You might know from my posts on Instagram and Facebook that I like my smoothies. But I keep hearing from folks that smoothies give them indigestion. They suffer from stomach aches, bloat, and other digestion problems. This article is for those looking for digestion-friendly smoothies. I take an Ayurvedic approach because, for Ayurveda, digestion is at the center of well-being. I will talk about ways to make smoothies work for you. I will give you recipes for digestive friendly smoothies, and, as a bonus, will talk about some ayurvedic tips to correct that metabolism of yours. Does this sound like a good plan? Read on!
You are what you digest
As I said in my previous post, according to Ayurveda, we are not only what we eat, but what we digest. You can eat the healthiest of foods, but as long as you cannot digest them properly, they will clog your entire system, eliciting an immune reaction. This sticky, toxic residue will not only give us digestive discomfort and bloat. It will affect our emotions, creating lethargy, depression, anxiety, lack of mental clarity; it will affect the immune system, so much so that the person becomes susceptible to infections; it causes skin problems, from dry skin to acne or discoloration; it affects our appetite, and cause unhealthy weight gain. Remember this: Digestion is the body’s first sign of imbalance. This is why, for an Ayurvedic practitioner, metabolism, that is, the digestive “fire”, is everything, and Ayurvedic scholars say that a person is as old as their digestive fire.
Potentially, we can prevent diseases, create a healthy life full of bliss, by treating our digestion!
Now, not every body is the same. My digestive system works incredibly well, so much so that I sometimes end up abusing it by overeating or eating foods that are not particularly healthy for my unique body type. If I continuously abuse my digestive fire, I will start to have health problems, and it might be too hard to get my healthy “fire” back. Therefore, it is especially important to go easy on your digestive system especially if you have a more sensitive digestive system, and you can start with adjusting your smoothies accordingly.
Prefer warm, instead of cold
We are all unique, so prescriptions cannot be generalized for the entire population. Nothing is right for everyone, everything is right for someone. Ayurveda avoids the “everybody must” dogma in favor of individually tailored food programs to meet the needs of individuals. That said, there are some generalizable recommendations about food and digestion. One of these recommendations is that cold foods or cold drinks are not digestion-friendly. Next time you make a smoothie, refrain from making it freezing cold. If you are using frozen blackberries, for instance, at least add fresh strawberries, or make sure that the liquid you use is at room temperature. This is how I make my smoothies every day- I never ever have anything frozen.
Consider Food combining
Food combining, the idea that some foods digest well together while others do not, is a huge part of Ayurveda to optimize digestion. It is NOT that some foods are good and some bad. As a matter of fact, in Ayurveda, some foods are good sometimes and bad some other times. For example, yogurt is good at lunch, but it would be too cold or heavy for digestion at other times. Food combining is not about good food versus bad food. It is about how long it takes for the body to digest the foods we are eating together. Let me put it crudely: If you are eating an easily digestible food with another food that is harder to digest, the harder-to-digest food will not be digested properly. This can cause indigestion, fermentation, gas, bloating, and the creation of the sticky, toxic residue I mentioned before.
If you’re vegan, I think it’s easier to follow food combining. This is because most, if not all, animal products should be consumed alone, so, no cheese with beans, fruits, eggs, for instance, and fruit-yogurts are a big no. For a quick summary of the yes’s and the no’s, have a look at here. But even if you’re vegan, many commonly enjoyed items may cause a problem for the digestive fire. Take your morning smoothie. According to food combining, fresh fruits should not be enjoyed with any other food. Even among fruits, you should not combine different qualities together: Don’t eat watermelon with grapes, or pears with berries. Try to combine those with similar qualities: Citrus together, apples with pears, raspberries with blackberries. Melons should be on their own. Vegetables should not be combined with fruits or milk. If you want a green smoothie, you can combine it with nut-butters, you can add avocado for creaminess, and oats- but no fruits. Again, this is because all these foods require a certain amount of time for the body to digest. When we combine fruits (easy to digest) with hard to digest veggies, the veggies end up creating toxins in the body.
If this sounds overwhelming, start slow. Keep in mind to eat fruits on their own, separate from your veggies.
Tummy-friendly ayurvedic smoothies
Yes, it is possible to have our ayurvedic smoothies and eat/drink them, too! Once you get used to the idea of food combining, I am sure you will come up with your own combinations.
This is like that delicious golden milk latte everyone seems to be talking about, in a smoothie form. Turmeric is great for digestion, it reduces that build-up of undigested food waste in the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps to decrease pathogenic bacteria in the intestines.
- 1 cup plant-based milk
- 1 tsp maple syrup (or to taste. You can use any liquid sweetener).
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 tsp ginger powder
For topping: cinnamon
Blend everything in your blender. Taste and adjust the sweetener if needed. Serve with cinnamon for extra digestive support.
This is a plant-based version of a yummy Middle Eastern drink that is enjoyed warm. I lived in Istanbul for five years, and I LOVED enjoying a glass of “sahlep” (as is known in Turkey) they made on the ferry which brought us from the Asian side of the city to the European side (I know, it was a magical place to live). It is warming, rich, and delicious.
- 1 cup of plant based milk (I suggest oat milk).
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla (or rose water)
For topping: ground cinnamon
Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the plant-based milk. Set aside. Bring the rest of the milk and the coconut sugar to a boil, then simmer. Add the cornstarch mix you set aside to the simmering milk. Add the vanilla. Cook on low heat until it comes to a boil. Stir constantly, to prevent the cornstarch from settling on the bottom. Top with cinnamon and shredded coconut.
Pumpkin and cardamom smoothie
Cardamom is one of my favourite spices. This warming spice has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It can help relieve bloating and gas, as well as stomach muscle cramping. Cardamom works well as a diuretic and can reduce bloating, water retention, swelling, and edema. Cardamom also has antioxidant benefits, as well as being a good source of minerals, such as iron, manganese, calcium, and magnesium. It’s a powerhouse, and along with pumpkin spice, it gives this smoothie extra yumminess.
- 2 cups pumpkin puree.
- 4 pitted Medjool dates (Soak them in warm water for 10 minutes beforehand).
- 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
- 1 tsp pumpkin spice powder
Topping: Pumpkin seeds
Using a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Adjust spices to taste. Top with pumpkin seeds. Serve cool.
Practical ayurvedic advice to stimulate digestion and boost metabolism:
- Before each meal, eat half a tsp of grated fresh ginger root with a pinch of Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lime juice.
- As you might have guessed, Ayurvedic drinks love their spices. Spices like turmeric, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon do not only enliven the digestive system. They also alleviate the burden of the foods that are not so easy on the digestive system. In other words, use spices regularly, especially when you are not able to follow food combining suggestions.
- Stay away from iced water, especially during meals. Instead, sip warm water during meals and throughout the day.
- Ideally, fill the tummy with one-third food, one-third liquid, and one-third empty.
- Make sure to chew properly. Chew even smoothies and other “drinks”!
- After a meal, try chewing a tsp of fennel seeds. This will aid digestion.