One of the best things about living in the tropics is the abundance of fresh, local fruit. I had never tried many of the local tropical fruit before moving here, and now I can’t imagine life without these sweet, exotic and best of all – HEALTHY! – treats. Costa Rica is a hot spot for vitamin and antioxidant rich fruits; from the more common pineapple and papaya, to exotic soursop (guanabana), dragonfruit (pitaya), starfruit (carambola), mangosteen, passion fruit (maracuyรก) and rambutan. Plus there are plenty of natural local supplements to add like chia and flax seeds for plant-based protein and omega 3s, local honey, cacao and moringa. We go to a local farmer’s market to find most of our produce, and in our travels we have come across some great roadside stands selling fruits and veggies, as well your local pulperรญa.

I start most mornings with a smoothie to get us powered up before Trever’s surf session and my yoga practice. The recipe is usually free-styled depending on what’s in season and available, I’ve come up with some great combos over time! These are my favorites that feature local Costa Rican fruits and superfoods, but I encourage you to tweak and change things depending on what’s available to you. Tip: most of these smoothies start out with a frozen banana base, so peel and freeze a few beforehand!


green-smoothie


1) Piรฑa Verde

This recipe’s goal is to get your greens but still have a sweet, refreshing fruit smoothie taste. Pineapple and banana are naturally sweet, especially if you freeze your bananas when they are on the riper side, so it balances out the more bitter taste of your spinach and kale. The perfect way to sneak in some green goodness in the morning!

When you drink leafy greens in the am you will surely feel a boost of energy that’s better than caffeine, thanks to all of the amazing vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals they contain. You have probably read about drinking green juices in the morning for energy, but when you pull all the fiber out in the juicing process, your body will have a harder time digesting and using the beneficial nutrients in the plant. Plus the plant fiber is good for detoxification and elimination, especially if this is a morning beverage. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So for these reasons, I am a bigger fan of green smoothies than green juices.

Pineapple will give you your daily dose of vitamin C, 3/4 of your manganese, and it also contains a protein-digesting enzyme called bromelain. This has been used as a natural anti-inflammatory, to help treat cancer, digestive disorders and allergies. Bananas provide heart-healthy potassium, vitamin B6, and are great to consume before a work-out to prevent cramps and provide steady energy thanks to their low glycemic carbohydrates.

Your nut-milk will provide protein, or if you opt for yogurt you’ll also get in some probiotics to keep your tummy balanced and happy. Plus adding your super-seeds like flax, hemp and chia will provide protein, fiber, omega 3s, magnesium, and tons more beneficial vitamins and minerals. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, making sure you have enough plant-based protein in your diet is important, which is why I love nut-milks and seeds in my smoothies. Costa Ricans commonly use flax and chia seeds to make traditional drinks, so these are easy to find here. Non-dairy milk is a bit harder to find, and is usually only in specialty grocery stores. Plain whole milk yogurt is also hard to find here, but usually there will be at least one brand among the flavored and sugared varieties found in stores! You can also choose to make your own nut milks and yogurts from scratch if you have the time.

Another super-plant I discovered here in Costa Rica is moringa. One amazing thing about this fast growing, drought-tolerant tree is that almost every part of it can be consumed or used for herbal medicine. This would be great in dry parts of the world where populations are lacking essential nutrients. The leaves are dried and made into powder, and are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, plus some protein. So since this is a locally grown plant, I often add some powder to my smoothies just to make sure I’m getting all the basic vitamins I need.

Bet you can’t wait to start your morning off with an energy-packed green smoothie! Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:

5-6 ice cubes
1 frozen banana
1-2″ thick slice of pineapple, cut into chunks
Handful of spinach leaves
Handful of kale leaves
Around 1/3 cup of almond milk (substitute with milk or yogurt of your choice)
Optional:
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp hemp seeds
1/2 tsp moringa powder
(substitute with your favorite seeds or plant powders!)

Directions: Place ice and frozen banana into blender first, then chopped pineapple and rinsed greens. Pour milk into blender and pulse until ice is chipped, then on high until smooth. Add honey, seeds and powders and blend on low speed to mix. Enjoy!


orange-smoothie


1) Tropical Sunset

These warm-hued fruits combine to make one deliciously sweet tropical smoothie, with just a hint of tang from the passion fruit. Starting with a frozen banana base to give it a creamy texture and get all those banana benefits, we’ll also add papaya, mango, passion fruit and granadilla. This smoothie will give you a huge boost of vitamin C, and includes natural digestive enzymes that will help to soothe your stomach – great for if you are feeling a little run down and need an immunity boost!

Papaya is abundant here, and the trees grow quickly and easily. We even have some trees in our yard we get fruit from if the birds and lizards don’t beat us to it. These large fruits are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium, copper, and magnesium; and fiber. It also contains a digestive enzyme, papain, that helps digest proteins and is commonly extracted to make supplements. But we are getting it straight from the source!

The next fruit is one of the most prized tropical fruits, and has been for ages. You’ll understand why when you bite into a juicy ripe one and experience the heavenly flavor. Mango trees are also abundant in Costa Rica, and when fruiting are often full of local howler monkeys also enjoying the magical flesh. Mangoes are rich in vitamins A and C, like most orange-hued fruits, as well as riboflavin, vitamin B6, E, K, niacin, folate, thiamin and panthothenic acid. Mangoes are also high in fiber, and similar to papayas, contain certain enzymes with stomach comforting properties.

Passion fruit and granadilla are similar types of fruits that grow on a vine, and when opened have a pulpy juice with seeds inside that you eat. I’d never had these before I came to Central America. You can just break them open and suck the seeds out, but making them into a juice or smoothie is nice because though passion fruit is sweet, it’s also tart, and that can be a bit strong on its own. Granadillas have a more orange rind and are not tart, while passion fruits are yellow, and ripe when wrinkly. You are actually eating the seeds as well as the juice, so you can imagine what kind of nutrition is packed in there, and how great these are for your health! Also high in vitamin A and C, plus fiber and iron. Iron levels are also important to maintain if you do not eat animal products, and passion fruits have 20% of your daily iron requirements.

I like using plain yogurt for this fruit combo, to give it a creamy texture like the papaya and mango base. Plus the tartness of passion fruit is complemented by the yogurt’s. Probiotics are extremely important for gut health, so if you are making this smoothie to help soothe your tummy, using yogurt is highly recommended. These fruits are sweet enough on their own that you probably won’t need to add honey, and seeds of your choice are always an option to add.

Just writing about this smoothie makes me want to go blend up another one! This tropical gold is best enjoyed in a hammock among the sounds of the jungle. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients:

5-6 ice cubes
1/2 frozen banana
2-3″ thick slice of papaya, peeled & cut into chunks
1 mango peeled & cut into chunks
Juice and seeds from 1 passion fruit (maracuyรก)
Juice and seeds from one granadilla
Around 1/3 cup of yogurt (substitute with milk of your choice)
Optional:
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp hemp seeds
(substitute with your favorite seeds or plant powders!)

Directions: Place ice and frozen banana into blender first, then fruit chunks. Pour yogurt into blender and pulse until ice is chipped, then on high until smooth. Add honey, seeds and blend quickly on low speed to mix.


Hope you enjoy these smoothie ideas! Stay tuned for part II, featuring a healthy cacao blend for you chocolate lovers.

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