The first time I had an orange protein smoothie, I was hooked. I discovered protein powders for the first time back in the 1990s when i was living in japan. I had just finished a health column on tofu and knew it had some amazing health benefits. I was wary of overly processed foods to begin with; moreover, I was living on a shoestring budget in Tokyo, and was not about to start buying pricey processed powders.
I didn't have to look far for a substitute. There it was in my refrigerator: tofu as the protein source to throw into my orange protein smoothie, vegan of course.
The original orange protein smoothie
While tofu has been a staple product in Japan for centuries, few consumers were experimenting outside of traditional Asian dishes with tofu in the early 1990s (at least where I could see). My Japanese friends were shocked and amazed that I would make a drink out of tofu. Yet each time they tasted my concoction, they all loved it.
I’m sure others, probably a lot of them Westerners, had come up with the very same idea. But in those days, we had no Internet to find each other. Since then, I've gone on to find all sorts of ways to use tofu. Check out my recipe for orange cranberry bread. The added tofu makes it rich like a pound cake.
My original vegan orange protein smoothie was:
- 1 cup (8 oz.) orange juice
- One serving of tofu (⅕ of a block) – silken, or any texture is fine
- 1 banana
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Blend with 2-3 ice cubes. Drink slowly (to avoid a sugar rush).
Tofu smoothies and other test shakes
After discovering my new breakfast love, I decided to try various flavors of tofu smoothies. But to be quite honest, I never found one I loved as much. The flavors have to taste right on your tongue. I tried chocolate milk powder. My taste buds revolted. I don’t know, the tangy sweetness of the orange and banana work so well that you’d never guess there was tofu in the mix.
When I was younger, this orange tofu smoothie was my robust breakfast that kept me running up and down subway station staircases all morning. But as I get older I’m more in tune with my body’s reaction to sweet things. Orange juice, while good in small doses, can still trigger a sugar spike, if blood sugar is something you are watching.
A word about tofu
When I discovered how versatile tofu is, I started doing all sorts of test recipes with it. But when I returned to the United States, I came across a plethora of fear-mongering hypes on whether tofu might be dangerous. For a long time I stopped eating tofu on a regular basis.
Years and many medical studies later, tofu, despite being a processed food, has proven to offer many health benefits. Dr. Axe explains in his article on tofu the various health benefits, including debunking its bad reputation around cancer:
May Protect Against Cancer
Despite tofu’s reputation as a cancer-causing ingredient, promising research is proving just the opposite. In fact, studies show that soy consumption could be tied to a lower risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and stomach cancer.
While more research is needed to understand the cancer-fighting properties of tofu, some research indicates that it could be due to the presence of powerful soy isoflavones.
Even more impressive, one study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies noted that these isoflavones could even improve the efficacy of cancer treatments while relieving several side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. (Read original article)
These days I make my orange smoothie with altered ingredients, making it a bit healthier yet still a tasty breakfast or midafternoon treat. Instead of OJ I will put a whole medium orange (peeled) in the blender with a cup of water. Throw in three dates instead of maple syrup for more nutrients and less sugar spike. Soak the dates in the water for 20 minutes before blending, for a smoother shake.
Of course, you can take your own tofu smoothie to the next level by adding your favorite greens or seeds. I can really go overboard with my green smoothies. But this recipe is a nostalgic treat for me, so I don’t mess with it too much.
Here is the healthier version of my orange tofu smoothie recipe:
Vegan orange protein smoothie
This vegan orange protein smoothie is packed with power to take you through your morning. Drink as a mid afternoon snack to power up your afternoon.
Servings: 1 serving
- 1 cup water 8 oz.
- 1 serving of tofu 3.5 oz., ⅕ of a block - silken, or any texture is fine
- 1 banana 1 cup of strawberries or other berries are good substitutes, too
- 3 dates soaked in the cup of water for 20 minutes helps make it smoother
A smoothie diet has become my go-to remedy when I have not been eating well or want to do an effective detox. If one thing this Covid-19 lockdown has shown me, is how I rely on my daily smoothie to steer me towards wholesome food choices the rest of the day. I don't know about you, but when I got laid off back in March 2020 due to the pandemic, I started baking. I baked, I ate, and I did not make my daily smoothie that I used to take to work every morning. Combine that with some sofa lounging and there I was five weeks later and 10 lbs. heavier. Now I'm not a fan of using the d-word, but if a smoothie diet – or even simply drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement – can melt away the excess weight, I'm all for it.
