Go Team Smoothie!
There’s a fair share of smoothie haters out there, but I gotta say, I’m a big fan of them. Though, context matters here. Loading a blender full of sugary fruits and dairy isn’t exactly taking advantage of this platform to quickly and conveniently deliver nutrient-dense whole foods to our tummies first thing in the morning, post work out or really any time you’re on the go or aren’t able to prep a full meal. To make the most of our smoothies, we gotta think outside the box a little bit.
For me, essential vitamins, protein, amino acids, probiotics for gut health, antioxidants and healthy fats are pure winners. Those are pretty much at the heart of a Paleo diet in general too now that I think about it… With a few smart ingredients, I can make ALL of that happen easily in one cup. Here are my choices:
Spinach is rich in Vitamins A & B and also contains a host of minerals. There’s even a touch of protein in spinach too, which is always a welcome addition. Because the leaves of baby spinach are loaded with water and are soft (unlike coarse kale or collards), it purees effortlessly (and relatively tastelessly) into smoothies. It’s like drinking your salad for breakfast!
Kombucha is an ancient fermented tea that is loaded with healthy bacteria, probiotics, acids and enzymes and assist digestion, detoxification and even joint care. Kombucha also helps to boost our immune systems thanks to the antioxidant content. Fermented foods are excellent for supporting digestive health.
While store-bought kombucha can get a bit pricy, home-brewing takes about $25 to $50 to start up and only a few bucks to maintain. I bought this kit about two years ago and it’s still producing great kombucha tea!
Coconut milk, like coconut oil, is a saturated fat and is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which is easily used as fuel for the body (and is easy to digest). It’s also a good source of folate and choline. So while coconut milk is a natural choice for Paleo eaters, there are some things to consider. Be sure to buy organic, full fat coconut milk in a BPA-free can. Ensure that there are no additives like guar gum in the list of ingredients as well. This brand of coconut milk is a good example of what to look for.
I use coconut milk to add a little extra liquid to the smoothie, plus a touch of creaminess that makes it yummy! Also, the fat content of the coconut milk helps my body absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the other ingredients.
Avocados are definitely one of nature’s superfoods and an ideal substitute for inflammation-causing dairy or high-sugar fruits like bananas in smoothies. Loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, it’s no wonder the avocado is celebrated by a variety of diet philosophies—Paleo included. The reason I like to add it to smoothies is that, much like spinach, it is relatively flavorless when combined with the other ingredients and is the healthiest way to get a smooth and creamy drink.
Frozen Organic Berries
Berries are a common smoothie ingredient. I choose them because of their antioxidant qualities, low-sugar levels and the host of vitamins and minerals they offer, such as Vitamins A & C, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and potassium. They also contain Vitamin K, which like Vitamin D, is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means in order for the body to absorb it, fat is required. Avocado and coconut milk are healthy fats that keep me from missing out on all of the vitamins these berries have to offer.
I use frozen instead of fresh because I can buy them in bulk for a great price and they take the place of ice in my smoothie, keeping it cold without watering it down.
Collagen is loaded with the kind of micronutrients many folks don’t pay much attention to — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy pursuit! Amino acids and essential fatty acids are the backbone to many of our cells. Without them, our bodies don’t work all that well. While all of these amino acids and essential fatty acids can be found in normal food like eggs, grass-fed beef, salmon, etc., I appreciate the concentration and guarantee I get from simply adding a tablespoon of this stuff to my smoothies. It’s flavorless and doesn’t effect the texture in a weird way.
I choose grass-fed collagen so I know it’s sourced from grain-free cows, critical for ensuring the proper fatty acid profile. Since phytonutrients help collagen break down, it’s a good thing berries and spinach are included in this smoothie. It’s the full package!
Chia seeds are such a super food. They are loaded with calcium! In fact, if you’re looking for dairy-free alternatives for calcium, make sure to add these little seeds to your shopping list. These seeds also contain a high amount of minerals, fiber and essential fatty acids.
Chia seeds become gel-like when absorbing liquid. I let them sit for a few before drinking my smoothie so they have a chance to plump up a bit, adding to the creamy texture of the smoothie since I don’t include any dairy.
- Combine all ingredients except for the chia seeds in a blender. I like to use my single-serve blender for added convenience.
- Once the ingredients are smooth, add in the chia seeds and do a couple quick pulses to combine.
Sources: Nutrition data spinach, berries, chia seeds, avocado, coconut milk; Kombucha Health Benefits, Definition of Amino Acids, collagen nutrition, nutrition information about collagen, collagen hydrolysate, 3 reasons coconut milk may not be your friend