This smoothie has earned me the weirdest looks and the most inquisitive comments from colleagues at work. It has been said to be “nuclear”, “alien” and “too green to be true”. To me, it’s delicious, satisfying and beautiful. It’s all about perception and habits, really. I decided to write a brief post about it and was looking for a funkier, otherworldly name, but then decided to name it for what it is: earthy. Everything in it grows on our planet and is actually damn good for our bodies.
I typically make this breakfast 3-5 times a week, usually at work, as we have a smoothie maker and some basic ingredients (oats, milk, banana). I bring the rest from home and leave them there (nope, no one has stolen my chlorella or wheatgrass yet). I am far from being a nutritionist, but after over a year of making this smoothie, I can say it works for me. I digest it well and it gives me a good amount of energy to power through the mornings. I don’t drink coffee so I find eating (drinking) a powerful breakfast is what I need. I’ve also learnt that eating healthy is important, but paying attention to our bodies and how they react to food is more important. Asking yourself questions – How full am I? How was the digestion after eating X? Why is my head hurting? Did I drink enough water?- and building body awareness is really useful. No one can teach us this though, it’s an individual exercise we need to practice every day, on our own.
What is the purpose of the different ingredients I add to my morning smoothie? I am now going to go into a more in-depth analysis of why I add certain foods to my morning smoothie. If you are not interested in the details, you can skip to the bottom where you’ll find the simple recipe. If, however, you are interested in knowing a bit more about the nutritional (and ethical) facts, here you go…
- Chlorella: is a type of algae that grows in fresh water, normally in Japan or Taiwan. It is relatively high in protein (around 60%), Iron and Vitamin B12, which is especially important if following a vegan diet, as B12 is rarely found in plant-based foods unless they’re fortified. Research has shown though, that B12 is not present in the same amounts in all chlorella products, which sadly makes it an unreliable B12 source. I’ve drastically reduced my meat intake during the last year so I add chlorella to my morning smoothies mainly to compensate for the lack of protein. Many people don’t like the taste of it at the beginning. An easy trick when you start taking it is to take smaller amounts of it and even add a sweetener to the smoothie. There are other protein-rich natural powders you could sub for too: spirulina, hemp, pea, whey. Each food has different % of protein as well as have other additional nutritional benefits.
- Wheatgrass: is the young edible grass of the common wheat plant. It is gluten-free and now considered a superfood because of its high content in essential amino acids, fibre, chlorophyll (natural liver cleanser, pH-balancer and blood strengthener), Iron and other vitamins and minerals. It can be consumed fresh, in powder or tablets. Like most foods, the best way to consume is as close to its natural state as possible (fresh). Currently, I don’t have easy access to it so I buy it in powder form.
- Bee pollen: is collected by bees from plant anthers, it is then mixed with a small dose of “bee saliva” or nectar, and placed in specific baskets (called corbiculae) that are situated on the tibia of their hind legs – called pollen loads. After the pollen is collected, it’s brought to the hive where it’s packed in honeycomb cells. It is the “protein provision for feeding baby bees who have been newly birthed […] and for feeding all the bees in the hive as they wait for the right warm temperatures”. It is a highly nutritious food because of its high content in protein (24%) and essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is worth mentioning that is also quite high in sugars (36g in 100g), so I tend to not overdo it! While researching a bit more about this food, I found out some surprising facts, some good and others not so good. It seems like bee pollen has actually shown benefits in reducing the adverse effects of certain cancer treatments and it can be anti-inflammatory, act as an antioxidant, have antibacterial and antiviral properties and can help with relieving stress.
On the other hand, and since I’m recently in the habit of understanding how the foods I eat are produced… it is unfortunately quite an unethical food to consume: “To harvest the pollen, commercial beekeepers use a thick “comb” in the bottom of the hive, in the slit the bees use as an entrance/exit. The bees then have to drag themselves across the “comb” to enter or exit the hive. The bristles catch and often tear off their limbs and other parts, and, consequently, pull most of the pollen they’ve collected off their legs in the process. The beekeepers then collect the pollen and get rid of most of the “debris” (aka. bee body parts).” In addition to this, bee pollen is like bee bread: the bees need it to survive, especially in climates where temperatures drop. The ‘bread’ becomes the bees’ provisions for the winter, so if it is harvested, bees are forced to go out to forage more often. If this sounds like a horrible thing to you and you still want to get the benefits of bee pollen, some sources recommend, as an alternative, to buy organic raw unfiltered honey, which also has pollen in it, as well as propolis (natural anti-biotic). Back home my parents have a few beehives where, around twice a year, a professional bee harvester comes and collects honey. We then keep it in glass jars and enjoy it throughout the year or give it to friends & family. This is one of the nicest and most beautiful things we do at home. All of the above explanations might sound like going too far, but more and more, I can’t help thinking about how the food gets to our plate and what we support by consuming x or y. Food for thought.
In conclusion, after reading quite a bit about how food is produced (in general), I’ve found that we live in a world where it can be hard to always consume ethically: food, clothes, travel… We all participate in some way or another, by consuming, in unethical practices that most of the times we are unaware of. Consumption is a choice and a way of supporting a business, an industry, a pattern. And it sucks. It seems to me that the only way we could ensure that what we eat has been produced and harvested in a positive manner for the planet would be if we grew our food in our backyard (and if we had one). I guess, from all this mess, what I personally get from is a greater awareness. This awareness then gradually shapes what I eat, buy and consume. It is not a sudden change or shift, it’s progressive and sometimes not even conscious.
Below is the recipe I typically “follow”, although I never really measure the ingredients I sometimes use more of X or remove Y from the mix, depending on how much energy I’m going to need through out the morning. In any case, it is a healthy and super simple breakfast that I enjoy, because of the flavour and the number of good things I’m feeding my body when I drink it.
I hope you enjoy!
Total time: 5 mins
Notes: the quantities used are rough and typically for an individual smoothie, open to be modified depending on your preferences.
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsps oats
- 1 tsp chlorella
- 1 tsp wheatgrass
- 1/2 tsp bee pollen
- 1/2 tsp agave syrup or honey – to balance out the bitterness of chlorella. If banana is very ripe, no need to sweeten it up.
- 1/2 glass plant-based milk, I use unsweetened almond or soya; hazelnut rice milk is good too!
- Add all ingredients to a food blender or smoothie maker. Blend
Below are the nutritonal values for one serving (one glass of smoothie):
Below are the nutritional labels of the main superfoods used: