Blueberry Basil Smoothie + Soy-free Protein Smoothie Boosts

bsmoothie
It’s never officially summer until I arrive in Canada. Before the first embrace at the airport from my parents, before long nights in front of a bonfire, before the St. Lawrence River swallows me whole, I cannot truly feel like it’s time to slow down and embrace the season.

And so I am here. Even in between all the work I have to do, I am finding hours to just be. As I write this, I am looking out on the seaway, easing its way east towards the ocean past all the tiny islands that shelter my earliest childhood memories. Being at the cottage grounds me in ways I can never fully understand or articulate, but it does my body and soul good to be here.

I actually wasn’t really sure what to write about this week, but seeing as I’ve been overdosing on smoothies lately, it seemed only appropriate to post one of my latest blended creations. Plus my belly is steadily swelling I am more occupied than ever with getting enough protein in my diet to fuel this little baby’s growth and development. I’ve come up with a great guide of vegetarian protein boosters for smoothies that don’t include soy. Hooray! Fascinating stuff, I tell ya.

I was busy working on some new recipes with my mother-turned-sous-chef the other day and we so happily stumbled into a galaxy of blueberries just outside the cottage kitchen door. Along with the basil snipped freshly from our own backyard, this amazing smoothie was born. I had never really thought about combining these two flavours before but it is really delicious! Super refreshing and bright.

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Soy-free Protein Boosters for Smoothies

Sprouted Nuts
Soaking or “sprouting” nuts before you eat them not only makes them a lot easier to blend up in a smoothie, but massively increases their digestive qualities and nutrient content. Simply by placing a handful of nuts in water overnight, their complex protein chains are broken down into separate amino acids, making their protein easier to digest and assimilate.

Some of my favorite nuts to add to smoothies are almonds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and cashews. Make sure you purchase the nuts raw. Discard the soaking water and rinse them very well before consuming.

To learn more about the process and importance of soaking nuts, see my article here.

Dark Leafy Greens
Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. And if you’re skeptical about their protein content, consider the fact that some of the largest and strongest mammals on earth are vegetarian.

I like to blend kale and spinach into my smoothies when I need a boost of protein, and also vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. I find that these two greens taste the best and break down fairly easily, avoiding any grittiness.

Protein Powder
I don’t always put protein powder in my smoothies, but I like it on occasion if I need a real boost and if my diet has been lacking in protein that particular day. I can often “hide” nearly one third of my daily intake in just one drink, which is convenient and tasty.

There is so much to discuss when it comes to protein powder, since there are some really great choices out there and some serious gobbledygook.

But, how does one pick a high-quality product without a lot of additives, and which source of protein is best? I stick to plant-based protein sources that don’t include any soy, such as hemp seed, pumpkin seed, sprouted gluten-free grain, and pea. These foods are dehydrated and pulverized, and often combined with stevia for sweetness or with a bonus of superfoods, such as spirulina or chlorella. The basic rule is one that applies to anything that comes in package: if you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label, don’t buy it – good quality protein powders will have only whole food ingredients! I also make sure that the ingredients are organic and non-GMO.

Here is an extensive and well-researched article on various brands of soy-free vegan protein powders. This girl certainly did her taste-testing…thanks Kathy!

Hemp Hearts
Hemp protein is totally remarkable, as it is complete (meaning it contains all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential ones), something not so easy to find in plant-based protein, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans. The protein in hemp is also highly digestible and easily absorbed by the body. Especially perfect for post-workout recovery, hemp is a good source of branch-chained amino acids, needed for repair and growth of lean body tissue. Two tablespoons of hemp hearts contain approximately seven grams of protein.

Hemp hearts add a creaminess to smoothies, which I love. Make sure to buy the hulled hemp hearts, and not the ones in the shell (see pictured).

Bee Pollen
Most people aren’t aware of just how much protein is in bee pollen, but it is in fact the richest animal source of protein trumping beef, eggs and dairy of equal weight. Bee pollen is 40% protein and contains free amino acids that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. In addition, bee pollen contains enzymes to aid digestion, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrtients.

