Friday, April 7, 2017

Drinking the Rainbow: How to Make Smoothies that Will Brighten Your Day and Change Your Attitude

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!

GREEN: 
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.

BLUE:
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.

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ORANGE:
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. 


RED:
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...


BROWN:
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?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.
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.





58 comments :

  1. I usually start my day with a green smoothie that has protein powder, spinach and fruit (I switch up the fruit depending on what's in season). I really love beets so I've been using them more in smoothies lately.

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  2. I used to drink smoothies then stopped bc I thought they were loaded with sugar. When it gets warmer again I think I will try the beet and cherry juice versions again. I do prefer to eat my greens than drink them but I do like fruit in my smoothies. thanks for the ideas sounds like you are the smoothie queen :)

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  3. I'm pinning this and saving it ;-) I'm not a smoothie person, but realize I should become one (gradually).

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    1. Drinking a chocolate PB one as we speak...

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  4. I love smoothies,but I need to chew or I don't feel satisfied so when I try to bring them to work, where I just sit at a desk, I keep jonesing for "something else." However, I found they work very well for me on busy weekend days where I'm on the go and have no time to sit and eat. Weird, I know!

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    1. Not weird at all. Mine are pretty thick, so there's usually chewing!

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  5. I need to chew my food in the morning, so I don't do them in the morning. And I go on & off with them, too.

    You forgot cherries for red! My favorite smoothie is cherries, a frozen banana, almond milk, and chocolate protein powder.

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    1. No, cherries are in there--read the beet smoothie again.

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  6. I love how far you've come on the smoothie front. Good food=good medicine. I'm not saying it's a cure-all but there's so much good we can do for our bodies through good nutrition. Have you tried Beet Boost? It's a beet & tart cherry powder. Can be enjoyed alone or added to a smoothie. I'll give you some next time I see you. <3

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    1. Oh, I saw Beet Boost at WF and was wondering about it. I'd love to try it!

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  7. I was on such a smoothie kick last summer, but then I ran out of my beloved Vital Proteins and still have re-upped. Shameful

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  8. Yup, smoothies are the main way that I get fruits and greens into my body. I really want a Vitamix one day. Right now all I have is a blender that is missing the lid so I have to hold a plastic plate in place at the top while I blend! Oh well. Maybe one day.

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    1. I want a Vitamix too! I priced them and well, no. In case the Vitamix people are reading this: I'd love to test your product!

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  9. I have never heard of Moringa. I do not normally make smoothies because I would rather eat my calories than drink them, even if they are nutritious. It just feel more filling when I am eating instead of sipping.

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    1. I used to feel that way and then I discovered all the stuff you put in to boost up the smoothies!

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  10. Have you read Forks Over Knives? Or seen the movie? They claim you can reverse diseases through diet alone. I haven't gone the full-fledged FOK route to know if it works but who knows? It could work.

    I love smoothies. I usually do bananas, tart cherry juice, blueberries/strawberries, and then some Greek yogurt. Mmmmm. I should focus more on anti-inflammatory benefits instead of workout recovery, though.

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    1. The skeptic in me just won't go full food/no meds. But as an adjunct to conventional medicine? Sign me up!

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  11. I haven't really gotten into smoothies, but I will say, your pictures make them look very appealing!

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  12. Funny, a few days ago I told my husband that I am just not a smoothie person. I have tried so many different kinds but the common ingredients consisted of almond butter or almond milk - to get in some protein and fat. They were mostly going down the drain. But...maybe, these look pretty good!

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  13. What a beautiful rainbow of smoothies!! Blue ones are my go to :)

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    1. I don't think I could pick a favorite--but I do love the chocolate ones!

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  14. We drink a variety of smoothies, too. We've recently gotten hooked on acai bowls - basically a thicker version of a smoothie that you eat with a spoon instead of drinking. They're at all the coffee shops here in Hawaii, but at 10 bucks a pop I decided to try making them myself. It took a little tweaking but here's my recipe:

    Acai Bowl (2 servings)
    Ingredients:
    1 cup Ocean Spray Lite Cran-Grape Juice (5 calories per cup)
    1 medium banana
    1 scoop protein powder
    2- 4 oz packets frozen Acai Berry puree (these are from Target)
    1/2 cup frozen blueberries
    1/2 cup frozen strawberries

    Toppings:
    1 medium banana, sliced
    2 Tbsp. granola
    2 Tbsp. Coconut flakes
    1 Tbsp. honey

    1. Add ingredients to blender in order listed. Blend, using "crush ice" first, then move on to mix and puree until all ingredients are blended.
    2. Pour into 2 bowls. Place in freezer for 45-60 minutes until firm.
    3. Top with toppings and enjoy!

