This month we’re sharing a few recipes from our friend Tess Masters, The Blender Girl! Tess is our go-to gal for fantastic vegan and gluten-free blender recipes. Check out her newest book The Perfect Blend, available now on Amazon.
Today, I’m going to share my fool-proof system for making delicious detox smoothies.
Whether you binged over the holidays, drank too much alcohol on the weekend, want to boost your immune system or lose some weight, or just want to eat a bit healthier, smoothies are the easiest way to pack a ton of nutrition into your meal.
You can make a smoothie in less than 10 minutes. And the best part is, you don’t even need to turn on the oven!
Why Drink Detox Smoothies?
Before I dive into my smoothie tips, I hear some of you crying out in protest: “The body doesn’t need to detox. It’s designed to cleanse itself. Detoxing is ridiculous.”
If this is you, yes, it is true that our bodies are miraculous machines, and they have built-in cleansing mechanisms that are designed to recalibrate our internal chemistry for optimal health.
However, our bodies are also exposed to a barrage of toxins from environmental pollutants, processed foods, and drugs. Stress, sedentary living, and illness throw even more toxins into the mix. All of these elements can overwhelm our systems.
Including mineral-rich fruits and vegetables in our diet ups the anti-inflammatory agenda and dials up detox support for better health.
Physical detoxification occurs in two phases: Phase 1 is when our bodies identify the toxins, and Phase 2 is where our bodies expel those toxins through the liver, skin, intestines, kidneys, lymphatic system, and blood. Fewer nutrients support that second phase, so by consuming the key nutrients regularly in our diet we help keep our major protective bodily functions operating at peak performance.
Most people don’t get excited about eating tons of raw produce. But, smoothies make it easy and fun!
My Criteria for a Great Detox Smoothie
When I make a smoothie, it needs to satisfy three basic criteria:
1. It needs to look gorgeous: We eat first with our eyes, and nobody wants to drink anything that looks like swamp water!
2. It needs to be mind-blowingly delicious: Life is too short to eat food that isn’t scrumptious.
3. It needs to be nutrient-dense with awesome ingredients.
I start everyday with a smoothie, and I think they can be enjoyed everyday. However, I recommend rotating your ingredients to include a variety of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and greens, herbs, and spices so you don’t overdo it on any one ingredient. Mix things up!
Fruits and vegetables begin to oxidize the minute you cut them open, so it’s always best to enjoy them the minute they’re made to minimize the degradation of nutrients and to get the most bang for you buck.
Having said that, we’re all busy and it’s not always possible to drink your smoothie right away. If you’re making a smoothie in the morning to drink later in the day (or the night before to drink in the morning), you can still get a lot of goodness from your ingredients. Seal the smoothie in a jar right after making, store it in the fridge, and then shake it up again before enjoying.
My Favorite Ingredients for Detox Smoothies (and Why):
Coconut Water: After plain filtered water, coconut water is my go-to liquid for smoothies. Low in calories and carbohydrates, and almost completely fat free, coconut water pairs well with most fruits and veggies.
It’s also a natural isotonic energy drink that’s rich in hydrating electrolytes. The water of young coconuts is also alkalizing, and boosts the function of the liver, thyroid, kidneys, and gall bladder.
Spinach: With a mild taste that’s easily masked by fruits and vegetables, spinach is my top choice for introductory green smoothies. You can add 1 to 2 cups into any blend without really changing the flavor.
Loaded with iron and other minerals, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, chlorophyll, protein, antioxidants, fiber, and anti-inflammatory power, this leafy legend is a cleansing champion that alkalizes and boosts immunity; helps build and oxygenate the blood; strengthens cell integrity; and promotes respiratory, heart, bone, skin, eye, and digestive health.
Beets: Loaded with iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and dietary nitrates, beets build mineral-rich blood to dial up detox. They’re also full of folate to help regenerate tissues and cells. Betaine in beets helps fight infections, calm inflammation, and combat abnormal cell development.
These pretty purple root vegetables also clears congestion from the colon, and toxins from the liver and lymph. Grate raw beets for the smoothest texture with conventional blenders, or lightly steam them to make them more palatable.
Apples: The pectin fiber in apples helps stimulate bile production to help the liver offload toxins and sweep the colon for digestive health. Pectin also interacts with key antioxidants to lower blood-fat levels.
The galacturonic acid (in pectin) also lowers the body’s demand for insulin, keeping apples’ glycemic index low, while quercetin (a phytonutrient in apples) inhibits digestive enzymes so carbs break down less readily into sugar.
Many of the key nutrients in apples (quercetin and fibers) are concentrated in the skin, so skip the peeling.
Strawberries: Low in sugar, but delivering fabulous flavor, strawberries add a delightful sweetness to smoothies while helping to neutralize acidic waste and oxidation to reduce the degeneration of cells, tissues, and organs.
Rich in phytonutrients, vitamin C, mineral buffers, and omega-3s, these righteous red berries are bursting with antioxidants ammo to combat inflammation in the eyes, muscles, and blood. Full of fiber and polyphenols (which block starch absorption to lower blood sugar), strawberries are dynamite for digestion and detox. Throw them in fresh or frozen for sweet immunity.