Bee pollen has a floral flavour and is really delicious in fruit-based smoothies. If you are new to using bee pollen, start off with just a little bit and work your way up over the course of a few weeks. It is a very powerful food that your body need time to adjust to.

To learn more about bee pollen, see my article here.

Spirulina and Chlorella
Spirulina and chlorella are both algae, and their protein content cannot be beat! Spirulina contains roughly 60-70% protein by weight, and chlorella hovers around 60%. Although they are not the tastiest of foods, a little goes a long way and they blend beautifully into smoothies. Start small, with half a teaspoon and work your way up to one or two teaspoons (if you can stand the taste).

To learn more about the benefits of chlorella, see my article here.

Nut or Seed Butter
A convenient and delicious way to boost the protein in your smoothies is to add nut and seed butters. Two tablespoons of almond butter contain about 6 grams of protein and tahini is around 5 grams.

I often blend nut or seed butter with water to start off my smoothie, which makes a “cheater’s nut milk”, then add the other ingredients.

Rolled Oats
Oats are a surprising source of protein – a half a cup containing around six grams. If you are using rolled oats in a smoothie, make sure to soak them first to increase their digestibility. Soaking also helps the oats blend up into a creamy textured delight. I love the thickness that comes from adding soaked oats to a smoothie – it’s a real meal in a glass!

For best results, use whole grain rolled oats instead of instant.

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I am very excited to announce that, after much inquiry, I am holding the second annual My New Roots Potluck Picnic in the Park! After such a successful event last summer and meeting SO many amazing people (not to mention the incredible food!) I just had to throw another one.

Come join us in Toronto at Trinity Bellwoods Park – we’ll be located at the north-west corner of the park at Dundas and Shaw corner. Come for 6:00pm and bring your yummiest vegan dish to impress – bonus for gluten-free recipes too! No, you certainly do not have to make a recipe from My New Roots, as we all want to taste something new and exciting (but if you have an absolute favourite, I won’t complain either). Please feel free to bring friends as well, or show up solo and make some new ones in three or four minutes. We’re all coming out for healthy, tasty food so you’ll be in good company!

I hope that you’re as excited as I am! Looking forward to seeing you all there.

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100 comments

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  5. Louise L. d'Ambrosi

    Have just luckily discovered you and your blog! What a great way to start my day. Have been taking cinnamon and honey twice a day to cure arthritis and learned just cinnamon is also a diuretic. Since I’m on a prescribed diuretic I wonder if the combination might affect my kidneys in the wrong way. At any rate, I would love your opinion on the cinnamon/honey combination for arthritis. Thank you for your time. I’ll be tuning in to your daily now! Blessings. Louise

  6. Katie G

    Yum!

    Sarah, I have only recently discovered your website while on family holiday, and have been obsessing over all the recipes I have wanted to try when I got back! Well I have now made this smoothie and the best lentil salad and I can attest to the awesomeness of both! You have found yourself a new lurker :)

  7. Rita Brooks

    This smoothie looks fantastic (I’m sure that brilliant photo is one of the major selling points). I’m looking forward to trying this soon – I’m thinking it’ll be as delicious as it looks. Thanks for posting this.

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    Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
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  10. Rachelle

    I am totally addicted to this smoothie! I add some home made organic yoghurt for even creamier yumminess – thanks again Sarah xo

  11. Maria

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for this post and all the great tips!

    I was wondering if spirulina and chlorella are safe to take during pregnancy? I have read so much conflicting information about it so I’m not quite sure where to stand. However, I would love to continue including them in my green juices and smoothies during my pregnancy.

    Thank you in advance!

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  13. Anabelle Harari

    Hi Sarah-

    This was such a great post, very informative! I love making smoothies, but the protein breakdowns were great, definitely going to incorporate them!

