This post is for those early birds who are regular consumers of smoothies come morning time. This next in the series of #mondayhealthbasics goes over some basic easy steps you can take in order to make that smoothie really count and nourish you from head to toe. Today's tip will ensure you are better able to digest your morning elixir, and what kinds of things you can add in order to make that breakfast smoothie sustain you for longer periods.
Smoothies come in all shapes and sizes, and the only thing between you and the flavours to wake your taste buds is your imagination. Some folks go for a non-dairy milk as the base: think coconut milk, or flax seed milk, almond milk or coconut yogurt. Others go for the full on dairy, from straight up milk to yogurt to kefir. (I do love me some creme fraiche for my quick smoothies.)
I'm going to offer an alternative to you today:
seeds and nuts as your smoothie base.
Why seeds and nuts, and not their milks you ask? For one, the packaged dairy-alternative milks you find sometimes list carrageenan in their ingredients. For a good primer on just what is this additive we often see listed on the label, check this post. (For folks who may have some digestive issues, this is one of those food additives that may be contributing to irritation and inflammation in the gut.) So omitting it might be a good idea, if you're looking to bring down inflammation in your body. (Have you heard me go on about inflammation yet? Inflammation is really at the root of just about every chronic degenerative disease out there. Find out more about inflammation and how to tame that beast at a talk coming up this Sunday the 10th!)
In order to eradicate this additive from my diet, I just make my own nut and seed milks. But sometimes, I don't know about you, but there is only so much time in the day.
Enter: THE INSTA-BREAKFAST.
Well, kind of insta-. As insta- as it gets in this house. This is inspired by a recipe from Dr. Carolee Bateson-Koch's book Allergies: Disease in Disguise and serves as a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory fats, good source of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Adding these nuts and seeds to your morning smoothie will also provide your body with satiating protein and fat, helping you go the distance.
But we aren't talking just throwing in some nuts and seeds to the blender when you think of it. No. We're allowing these nuts and seeds to hang out soaking in water overnight before blitzing them into breakfast delicious.
Why pre-soak these nuggets? See, it's all about de-activating the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in the nuts and seeds. Enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid are Mother Nature's way to ensure survival, but not for you; rather for the seed making its way through your digestive system. These two compounds are in all nuts and seeds and grains that will one day, make it into a whole plant form.
Imagine a fox. Little foxy is meandering through a field of oats. She takes a nibble from one of the plants and feasts on some oat seeds. She feels good, she feels satiated, so she lies down for a nap. But these seeds she ate? They were full of phytic acid (the plant's way of storing phosphorus) and enzyme inhibitors. As they make their way through the fox' digestive tract, the enzyme inhibitors turn off little foxy's enzymes, which means now she can't break down the seed and thus won't get the nutrients in the seed. (This is all done in order that all of the nutrients and minerals held within the seed/nut/grain can remain in the seed.)
While this non-digested seed winds its way through the fox' gut, the phytic acid also pulls out minerals from her stores, depleting her of important trace minerals necessary to bone building, enzyme production, metabolism, detoxification, I mean the list goes on. When this little undigested morsel of oat seed exits her digestive tract via her stool, that seed (fully intact!) will now be ready to grow into a plant. As it makes its way through her digestive system by "soaking" in the fox' digestive juices, this process deactivates the phytic acid and signals to the seed that it's time to grow. But it's only with time that this deactivation happens. You need a minimum of six hours. (Anybody ever heard of soaking their pea seeds the day before planting? It's the same thing.) Good work, seed!
Sorry little foxy. You were robbed.
How to get around this you ask? We must fool Mother Nature. NO WAIT. We must work with Mother Nature. We need to mimic what she's come up with. This means soaking your nuts/seeds/grains BEFORE you eat them so as to ensure you turn off those enzyme inhibitors found in the seeds. They will no longer be able to prevent you from getting the nutrients found within. Additionally, by properly preparing your nuts and seeds before consuming, you will retain those important trace minerals the phytic acid would have pulled out of you on its way through your system because that compound is turned off.
Sure, sometimes I prepare big batches of nuts and seeds and then store them in freezer bags once they are dehydrated. But I just can't be that far ahead of the eight ball most days.
So here is my shortcut, for the person who'd rather do a small batch for their next morning's breakfast. This one will make two tall glasses of the good stuff.
3/8 cup of nuts and seeds, combined (I love pumpkin seeds, sesame for the calcium, flax and brazil nuts but you can use whatever you have on hand)
3/4 cup of filtered water
- The morning before you plan to have this smoothie, measure your nuts/seeds mixture into the filtered water, cover and let sit on the counter for 24 hours, until tomorrow's breakfast. For added benefit, I'd add a tbsp of a ferment like kombucha or water kefir, or some whey from yogurt or kefir in my fridge. (Say goodbye, phytic acid! Sayonara, enzyme inhibitors!)
- The next morning, blitz this mixture in your blender along with an additional cup of filtered water. You will be consuming the whole seed! No milking required!
- You can add whatever you usually add to your smoothies at this point. I usually include about a cup and a half of frozen mixed berries, sometimes a banana, a little bit of maple syrup and voila. Down the hatch. Delicieux.
Of course you could add some swiss chard for the super-greens kind of effect (less of a negative impact on your thyroid than kale ), or an apple for extra fibre. I always make sure I have some good fats in my smoothie, in order to help slow down the absorption of sugars into my bloodstream and help carry me and satiate for longer periods. For me, this usually means creme fraiche, but you could add some coconut butter or coconut oil, or good old butter if you'd like.
Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.
Soak those seeds for your smoothies. Love your guts. And bones. And liver. And heart. And brain. And every other sweet part of your body is attached to that gut.