awhile treat, not breakfast), but rather whole foods smoothies that are full of fruit and vegetable (and nutty) goodness!

A recent documentary, Powered by Green Smoothies, featured five runners and five CrossFitters who were put on a green smoothie drinking regimen and reaped the benefits. Of course, smoothies alone won’t fix a poor diet, but they can make a good addition to a healthy diet, and they found that for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables (most people) they may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake. So, why not consider adding smoothies to what you eat? Read on for some ways smoothies can change your life, and also get some new recipes!

1. Energy, Especially for Athletes
One finding of the athletes in Powered by Green Smoothies was that adding the smoothies to their diet seemed to increase their energy, decrease recovery time, and also lead to fewer aches and pains. For example, one athlete found that after running a 100-mile race, he was able to recover in just 10 days, rather than his usual month. Theories that RDs (registered dietitians) put out were that the vitamins and minerals in the smoothies helped lower inflammation and therefore decrease soreness, and that the boost in carbohydrates and calories made a big difference to the athletes, who burn through a lot of calories and may not have an adequate calorie or carb intake. Bottom line? If you’re an athlete, it seems you may benefit from incorporating smoothies into your diet, especially if you’re not getting enough calories or fruits and vegetables. Check out this beginner’s guide to green smoothies here!

2. More Fruits and Vegetables
Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, despite the USDA’s recommendations of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can easily incorporate 1-2 cups of greens and 1-1.5 cups of fruit – and it’s a fast and easy way to eat your fruits and vegetables! Find more information and recipes here, and check out The Ultimate Green Smoothie Cheat Sheet.

3. Fiber
Fiber is an important part of any diet. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. In juice, the fiber has been removed. However, since a smoothie is just blended fruits and vegetables, smoothies still contain valuable fiber!

4. Antioxidants
Antioxidants may prevent or delay cell damage, and fruits and vegetables offer rich sources of them. High-level doses in supplements may cause damage, so it’s best to get your antioxidants from whole foods. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits – and therefore antioxidants – into your smoothies. Berries have been shown to be particularly high in antioxidants, so try this blueberry acai super smoothie.

5. Get Lots of Nutrients at Once
Because they’re blended, smoothies provide more nutrients than you could otherwise get in one sitting – a whole lot of fruits and vegetables (without the chewing, too!).

6. More Fun (For You and the Kids)
Smoothies, with their creamy, milkshake-like texture, may satiate us more than other whole foods, and are more fun to make and eat – especially for the kids! You might not be able to get your kids to eat a big bowl of kale, but sneak it into a berry smoothie, and they probably won’t even notice! If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount you add each time you make the smoothie – you won’t even notice the difference. Check out The “Doesn’t Taste Green” smoothie.

7. Add-Ins for Extra Nutrients!
Last but not least, the extra additions you include in your smoothie (beyond the basic liquid, fruit and vegetable components) can make all the difference. Optimize the nutrient factor of your smoothie with your add-ins, by including vitamin E-containing nuts and seeds (or all-natural nut butters), which prevents against cell damage that leads to heart disease and cancer. Add pumpkin or sweet potato in place of banana for a similar creamy texture and a good dose of carotenoids, which decrease the risk of eye disease. Finally, adding spices like ginger and cinnamon can provide antioxidants and other health benefits. For a healthy dose of all these add-ins, try this pumpkin pie smoothie, which contains pumpkin and spices – and top it off with some crushed pumpkin seeds!

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