• Cherry and Almond Superfood Chocolate Smoothie

    This is one of my favorite smoothie recipes.  It’s a great smoothie to have during times when you are really working your body hard with training or muscle building because it has lots of protein and the cherries help to reduce inflammation.

    Approximate Recipe for 2 Servings:

    • ¾ cup pitted cherries.  I just use frozen organic ones, unless they happen to be in season
    • 2 tablespoons cocoa – I like mine extra chocolately, reduce if you don’t
    • 2 tablespoons almond butter
    • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
    • 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • Generous dash of cinnamon
    • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk

    Cherries contain significant amounts of beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  They are also full of quercetin and anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that can help  reduce inflammation from muscle strain or arthritis.  Some studies have shown the reduction to be similar to some well-known pain medications.  Cherries also contain a significant amount of melatonin, which can help regulate sleep and ease irritability.

    As I discussed in another smoothie recipe (the banana chocolate smoothie) idea post, cocoa is full of flavonoids, which can help to prevent heart disease by decreasing blood pressure, reducing inflammation, balancing good and bad cholesterol and improving blood vessel health.  Cocoa and the cinnamon (which I put in most things that also have a sugar component like fruit or honey) help to decrease insulin resistance and help the body better deal with consuming natural sugars for prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.

    I always try to sneak coconut oil and flaxseed in to my smoothies.  The coconut oil has a special medium chain triglyceride in the form of lauric acid, which helps to increase the good HDL cholesterol in the blood.  Coconut oil helps to prevent fungal and bacterial infections in the body as well.  The flaxseed adds fiber as well as omega-3 essential fatty acids.  Be sure to get it ground, as the body can’t absorb the nutrition from the whole seeds.

    I usually have almond milk on hand, but hemp milk works great too.  The hemp adds extra protein.  If you are purchasing the almond milk (as opposed to making it), be sure to buy the stuff that is unsweetened and then sweeten the smoothie to your liking with local honey to help deal with allergens and get a good dose of the antibacterial benefits of consuming honey.

    The almond butter adds a natural source of protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats.  The health benefits of almonds are well known and include the ability to help improve cholesterol ratios, control weight gain and prevent heart disease.  They are good sources of magnesium, manganese, riboflavin and vitamin E.  The magnesium helps to prevent muscles aches and pains.

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  • Banana Chocolate Smoothie

    This is one of my favorite things to drink right after a hard workout.  The natural sugars help restore energy and the protein repairs muscle.  It also makes for a really delicious and satisfying breakfast.  It tastes like a milkshake if you need an appetizing word to lure your kids to consume something healthy.

    • 1 medium size ripe banana
    • ¾ cup whole raw milk (or almond milk for vegan or lactose intolerance)
    • 2 tablespoons cocoa
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
    • Couple dashes cinnamon
    • 1 cup ice cubes

    Blend all ingredients together using a blender or hand-blender.

    Bananas are full of potassium, which can help balance fluids in the body and maintain muscle function (e.g. prevent cramps).  They are also full of fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B-6 and work great for any indigestion issues.

    I have recently discovered a dairy farm nearby, Stryk Jersey Farm, from which I can get raw unprocessed milk from pasture-raised, grass-fed Jersey cows.  It is unpasteurized, is not homogenized and contains a healthy distribution of beneficial bacteria, enzymes and nutrients in their raw form.  This milk is really high in protein and mixing it in to a smoothie will keep you full for hours.  It’s not available in some states, but look in to if you’ve been curious about making your own dairy products or introducing the health benefits of raw milk.

    Cocoa is full of flavonoids, which can help to prevent heart disease by decreasing blood pressure, reducing inflammation, balancing good and bad cholesterol and improving blood vessel health.   And it tastes divine!  Cocoa does have a little bit of caffeine so be sure to consider that when deciding what time of day to have this smoothie (or giving it to little ones).  Cocoa also helps to decrease insulin resistance so can help prevent Type 2 diabetes or decrease the amount of sugar-related health problems you might be having such as problems with yeast, or Staph.

