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The Ultimate Green Smoothie

October 2, 2012

When I fell ill last winter, I decided I needed dietary overhaul, especially when I found out I was pregnant! Now, pregnancy does a number on your body, requiring extra care. Your immune system is suppressed, leaving you more vulnerable to illness; your vitamin & mineral requirement increases – particularly iron and calcium; and all sorts of unpleasant side effects appear, including the tendency to get somewhat blocked up. Since this smoothie became my default breakfast:

  • I’ve managed to avoid even the minor cold despite mingling with crowds at the Olympics (and all the portable loos) and a sniffly, coughing husband.
  • My iron levels are higher than my doctor’s – and I’m vegetarian!
  • Except for a few lazy weeks when I missed my smoothies, I’ve avoided that last unpleasant side effect to my doctor’s surprise.

Before the appearance puts you off, let me assure you that the main taste on your tongue is that of berries & cinnamon. The slightly scary green colour is due to the most innocuous ingredient whose flavour I can’t even pinpoint or describe – spirulina.

Ingredients per person:

  • 5-10 almonds, preferably ground
  • small handful of blueberries (around 7-10)
  • small handful of strawberries with stems removed (around 5)
  • one heaping Tbsp of ground flaxseed (or ground chia seeds for variety)
  • one Tbsp spirulina powder
  • large handful of washed spinach – around 1/4 of a bag (or some flat-leaf kale for a change)
  • one tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups coconut water or plain water
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp protein powder (hemp or pea) – only if you’ll be eating it immediately. If the smoothie sits, the protein powder will make it solidify and seize up.

Combine these ingredients in a blender until smooth. Simple! (Without the protein powder, this can be made the night before for a quick, easy breakfast-on-the-go.)

 

A few health notes:

– Flaxseed has a spectacularly high ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, and this ratio is increasingly being found to be important for heart health, decreasing cancer risk, lowering inflammation and helping with numerous inflammation- and autoimmune-related problems such as diabetes. It also has loads of soluble and insoluble fibre in addition to antioxidants. It is one of the best vegetarian sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, although like all vegan sources, the form is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which must then be converted within your body to LA (linoleic acid). Non-vegan sources of Omega-3’s, like eggs, are already in the form of LA so more may be absorbed by your body.

– Spirulina is a microalgae packed full of nutrients. It is a complete protein featuring every essential amino acid (that is, the building blocks of proteins that your body can’t make itself), which is fantastic news for vegetarians and vegans since very few veg foods have all the amino acids you need. It also has a good does of Omega-3 fatty acids, lots of Vitamin A, and a great range of other vitamins and minerals. Spirulina is being promoted as a potential solution to malnutrition in developing countries. Additionally,  spirulina may damage caused by toxins affecting the heart, liver, kidneys, neurons, eyes, ovaries, DNA, and testicles.

Note: while pregnant, high doses of fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E & K, are not recommended as they can accumulate in the kidneys.  However the form of Vitamin A in spirulina, as with all vegan sources, is not absorbed as-is and your body only converts and absorbs what is needed – the excess just leaves your body so it’s perfectly safe!

– Cinnamon has been shown to help control blood sugar in people with Type II diabetes.

– Coconut water is the new ‘in’ thing. Apparently it’s ‘isotonic’ – that is, a good balance of electrolytes & water. It does have natural sugars inside so beware of drinking too much, but it’s perfect pre- or post-exercise hydration because of its salt, sugar & water balance.

– Do I really need to say anything about the benefits of berries & spinach? Iron, calcium, vitamins & antioxidants galore.

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