My first meal at least five days a week is a smoothie. It’s a great way to get easily digestible whole foods first thing in the morning and is an especially nutritious way to hydrate after a sweaty AM workout.
As the early morning workers at my office can attest, my smoothies are either green, or not. “Not” encompassing a wide range of colors, from purple to a delightful dirty snow/sludge color, depending on what I add to my own personal Frankenstein’s Monster of a drink.
I never follow a recipe and my ingredients are usually based on my mood and what’s in the immediate vicinity. Below are a variation of my green and my “not” smoothie.
- 3 cups of spinach
- Coconut water as needed
- 1 scoop of Sun Warrior protein – Vanilla flavor (ridiculously expensive, but after extensive personal research I’ve found that this works best for me, you can obviously substitute the protein powder of your choice)
- 1 tsp Maca
- 1 apple (I’m on a Pink Lady kick, even the name is cute!)
- Fresh lemon juice
- Ice cubes
- 1 banana or apple
- 2-3 cups of fresh or frozen mixed berries
- 1 scoop of Sun Warrior protein
- Water as needed (I like the natural tanginess of the berries so I use plain water, but if you prefer a sweeter smoothie feel free to substitute coconut water or aloe vera juice)
- Dash of cinnamon & maca
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Ice cubes
Breakdown of properties in these ingredients:
Spinach: As with many leafy greens, spinach is high in antioxidants, Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium, folic acid, potassium, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach is most easily absorbed by the body when consumed simultaneously with a good source of Vitamin C, such as lemon juice or berries. If you’re not a spinach convert, try adding a few leaves of romaine lettuce, collard greens or kale.
Coconut Water: Coconut water provides simple sugars, electrolytes and minerals, naturally replenishing your body’s hydration. It’s tasty, refreshing and perfect after a workout. If you don’t love the taste, popular brands O.N.E., Vita and Zico offer flavors like passionfruit and pineapple. [Note: Coconut water and coconut milk are two VERY different beverages. Coconut water is found inside a coconut, while coconut milk is produced by pressing liquid out of ground coconut meat, which means that it is much higher in fat and calories.]
Maca: Touted as a “superfood” maca is a Peruvian root, usually ground and sold as a powder. Maca contains amino acids, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, iron and Vitamins B1, B2, B12, C & E. Maca affects the endocrine functions of the body and the benefits can range from hormone stabilization to digestion to sexual function and fertility.
Cinnamon: Not only is this spice tasty, it has been used to combat colds, nausea, menstrual pain and digestive distress in eastern medicine for years. It’s also believed to help with circulation and have anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties. Chemically cinnamon contains calcium, iron, fiber and Vitamins C & K.
Apples: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Well… It can’t hurt, right? Apples are high in antioxidants and fiber and studies show that they may help reduce the risk of various forms of cancer (like prostate, lung & colon).
Berries: Different berries have different nutritional benefits, but across the board they’re high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. They’re thought to be beneficial in the fighting of different types of cancer, boost cardiovascular functions and improve vision.
Bananas: In additional to adding great taste and texture to smoothies, bananas add a healthy dose of Vitamins B6, C, manganese and potassium. Similar to the health benefits listed above for apples and berries, bananas contain vitamins and minerals which may help the body ward off various types of cancer.
Chia Seeds: Yes, as in Chia Pets. Consumption of this Aztec superfood is on the rise in the United States with books like Born To Run advertising the unique properties and amazing benefits. Chia seeds contain protein, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium, similar to other seeds, but are completely atypical in their reaction to water. Add them to any liquid and leave for 20+ minutes and you’ll return to find a glass full of a gelatinous substance not unlike tapioca. Now imagine adding dry seeds to your stomach. That’s what the ancients are said to have done, subsisting on teaspoons of chia seeds for days at a time. There are some other great recipes that include chia seeds, which I’ll touch on at a later time.
Ginger: To be honest, I can’t stand ginger. But given its rock star benefits, I needed to find a way to get a little ginger in my life. And luckily for me, the tart berries and spices in this smoothie make the ginger barely detectable. Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for a host of ailments, including: ovarian cancer treatment, colon cancer prevention, heartburn, menstrual cramps, inflammation, migraines and relieving digestive/stomach conditions like morning and motion sickness.
Benefits of smoothies:
- By blending the fruits & vegetables you’re breaking down the tough outer cells of the plants and making the nutrients more easily accessible to your body, reducing the amount of work your body wastes on digestion
- Tasty way to hydrate your body first thing in the morning, especially if gulping down water isn’t your favorite AM activity
- If you’re not a fan of breakfast, this is a great way to get in multiple servings of fruits & vegetables in a quick and painless way
- Like soup, you can add whatever ingredients you have available: nut butter, strawberries, spirulina, almond milk, frozen veggies, carrots, celery, cashews… Clean out your fridge!
- If you don’t love greens and have trouble getting your daily recommended amount, you can add them to a smoothie and just get it over with!
Now go forth MCLV readers, power up your blenders and make me proud!