I used to have a huge sweet tooth. Sometimes I now catch myself by surprise when I find the majority of desserts too sweet. I still identify as a sugar addict but my taste buds have moved on. That is just one benefit of transitioning to a whole foods diet. Eventually, your palate does change and you find yourself craving foods beyond your wildest imagination. Anyone craving collard greens yet? I do.
My sweet tooth has transformed into a wicked dark chocolate tooth. This has led to the creation of quite a few no-added-sugar chocolatey treats. It's hard to pick a favorite, but this Chocolate Cherry Smoothie tops the list. It's packed full of nutrient-dense ingredients that make it extra satisfying:
Cherries are rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that also provides their deep color. Anthocyanins from sweet cherries have been demonstrated to inhibit cyclooxygenase I and II, the same mechanism by which ibuprofen reduces pain and inflammation. In addition to being delicious, cherries also boast anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Cherries are on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list, so try to buy these organic if you can.
Blueberries are also rich in anthocyanins and have a long list of benefits similar to cherries including protection from oxidative stress, reduction of inflammation, lowering of blood pressure, increase of natural killer cells (immune cells that help fight foreign invaders and tumors), improvement in brain function, and more. Wild blueberries are the most nutrient dense and they are often pesticide-free.
Banana makes the smoothie extra creamy and also provides additional natural sweetness if that's something you desire. Bananas are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Depending on how dark you like your chocolate, this smoothie can be enjoyed with or without banana.
Chia seeds provide fiber to promote fullness and regularity. They are also a good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is the precursor to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Some people are better at converting ALA to the biologically available forms of omega-3, EPA and DHA, than others. In this recipe, they also act as a thickener due to their ability to absorb liquid.
Walnuts also contain ALA, which, when converted to EPA and DHA, has anti-inflammatory effects. Considering their appearance, it's not surprising that walnuts also support healthy brain function!
Cocoa has beneficial flavanols and antioxidants. Roughly one tablespoon of cocoa powder per day for four weeks was shown to increase growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, which are desirable probiotic gut bacteria. Participants of the same study also saw reductions in triglycerides and C-reactive protein, two markers that indicate inflammation.
Ghee from grass-fed cows is a good source of vitamins A and K2, two important fat soluble vitamins for immunity, bone health, and more. Ghee also adds to the chocolate milkshake flavor of this smoothie. Ghee is derived from the fat portion of milk and has had the protein separated out. Since dairy proteins are the culprit behind dairy sensitivity, those who are sensitive to dairy can sometimes do fine with ghee.
Collagen peptides from grass-fed cattle offer a good source of bio-available protein. I'll use two scoops if I'm having the smoothie for breakfast, 1 scoop if it's a snack on its own, or none if it's dessert after a meal that contained enough protein.
Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
1/2 - 1 cup almond milk, or preferred milk
1/2 cup frozen organic cherries
1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/4 - 1/2 small frozen banana (optional)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 - 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 - 2 scoops grass-fed collagen peptides, or preferred protein source
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the liquid according to how thick you like your smoothies and what your blender can handle. If you omit the banana, you may want to first try the lesser amount of cocoa powder and adjust to taste. Enjoy!
Extra Note: Chew your smoothies! Chewing is an important part of digestion. This is where the enzymatic break down of food first starts taking place. I like to make thicker smoothies so chewing feels more intuitive, but you can still swish a thinner smoothie around in your mouth a bit before swallowing.