Easy, Tasty Protein: Cocoa Berry Sunflower Smoothie

When I sat down to write this brief post, I was thinking about how practical an idea the smoothie is and I suddenly wondered who sunflower seed smoothiefirst developed the idea of the smoothie. I read before that some ancient cultures had their own form of smoothies (blended fruits or their form of yogurt, etc) but the word smoothie doesn’t seem to have originated with those ancient drinks. In my quest for truth and accuracy, I decided to perform some in-depth research to find out just who invented such a common sense way of blending nutritious ingredients into a healthy drink that tastes delicious and travels easily for people who often have to catch their meals on the go. Yes, I actually took the time to Google Wikipedia, the go-to source for information many researchers (and freshmen composition students) turn to in the 21st century, to find the answer to my question!

In my research, I found – to my surprise –  that an actual Juice and Smoothie Association (JAMA) exists to promote juice and smoothie busin esses the world over. Considering that the juice / smoothie industry earns about 3.5 billion dollars annually, organizing an association to promote the industry is a good idea. Having found this source (for which I must credit Wikipedia), and having decided that an industry devoted to marketing smoothies is likely a pretty credible source of information about the product it promotes, I relied on information from the JAMA website to pass on to you, my readers. The word “smoothie” has an etymology that dates to the early 1900s but it wasn’t used in relation to the convenient, healthy, protein and nutrient laden drink with which its associated until the 1970s when people grew more health conscious. The smoothie as a drink has evolved as its name has evolved, so that what was once a fruit and fruit juice type shake is now usually a milk / milk substitute / yogurt based shake with other nutritious ingredients added to it – which brings me back to the point of my post!

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Smoothies are an excellent and convenient way to pack as many helpful and healthy ingredients as possible into a pre-workout energizer or post-work out recovery drink. One of my current favorite ingredients to add to a smoothy is sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are incredibly healthy. An amount of sunflower kernels as small as one-fourth of a cup contains respectable amounts of protein, healthy fat, vitamin E, vitamin B1, copper, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, folate, and niacin. Additionally, the seeds have a low glycemic index. Most of the time I use raw sprouted sunflower seeds; sprouted seeds are more easily digested and their nutrients better absorbed by the body.

I use organic chocolate milk as a base for most smoothies. Kirkland brand organic chocolate milk has ingredients and nutritional value identical to that of Horizon organic milk, but it’s less expensive so I generally use Kirkland brand. Chocolate milk contains high quality proteins. Casein and whey, two proteins in milk, help to build muscles. Although some people may worry about the sugar content of chocolate milk, most of the sugar in chocolate milk is naturally present, and it provides the body with quick burning carbohydrates: fuel for an intense workout (for these reasons chocolate milk is also an excellent post-workout recovery drink).

I like to use frozen strawberries in most of my smoothies. The fruit is high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Strawberries are also a good source of manganese, fiber, iodine, folate, and potassium. I use frozen strawberries for two reasons: frozen fruits have a longer shelf-life than fresh fruit (I don’t have to rush to use it before it goes bad), and the frozen fruit blended into the milk gives the smoothie a milkshake-type consistency.

Coconut oil is formed mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). which go directly to the liver and are stored there as energy. but without causing a insulin-spike. It’s easily digested and absorbed by the body. Research indicates that coconut oil taken before a workout works with carbohydrates to enhance performance. I add coconut oil also because it staves off that feeling of depletion that sometimes occurs before the end of a workout.

This recipe makes a smoothie that is filling without making one over-full; it’s sweet without being over-ly sweet;, and it has a pleasant, subtle nutty flavor.

Cocoa Berry Sunflower Smoothie

1/3 cup sprouted sunflower seeds
8 oz organic chocolate milk
1 tbls organic virgin coconut oil
6 – 7 large frozen strawberries

-In a blender, grind the sunflower seeds to a fine powder.
-Add the milk, coconut oil, and frozen strawberries.
-Blend ingredients until smooth.

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