Health Benefits of Fruits, Veggies and Nutritional Additives in Joan’s Smoothie:

My healthy, delicious (if I do say so myself!) breakfast smoothies contain a combination of several fruits and vegetables, as well as other additions that are good for your body. Listed below are the usual suspects from which I choose to make my smoothie each morning, along with the benefits of consuming these wonders of nature.

1) Blueberries: They offer an arsenal of healthy components. Blueberries contain antioxidants as pterostilbene and resveratrol, and are rich in proanthocyanidins. Blueberries are a very good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese. These blue gems are also a good source of fiber and copper while being low in calories.

What they can do for your body:

  • Reverse damage done by toxins and free radicals.
  • Reverse inflammation in the body, now thought to be the root cause of most diseases, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Neuro-protective agents in blueberries, known as phenols, protect our brains from oxidative stress and degeneration.
  • Give your heart a healthy boost: An article published in Circulation regarding a study of 93,600 women between the ages of 25 to 42, showed that eating strawberries and blueberries together has a positive effect that actually decreases your risk of heart attack by up to 33 percent.
  • Combat cancer: Clinical studies have even discovered that, unlike radiation and chemotherapy strategies, gallic acid-rich foods like blueberries can kill cancer without harming healthy cells! For instance, the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology  published a study evaluating the anticancer effects gallic acid has on breast cancer cells. Like countless studies before, researchers discovered that blueberries and gallic acid slow and even destroy breast cancer.

2) Blackberries: These delicious nutritional powerhouses deliver so many benefits! They are rich in vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as antioxidants as zeaxanthin and lutein, known for their ability to help vision and control the onset of macular degeneration.  Blackberries are low in calories (1/2 cup is 43 calories and very filling) and are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, with ½ cup supplying 5.3 grams of fiber.

What they can do for your body:

  • Maintain healthy blood pressure:  Blackberries have a high content of potassium, with one cup providing 114 milligrams of the mineral, helping blood vessels relax and function properly for blood pressure control.
  • Might help maintain bone health: Due to their vitamin K content, which functions in keeping calcium in the bone, consuming blackberries could prevent osteoporosis.
  • Protect your skin from sun damage: Blackberries contain ellagic acid, which is considered a phytonutrient that may defend the skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage. According to a research article published in the Journal of Experimental Dermatology, ellagic acid slowed down the toxicity of UV-B in skin cells. UV-B is the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn when a person exposes skin in the sun for too long a time. UV-B affects the development of skin cancer and is thought to cause premature skin aging.
  • May help improve digestive health: We know we need to keep our bowel movements regular for optimum health, and blackberries contain a high amount of fiber, which prevents constipation. The daily dietary fiber intake recommended for men is 38 grams and for women is 25 grams.
  • Gut bacteria are now known to play an important role in our health. A diet rich in blackberries could also change the composition of your gut bacteria. A study, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggested that berries have an important role in retaining gut health in the small intestine, due to their prebiotic content.
  • Help fight infection: One cup of blackberries contains 24 percent of the vitamin C daily requirements. The ellagic acid in blackberries, mentioned earlier for its healthful properties, can also rapidly stymie the growth of certain types of bacteria and fungi in the body.

3) Strawberries: Tasty, and so full of health benefits, these red beauties have a powerful effect on the body. Strawberries offer an astonishing 129 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, but manganese, folate and potassium are also among the nutrients provided. Strawberries are naturally low in fat and calories - a big plus - and are a source of anthocyanins, flavonols, terpenoids. And like their cousins, blackberries and blueberries, they contain ellagic acids and phytonutrients for an anti-inflammatory blast. Carbon, iron and iodine are also in abundance, as well as copper which promotes the healthy development of red blood cells.

What they can do for your body:

  • Contribute to fighting atherosclerosis: Strawberries contain folate (folic acid) which not only fights atherosclerosis, but helps in preventing a decline in cognitive function. 
  • May control blood pressure: One cup of these amazing powerhouses contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C.
  • Recent studies show that when vitamin C is consumed during times of stress, it actually has the ability to decrease our blood pressure to a normal level, preventing the development of hypertension — especially in kids.
  • May reduce the signs of aging: Vitamin C also is crucial to the production of collagen, which provides the skin its elasticity and resilience. Eating strawberries with such high vitamin C content could enhance the ability to have younger, healthier looking skin.
  • Provide a great source of fiber: Like their other berry cousins, strawberries can keep the ‘pipes moving’!

