For some time now I have been arguing that smoothies have made a comeback. But a comeback from what and when, I wasn't sure.
I associate smoothies with the 1990s California health kick, neon bike shorts and roller blades. Now I've started to notice blended fruit beverages everywhere.
It first started in early 2008, when I witnessed my colleague sipping out of her travel mug at work every day. Naturally I thought it was coffee, in some effort to save money or avoid the insipid office coffee. But it turns out that she was drinking smoothies. I didn't think too much of it until a few weeks later it seemed that more and more people began coming out of the blending woodwork.
While that was not enough to warrant me declaring smoothie trend, I still did. But it was when my mother got in on the action that I knew I was on to something. I came home one night and she greeted me with an enthusiastic offer to make me a smoothie with her new blender. And when parents get in on something you know it's a trend (did your dad join FaceBook, too?).
With mom eagerly standing over me as I was about to take the first sip she was overcome with joy when I said her banana-honey-milk smoothie was good and now she will happily blend any and everything - it's like walking into a Jack LaLanne infomercial.
So naturally I threw out my Wheaties and had a breakfast revelation. I got out my hand blender and attempted to replicate my favourite smoothie from Fresh by Juice for Life: the Date Almond, consisting of almond butter, dates, maple syrup, banana, vanilla soymilk and cinnamon. It not only tasted great but I felt energetic, had a productive day at work and I wholeheartedly believe that it was because of the smoothie. Though it could have had something to do with the many nutritional benefits of dates.
Fresh offers over 30 types of smoothies, juices, shakes and elixirs ranging from $5 to $7 for a 16-ounce drink. According to one of the resident smoothie operators at the Bloor Street location, the best selling smoothies include the Breathless (mango, strawberry, banana), the Blue Lagoon (blueberry, mango, banana), and, ahem, the Date Almond.
Like me, Fresh has noticed the rise in smoothie popularity and in particular, wheatgrass shakes have gained more juicy recognition over the past several months.
My friend Jon likes to add protein powder to make his smoothies more filling and he finds that it dulls the need to snack between meals.
He also followed the advice of a local health food store employee who recommended adding a teaspoon of flax seed oil to his smoothies. "Not really sure what it does, but when the health food store lady talks, I listen," says Jon.
So true, there is something very reputable about health food store employees; also, it helps that flax seed has enormous health benefits, like omega-3, and can easily be added to anything (it can be found in an oil or ground).
But why are we all of a sudden talking about smoothies, and where did they originate? Is there a Planet Smoothie somewhere in the galaxy?
According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, "juicing" became popular in the 1970s, while smoothies became popular in the 1980s, and juice bars began emerging in the 1990s. Bringing smoothies into the home in the 2000s is just a logical extension.
But the history of the smoothie is certainly not without its controversy.
Stephen Cuhnau, founder of the chain Smoothie King, claims to have not only coined the term "smoothie" but to have also created the first one in the late 1960s. However, the Waring Blender was introduced in 1939 and following that their cookbooks began including "smoothee" recipes.
Add to the debacle that Orange Julius has been making a smoothie-like beverage since the 1920s!
So while it's not clear who may have invented smoothies it's undeniable that they are convenient, delicious, nutritious and as popular as ever. At least according to me.
Here's an easy home smoothie recipe:
4 oz. of plain 1% yogurt (Western or organic as it's got the least number of ingredients)
2 tb. ground flax
2 tb. rolled oats
1 tb. organic raw honey
2 oz. frozen blueberries (frozen is actually best - releases more flavour without losing many nutrients)
Blend and top with organic wild blueberry juice.
Other smoothie-making tips:
- Bananas are an excellent way to put the smooth in your smoothie
- Other healthy thickeners include yogurt, soy or rice milk, juice puree, nut butters and tahini
- Add "boosting" supplements like ginseng, royal jelly, etc.
- Hide your greens in your smoothie (spinach, kale)