Many people are probably not aware that olive oil can be used to make a delicious smoothie with apple, tomato and cucumber, which benefits the general health, blood pressure and liver and also helps to combat cholesterol and stress. But, you may ask, what exactly is a smoothie? Isn't it the same as a milkshake? The answer is: not exactly, although milk can be used.
A smoothie is a food which is presented as if our stomach had already digested it, an imitation of our own digestive system which is becoming fashionable in a society where everyone is always in a rush.
It is a more or less 'smooth' mixture which maintains all the properties of its components, including the fibre, and is based on fruit and/or vegetable juice, nuts and grains (oats, tiger nuts, barley, walnuts...) or a dairy base upon which the other ingredients are mixed.
When sweetening it honey is the best option, says Dr Antonio Escribano. However, it is worth bearing in mind that when making a healthy smoothie not just any mixture will do.
Dr Escribano is an expert in endocrinology and nutrition, and has been the nutrition coordinator for more than 20 football teams. He is also a member of the Nutrition and Healthy Habits Commission of the Spanish Olympics Committee. Now, he can also guide the rest of us to good health because he has grouped his extensive knowledge of the subject in a book called 'Batidos para la vida' (Smoothies for life), which has been published by Espasa.
The book contains 46 recipes for smoothies which can help us to combat the greatest ills of the 21st century, such as depression, stress, insomnia, obesity and a lack of energy. "These days people consume far too many so-called energy drinks and stimulants, without realising that juices and smoothies are in themselves an authentic form of natural energy drink. The smoothies also help us to avoid junk food, because all their components are healthy, functional and low in calories, so they prevent obesity and numerous illnesses," he explains.
As well as those already mentioned, smoothies have many other advantages for the health of our organism: drinking them at different times of the day stops us snacking, they exit the stomach sooner and prevent heavy digestion, they create a multivitamin complex, combat constipation, are diuretic and antioxidant, provide high quality energy, strengthen the immune system and are normally low in calories, because they have to be made with healthy ingredients.
For those with a sweet tooth, smoothies are a good alternative to other sweets and they calm the craving for sugar, and for those who don't manage to eat their five portions of fruit and vegetables a day they are a good solution.
When choosing ingredients, Dr Escribano says dried fruit and nuts are particularly important. The latter because as well as their general health benefits, numerous studies have shown that daily consumption may be related to a reduction in the mortality rate from the most common causes of death, including cardiovascular illnesses, cancer and respiratory disorders.
Dried fruits are characterised by their low amount of water, but they concentrate the remaining nutrients and provide calories. "They have exceptional nutritional properties," stresses Dr Escribano, who advises using them especially in breakfasts or as snacks.
Nor must we forget the most special ingredient of all which Dr Escribano advises us to use in many of the smoothies we make: olive oil.
"It is without a doubt the best fat there is. Its composition includes unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid, which has a protective action on the plasma proteins, reducing the 'bad cholesterol'. It also acts to prevent arteriosclerosis, and its quantity of polyphenols makes it an excellent antioxidant, but it is also anti-inflammatory, anti platelet aggregation and antithrombotic," he explains, stressing that these are just a few of its benefits.
Nor is it high in calories: a large spoonful of olive oil contains about 90 and a small one about 40. And, for further guidance, we should choose the ones with lower acidity (0.4 or lower).
With all these ingredients, plus our favourite fruits and vegetables, the combinations are as wide-ranging as our imagination. However, we are including here some of the recipes recommended by Dr Escribano.