4) Pineapple: This beautiful specimen of the bromeliad family (same family as Spanish Moss) has an enormous amount of healthy qualities. Pineapples contain bromelain, vitamin C, as well as high amounts of thiamin, a B vitamin that the body uses for energy production. 

What it can do for your body:

  • Keeps your bones strong: Pineapple may help you keep standing tall and strong. The fruit contains nearly 75 percent of the daily-recommended value of the mineral manganese, which is essential in developing strong bones and connective tissue, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. One 1994 study suggested that manganese, along with other trace minerals, may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
  • Helps heal wounds: Vitamin C is known for its role in creating collagen. It is the most plentiful protein found in the body. Collagen is essential as a building block, or base, of bones, skin, blood vessels, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Strengthens gums and teeth: The antioxidant compounds found in pineapple actually contain astringent properties that help tone the gums and body to avoid hair/tooth loss and skin loosening.

5) Bananas: They are such a popular fruit, not only because they taste good but also because they are full of healthful properties. They contain fiber, but are great sources of potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium and manganese.

What they can do for your body:

  • May improve digestive health: Due to the fiber in bananas, with a medium banana containing about 3 grams, bananas can aid digestion. There are two types of fiber in bananas, which are pectin and resistant starch, both found in larger quantities in unripe bananas. Some studies suggest that pectin may help protect the body against colon cancer. Resistant starch is not digested and becomes food for beneficial gut bacteria when it ends up on the large intestine.
  • May promote weight loss: Bananas contain few calories, with a medium banana containing 105 calories. If we reach for a banana instead of a candy bar during an afternoon slump, we can stave off the fat calories and eat something nutritious and filling.
  • Promote heart health: A medium sized banana contains 9% of the RDI of postassium, an essential mineralin helping lower blood pressure.  People who consume a potassium-rich diets have a 27% lower risk of heart disease.
  • Might improve kidney health: Again, due to their high potassium content, bananas may play a role in keeping your kidneys healthy. A study showed that women who ate bananas 2-3 times a week were 33% less likely to develop kidney disease.

6) Kale: It’s the ultimate green health food. Kale is often referred to as the King of the Veggie World, and research is bearing truth to that claim. It is packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium and magnesium, with a one cup serving providing over the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for vitamins A, K and C.

What it can do for your body:

  • Promotes blood clotting: The vitamin K in kale activates certain proteins and gives them the ability to bind calcium. Being one of the best sources of vitamin K, it contains 6-7 times the recommended daily amount. Vitamin K has also been recognized as an agent that helps the absorption of vitamin D. In fact, vitamin K is being touted as being the ‘next vitamin D’ referring to its importance to the body, in particular, keeping blood vessels from calcifying, and helping your bones retain calcium.
  • Fights cancer: Kale has compounds believed to have defensive effects against cancer. One of those compounds, sulforphane, has been shown to assist in preventing cancer from taking hold at the molecular level.
  • Protects eyesight: Once again, like its rich berry friends, we see the benefits of consuming kale high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, as well as cataracts.

7) Spinach: This is a longtime nutritional favorite. Spinach contains vitamin A and folate, which is actually known scientifically as vitamin B9, as well as magnesium, calcium and the component Popeye made famous, iron.

What it can do for your body:

  • Due to its high potassium content, spinach is helpful for people with high blood pressure. Not consuming enough potassium could be just as harmful as high sodium intake.
  • Helps manage diabetes: Spinach contains an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels. It may even increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Prevents asthma: Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is thought to reduce the risk for developing asthma, especially for people who eat a high amount of certain nutrients.

8) Dandelion Greens: Though many think of this as just a weed, this is a nutritious green that is rich in iron, antioxidants, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin K and fiber, while being low in calories.

What they can do for your body:

  • Help shed waste: This is due to their high fiber content.
  • Detoxify the liver: Due to its natural diuretic effect, increasing the amount of urine your body makes, dandelion greens promote the swift elimination of toxins from the liver.
  • May fight the development of Alzheimer’s disease: Dandelion greens provide 535 percent of the Recommended Daily Amount of vitamin K, which may limit neuron damage to the brain.

