Strawberry Cacao Smoothie
Summer is starting to come to an end, but smoothie season still has some time to shine! I'm back at the smoothie series today with some more tips and tricks, and of course, a brand new recipe for you. If you missed the first two posts in this series, check them out here and here.
Today, I'm talking about what you can do to make sure that you're digesting your smoothie as best as you can, and what you can incorporate to feel satisfied all the way until lunch and to keep your blood sugar regulated! First of all, let's quickly talk about the importance of proper digestion. We've all heard the saying "you are what you eat", but in reality, it should really be "you are what you absorb". We can eat the healthiest food day in and day out, but if we're not properly breaking down and digesting that food, then we are not actually absorbing the beautiful nutrients that are trapped inside! Optimizing digestion is a great first step in the journey to improve your health.
When it comes to smoothies, one of the benefits is that the ingredients have been broken down to liquid and they are therefore a bit easier for our bodies to break down and digest. With that being said, how many of us have felt horrible digestive aches or pains after drinking a smoothie?? I know that I personally did not drink them for many years because I always felt sick after, and I have heard that from many other people. There was one trick that finally stopped this feeling for me... I started to chew my smoothie. Yep, you read that right!
There are enzymes that exist in our saliva that actually work to digest carbohydrates. If we drink a smoothie too quickly, it passes through our digestive system without giving those enzymes the chance to do their job! These undigested components of the smoothie that end up in our intestines are what cause digestive upset. So, it really is as simple as swishing each sip of smoothie around your mouth and biting down, much like you would with solid food. That will coat the smoothie in those amazing enzymes, and your digestive power will quickly improve. I know, sounds too simple, right? Just try it!
Now, other than digestive upset, another common complaint that I hear about smoothies is that they aren't filling enough to last until lunch, and that the high sugar content just causes a crash mid-morning. The answer to this one is also simple... fibre and fat. These two should ALWAYS be finding their way into your smoothie! With so many smoothies being made of predominantly fruit, they end up being very high in carbohydrates. Carbs are NOT the devil, don't get me wrong here, but we digest them very, very quickly. They break down into sugar in your body and very quickly cause a blood sugar spike if they have nothing to slow that process down. That's where fibre and fat come in... both of these actually slow the breakdown and the absorption of the food that you are eating, which in this case results in a slower release of sugar into your bloodstream. This means that you stay full for longer, and that you don't experience the blood sugar roller coaster. On that note, I personally try to keep the fruit content of my smoothies low as it is very easy to go overboard. I always gravitate to low-sugar fruits like berries, and will only use smaller amounts of higher sugar fruits (like 1/2 of a banana). That's what works best for me, but you need to do what feels good in your body. Just be sure that the fruit content is balanced out with fibre and fat! Say it with me... FIBRE AND FAT!
Now, the good stuff. Let's get to the recipe!
Strawberry Cacao Smoothie
1 cup non-dairy milk
2.5 tbsp cacao powder
1.5 - 2 tbsp cashew butter (or any mild-tasting nut butter)
1 tbsp chia seeds or ground flax seeds
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/3 cup zucchini (previously steamed and frozen)
handful of kale or spinach
2 tbsp cacao nibs
Add all ingredients in the order listed, except for cacao nibs, to a high-powered blender
Blend until smooth
Add cacao nibs and blend for another 10 seconds if you want some crunch in your smoothie!
Add ice for a thicker smoothie
If your strawberries aren't quite sweet enough for your liking, you can also add half a frozen banana, one medjool date, or a splash of maple syrup