    Only 360 calories and loaded with power foods. We have these for lunch and they are super filling.

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    1. Yum! One of my partners at work was in Hawaii and she was telling me all about the acai bowls! Thanks for sharing your recipe. I'll be trying it...heading to Target today, in fact!

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  15. I don't normally do smoothies outside of the summer. It's usually the same ingredients too, and it ends up being a light purple.

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    1. I used to have all the same smoothies too, and got sick of them. Until we began experimenting, that is....

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  16. Believe it or not I don't make Smoothies. But I do love the ones at Starbucks though I've only tried chocolate banana.

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    1. I think the Starbucks ones have too much sugar--that's why I like making my own. I have more control over the ingredients.

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  17. I do normally start my day with a protein based shake or smoothie, particularly my strength training days. I like to use a variety of ingredients too. Your ideas sound great!

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    1. This has been a really fun journey. Who knew that injuries and illness could lead to such a positive outcome?

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  18. I love this post! So much knowledge and colors! In Mexico smoothies and fresh juices have been a very common sight in markets, or stand alone. My grandmother used to make us smoothies for breakfast back in the 1980 in her farm.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    I'm happy with oatmeal and Greek yogurt for breakfast

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    1. I'd love to have some of your grandmother's smoothies. I bet they were delicious!

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  19. Can you come over and make me colorful smoothies every morning?! This is great- i really need to try new things in my smoothies. Now I have a bunch of items to add to my next grocery list!

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    1. Haha! I should have a smoothie service, right? Actually, I bought a lot of those ingredients at TJMaxx, of all places.

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  20. I have to admit, I just don't get the smoothie thing. Why not just eat the stuff? I would feel more full and satisfied. I guess they're good for people who hate to eat fruit and/or vegetables. I personally love them and eat them throughout the day...and get my protein fix through protein shakes I buy at Costco. My husband, however, swears by the smoothies. Different strokes...

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    1. Some people, ahem, don't love vegetables. So this is a good way to get them in the diet. Just a different path...

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  21. I love smoothies as a treat -- it's easy to suck down a lot of calories through those little straws, but is a great way to up your nutrients.

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    1. I've given that calorie count a lot of thought--but at least at home, I have more control over what goes into my smoothies. And I haven't gained any weight, so there's that...

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  22. I started on the smoothies after I had my hysterectomy and I haven't stopped yet! Love them and I seem to get more adventurous as I go along :-) I love love the amazing grass pea protein- that one is my standard favorite! When I am down to just a banana left I like to add the powdered peanut butter- yummy!

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    1. Some days, most days I should say, I want to go for the Cocoa smoothies. But yes, I'm getting more experimental. I'm going to buy that peanut butter flavor protein powder!

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  23. I am so impressed with the way you have embraced all of this and are trying to have more colorful food! Such an inspiration!

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    1. Right now, I'll do whatever it takes to feel better!

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  24. I kind of got off my smoothie kick. It usually pops back up in the summer something cool and refreshing hits the spot no matter what time of the day.

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  25. We don't heat our house overnight, so most of the time I want a hot breakfast to warm me up. I do like smoothies sometimes after a run. :) Lately, I've been making one that tastes like a mint chocolate shake!

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    1. I make one like that too, with mint leaves. So yum!

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  26. I use a vita mix to make my smoothies, although ya my husband that actually makes them. He preps a weeks worht on the weekends

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    1. I want a Vitamix but they are pricey!

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  27. We love smoothies at our house. The kids always love coming up with new concoctions and with guidance I think we've only ended up with a few that didn't taste quite right. I long for a better blender though!

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    1. My youngest comes up with all kinds of concoctions! Like you, I'd love a new blender (Vitamix!)--last year the fam gave me a Ninja, which was a step up from the Osterizer.

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  28. If I don't have a smoothie for a day, I crave it so much the next day. Love all the raw goodness of the super foods you can mix into your smoothies! My favorite post - run snack, as well!

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    1. The sky is really the limit when it comes to ingredients (altho I'd probably avoid meat... :p)

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  29. I always throw in some protein powder into my smoothies too! :D (I love the Amazing Grass chocolate peanut butter one! :] ) Now that it's finallyyyy starting to warm up again, I can start having my breakfast smoothies again! :D Love all the colors!

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    1. Today's orange at our house. You reminded me that I need to order more protein powder!

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