Sharing the smoothie diet plan
So now it's summer, I'm back to work, and I've let go of the excess weight, thanks to the smoothie diet plan. I've also changed the way I drink smoothies, so I can receive optimum goodness without the sugar spike. Why, you may ask, would anyone have a sugar spike in a smoothie that you don't add sugar to?
If you let your blender do all the work that your mouth would normally do to break down food, it stands to reason that you are flooding your body with calories it can't assimilate all at the same time. This revelation does not mean that a smoothie diet is bad. Dr. Michael Gregor explains how smoothies work in the body in the video below:
Here are a few of the main points that Dr. Gregor makes in the video:
Juices are the only reason that you have a higher blood sugar spike, so we don't want to drink fruit juice, right? We're on whole foods so you know if you just drink juice you throw away all the fiber.
“But smoothies, right, you blend it all together so you have a whole food, right? But the reason they have a higher sugar spike in your bloodstream drinking a smoothie than just actually eating all the fruit, like in a bowl, is not because of the the liquid versus solid. It's the speed of consumption. If you have a big bowl of fruit and you had a green smoothie like well the kale and all that, right? How long it would take you – like awhile – to chew it to get through that
But a smoothie, you pop a straw in, I mean you can suck it down like 60 seconds. That's the only difference. So you just sip your smoothie. Like, how long would it take me to eat the fruit I just made, 20 minutes? Okay well I will sip this smoothie over the next 20 minutes and that's what you do, and then the same blood sugar. You actually absorb more nutrition because you can never chew that good and you're blending up all the stuff, breaking all those cell walls, getting all that wonderful nutrition into your body.
Judging by all the fiber products on the market, we know that fiber is important in our diets. Dr. Gregor explains that when we simply drink juice, we miss out on the polyphenol phytonutrients, the most important components of plant foods. By most estimates, up to 80 percent of these polyphenols are actually attached to the fiber. So, when we juice a carrot or other vegetable or fruit, we throw away the pulp. We away all those polyphenol phytonutrients that are attached to the fiber.
Dr Gregor goes on to say:
If they're attached to the fiber, what good are they to us? Ah, they're good bacteria.
When that fiber gets down to our gut, our gut bacteria in our colon eat the fiber and release the polyphenols that get absorbed into our system, circulates through our body, gets up to our brain, helps our eyesight, all those sorts of other things.
And so, you're missing out on all that nutrition that's attached to the fiber when you throw it away. Now if you juice your carrot and then take the pulp, put it back in the juice fine make carrot cake, something, just don't throw it away.
Smoothie diet basics
Knowing how important whole foods are, I hardly ever drink juice anymore. I do love smoothies, nevertheless, so I throw my favorite plant-based goodies into the blender. Many smoothie recipes suggest adding some juice or nut milk. But following the advice above i don't want to overwhelm my smoothie diet with unnecessary ingredients, so I always choose water as the liquid base. This is my personal choice. I'd rather eat nuts than drink them with out the fiber goodness.
Here is my basic outline for smoothies:
- 2-3 helpings of greens – a scoop of your favorite greens powder and greens other than leafy may be included, such as cucumbers and celery.
- 1-2 helpings of fruit – I usually add berries and one more, like mango, banana or dates
- water – add a cup, more or less to your own liking, or water + ice.
- herbs – a thumbnail of ginger, a tsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of fennel seeds, or try different favorites for flavor.
- flaxseeds – a staple for vegans, throwing it in the smoothie diet is an easy way to get your daily tablespoon of flaxseed nutrition.
Join us in the smoothie diet challenge!
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Cool as a Cucumber – this drink is great for hot afternoons and evening. Cucumbers is a great source of Vitamin B and are 95% water, keeping the body hydrated while helping the body eliminate toxins. Cucumbers have most of the vitamins the body needs in a single day.
Cucumbers are a good source of potassium. Drinking cucumber water helps your body get more potassium, potentially helping to lower your blood pressure.
Cucumbers are high in vitamin K. In fact, one cup of sliced cucumbers has about 19 percent of the recommended daily value. Your body needs vitamin K to help form proteins that are needed to make healthy bones and tissues as well as to help your blood clot properly. What better way to get this vitamin than through refreshing cucumber water?