If you follow me on instagram, you know I love a good smoothie time. Even in the colder months, I find it the ideal way to integrate immune boosting, antioxidant-rich fruits, greens, and superfoods seamlessly into my day. I haven't had too many cravings with my pregnancy, but recently a strawberry milkshake was all I could think about! I created one that was satisfying and nutritious, super simple to make and, of course, loaded with nutrient-rich goodies.
This smoothie is the ideal balance of plant-based protein, fiber, omega-3s, iron, and magnesium. It is immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant rich! Plant-based protein is found in the almond butter, almond milk, and flax and chia seeds. Strawberries provide fiber and immune boosting antioxidant-rich vitamin C. Spinach is loaded with non-heme iron as well as vitamin K, which is an important vitamin needed for blood clotting and bone health. Flax and chia provide additional fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. And in case the smoothie wasn't loaded enough, I add in one of my all time favorite superfoods cacao!
Cacao is somewhat of a confusing ingredient. Is it chocolate? Is it good for you? Is it raw? To help clarify things, here is the run down on cacao. It is the purest form of chocolate and is usually found raw. The cacao bean grows in pods on the cacao tree in Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Following harvesting, cacao can be turned into nibs, butter, or powder.
When cacao is heated and processed, it turns into cocoa and is usually infused with other ingredients such as preservatives, sugar, milk, and food coloring. When purchasing cocoa powder or mixes, make sure to read the ingredients to avoid any unwanted ingredients. So what's the difference between cacao and chocolate? Chocolate is the combination of cacao or cocoa with sweeteners, milk, and possibly oil, nuts, dried fruit, and seeds. When purchasing a chocolate bar, opt for brands that use fair trade cacao beans and are at least 70% cacao. This means 70% of the bar is made of raw cacao and 30% is from other ingredients like sugar, milk, and/or nuts.
So why should you be consuming cacao? Cacao has many beneficial ingredients that can assist your body in a multitude of ways. Cacao is a great source of magnesium, which promotes restful sleep and is crucial for more then 300 bodily functions, including those affecting the muscles, nervous system, bones, and heart. Magnesium is an important mineral to keep in mind during pregnancy when restless nights and leg cramps are a common issue.
Cacao is also an antioxidant and reduces inflammation. Finally, cacao contains fiber, which assists with satiety and promotes bowel regularity. In case you were looking for an excuse to nibble on some chocolate, munch on cacao nibs, or make your smoothie a little chocolatey, go for it, just in moderation, of course!
My favorite line of cacao comes from Navitas Organics. The cacao flavor is more complex and not only is it minimally processed, it is also organic, non-gmo, and fair trade - all extremely important qualities to consider when purchasing your superfoods.
Strawberry Cacao "Milk" Shake
Makes 2 smoothies
- 2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup coconut water
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 date, pitted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Blend all the ingredients together in a high speed blender. Distribute between two glasses and enjoy!
I have partnered with Navitas Organics and am serving as their resident Registered Dietitian. Thank you for supporting the brands that support crunchy radish!