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strawberry milk shake

Olha_Afanasieva/Getty Images/iStockphoto

QUESTION

I'm making this the summer of the smoothie, but all the recipes seem the same. I'm looking for serious hydration with fruits as they come into season, with an eye to keeping sugar-levels in check. In other words, what summer fruits are most hydrating with less of a sugar-kick, and how can I blend them in novel ways?

ANSWER

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There isn't a better time of year to enjoy smoothies. The variety of fresh fruits available in the summer allows you to get creative and break away from the usual banana-frozen-berry recipe. Using the right combination of summer fruits as they come into season – berries, peaches, pears, apricots, melon, even tomatoes – will turn out a delicious smoothie that beats the summer heat and packs a big nutritional punch without a sugar overload. And there's no need to add sweeteners such as sugar, honey or agave nectar since in-season fruit is so flavourful.

Fruit smoothies deliver plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Peaches, apricots and nectarines are exceptional sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant linked to heart health. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are packed with anti-cancer phytochemicals along with B vitamins and vitamin C.

Melons are nutritious smoothie additions, too and they're low in calories and natural sugar. One cup of watermelon, for example has only 46 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrate. (In comparison, one medium apple has 95 calories and 25 grams of carbohydrate.) Plus, it provides lycopene, an antioxidant thought to guard against prostate cancer. And cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin C as well as potassium (it's right up there with bananas), a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure.

Unlike fruit juice, smoothies made from whole fruit are good sources of fibre.

Consider that one cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fibre, one-third of a day's worth for women and one-quarter of a day's worth for men. Even one medium pear delivers 5.5. grams of fibre.

If you choose the right base – milk, yogurt, fortified plant beverages versus water – you'll get a solid 300 milligrams of bone-building calcium and 100 international units (IU) of vitamin D per one cup.

Blend in a booster like ground flax, chia seeds or hemp hearts and you'll also get a decent amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.

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Sipping on a smoothie also hydrates your body, but it's not just from the milk or almond beverage they're often made with.

Fruits (and vegetables) contain large amounts of water in proportion to their weight. The most hydrating summer fruits are tomatoes (94 per cent water), strawberries (92 per cent), watermelon (92 per cent), cantaloupe (90 per cent), peaches (88 per cent), raspberries (87 per cent), apricots (86 per cent) and blueberries (85 per cent). Cucumber, celery, carrots, zucchini and spinach also have a high water content.

Smoothies are a cinch to make – all you need is a blender and healthy ingredients on hand. Use the following guide to make one serving.

Pick your fruits:

Start by adding one cup of fresh fruit to the blender (I've listed great-tasting seasonal combos below). Feel free to add chopped cucumber, diced or grated carrot or spinach leaves for a nutrient boost.

Choose a base:

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Add one cup of milk, yogurt (yogurt makes a thicker smoothie), half milk/half yogurt, kefir (an excellent source of probiotics) or a fortified plant beverages such as unsweetened almond, rice, soy or coconut milk.

Add healthy fat:

One tablespoon of ground flax, chia seeds, hemp hearts, almond butter, peanut butter or one-quarter of an avocado will add extra nutrients, heart-healthy fats, omega-3s and, in the case of avocado, the B vitamin folate.

Consider protein:

If your breakfast is a smoothie made from almond, rice or coconut beverage – which are very low in protein – adding half a scoop of protein powder will give your smoothie more staying power.

Turn up the flavour:

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Freshly squeezed lime juice, lemon juice, pure vanilla extract (a dash), grated ginger root (half teaspoon), fresh mint leaves and shredded unsweetened coconut add a flavour zing to smoothies.

Try lime juice with raspberries, vanilla with pear, ginger with peaches and mint with watermelon or cantaloupe.

***

Add variety, nutrients and great taste to your smoothie repertoire with the following seasonal fruit and vegetable combinations. (Feel free to substitute the base.) Add a little healthy fat, ice if you like, blend and enjoy. Even better, create your own smoothie.

Strawberries + cherries (pitted) + yogurt (or half yogurt, half milk) + a dash of pure vanilla extract

Watermelon + strawberries + kefir + basil leaves

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Cantaloupe + cucumber + unsweetened almond milk + mint leaves

Peaches + strawberries (or raspberries) + milk

Raspberries + lime juice + unsweetened coconut beverage + mint leaves

Pear + avocado + yogurt (or half yogurt, half milk) + a dash of pure vanilla extract

Peaches + spinach + milk + grated ginger root

Chopped tomatoes + carrots + celery + apple + unsweetened almond milk.

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Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel's Direct; lesliebeck.com.

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