I’ve been writing about the smoothie as a nutrition delivery vehicle–not a sweet treat– over the past months, and highlighting specific ways I turbocharge the nutritional value of my smoothie. This month I’m going summarize starting with the basic smoothie, then listing options for super powering your smoothie.
2 cups water
2/3 cup hemp seeds
1 handful (about 3/4 cup) cucumber cut into chunks
2 large kale leaves, stems removed
1 tsp cinnamon (if desired)
1 handful (about 3/4 cup) frozen berries
2 TBSP nutrient oil of your choice (see below)
Two large glasses or 20-ounce blender bottles.
Place all ingredients except the oils in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Put 1 TBSP oil into each of two glasses or blender bottles. Add the smoothie mixture. Stir or shake and enjoy.
Irish moss is rich in a broad array of minerals, including iodine and selenium, and many building blocks of collagen. It the best “hair, skin and nails” supplement I’ve found. Since I started adding Irish moss to our smoothie, I’ve noticed a crack in my ring fingernail has healed and my eyebrows, which once rivaled Brooke Shields, are fuller. More details about the benefits of Irish moss. I use the dried moss. I take a small handful, rinse it well, then store it in my refrigerator in a pint mason jar full of water. It more than doubles in size as it hydrates, so start with a small amount. It will also thicken your smoothie, so add more liquid if needed. I use roughly a 3-inch piece per person of hydrated moss per person, less if the piece is thick or has many fronds.
Flax seeds are an excellent source of fiber and polyphenols to feed the microbiome. I put 1 TBSP of golden flax seed per person in my smoothie. If you have an emulsifying blender such as a Vita-Mix, whole seeds can be used, otherwise, grind them first by purchasing them ground, or using a coffee grinder reserved just for flax seeds, unless you like a coffee taste to your smoothie. Golden flax seeds have been shown to be rich in plant based omega 3 fatty acids where as brown ones are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Most of us are deficient in omega-3 and have way too much omega-6 fatty acids. Interestingly, flax seeds have long been known to prevent metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. I purchase 5 pound bags at nuts.com.
Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is a metabolic super-food. It increases my new favorite molecule, nitric oxide, which is likely the mechanism. Here are some of the benefits of spirulina.
- The substance that lends spirulina its blue-green color, phyocyanin, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Spirulina has been shown to have a positive effect of cholesterol and prevent oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. OxLDL is a fierce oxidizing agent that sends cardiovascular disease risk through the roof!
- It lowers blood pressure at a dose of 4.5 grams daily.
- It can improve exercise endurance and increase muscle strength.
- At a dose of 2 grams per day, it has been shown to reduce blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C.
- For those of you with allergies, a dose of 2 grams per day dramatically reduces symptoms.
Not all spirulina powder is created equal. Healthforce and Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica all sell tasty spirulina. Remember to add spirulina powder to liquid for best results and to check the mirror before going out. I add 1 TBSP per person to my smoothie. I recommend starting with 1/2 – 1 tsp and increasing as you get used to the taste. Non-alkalized cocoa or cacao nibs mask the taste well and provide polyphenols so good for the microbiome.
See this Healthline article for references.
High Polyphenol Olive Oil. A bit of fat in my smoothie carries me into the afternoon. I recently changed to Kyoord olive oil from a small farm in Corfu, Greece. This oil is extremely high in the polyphenol Oleocanthal, which has been proven toxic to cancer cells. It is high in other polyphenols as well, 8 times more than most, the company claims. As such, they recommend only 1 tablespoon daily, versus 5 tablespoons for most olive oils. This is a better option for people who must eat a lower fat diet. This olive oil has a strong but delicious taste, indicative of its polyphenol content. I add 1 tablespoon to my blender bottle, pour in my smoothie, shake and enjoy! Get 10% off here.
Green Tea. My husband is a green tea aficionado. He loves to order tea directly from Japan and is even a member of a Japanese tea CSA. Even after multiple brews, a lot of nutrition remains in the leaves. So, in the smoothie they go, enriching it with the l-theanine and catechins that one expects from green tea, but also fiber, vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals one might not. Also consider using brewed green tea as the liquid base for the smoothie then tossing in the leaves. Not into green tea? Add 1 tsp matcha, powdered green tea. Want to avoid caffeine yet get all the goodness? Try a roasted green tea such as hojicha, often spelled houjicha, or kukicha.
Natto is a Japanese condiment routinely eaten for breakfast. Made from fermented soybeans, it is the best food source of vitamin K2. It is rich in the probiotic bacillus subtilis and the enzyme nattokinase, which I rarely prescribe in supplement form anymore due to it’s expense. Vitamin K2 clears calcium from the arteries, and keeps it in the bones and teeth, making it essential from artery, bone and oral health. The probiotic supports gut health in many ways. Nattokinase reduces blood sludging and clotting as it occurs, instead of keeping the blood thin all the time. This improves blood flow and oxygenation leading to many benefits including reduced pain, improved cognition, libido, blood pressure, migraine, fertility and even hemorrhoids. Here is the freeze dried powder I use, 1/2 teaspoon per person.
Alfalfa or Other Sprouts for Cucumber. Cukes are summer veggie. While they are available nearly year round, they can look pretty bad in the off season. Be Love Too Farm at the Brookside Farmers Market grows high quality shoots year round. They offer subscriptions as well.
Other Greens for Kale. Some people prefer milder tasting greens. Any leafy green will do, really. I’ve used parsley, beet greens and sunflower sprouts when I don’t have kale. Spinach or romaine are good choices for a milder taste.
Other Flavorings than Cinnamon. Fresh cilantro, mint, and of all things, tarragon, add wonderful flavor to a smoothie. I buy cilantro at the farmer’s market, and grow mint and tarragon. I harvest and freeze the mint and tarragon for later use.
Dried Berries for Frozen. My favorite are aronia berries. They are native to our area and are one of the most nutrient dense around. Other dried berries to consider are barberries, bilberries, goji berries, gooseberries and another native, mulberries. Nuts.com is a favorite source for the last three.
Other Oils for High Polyphenol Olive Oil. Smoothies a good vehicle for other oils too such as flax seed oil, black cumin seed oil, and medium chain triglyceride oil.
Dr. Bethany Klug has practiced holistic and functional medicine since 2003, after it resolved health challenges that conventional medicine could not address for her. She is known for taking time to listen and to tease out the root causes that when addressed lead to more vibrant health. The name of her practice, HealthSpan, was inspired by her wish for everyone to enjoy lifelong vibrant health, instead of a long life plagued by chronic disease. She is known as an osteopath, and for her skill in natural medicine and bioidentical hormone replacement. Her practice is located in Prairie Village, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. Learn more at HealthSpanKC.com.