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
- 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
- Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor.
- Blend with a few ice cubes for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Enjoy!