    Flaxseed is high in fiber, lignans, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  Be sure to buy the kind that are ground so the body can more readily absorb what is contained within the seeds.  They need to be stored in the refrigerator.

    Honey contains beneficial bacteria and is full of antioxidants.  Try to use local honey in helping the body to adjust to local pollens for controlling allergies.  Be sure it is raw and unprocessed so that pasteurization does not destroy the healthy bacteria and other beneficial natural compounds.

    Any time I am adding a sweetener like honey or a type of fruit sugar, I like to add some cinnamon because cinnamon helps regulate insulin levels in the blood.

  • Skinny Bitch Breakfast Fruit Smoothie

    The book Skinny Bitch has some good nuggets of information, despite being a little too hardcore in its suggestions for me and seemingly shallow in its premise.  I don’t think all the science is quite right but they did give me some things to think about.

    One aspect I definitely agreed with the authors on was the ridiculousness of the carb avoidance fad, including avoiding fruit.  They conclude that fruit is one of nature’s most perfect foods, supplying all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.  And, of course, it’s loaded with fiber and antioxidants and everything else we’re supposed to eat.

    The part I really like is they suggest we eat it in the morning before we eat anything else because fruit is very simple and breaks down and passes through the digestive system quickly.  For that reason, it shouldn’t be stuck in there with other things that take more time to process, like fats, starches, and protein.  I absolutely agree with this and have an intuitive understanding because my belly never feels quite right when I consume fruit with a meal.  The simple fruit sugar will stay in the stomach too long if it is being digested with the other things that break down slowly, so it will begin to ferment and cause problems like bloating, gas, and heartburn.

    I’m not much of a fruit lover, so I like the idea of wolfing it all down in a fruit shake first thing when I wake up some mornings, and then continue with whole grains (chia seed pudding or granola) and protein (hard-boiled egg or yogurt) an hour or so later when I arrive at work.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to not like fruit, but I just don’t get excited and jazzed up for it the way I do about vegetables.  The other nice thing about this shake is that fruit provides quick energy to get you going in the morning.

    I have this recipe down to a science now and you’ll notice everything is already prepped so I can prepare it in a bleary-eyed morning condition.  I have been tweaking this shake, but lately I have settled on some variation of the following ingredients:

    • 1 small banana
    • ½ cup frozen organic mixed berries
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut pineapple (frozen works fine)
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut watermelon
    • Any other fresh or frozen fruit you enjoy or that is in season
    • ¼ cup pomegranate cherry juice
    • ¼ cup beet-carrot juice
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • Dash of cinnamon

    Bananas have so much good stuff in them but I’m not a big fan of eating them plain.  I like to freeze bananas as soon as they start to get overly ripe.  Having a frozen banana and/or the frozen mixed berries helps keep the shake cold.  The frozen berries are quite a bit less expensive than the fresh and maintain all their nutritional value.  If something is in-season and available at a good price, I will use the fresh.  Pineapple has an enzyme, bromelain, that aids in digestion.  I really like watermelon because it’s inexpensive and full of the antioxidant lycopene.  Pomegranate cherry juice is high in antioxidants and cherry helps with inflammation.  As far as the beet-carrot juice, any juice you have made or have on hand will do.  Central Market in Houston or Whole Foods make some great fresh juices.  Coconut water is very rich in potassium, provides tons of electrolytes for very few calories, and acts as a natural diuretic and mild laxative to keep the belly slim.  Coconut water is a great way to replenish the body after hot yoga or a hard workout.  It’s basically nature’s Gatorade.  I add in the cinnamon because it helps regulate insulin levels which helps control the sugar in the bloodstream after consuming these natural fruit sugars.

    I like to mix my smoothie in one of those handheld blenders and drink it out of the mixing cup.  It only takes a couple of minutes and then fruit is out of the way!  One trick my mom taught me is to do a round with the handblender with some water and a drop of soap to get it clean after you’re finished.