“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”–Jim Rohn
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”–Ann Wigmore
With the warm, humid weather of summer making its way into the Tri-State area, I find myself craving smoothies again. Since quarantine, I have once more fallen into the habit of not eating anything until lunchtime. Sure, my stomach complains at times, but not enough to motivate me to pause for breakfast. As I have shared previously, I hop on and off the breakfast train–going for weeks at a time eating breakfast regularly, and then falling off that habit for weeks again. Craving smoothies is a sure sign that it is time to hop back on that proverbial train.
However, I tend to have a sensitive stomach that has only become more sensitive with age. I learned that I have to, unfortunately, limit my coffee intake in the early morning hours. In fact, I typically down 16 or so ounces of water first thing in the morning before touching a coffee cup. Additionally, I am sometimes downright nauseated in the morning, and the thought of food, even my favorite oatmeal, doesn’t even sound appealing. (Yes, I am one of those people who loves oatmeal.) Thus, I have learned that if I wait until lunch time, my queeziness will subside, and I am usually ready to eat.
I know some research states that one should “eat like a king” at breakfast and ensure the consumption of 30 grams of protein first thing in the morning, but those researchers don’t have my stomach and are often hocking their own protein product. Still, I do recognize, especially as I age, the benefits of consuming quality, nutritious food at each meal–whether it’s two, or three, meals per day–for longterm preventative health care. Additionally, there is some scientific data suggesting that making healthful choices in the morning typically leads to more positive choices as the day progresses. Therefore, if my stomach can handle it, why not have a nutritious breakfast smoothie later in the morning, especially if exercising outdoors in hot, humid weather?
I know, I know, many diet experts warn about the dangers of drinking your calories, rather than chewing them. Furthermore, other diet experts caution against all of the calorie laden ingredients that can be easily added to a smoothie. However, I would argue that a properly prepared smoothie–one chock full of whole food ingredients based upon your unique dietary and caloric needs–can be a nutritious, healthy choice, especially if you have a sensitive stomach like mine. One of those whole food ingredients is acai.
In fact, it’s impossible not to notice the proliferation of acai products, pronounced, ah-sigh-ee, in restaurants, grocery stories, and health food markets. From smoothies to smoothie bowls, from flavored yogurt to juice refreshers (think Starbucks), from flavored protein bars to pill/supplements, and from dark chocolate bars to infused margaritas, acai seems to currently have sweetheart status in the health community. Although acai is generally referred to as a berry, it is technically a drupe, also known as stonefruit, like cherries, plums, olives, and peaches, and it is popularly lauded for its numerous health benefits.
Based upon my reading though, there seems to be a general consensus to group the acai with berries. Furthermore, acai tends to have a short shelf life as it only grows on palm trees in Central and South America; and thus, it is most often available in three forms: frozen fruit puree, freeze dried powder, or pressed juice. As a self-proclaimed foodie, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to give acai a try by purchasing a small bag of the freeze dried powder.
To be clear, I do not believe that acai is the panacea of health that many supplement companies try to convince consumers; however, acai does offer many health benefits similar to most dark fruits and berries. Acai possesses high levels of antioxidants (even higher than blueberries and cranberries), essential fatty acids, fiber, and are nutrient dense. Still, like any one single food, acai is not the magical key to health; however, when consumed as part of a larger diet based on wide array of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables, acai is a wonderful addition.
One word of caution though, many frozen fruit purees, juices, and other acai-flavored products are loaded with added sugar and/or other ingredients a health-conscious consumer may not want. Therefore, if, like me, you want to reap the nutritional benefits without the junk, the freeze dried form of acai seems to have the greatest amount of fiber, essential fats, and health-boosting plant compounds.
Below is the recipe-scaffolding that I created using acai freeze dried powder. Do you have to use acai? NO! Instead, replace the acai with ½ cup of another fruit; or, if you want to stick with the drupe (stonefruit) family, add in cherries, Indian gooseberries, or slices of nectarines, peaches, and/or mangoes. Feel free to play with this recipe. There is never an obligation, in my opinion, to follow recipes exactly as created. Think of this recipe as a springboard of ideas for creating your own variation of this summer-time smoothie. Want to make it a smoothie bowl? Then, fill a bowl with this smoothie and top it off with slices of fruit and the crunchy goodness of nuts, seeds, granola, and/or oats. Summer is the time to have fun in the kitchen; and, yes, it can still be nutritious! After all, one positive choice leads to the next!
From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals or smoothies!
P.S. If you do find another variation that gets your taste buds excited, please share it with me by emailing me or tagging me on Instagram or Facebook! I’d love to see what you create!
Berry Beneficial Acai Smoothie
Makes 1 serving, but can be doubled, tripled as needed.
½ + ½ cup favorite smoothie beverage (water, milk, plant milk, kefir, coconut water)
½ to 1 cup of frozen or fresh berries (Pick your favorite! Frozen fruit leads to a thicker smoothie.)
½ cup frozen, plain–no other added ingredients–riced cauliflower (I know, it sounds weird, but it’s a wonderful thickener, and it’s a great way to sneak veggies into your day without tasting it!)
½ banana, frozen or fresh (Remember, the more frozen ingredients, the thicker the smoothie.)
**If wishing to use protein powder, see note below, and add in here.
1 ½ – 3 tsp acai powder (depending upon the amount you want)
½ tsp vanilla extract
*Dash of sea salt and any other optional add-ins suggested below
**1-2 scoop(s) of favorite protein powder (This is an optional addition. I make this smoothie with and without protein. However, I found that even using a tablespoon of my favorite plant-based protein powder gives the smoothie a more rounded flavor and thickens the smoothie a tad bit more.)
1-2 tablespoons of favorite nuts or seed (Think walnuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and etc.)
1-2 tablespoons of favorite nut butter
¼ to ⅓ cup oats (As a thickening agent, and another boost of nutrition, especially if you need the extra calories.)
In a blender, or blender cup, add ½ cup of your favorite smoothie liquid.
Next, add it fruit(s) and plain riced cauliflower
Add in banana, cut into chunks.
Add in all other ingredients as well as any optional add-ins
Finally, top it all off with another ½ cup of preferred liquid.
Blend until smooth.
Best if served immediately, but can be stored in fridge for later use.
Note: Can add more or less liquid to adjust to desired consistency.