    Thanks!
    Anabelle from the Local Belle

  14. Pingback: Blueberry Basil Smoothie + Soy-free Protein Smoothie Boosts | My New Roots | Fruitful Labor
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  17. Adelya

    I had it for lunch today and it was amazing!
    At the farmer’s market i came across a woman who was selling 7 different kinds of basil!
    I checked your other recipes with basil and right now im making sun- dried tomato spread!
    I discover your blog every day with amazing recipes! Thank you

  18. Sara

    Yummy! Great recipe.
    I will give you a site in USA where I got real fruit on powder form, I mix it with milk and ice cream to go healthy. they have berries, mango, soursop, apple, pineapple, etc. A lot of fruits & veggies. Enjoy guys! http://www.freshlydried.com

  19. Kamille Løje

    Nam nam nam…. this smoothie in my cup right now – I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE it! So creamy and nice taste! Thank you Sarah

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  21. Emma

    I had trouble knowing what to eat and what not to eat when I was pregnant as I don’t eat typically ‘normal’ food all the time. I stopped eating bee pollen and tahini as I wasn’t sure if I could. Do you still eat these foods being pregnant?? I’m now breast feeding and would like to add bee pollen back into my diet but can’t find anyone to tell me if its okay.

  22. Pingback: Blueberries: reverse the damage from radiation? | Mum's Not Having Chemo
  23. Laura D

    I just want to tell you how really crazy it is how often I think of something and then find it on your blog. I was JUST debating buying protein powder the other day and was upset that someone I trust (like you!!) hadn’t opined on it yet. I followed my gut, and my taste buds, and chose Vega One. I’m so glad to see it’s No. 2 on that list you linked to! Your blog is my favorite, most trusted resource. Thank you, Sarah B!

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  25. Sanjukta

    Oh my god, I just made the smoothie (with a few changes cos I don’t have bee pollen or protein powder), added maca and rolled oats… but oh my! The flavours of basil and blueberry together, with the added creamy texture from the hemp hearts and rolled oats…was to die for. Thank you for such an awesome recipe (along with all the others) :)

  26. victoria

    Delicious, it was! But howcome yours is so lilac-looking? Mine went dark reddish – maybe the cavalo nero?

  27. Anna

    I am really curious about bee pollen. I have never ever tried or seen it in a recipe before and a smoothie must surely be the best way to test it out!

  28. Jacqueline

    If I lived remotely close to Toronto, I would be there in a heartbeat! This smoothie looks absolutely delicious!! Thanks for all you do!

  29. katy

    you talk about rinsing and discarding soak water when using soaked nuts, but I assume that when you soak oats you don’t need to drain or rinse. is that correct?

  30. Steff

    Ummm this is delicious!! I know basil and strawberries are a great combo but wasn’t sure about the blueberries since I’m not a massive fan of them. But I don’t know why I questioned you because your stuff is always amazing! Sipping this as I speak, cheers to being back in Canada! I just got back after being in the UK for the past couple of years. Hopefully I can make it out to your potluck as I wasn’t here last year! :)

  31. Judy Myer

    Blueberry smoothie? Wow, is this a bittersweet smoothie? I haven’t tried blueberry in a drink before, but that’s my favorite dessert. I wonder how it would taste like, but it looks delicious, though.

  32. Inês F.

    I’m drinking this right now for breakfast and its amazing ( i used spinach and almond butter and looooots of bee polen because i’m addicted to it and because its keeps my allergies away) nice combination with the basil!! Yumm
    Much love for you and mini root

  33. Anna

    Hi Sarah! So happy to hear the baby news! I was thrilled for you when I heard! I had a question about raw greens. I adhere to the weston price way of looking at nutrition, and I often hear that eating too many raw greens can be goitrogenic. Meaning thyroid suppressing. Because of this, I often avoid eating too many raw greens like kale and spinach. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/how-green-smoothies-can-devastate-your-health/
    The above article is a good one. I was just curious what your thoughts are about this??
    Thank you. Blessings to you.

  34. Eve-Line

    Loved your article and your recipe! I know the St-Laurent river you are talking about and nothing beats it in the summer! Where are you from exactly? I also spent my summer near it on my uncle’s farm and its my best childhood memories: the river, working in the garden, picking wild strawberries and enjoying the warm weather. :)

  35. Pat

    Made this smoothie this morning. So delicious. Amazing what a little basil will do for the flavor of blueberries. It makes them taste even better.
    Passing this recipe along to my daughter. She will love it!
    Also made homemade almond milk to go with it. Oh YUM!