Pineapple: Bromelain, the protein-digesting enzyme in pineapple, bolsters the power of its vitamin C content to help clear respiratory congestion, suppress coughs, loosen mucus, flush out toxins, reduce swelling and bloating, and stimulate circulation for a deep-dive detox.
Pineapple is also amazing for energy production, with manganese and vitamin B1 increasing enzyme activity and antioxidant defenses, while iodine and manganese support the thyroid to regulate metabolism. Use pineapple fresh or frozen.
Lemon: Low in sugar and full of nutrients, lemons are detox divas. Chemically acidic, but alkaline-forming once digested past the stomach, these citrus superstars neutralize acids to balance pH levels in the lower digestive tract. The citric acid in lemons stimulates enzymes and dissolves oxalates (aiding digestion), while ascorbic acid fights free radicals.
Amped up with antioxidant vitamin C, antibiotic phytonutrients, alkaline mineral buffers, and B vitamins, lemons also strengthen fat-metabolizing enzymes in the liver, flush toxins from the blood, calm inflammation, build collagen in the skin, maintain healthy mucus membranes, and block abnormal cell division.
The skins are particularly rich in antioxidants, so throw some zest into your shakes for an additional “booster” of nutrition and flavor. Whole (peeled), juiced, or zested, lemons lift the pungency of leafy greens, green powders, and earthy roots in smoothies.
Cayenne Pepper: I seize every opportunity to add a pinch of this hot ground pepper to smoothies. It adds crazy-amazing flavor and healing potential. As one of the most powerful detox foods, cayenne neutralizes acidity, stimulates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, and heats the body to sweat out toxins. Acting as a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal, cayenne is a powerful alkalizing immune booster.
As a cold-and-flu remedy, it helps break up mucus, soothe coughs and sore throats, and alleviate headaches, tonsillitis, and fevers. Extremely high in capsaicin (a natural pain reliever), cayenne can also help ease heartburn, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Cayenne is also a great digestive aid: stimulating the peristaltic movement of the colon, increasing enzyme production and the flow of gastric juices, and boosting the production of hydrochloric acid to help the proliferation of friendly bacteria. It’s also brilliant for heart health as it helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol.
Throw some in your weight-loss shakes, too, as it helps burn fat! Cayenne pairs with everything, and lifts the pungency of leafy greens and the earthiness of root vegetables.
Broccoli: I boost most smoothies with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of raw frozen broccoli, or 1 teaspoon freeze-dried broccoli sprout powder. As our taste buds are temperature sensitive, we can’t taste the full dimension of flavors at extremely cold temps, so you can slip frozen florets into smoothies unnoticed. And you definitely want to include broccoli in your diet as it’s one of the stars of the detox world.
Broccoli is one of the richest sources of glucosinolates – some of the most powerful toxin tackling compounds found in foods. Armed with an arsenal of antioxidants (glutathione plus vitamins C and E), alkalizing minerals (magnesium, iron, zinc), flavonoids, carotenoids, omega-3s, and fiber, these fierce florets combat oxidation and inflammation; oxygenate the blood, and banish bad bacteria for better digestion.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Below are my basic steps for spectacular smoothies, with suggestions for including the top detox foods. Feel free to swap out, or add in, any other ingredients you like! Just pick your ingredients, blend, and enjoy!
1 Choose a base liquid: You can use 1 to 2 cups of filtered water, raw coconut water, unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk, fresh apple or orange juice, herbal tea, green tea, unsweetened kefir or kombucha.
2 Choose your base ingredients: Add 2 cups of fresh or frozen fruits or veggies, like apple, orange, kiwi, melon, berries, beets, cucumber, pineapple, mango, or peaches.
3 Add some creaminess: Banana, avocado, coconut meat, unsweetened natural yogurts, blanched almonds, or almond butter all add richness and creaminess to smoothies.
4 Add some greens: Next add 1 to 2 cups of spinach, romaine or radish greens; 1 cup kale, bok choy, chard, collards, beet greens; or 1/4 cup arugula or dandelion greens.
5 Boost the nutrients: Choose one or more of the following: 1 tablespoon of chia, hemp or flax seeds; 1 tablespoon of coconut, flax, or hemp oil; 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of superfood powders like açaí, pomegranate, camu, maqui, goji, wheatgrass, or broccoli sprouts; 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon spirulina or chlorella; or add 1/4 cup frozen raw broccoli or cauliflower.
6 Add some magic: Inspire flavor fever with spices! Add a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, red pepper flakes, turmeric, or curry powder, or 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or fresh ginger. Or try fresh (not dried) herbs like 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary, or 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of parsley, cilantro, basil, or mint. Lift the pungency of earthy root veggies or leafy greens with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of lemon or lime zest.
7 Blend! Throw all of the ingredients into your blender, and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth and creamy.
[Photos in this article by Trent Lanz.]