Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie

This smoothie is perfect for Valentine’s Day, or for any time you want a decadent treat that you don’t have to feel guilty about.

Strawberries are delicious, on that I think we can all agree. They are also high in vitamin C, which is extra helpful at this time of the year — when we can all use a mid-winter immunity boost. They also provide your body with needed potassium and manganese, as well as very high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols – that are also a boon to the immune system. Strawberries are also an excellent source of vitamin K, fiber, folic acid, phytonutrients and the flavonoids anthocyanins, quercetin, and kaempferol.

We all know that bananas are loaded with potassium, but did you know they are also high in the minerals copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, and the vitamins folate, niacin and B6 (providing 33% of the recommended daily allowance of this one)? Bananas are also good for your intestinal tract due to the high pectin content. Because pectin is a soluble fiber it can help to normalizes bowl function, and lower cholesterol. Bananas also have a prebiotic effect that helps to keep your gut bacteria healthy and happy.

As impressive as the nutritional value of both of these fruits are, the real standouts of this smoothie are the cocoa and the flaxseeds. Cocoa is made from the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, whose Latin name means “Food of the Gods.” This isn’t a farfetched moniker when you realize that in addition to the amazingly rich and sweet flavor the finely ground cacao ‘beans’ are high in minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, selenium and zinc, as well the two plant-based flavonoids, epicatechin and catechin. Both of these flavonoids prevent inflammation, and epicatechin can also help to lower blood pressure by relaxing muscles in the blood vessels. Add to this the fact that cacao is super high in fiber and very low calories, well? Why do we ever feel guilty about ingesting this?

Flax has a long history, with its human cultivation going back to ancient Egypt and China. It has also been used in Ayruvedic medicine for millennium. Flaxseeds are perhaps best known for their high omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and lignan content. In fact, flaxseeds are the number one source of lignans in the human diet. Lignans contain phytoestrogens that help balance hormones and regulate estrogen production, which can be protective for breast cancers. Additionally, lignans help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. But that’s not all, flaxseeds are also high in fiber, with 2 tablespoons providing approximately 6 grams, which is 15-25% of the daily recommended intake. Meaning, this recipe provides half of that!

Are you seeing a pattern here? High fiber, high mineral and vitamin content, as well as plenty of flavonoids and phytonutrients in this smoothie’s ingredients? Do yourself a favor and get your blender out.

INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ c frozen strawberries (fresh is okay too, but you’ll want to add 1 c ice cubes if using fresh)
1 large, or 2 small bananas (frozen or room temperature)
1 c almond milk (or coconut milk, or low-fat/skim cow’s milk)
4 tsp cocoa powder (more if you want a stronger cocoa flavor.)
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey (optional)
Grated chocolate for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Add all ingredients except grated chocolate to your blender and  blend until creamy and smooth. Add more almond milk if consistency is too thick. Pour into glasses. Garnish with grated chocolate Serve!

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