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Smoothies are blended fruit and juice drinks. The most basic smoothie consists of a simple mixture of fresh fruit and water or juice. By adding extra ingredients, you can turn your beverage into a nutritious and filling liquid meal-in-a glass, or a rich and creamy dessert drink.

Besides a blender, you'll need fresh or frozen ingredients. I suggest a mixture of the two. You can purchase fresh frozen fruit at the supermarket, which works very well for these recipes. Among other things, by using frozen fruits, you'll insure that your smoothie is cool and refreshing. The frozen berries or fruit chunks substitute for ice, which is sometimes also used. Using either ice or frozen berries will give you a thicker smoothie. If you prefer a thinner texture that you can consume quickly, consider avoiding frozen ingredients all together and simply work with fresh fruit and juice, then thin to taste with water. The fruits you choose will also alter the texture; many smoothies begin with a banana, which lends a rich, yet non-fattening, addition to the flavor.

Here's your basic recipe for one large 20 ounce smoothie. All measurements are approximate.

1/2 cup of frozen fruit (for instance: strawberries, mixed berries, or cherries)
1/2 fresh banana
1 cup of fruit juice (apple or orange both work well)
1/2 cup of water, to taste

Blend thoroughly, until smooth, then enjoy!

Easy Additions for Heightened Nutritional Value

Yogurt - try adding somewhere between a tablespoon or two (for creaminess) to about a 1/2 cup (for a very rich smoothie texture). Besides calcium, yogurt provides you with acidophilus, which helps cleanse the body of unwelcome bacteria. If you are going to use citrus juice, such as orange, be sure to drink your smoothie right away. It's a delicious combination that tastes like a creamsicle but in general, citrus and dairy products don't combine particularly well and sometimes curdle or separate. Yogurt blends very well with apple juice.

Soy Powder - You can purchase this at health food stores and larger supermarkets. Adding a scoop of soy protein to your smoothie will make it much thicker and richer. It will also supply you with 1/4 of the protein you need for the day, and about the same percentage of the most important vitamins and minerals. In addition, soy protein powder is very rich in vitamin E, so much so that one scoop will supply your full daily requirement. It's a good source of calcium and magnesium, which are important for healthy bones and avoiding osteoporosis in later life.

Bee Pollen - Another important nutritional supplement you can buy at a health food store. A little goes a long way. It's considered by many nutritionists to be one of nature's perfect foods because, with the addition of roughage and water, the human body can survive on it alone. This is because it is the only food which contains all 22 known essential nutritional elements. It doesn't do much to the texture of the drink, but it does enhance the flavor. Use a heaping tablespoon.

Wheat Germ - Adds crunchy flavor and protein to your smoothie.

If you are trying to lose weight, try using ice instead of frozen fruit to add thickness without extra calories. Another thing you can do is freeze your bananas. If you do this, be sure to peel and chunk the bananas before freezing because it's almost impossible to do later.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a sinful indulgence, look no further than a dessert smoothie.

Here's a recipe for two:

1 cup frozen cherries
1 cup vanilla Hagen Daz ice cream
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 tblsp vanilla
1 banana

This smoothie is so thick you'll need to serve it with a spoon, and so filling that you'll need to save a lot of room for dessert!

These simple smoothie recipes lend themselves to infinite variation. Try experimenting with seasonal fruit and exotic juices. Try using tropical fruit with citrus juices. You are only limited by your taste and your imagination; so, be creative and enjoy!