Smoothies (© Mara Yamauchi)
Here in the UK, we have just completed four weeks of coronavirus lockdown. We are still allowed daily exercise, and I’m loving seeing spring burst into life all around us during my daily runs. In other countries, outdoor exercise is limited or banned, and I am thankful every day for the simple pleasure of running outdoors in the fresh air.
This week in my kitchen, it’s all about smoothies – versatile, nutritious, and convenient snacks that no athlete should be without. I lived in Tokyo for much of my life as an elite athlete, which was an invaluable window into the world of elite distance running in Japan. I was always on the look-out for lessons I could learn from Japan’s top stars. Japanese food is famous for being very healthy, and making a fresh smoothie every day was one of the tips I picked up. This has become a lifelong habit and even now that I’m retired, I enjoy being creative with different ingredients.
Smoothies are popular everywhere, but what is it that makes them healthy? For starters, they’re a great way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. They expand the variety in what you’re eating if you use plenty of different ingredients. You can put anything to hand in them, so are ideal for using up seasonal, local and readily available produce. They are portable and handy for taking to training or competition. They provide fluid and energy. They can be adapted for different uses (for example, rehydration, recovery, increasing iron intake). And they can be low GI if you limit the amount of juice and sweet fruits you use.
Not only that, but they can also be high in fibre. Some nutrition guidance says eating fruit and vegetables whole rather than blended is better for fibre intake. I try to keep the fibre content up by limiting how long I blend ingredients for, and thereby keeping the smoothie quite ‘rough’. I also sometimes make ‘gritties’ – the coarser cousin of a typical smoothie – by adding things like seeds, nuts or oats which increase the fibre content and make the texture much rougher.
The list of fruit and vegetables you can put into smoothies is almost limitless, but here are a few of my favourite recipes. Just wash, peel if necessary, roughly chop all ingredients and mix in a blender. I try to drink smoothies as soon as they’re made but they do keep in the fridge in a sealed bottle or container for about 24 hours. Enjoy, and happy blending!
Basic everyday smoothie
Water (or orange juice)
Recovery smoothie for after hard training or competition
Protein or recovery drink powder (optional)
Soya or almond milk
Green smoothie for increasing micro-nutrients
Green leafy vegetable (spinach, lettuce, cabbage etc)
Avocado (adds thickness)
Tropical smoothie for when you’re missing the sun