If you’re a hardcore smoothie lover, I’m willing to bet you’ve sipped your favourite blended creation from under a blanket at least a few times. I’ve been there too, sitting at the table in my coziest sweater, favourite green smoothie in one hand and a mug of hot tea in the other. That habit wasn’t one I would let die!
As such an easy and tasty meal – not to mention an easy way to get a ton of nutrition packed into one glass – smoothies are still one of my favourite things to create and drink. But in the winter it can feel a bit weird to drink cold things, and according to Ayurvedic medicine, it’s not the ideal time to be doing so.
I talked a couple of weeks ago about how our winter season has the same characteristics of the vata dosha (or mind/body tendency). In other words, it’s cold, dry, rough, light, moving and clear. Some people have more vata energy than others, but when we experience cold fall/winter months, there are year-round recommendations for vatas that can also benefit everyone else living in the same climate.
Why shouldn’t we follow the same diet year-round?
You totally can if you want to, and I’ll be the first to admit that I freeze berries and peaches in the summer for occasional smoothies in the winter because they keep me hopeful that sunshine is (hopefully) coming soon! But here’s the thing: when we add cold, uncooked foods to our bodies during this time of year, it can cause digestive issues. It’s also not ideal for our energy and immune systems.
On the other hand, enjoying more warm, cooked foods helps digestion because it means our bodies don’t need to do as much work to bring it down to an ideal temperature for digestion. Digestion requires energy, so you might notice a drain in energy along with digestive issues. Since 80% of our immune cells are in the gut, that’s one part of the body that you really want to keep happy!
I’m not saying you absolutely shouldn’t eat any raw things during the winter, because I break that rule regularly. Winter wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if I couldn’t get my fill of massaged kale salad with apples, pears, pecans and all that good stuff! But what you might want to consider (especially if you’ve noticed things like constipation, body aches, slow digestion, irritability and anxiety) is adjusting your meals to account for what would be considered helpful according to Ayurvedic medicine. Let’s talk about that in the context of smoothies!
6 ways to winterize your smoothie routine
1. Try warm smoothie recipes
Opting for roasted vegetables over salad might sound like a more natural choice when it comes to lunch or dinner, but the same seasonal temperature shift applies to smoothies too. Warm ones can be easier for our bodies to digest (again, because we don’t have to expend the energy of warming them up) and can leave us with a more balanced, grounded feeling.
To make a more digestion-friendly winter smoothie, try using a base of warm (not boiling) tea or nut/seed milks, and decrease the quantity of frozen ingredients. The Chocolate Macaroon Smoothie below is an example of one that can be enjoyed hot or cold, and all you need to do is heat your coconut milk (or non-dairy milk) on the stove first.
Note that If you normally like your smoothies thick and eat them with a spoon, know that warm smoothies tend to be a bit thinner. However, you can still maintain a somewhat thick texture by adding fibre-rich produce. That brings me to the next tip…
2. Use grounding seasonal produce
You’ve probably seen a lot of this lately, especially cooked vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, pumpkin, squash and carrots. When I’m making warm smoothies, I like to peel them up and steam them first (usually as part of my Sunday meal prep), then let them cool and freeze them flat in resealable bags. That way, nothing goes bad and I can set them in the fridge the night before they’re needed.
3. Choose in-season fruit
Just as would be the case during any other time of year, fruits and veggies that are in season where you live travel shorter distances, are more fresh, and just taste better. If you’re putting fruit in your smoothie, try cranberries, oranges, tangerines, persimmon, grapefruit, figs, pears, pomegranate and apples.
4. Toss in a few mood-boosting ingredients
Great picks include gluten-free oats, quinoa, high quality chocolate, bananas, walnuts and almonds, all of which contain tryptophan. This is a naturally-occurring chemical that tells our brains to release more of the neutotransmitter serotonin. This is also known as one of our body’s mood-boosting neurotransmitters, and I don’t know about you, but winter is the season when I feel the need for this most!
5. …and more healthy fats too
Nuts (particularly almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans and pistachios), as well as other foods high in healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado are helpful for giving your smoothies staying power throughout the morning, and are really beneficial for brain health. Fatty acids help to add moisture (beneficial in a dry season), which also keeps digestion moving smoothly.
6. Add heat with warm spices
Ok, not temperature-heat, but flavour heat. Cayenne, ginger, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, turmeric not only make smoothies smell amazing, but many of them also have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties – all great things during cold and flu season when our immune systems need a bit of extra TLC!
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But wait, there’s more!
If you’re feeling motivated to blend up some seasonal smoothie creations, I’m hosting a giveaway over on Instagram for a bunch of my favourite Vega products. The prize includes Vega Sport Performance Protein, the protein powder I’ve loved for years and use in my smoothies most often.
Come on over, find the details in the latest smoothie photo, and get your entries in before Thursday night!