Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Smoothie Smackdown: 6 Steps to Elixir Nirvana

smoothie made from wild paw paws

Smoothies have gone mainstream. So mainstream that McDonalds sells them. And even if you go to a juice and smoothie bar, how healthy is a smoothie that's sweetened with frozen yogurt and pasteurized juice...even if you "boost it" with spirulina? Hmmmmmm....

Have no fear. Stay home and make your own delicious smoothie. Of course add your favorite fresh and/or frozen fruits and maybe even some veggies like cucumber or carrot. But don't try to imitate the chains. We're going to skip the fro yo and frozen juice concentrate (or store-bought juice) Here are six ways to turn a not-so-great-for-you smoothie into a delicious health elixir!!

  1. Junk the store-bought juice or juice concentrate. Why do that to yourself? At best it is just sugar water, at worst it may contain corn syrup from genetically modified corn and other additives or preservatives. But even when you get 100% organic juice, it has been pasteurized, destroying any life-giving enzymes, and greatly reducing if not also destroying all the vitamins and minerals. Plus...who knows what is really in those 100% organic juices? It wasn't long ago when it came out that those organic apple juices were found to be laced with arsenic. Alternatives? Sure!

    • Water - add good old fashioned water to your delicious smoothie! Maybe it doesn't need the extra sweetness. (and if it does, add a squirt of honey, maple syrup, agave or even stevia at the end.)

    • Coconut Water - from a young Thai coconut. Crack one of these open and pour that delicious clear sweet nectar right in. While you're at it, scrape out the pulp and add that to your smoothie as well. (Google "opening Thai coconuts" for more info.)

    • Fresh veggie or fruit juice that you juice yourself, in your juicer! Mmmmm.

    • Freshly made nut milk...or just add a few nuts and water to your smoothie and it will automatically blend up into a "milk" base.

      To make nut milk just add 1/2 cup soaked nuts (almonds, cashews) and 4 cups of water to your blender with a pinch of sea salt and a little vanilla (those are optional.) Blend 'til nice and white. If using cashews you won't even have to strain it!

    • Herb tea. Maybe you've even harvested and dried your own nettles, or raspberry leaf. Steep it into tea and use that as the base for your smoothie.

    • Mushroom tea, from reishi, maitake, shiitake. I know...not as inviting. But mushroom tea is an ultimate health elixir: boosting immunity and even fighting cancer. Add some to your smoothie as a base, you can always add a squirt of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar (or stevia) if you need a little extra sweetness.

  2. Drop Kick the Dairy. You don't need it. Skip the fro yo, non-frozen yogurt, milk or ice cream. Dairy causes congestion and dampness in the body. It may even be full of hormones and corn syrup. Yuck. There are plenty of other, healthier, ways to get calcium (see greens, below.) Leave the dairy to the cows.

  3. Pitch the Protein Powder. Again, you probably don't need it. We are fed quite a line about needing X amount of protein, and as vegetarians or especially vegans we are often asked about getting enough protein. It's very likely we do, but if we do end up needing a protein boost skip the protein powders: Consumer Reports did a very thorough study and found most protein powders are contaminated with heavy metals: Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, and Arsenic. Some have quite a lot of all those things. In our country protein deficiency is not a big problem, even in athletes, though heavy metal toxicity is.

    But if you need a boost of protein consider adding this instead:

    • Whole hemp seeds - they will blend right up in your smoothie and are not only full of protein but omega fatty acids as well

    • Chia seeds (my latest YUM!) also chock full of omega fatty acids.

    • GREENS (see below) have surprisingly high amounts of protein and of course are low in fat.

    • Algae like spirulina and blue-green algae are also high in protein.

    • Quinoa, which is actually a seed rather than a grain. You can add it sprouted or cooked, it will blend splendidly and is high in protein.

  4. Grab some Greens - Yes, say it loud say it proud! Adding leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, and swiss chard will add protein, calcium, vitamins, enzymes, iron, and so much else! Start with a handful of spinach...I promise you won't even taste it. Then you can add more and more and begin expanding to other greens.

  5. Go Wild - For the ultimate elixir experience, add wild plants to your smoothie. Wild greens like nettles, violet greens, and chickweed. Flowers like black locust flower, dandelion and clover blossoms. Wild berries: mulberry, blueberry, huckleberry, blackberry. Wild plants trump even organically grown produce for their vitamin and mineral content, to say nothing of their wildly off the charts life force. Learn about one local wild edible and start with that. Make sure you are 100% sure you know what it is before adding it to your drink and never add wild carrot greens (Queen Anne's Lace) because although they are edible they can too easily be mistaken for the deadly poison hemlock. You want more info on wild plants? Pictures, identification, recipes?? Visit our sister site Food Under Foot. We've got you covered.

  6. Presence, Joy, Gratitude. Look what you have in your hand! An amazing, delicious, totally healthy smoothie - nay, elixir - that you made yourself. You can smell the blended freshness. Take your time, enjoy everything. Visualize your cells being nourished with every sip. Cheers!

Here is a simple elixir smoothie recipe that you can play with:

Green Smoothie with Nettles

2 bananas
1 cup frozen mangoes
1/2 cup mulberries (or blueberries, fresh or frozen)
handful (a careful handful…don’t get stung!) fresh wild nettles
2 cups water (can add coconut water, herb tea, etc.)

Blend well. Nettles lose their sting when blended. This makes 2 - 4 servings, depending on how much you want.

In health,

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs.

The Birch Center for Acupuncture
(412) 381-0116

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