9) Broccoli: Another veggie superstar, broccoli is filled with such beneficial substances such as dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Plus, it contains protein, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.

What it can do for your body:

  • Provide mood-centering benefits to help sleep: Broccoli contains tryptophan, an amino acid from which serotonin, known as the ‘happiness hormone’ is made.
  • Lower inflammation: Consuming broccoli can actually assist your body in avoiding dibilitating auto-immune diseases like arthritis. Foods like broccoli ward off the body’s inflammatory response that can lead to disease.
  • Keep your heart healthy: Broccoli is high in vitamin E, important for heart health as well as protecting cellular membranes from breaking down.

10) Cauliflower: Similar to its cruciferous cousin, broccoli, cauliflower is high in fiber, as well as a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.

What it can do for your body:

  • Kill cancer cells: Cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, consequently slowing tumor growth. Due to the research being conducted on the benefits of this compound, some researchers consider that eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer.
  • May diminish age-related decline: Cauliflower contains choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Choline acts as an anti-aging neurotransmitter and is essential for nerve function and muscle movement.
  • Aid digestion: Members of the cruciferous family are beneficial for digestion and detoxification because of their rich supply of sulfur containing compounds called glucosinolates, which support proper nutrient absorption and toxin/ waste removal from the body.

11) Arugula: Rich in flavonols, this green contains vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and is also rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium.

What it can do for your body:

  • Helps maintain healthy blood pressure: Arugula is a heart-healthy food due to the calcium, magnesium and potassium content that play a part in controlling and normalizing blood pressure.
  • Helps fight cancer: As a member of the cruciferous family, and as an excellent source of glucosinolates. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, high intake of glucosinolates has been associated with a reduced risk for many cancers, such as those affecting the lungs, breast, bladder, colon and ovaries.

12) Flax seed: This is an excellent source of omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid, as well as dietary fiber and magnesium.

What it can do for your body:

  • Helps eliminate waste: Flax seed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which aids in digestion and helps keep bowel movements regular.
  • Provides “good fat” for the body with the delivery of omega-3 essential fatty acids. This helps the heart functioning well and healthy.
  • May keep ‘bad cholesterol’ at bay: A study of menopausal women showed a decrease in LDL levels after the women ate 4 tablespoons of ground flax seed each day for a year.

13) Chia seeds: Once thought to only be useful to grow on novelty planters, studies have shown these seeds to be packed with nutrition, containing healthy doses of fiber, protein, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorous. In addition, they are packed with omega-3s and protein.

What they can do for your body:

  • Keep you feeling full longer: Chia seeds form a gel when wet, which could explain why they promote weight loss, since when we feel full, we eat less.
  • Provides “good fat” for the body with the delivery of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  • Fight the production of free radicals: The antioxidants in chia seeds fight these invaders which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer.

14) Hemp seeds: Indeed, they are from the same species as cannabis (marijuana). However, they only contain trace amounts of the compound THC which is the “high” component of cannabis. Hemp seeds are exceedingly nutritious and rich in healthy fats, protein and various minerals. They are a great source of vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.

What they can do for your body:

  • Keep your heart healthy: Hemp seeds contain an amino acid named arginine. Increased arginine intake was linked to decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in a study of more than 13,000 people. CRP is an inflammatory marker that is linked to heart disease.
  • May benefit skin disorders: Research is showing that fatty acids may affect immune responses in the body in a positive way. Hemp seeds contain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Hemp seed oil has been known to help people suffering with eczema, and to also relieve the itchiness of dry skin.

15) Nuts: I use a variety of nuts in my smoothies, primarily for the omega-3 fatty acids and for the protein. I generally use almonds, walnuts or brazil nuts. A small handful of mixed nuts can provide a good portion of the recommended daily intake for copper, manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous and selenium.

What they can do for your body:

  • Protect your cells: Research has shown that the antioxidants in walnuts and almonds can protect the delicate fats in your cells from being damaged by oxidation.
  • Protect against cancer, thyroid problems and cognitive decline: The selenium in nuts, particularly in brazil nuts, is thought to be a powerful antioxidant that can offer protection against cancer, and in particular, breast and prostate cancers.
  • Nuts contain antioxidants known as polyphenols, which may protect LDL cholesterol from damage.

Stay tuned for more content, including our "smoothie of the month" recipes!