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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apple Berry Power Protein Smoothie (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free) + Benefits of "Superfood" Spirulina



This might seem strange, but when I think of smoothies, I think of internal fireworks going off. I feel like our digestive system jumps for joy and shoots off fireworks every time we consume a nutritionally dense smoothie, like a... nutritional explosion with all of the colors of the various fruits and vegetables and other "superfoods" shooting out, dispersing into our cells, and lighting up like fireworks... Did I lose you? LOL.

The apple berry power protein smoothie is bursting with beautifying and health-promoting nutrients. The plant protein comes from a few different sources including the spinach, kale, berries, chia seeds, and spirulina powder.


As I talked about in my last post, for those of us who abstain from eating animal products, ensuring that we receive an adequate amount of plant-based protein is ultra important. It really couldn't be simpler to accomplish that if you consume an abundance of vegetables, fruits, sprouts, nuts, seeds, and moderate amounts of beans and legumes. If the aforementioned foods make up the majority of your diet, you're golden in the protein department. High plant protein foods include broccoli, spinach, kale, avocado, sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, figs, romaine lettuce, brazil nuts, and almonds.




Considering that apples are a main component in this recipe, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that fall = apple season! I found the most beautiful apple at Whole Foods called Pink Pearl. It was developed in 1944 by Albert Etter in northern California from an older seedling called "Surprise." And who doesn't like surprises? This one will leave you in awe. Underneath the pale green skin of the pink pearl apple lies a rosy pink, marbled flesh. These unique apples ripen in late July and are at their peak in August. It's best to enjoy them in the early stages when its taste is tart to sweet-tart [source]. Below is a picture that I posted on Instagram a few days ago. Insanely gorgeous.



Fall is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year. The weather is delicious, the leaves begin to change into rich, lively colors, boots and sweaters come out of hibernation, and pumpkin becomes a mainstay in nearly everything, but most importantly in the category of food. :-) As soon as September hit, I had pumpkin on the brain. As a matter of fact, I'll be making a pumpkin pie smoothie topped with whipped coconut cream this evening to kick off the season. Vegan pumpkin french toast, anyone? Let me not play coy... I have a whole list of pumpkin flavored dishes I plan to tackle this season.

I am more excited than ever to experiment with different recipes now that I'm at a place where I'm much more comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is considerably more enjoyable to me now that I'm able to get creative with healthy, vegan and gluten-free dishes while knowing that nearly every ingredient is working to prevent illness and improve and maintain good health and the health of my loved ones. Like my dad says, "you cannot fully understand the affects of a healthy diet until you actually make the changes and FEEL the difference." It couldn't be more true.

Today, we shine the ingredient spotlight on...


• Spirulina - Considered one of the most ancient "superfoods" around today, spirulina is a freshwater blue-green algae grown throughout the world. It is comprised of 60-70% protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein source. Comparatively, beef only contains 22% protein. Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll, which helps to purify the blood. It contains essential fatty acids like GLA, which possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Studies have shown that spirulina boosts the immune system, stabilizes blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and supports kidney function. It also contains a wide array of essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and enzymes.

It's important to mention that it's impractical to eat a diet of highly processed foods and merely add in spirulina expecting it to cancel out the damage being done by a poor diet. Combined with a mostly plant-based diet without refined sugars, starches, other processed foods, and minimal, if any at all, animal products, consistent exercise, and stress management, spirulina will only enhance your health further... promise!

Be sure to buy organic spirulina from a reputable company to avoid any heavy metals or other contamination. I use the HealthForce brand. I bought it from Whole Foods but you can also purchase it online. It may seem pricey but because I don't spend money on meat or other animal products, it's more than worth it for me. Plus, it lasts a good while. You can also find it in bulk to save money. I have to warn you about the smell - I personally don't like the smell because I've always despised seafood, even before I was a vegetarian, but when it's mixed in a smoothie it doesn't bother me! I'm also still getting used to the taste so it may be an acquired taste for some people.

*Do not consume spirulina if you have a seafood or iodine allergy. 

Being that I am a vegetarian and currently transitioning to 100% veganism, I feel compelled to add that consumption of animal protein wreaks havoc on our health, the environment and causes unnecessary harm to animals. Essentially, animal protein creates an acidic environment in our bodies due to the by-products uric acid, ammonia and purines created by digesting animal protein. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and professor at Cornell University, conducted a study that lasted for almost thirty years called The China Study, which found an astounding link between disease and animal protein: "Plant-based foods are linked to lower blood cholesterol; animal-based foods are linked to higher blood cholesterol. Animal-based foods are linked to higher breast cancer rates; plant-based foods are linked to lower rates. Fiber and antioxidants from plants are linked to a lower risk of cancers of the digestive tract."

If you do eat animal protein, I suggest keeping it to one meal a day or ideally, only a few times a week and make sure you choose organic (hormone-free & antibiotic-free), ethically raised animal protein. The antibiotics given to animals for infections as a result of the tiny holding areas and fecal contamination, and the hormones given to speed up their growth and production to meet consumer demand, end up in your food and in your body too. Not to mention the pesticide-sprayed feed given to the animals, which also ends up in your system and can contribute to disease as it accumulates over time.

Check out the documentary Food Inc. available online if you want to delve deeper into this important issue. It changed my life by changing the way I think about food, where it comes from, how it's produced, changed, and the horrific conditions of factory farms.

Apple Berry Power Protein Smoothie

YIELD: 46 oz. or 2 servings (23 oz. per serving)

INGREDIENTS
• 2 cups non-dairy milk or filtered water, or 1 cup non-dairy milk and 1 cup water *See note
• 1 cup spinach
• 1 cup kale
• 2 apples, your choice, cored (I used 1 Pink Pearl & 1 Gala apple)
• 1 cup frozen berry blend *See note
1 ripe banana
2 Tbs chia seeds
• 3 heaping tsp spirulina *See note
• Liquid stevia, to taste (I used 10 drops)
• 1 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Ice (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Add in the non-dairy milk and/or water, spinach and kale and blend on low speed until smooth. Gradually increasing the speed, add in the rest of the ingredients and blend on high until smooth.

NOTES

I used unsweetened coconut milk. It gives the smoothie a nice creamy texture and taste! I'm sure unsweetened almond milk would be yummy too.
You can find a pack of blackberries, strawberries & blueberries at WholeFoods in the frozen section, which is what I used, or just freeze fresh berries if you'd rather.
• If you don't have spirulina or if you just don't like the taste, you can use any other raw protein powder like hemp. You can find these at health food stores. I recommend staying away from soy and whey protein powders as they are typically highly processed.
• Share the 2nd serving with someone else or save it for up to 2 days in the fridge for yourself!

What is your favorite thing about fall? I'd love to know! And if you happen to make this smoothie, pretty please send me a picture and @ me on Instagram or Twitter. :-)

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." Unknown

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