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Smoothies have taken on a healthier and tastier flare.

This year, Americans will guzzle down $6 million worth of commercially blended smoothies and countless vats of homemade snacks and meals contained in a single glass.

Smoothies have jumped out of the health food stores and into tony cafes, duking it out with specialty coffees as the "grande" drink of choice. The chalky powders and additives with the funny aftertaste are gone. Even the humblest street vendor is offering upscale jolts like wheatgrass and whey.

What role does this popular drink have in a healthy diet?

Pat Crocker, a home economist, culinary herbalist, and author of The Smoothie Bible, tells WebMD that smoothies are a valuable way to get the recommended daily intake of 5-10 fruits and veggies. Smoothies are filling, portable, and quick -- all pluses in this busy society.

Basics of Smoothie Construction

Crocker recommends each smoothie contain at least half a cup of liquid. Possibilities include:

  • Water
  • Orange juice (could be juice concentrate diluted as directed)
  • Apple juice
  • Yogurt (unflavored or natural is best)
  • Kefir (enzyme-enriched yogurt-like milk product)
  • Soda water (this creates "sparklers," especially delicious with veggies)
  • Ice chips

Since smoothies are soft, often sweet, and milkshake-like, what about ice cream? "Not if you are interested in healthy smoothies!" Larrian Gillespie, MD, author of The Menopause Diet, exclaims to WebMD.

Once the liquid is in the blender, it is time to add the fun stuff. Gillespie reels off a produce department of yummy ingredients you could try:

  • Bananas (almost a must in smoothies because they thicken the mixture. Crocker says to cut into 4 sections -- she includes almost all peels, except banana peels)
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries or other berries
  • Oranges and citrus (skip the yogurt with these)
  • Raw or cooked veggies (cooked are fine, don't forget those)
  • Papaya
  • Apples (the pectin can carry off toxins, Crocker says)
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Kelp
  • Split peas
  • Tofu
  • Goat cheese

Now for the Exotics

Gillespie and Crocker suggest a number of nutritionnutrition- and flavor-enhancing additives you can add after the basics are in place.

For more protein, add dried powdered milk, Gillespie suggests. Or how about espresso coffee power or cocoa powder (unsweetened)? To add more sweetness, Gillespie suggests Splenda or honey. Many fruits are naturally sweet, however. Fresh mint can also add zip to fruit concoctions.

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