Anyone else enjoy a nice, cold smoothie in the winter? (I know it is technically spring now, but the weather in New England has yet to show it.)
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No? Just me? I am totally into smoothies all year round. I love them because it is a quick and easy way to get fruits and vegetables in (yes, add veggies to your smoothie!!), convenient to bring and have on my way to work, and also easier to take down early in the morning. For whatever reason, I really never want eggs at 6 am but a delicious smoothie seldom disappoints.
Like I said, part of the reason I enjoy smoothies so much is that it is an easy way to get produce in. Especially in the winter months. Fruit is astronomically expensive when it is not in season, therefore I am all about the next best option: frozen!
As soon as a crop is harvested, it begins to lose it's nutrients. Don't overthink this because every piece of produce has value. But when you compare expensive AF blueberries in January that were shipped from who knows where, to a decently-priced bag of frozen ones, you can easily tell where you'll get the better deal. That is because frozen fruits and vegetables are pretty much frozen immediately after being picked, essentially locking in their nutrition. So, more bang for your buck, as they say.
Last summer, this was one of my go-to smoothie concoctions. I was looking for a way to bump up my intake of probiotics. I am so sure you have heard this word floating around. Probiotics are good gut bacteria that help maintain and/or improve digestive and overall health. Probiotics are naturally occurring in your gut, but can also be obtained from certain foods like fermented foods, such as kefir! I'll discuss the benefits of probiotics and kefir below. And while we're at it, I'll break down some nutrition info about the other ingredients too:
Kefir is a fermented milk product/drink. All fermented foods are an excellent source of probiotics - Think: Yogurt, Saurkraut, Kombucha, Tempeh, Miso, Kimchi, etc. Building on your good gut bacteria may help alleviate some digestive ailments you may have. Of course, I highly recommend working with an RD and GI doc to determine the root cause of your issue, but consuming probiotics are a great way to promote good gut health.
The taste of Kefir is pretty sour and tangy but can easily be masked with sweeter tones in a smoothie if that isn't your thing. Kefir harbors even more probiotics than yogurt, so if you're someone who consumes yogurt on a daily or weekly basis to stay "regular", consider incorporating kefir into your life once in a while! Lactose intolerant peeps don't have to worry either :) It is well-tolerated by people like us!
I was inspired to remake this smoothie over the winter after a recent recipe contest by Wild Blueberries (the company - click the link to learn more). Food bloggers and dietitians were asked to submit their most creative and delicious recipes for a chance to win some cash and a trip to Maine during blueberry season!
There are some key differences between standard blueberries and wild ones. Regular blueberries are planted and harvested with purpose, while wild blueberries grow naturally in parts of Maine and Canada. They are tiny compared to cultivated blueberries. Have you noticed how big and juicy packaged blueberries are in the winter time? They're grown to be that way, but they definitely don't have that distinct taste of fresh summer blueberries or even wild blueberries.
The other benefit of wild blueberries is that they have been found to contain twice as many antioxidants than cultivated berries. That means double the disease-fighting power. They're pretty tangy and sweeter than regular blueberries. You can find them in the freezer aisle any time of year. Better yet, if you ever get a chance to pick your own, definitely stock up and freeze them for winter baking (or smoothie-making if you're like me). I haven't gone blueberry picking yet, but it is definitely on my wish-list.
Let me just say I love cinnamon. Like looooove it. I go through about one of those little containers about every one or two months. I add it to everything - smoothies, oatmeal, chili, cereal, whatever I'm baking. This probably means I should buy a bulk container right? Right.
Anyway, because of that sweet and tangy taste of both kefir and the wild blueberries, I feel as though the cinnamon really balances it out. It almost makes it taste like a muffin. Some may laugh, but that is truly how I feel.
Some research shows that cinnamon may also act as a natural blood sugar stabilizer. So not only do I love the taste, but I like to add it to things like smoothies to balance out all those fruit sugars to avoid that mid-morning crash.
Hemp Seeds/Chia Seeds:
I have a bag of both of these on hand at ALL TIMES. Both hemp and chia seeds pack a good amount of protein (about 6 g per serving), fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids aka healthy fats. They also add a bit of creaminess to smoothies, and that is always a plus for me.
And of course...the greens!
If you're not getting enough leafy greens in your life, I highly suggest incorporating them into smoothies to start. If the color freaks you out, cover it up! Haha. Or at least try a milder green, such as spinach, where you really cannot taste it. A slight taste of kale sometimes comes through, but rarely, especially if you have some sweet fruits in there. If you're afraid of the bits and don't have a high powered blender, then I say try removing the stems and breaking it up with your hands!
Ok, and now for the recipe! Please let me know if you try it, like it, have suggestions for a change or addition, etc. Enjoy!
Recipe: Wild Blueberry and Kefir Smoothie
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 cup plain Kefir
1 tsp cinnamon (Adjust to your liking)
1 handful of greens (Spinach is the most mild)
2 tbsp hemp or chia seeds (For a boost of healthy fats!)
Optional: 1 scoop Unflavored protein powder or 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or Skyr
Note: This post is not sponsored by Wild Blueberries. I am just an enthusiastic dietitian wanting you to know about them!