In my never ending quest for happiness, health, and success on and off the road, I've been experimenting with foods. I've learned so many interesting things about the way runners fuel their bodies. Vegan to paleo, there is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition. As you might imagine, since my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, I've received all kinds of nutritional advice. Some people have even told me that I can cure my disease with diet alone. I'm not so sure about that, but one thing has become very clear to me--I need to really avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body. Sugar and refined carbs top the list, along with saturated and trans fats. I've also found MSG, an ingredient used to season foods, especially Asian dishes, to be a trigger for me.
One recommendation that is universal and seems to make the most sense to me is to increase the amount of fruits and vegetable in the diet. Berries, tart cherries, avocados, beets, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and peppers all top the list of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods. The rule of thumb is the more colorful the food, the more health benefits it provides. I've been incorporating a variety of fruits and veggies into breakfast smoothies. It's been a fun and tasty experience!
One year ago, my youngest son broke his leg while playing rugby. It was a bad break, eventually requiring surgery, and he was out of sports for 6 months. During that time, I started making smoothies to help him heal. He and I really enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen. When he was able to move around a bit more, he began making his own smoothies. Nothing warms a mother's heart more than hearing her son ask her to pick up more spinach at the store!
After my diagnosis with RA in the fall, my son started bugging me to make the smoothies for myself. Being a cereal girl, I was really reluctant to give up my morning routine of Cheerios and orange juice. My second RA flare was like a wake-up call. The Ninja blender began doing double duty as I made smoothies for my son and for me. He likes coconut milk in his smoothies, while I use kefir (a fermented milk product similar to yogurt). Kefir contains probiotics and is purported to have immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.
I plan our smoothies a week in advance, purchasing all the items we need for the week. I try to make a different colored smoothie every day, ensuring that we drink the rainbow.
I have a pantry full of "add-ins" that boost the nutrition of our smoothies. We've got powders: cocoa, pomegranate, maca, maqui, acai, spirulina, moringa, turmeric, and baobab. We've got flaxseed and chia seeds. There's also cacao nibs.
Since we are both athletes, I always add a scoop of protein powder to our smoothies. Right now, we are testing NOW Sports Pea Protein Powder, Amazing Grass Protein Superfood, and Vega One All-In-One Plant Based Protein Powder, Chocolate.
The best way to make your smoothie is to start with a basic recipe and tweak it to your tastes. My husband, who is our family chef, says that a recipe is just a starting point. A lot of our smoothie recipes come from Green Blender. They have tons of smoothie recipes on their website. The thing I like the most about their website is that you can search for smoothie by type. I usually search for anti-inflammatory, but other categories include immune boosting, energy, calm, and glow. Another great resource for smoothies is Pinterest. Be cautious when you find recipes there, though, because I've found that a lot of them aren't all that healthy!
When you think of smoothies, what color comes to mind first? Green? I used to think green meant gross, but I've since learned otherwise. It's amazing how tasty a green smoothie can be with the right ingredients! My green smoothies of course always contain greens--my personal favorite is spinach--but any green like kale or collard greens will do. Other ingredients I might use include kiwis, honeydew, pears, apples, cucumbers, avocados, zucchinis, and peppers.
Moringa is considered a "superfood" and is derived from a plant found in the middle east. Moringa has all kinds of benefits. Don't overdo it, though--too much can act as a laxative! I use 1/2-1 teaspoon per smoothie. Spirulina and chlorella are 2 other supergreen powders that can be added as well.
Can you guess what food makes these smoothies blue? I can only think of one blue food in my diet, and that's blueberries! Blueberries are an amazing superfood. Even blueberries and kefir alone make an amazing smoothie, but why not mix in some other yummy ingredients? I like to add peanut butter--a tablespoon or so, for a PBJ-type of smoothie. Coconut cream or shredded coconut go really well with blueberries. Blueberries, oatmeal, and cinnamon make a great blueberry muffin smoothie! I also make one with cocoa powder because, chocolate.
To boost the anti-inflammatory power of the blue smoothies, you can add a teaspoon of Acai powder or Maqui powder. Another "superfood", acai has antioxidant properties. Maqui also has antioxidant properties.
Like sunshine in a glass, orange smoothies can't help but make me smile. My orange smoothies almost always contain oranges, carrots, banana, and pineapple. Sweet potatoes and squash are other orange ingredients I occasionally use. But that's just the start. Sometimes I add in goji berries, another "superfruit" that contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They don't always blend so well, though, forcing me to chew my way through the smoothie! Turmeric root is a well-known anti-inflammatory and can be grated into the smoothie or you can use the powder. I also like to grate ginger root, another anti-inflammatory, into these smoothies. Baobab powder and pomegranate powder are just a few more options you can add in. Like the other superfruit powders, a little goes a long way.
My favorite color is red and that extends to my red smoothies! The main ingredient in my red smoothies is beets. I never ever thought I'd eat beets. In the past when I tried them, to me, they tasted like dirt. But now that I found a way to eat them, I'm so grateful. Beets are probably the #1 anti-inflammatory food. My favorite way to blend them up is with frozen dark cherries and pineapple, along with other add-ins mentioned above. Add a splash of beet juice or tart cherry juice and no we're talking deliciousness! BTW, golden beets are an alternative to the traditional red beets, but then I wouldn't be drinking red for the week, right? If you're really crazy, you could blend the beet greens right into the smoothies! Don't think I haven't tried it...
Maybe your rainbow doesn't have brown in it, but mine does. At least once a week and maybe more, I make a cocoa smoothie. Cocoa is a powerful antioxidant with other health benefits as well. Cocoa is also a huge mood booster, and who doesn't need that after a tough run or prior to a long day at work? My favorite cocoa smoothie is one I make with raspberries. I add a banana and an avocado to make it thick. I also add a tablespoon of Cacao nibs. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, with even more benefits than Cocoa, although they can be used interchangeably. I've used mini-chocolate chips when I'm out of Cacao nibs, and I guarantee that my smoothie is just as tasty. And just as satisfying.
An alternative to adding fruit to your Cocoa smoothie is adding greens. It blends up nicely and all you can taste is chocolate. For this smoothie, I like to add in maca powder. I swear that there is something magical in maca powder because I always feel so happy after I drink a smoothie that I've made with maca. It turns out that maca is known to boost energy and mood. A little cinnamon tastes pretty good in here as well and adds a little more anti-inflammatory boost to this powerful start to the day! Bring it on, day!
How do you like to start your day? Are you a smoothie person? What's your favorite kind of smoothie? What kind of blender do you use? Any ingredients I need to know about?
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Disclosure: I am not a food blogger, just a runner who is loving her smoothies! This post is not intended as expert advice on nutrition. For dietary advice, please consult a doctor or a dietitian.
I'm linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five! I'm also linking up with Annemarie, Farrah, and Esther for Fit Foodie Friday as well as Deborah and Miss Whisk for Meatless Monday! Have a great weekend.