Lesson #4 - Build Your Own Recipe

In Lesson #4 we'll provide a sample recipe that has been optimized for its nutritional properties according to the latest health research.

Additionally, we'll provide guidelines to follow when building your own recipe as well as provide suggestions on how to modify the recipe based on your personal health goals. This will help you avoid common mistakes made when choosing smoothie ingredients.

In the last part of this lesson we'll teach you how to create a nutritional profile for any recipe.

All of our recommendations and guidelines are based on research and studies for which we have added references listed at the bottom of the article. These have been marked using citations.

1.) Start with a Healthy Base Recipe

The base recipe we recommend starting with is the Optimum Health Smoothie recipe we made during Lesson #3. Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen spinach leaves (or any greens mixture)
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (25 grams)

Below is a nutritional profile for this recipe. (In the last section of this lesson we'll show you how to create a nutritional profile for any recipe.)

Optimum Health Smoothie
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
1 serving (625.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 68% • Vitamin C 180%
Calcium 23% • Iron 20%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutrients & Phytochemicals

One of the key health benefits from smoothies comes from nutrient and phytochemical content. As you can see from our Smoothie Nutrition Matrix, there are a few fruits and vegetables which have a much larger supply of these than others. Because spinach and berries are rich in macronutrients such as Vitamins A, C, and E that is why we've included them in our recipe.

Phytochemicals are potent plant-derived antioxidants that provide dramatic health-enhancing effects and have been shown to protect against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and overall protection against chemical carcinogens.[1] Because both greens and berries are high in phytochemicals, we strongly recommend including them in your base recipe.

Preventing Disease

Research collected by Nutrionfact.org's Dr. Greger shows that certain fruits and vegetables dramatically decrease instances of disease. There are several foods he recommends that both significantly reduce risk of cancer as well as help protect against the top 10 causes of death as reported by the Center for Disease Control.[2][3] Some of these foods are broccoli, spinach, kale, and blueberries. We recommend always including a source of greens and berries in your smoothies.

2.) Rules for Creating Your Own Recipe

The list of possible ingredients and recipe combinations is endless. Rather than trying to list every possible ingredient, we've created some guidelines supported by research and general nutrition principles that you can use to create your own smoothie recipes.

Here are 6 rules you can follow to customize our base recipe or build your own.

Rule 1: Include a healthy source of fat. Some vitamins are fat soluble and require fat to be absorbed by the body. We recommend using a healthy source of fat in every recipe such as almond butter. Consuming fat causes a release of the hormone leptin which is responsible for regulating appetite. If you want to experience the sensation of being full after a meal you must include a significant source of fat.[4][5]

Rule 2: Don't consume more than 500 calories per smoothie. According to Dr. Sears, author of The Zone Diet, consuming more more than 500 calories in any meal will result in the body releasing insulin to store the extra calories as fat.[6] In the last section of this lesson we'll demonstrate how to create a nutrition profile for each recipe to ensure you never consume more than 500 calories per smoothie.

Rule 3: Don't combine a smoothie with other foods. A smoothie is a complete meal with a precise amount of fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Per Rule #2, a smoothie is not meant to be consumed as a drink with something else if the total calorie consumption exceeds 500 calories.

Rule 4: Avoid processed foods. The processing of foods has an effect of lowering both the amount of nutrients within food as well as the body's ability to absorb those nutrients.[7] A major downside to processed foods is that they often contain added fat, sugar, and salt. The extra sugar makes these foods much more calorically dense than natural whole foods. These extra ingredients can cause health problems as well as lead to excessive weight gain.

Rule 5: Always add greens. Green vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, all of which help to protect against diet and age-related disease and illness. Furthermore, research shows that the body can easily absorb the nutrients from green vegetables, which has not been proven with multivitamins.[8] There is no better food to be putting in your body on a daily basis!

Rule 6: Make it taste great. Because many green vegetables can have a slightly bitter taste, we recommend adding fruit to a smoothie with a sweet and tart flavor combination such as mixed berries. Additionally, bananas have a naturally smooth flavor which helps to balance out the greens and berries. This creates a flavor combination that tastes great and is easy to drink. The goal is to crave your smoothie so that you will drink one every day.

3.) Modify Based on Your Goals

There are many ways to customize a recipe using ingredients that provide benefits specific to one of your goals or health conditions. Here is a short list of ideas to get you started:

  • To decrease cholesterol, try adding 1/2 an apple and/or 1/3 a cup of oats.
  • To increase protein intake, try adding one scoop of protein powder, preferably one without aspartame.
  • To give your energy level and metabolism a boost, add 1 tablespoon of green tea leaves or use brewed green tea in place of water.
  • To reduce inflammation, add 1 tablespoon flax seeds or flax seed oil.
  • To replace electrolytes and promote muscle healing after a workout, use pineapples or add pineapple juice in place of or in addition to water.
  • To help balance blood sugar, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

We encourage you to experiment, do your own research, and test out new ingredients.

4.) Calculate Your Own Nutritional Profile

It is worth repeating something that has already been mentioned: It is absolutely essential to know the exact nutritional profile of the food you consume. Many people make the mistake of creating their own recipes without knowing what they are putting into their body. Knowing the exact amount of both fat and calories in a recipe will help ensure your success.

Below is a quick description of how you can easily do this on your own. We recommend that you practice creating new recipes using the tips we've given in this lesson. You'd be surprised how calorie dense certain foods are, and how just a small amount can quickly push the total calories of your recipe over 500.

Here is an easy way to create the same "Nutrition Facts" style nutritional profile shown earlier in the lesson for any recipe:

Step 1.) Open the Sparks Recipe Calculator by clicking here. The great thing about this tool is that it is free, easy to use, fast, there is no registration required, and it gives an extremely thorough breakdown of all the macro- and micronutrients. Calculating the nutritional profile with this tool should take less than 5 minutes.

Step 2.) Once you've opened the tool simply click "Add An Ingredient". This pops up a box that you can use to search for and add all the ingredients. To start off, try using the first ingredient from our sample recipe. Enter in "Spinach" and click "Search". Then click on the result in the list that says "Spinach, frozen".

Step 3.) After highlighting the ingredient you should see a box appear allowing you to specify the quantity. Per the recipe, enter in .75 for a 3/4 cup, then click "Add Food to Today". This will add this ingredient to the running total of all the ingredients on the other page. Next, you can enter each ingredient one by one using the same process. When you are finished adding all the ingredients, click the button labeled "Close".

Step 4.) Now you should be back on the original page with all the ingredients listed in order. There is a box shown on the right which has the number of servings. If you are going to consume the entire recipe as one serving you can keep this value at 1 and click "Calculate Info". This will pop up a box showing the complete breakdown of nutrition information. Per our previous recipe guidelines, this is a great way to ensure the recipe you are consuming has less than 500 calories.

Congrats on getting this far, don't miss the last lesson of the series, where we explain the health benefits you can expect from drinking a healthy smoothie every day, as well as some small (but important!) lifestyle changes we recommend. (to read it click on the link at the bottom of the page)

Thank you for reading.

To your success...

Matt S. - PerfectSmoothie.com

BONUS TIP: Can you make an amazingly healthy smoothie from start to finish in 3 minutes? Including preparation and clean-up time? If not, check out our recommended best blenders for smoothies.

Go To Last Lesson ->

Sources & References

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytochemical 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tAAehC4BYs 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30gEiweaAVQ 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptin#Satiety 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptin#Inflammatory_marker 6 Enter The Zone: A Dietary Road Map 7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_processing#Drawbacks 8 http://www.acponline.org/journals/annals/vit_e.htm