Cherry, Kale & Kombucha Smoothie (AIP, Paleo)
Now that *poof* it’s hot outside, I’m suddenly in the mood for smoothies. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them, mostly because they are billed everywhere as healthy and then whoa, they are loaded with way too much fruit and horrible manufactured protein powders. Not healthy. On the other hand, they’re an awfully fast, tasty, and convenient way to grab a quick breakfast and after a sweaty workout, that cool fruitiness can taste positively divine. And so, let’s call this the truce smoothie, the one loaded with greens and just enough fruit to taste good and boost the anti-oxidant punch even higher without providing a giant blast of sugar. How do I decide what to put in them?
I should take a step back and say that my over-arching goal, with any of the meals I pull together, is healing. Healing my gut, calming my immune system the hell down, and feeding every cell of my body with as much nutrition as I can pack into the calories I eat. I wasn’t always this way. I was the moderation girl – if I eat a salad, I’ve earned a few bites of dessert. If I skip bread, I can enjoy a glass of wine. If I workout for an hour I can eat French fries. And that works for a lot of people, for sure, and if it works for you, then jam on. But it stopped working for me. And so for now, healing is my goal and the path is paved with the highest nutrient-dense foods I can squeeze out of the calories I eat and that means whole, real foods, all the time. That’s what I’ll be sharing with you from now on.I’ve been mightily inspired by the book The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine by Terry Wahls, MD. Described as an integrative approach to healing chronic autoimmune conditions, I found it to be so much more. Dr. Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine who just happens to have relapsing, remitting multiple sclerosis. Her story of illness and healing – from wheelchair to walking and biking – is riveting and inspiring (see her popular TED talk). Her journey into the healing (and disease-provoking) power of food has shifted my perspective – and I was (obviously) already on board with respecting the effect of food on health. Halfway through the book I had an ah-ha moment where I mentally took a giant step back and saw how utterly odd it is that we have come to accept packaged, manufactured, low-quality non-food as food (or even as treats!) and expect to be healthy and thrive on it. The reasons are many and compelling, of course: a love affair with the miracles of modern manufacturing; the promise of shortcuts and ease; lowering the cost the food; the science of firing pleasurable, addictive brain chemicals with manipulated salt, sugar, and fat; and recently, as disease rates and obesity have climbed, the desperate hope for health and normal weight. I’ve personally been moved by every single one of those reasons. In fact, if my health had stayed unchanged, I would still be to this day because let’s face it, that’s the norm. Given that, I guess I’ll call it a gift that my body called it quits on flour, sugar, and alcohol.In fact, I will call it a gift. Dr. Wahls’ protocol calls for 9 cups of fresh vegetables and fruit per day (I consider this a challenge, rarrr!), along with high-quality meat and fat (and avoidance of dairy, grains, sugar, and legumes, which I’ve been doing for years), with a detailed description of why. Food is so much more than calories, of course, and so much more than the macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that we’ve all been focused on. She delves into the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids), the information that nourishes and speaks to the mitochondria of our cells. Her theory is that poor nutrition plus toxic load (heavy metals, plastics, solvents in our food supply) plus genetic susceptibility is the root cause of autoimmune (and perhaps all chronic) disease (her research into exactly those theories is in process with early promising results and excellent current results personally and in her clinical practice). Add the fact that nutritionally-deficient, high carbohydrate food stimulates the over-consumption of calories (and causes metabolic problems in dealing with those calories) and you have the current state of affairs – malnourished obesity and chronic disease. She addresses the importance of gut health as well – those micronutrients can’t reach the mitochondria if they’re not properly digested and absorbed, and healthy gut bacteria thrive on starch from fresh produce – but not in the same detail as The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (which is the autoimmune protocol I’m following with great success).
A few things have happened since I’ve challenged myself to eat more vegetables. One, I discovered that I haven’t been eating nearly enough food. The thing about not eating grains, legumes, dairy, and sugar, and replacing them with lower-glycemic, more nutrient-dense meat, high-quality fats, and an abundance of vegetables – is that hunger changes from annoyingly gnawing to something much more manageable and subtle. If I’m busy, I can skip a meal without really thinking much about it. But given my hypothyroid condition, and my goal of healing, that’s not what I want to be doing on a regular basis. Two, I’ve lost weight while eating more. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, as I’ve said I’m trying to heal, but it was weight I’ve been happy to kiss good-bye. Very interesting. And three, my energy has skyrocketed. It got me through the end of writing Twin Cities Chef’s Table. It gets me out the door exercising with pleasure every day. I’m sleeping like a rock. Hmmmm. These are very good things.
And so, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the book, it’s changed my habits, and I recommend it highly. Whether healthy or sick, it can not be over-stated that humans (like all animals) are meant to eat whole, real foods – LOTS of whole, real foods. Luckily, whole foods are the sexiest, most delicious, most satisfying foods anyhow. Hello summer of radishes, strawberries, steaks, artichokes, arugula, blueberries, green beans, lamb chops, basil, wild mushrooms, hamburgers, ramps, summer squash, ribs, sweet potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, sorbets, sorrel, carrots, walleye, cherries, okra, spring onions, spinach, peaches…ahhh. I so love summer food…
So back to smoothies. There was a point to my Wahls Protocol aside, which is that smoothies are a nice way to eat a couple of cups of produce for breakfast. I lean on stir-fries and hashes too, but a couple of times a week a smoothie is exactly what sounds delish. Here’s my basic, not-too-sweet, not-too-vegetal cherry, kale & kombucha Smoothie if you’re interested.
Cherry, Kale & Kombucha Smoothie (AIP, Paleo)
Note: A clean-up tip. You know this already if you make a lot of smoothies but if you don’t, save yourself a headache by thoroughly rinsing out the blender immediately, before you drink your smoothie. Once the sugars and starches in the plants start to dry…you have a bummer of a clean-up instead of a breeze of one. Ditto your glass (and straw, I reuse them) when you’re done enjoying your smoothie.
Another note: If I’m eating this as a meal, even with gelatin for protein, I still have a few pieces of leftover steak, chicken, or bacon on the side.
1/2 cup frozen organic cherries
1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 pitted medjool date (optional)
1 cup packed lacinato kale (or spinach) leaves
1/4 cup kombucha (your favorite flavor)
1/4-1/2 cup (or more) water
1 tablespoon grass-fed gelatin (for protein; Great Lakes brand available online)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon carob powder (optional; sometimes I’m in the mood for a chocolate-y edge)
1 teaspoon avocado oil (or a few slices of ripe avocado)
Blend in a blender on high speed, adding more water as needed, until very smooth. I use a Vitamix and really blast it. Serve immediately.