  36. Patricia Lord

    I’m really enjoying your photos, the fountain of knowledge about foods and your creative recipes that you share with so many, thank you
    Patricia

  37. Rosanna

    I couldn’t wait to make it and decided to skip down to the recipe and get my hands on it right away!.. Now I’m finally reading the rest of your wonderful-full-packed of information post while sipping my blueberry-basil smoothie!!! So good!!.. Thanks Sarah again for this great recipe!

  38. Lena

    Hey Sarah,

    I bought hemp seeds with a shell and now I am wondering what’s wrong about eating them? How can I make them “eatable” or what can I do with them? Thank you so much for your answer.

    Lena

  39. Valeria

    I have been consuming more smoothies in the past few months than in a lifetime. London has been particularly warm this year (not complaining!) and I felt the need for refreshing drinks which are also nutritious, as my hunger decreases a good deal with higher temperatures. I have been making a green smoothie (http://www.mylifelovefood.com/2013/07/green-banana-avocado-smoothie.html) also before leaving for my annual holiday leave back to Italy (hurray!) using avocado as a fatty base in place of nut butter, and with some chlorella as a cleaner from pollutants/source of energy – I have been feeling great! Now, it is almost berry foraging season here and I am looking fwd to make this one (I love bee pollen!) with the foraged blackberries. Thanks for sharing!

  40. Ivette

    Hi Sarah,
    Congratulactions for being on the Oprah Magazine Wow list! I am a big f of your blog. See you soon in Toronto.
    Ivette

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  42. Eve

    I’m a shy commenter but I just had to post a big giant thank you. This post is incredibly informative and exciting. I so appreciate the research you include with your reccomendations. Thank you!

  43. Ally

    This just screams summer. Blackberries + basil are my favorite summer combination in the form of crumbles/crisps, beverages, and piles high over (kefir-based) frozen yogurt or other frozen treat! Your smoothie ideas are getting my creative juices flowing…

  44. Molly

    Oh, and I’m not looking for recipes only for my son. I’ve been moving the whole family away from meat and I am excited about adding more plant-based foods to our diet.

  45. Molly

    I’m new to your blog, Sarah, and I love it! My 14-yo son has been a pescatarian for several years, and I am constantly in search of ideas for meatless meals. I’ve learned to cook chana dal, other beans, lentils, etc., and the ideas here are the next step for me. Thank you for the information on avoiding soy, as I believe it’s a bad idea to feed it to a teenage boy. This eliminates most of the meat-mimicking vegetarian options.

    My best congratulations on your pregnancy! And congratulations to the father-to-be and the grandmother-to-be, as well!

    I can’t wait for your book – I need it yesterday! I have never heard of many of your ingredients, and don’t know where to buy them or how to store them.

    Carol, I am also an oldie, and I did the same thing – looked at the photo to see if there were any women in my age group. And there weren’t!

  46. Amy

    This looks amazing! Unfortunately someone else got to all the fresh blueberries in the house this morning, so I made my smoothie with peaches and added a medjool date, and it came out absolutely delicious!

  47. Bianca

    This is so beautiful, I can’t wait to try the combination of Blueberries & Basil. Sarah thank you for your dedication towards educating others on how to make healthier choices – your blog has transformed my diet and relationship with food for the better. You’re a role model and inspiration to me, much appreciation x

  48. nina

    hello! thank you so much for all the information you give to us! any advice about books to read about sources of vegetarian protein? have a wonderfull time in canada and a nice picnic!

  49. Jolanta Kliks

    I will try your smoothie after my Saturday Farmers Market. Why don’t you come and visit Portland in Oregon? I would love to have potluck with you here!!!

  50. Ksenija @ Health Ninja

    Smoothies are such a great summer food. We do have an incredibly hot summer over here in Germany this year. And I am more than happy to own a blender these days and fill it with a lot of fresh and frozen produce. Actually most things of your list do go into my smoothies on a regular base. I do love to use vegan protein powders (rice and hemp are the ones I choose) and spirulina powder and dark green leaves and soaked nuts. Never had bee pollen or hemp seeds, so that is something I’d like to try next.

    Hope you have a beautiful and relaxing summer time in Canada!

  51. Ketmala Phoumalavong

    I LOVE smoothies and usually start my day with a green/fruit smoothie everyday after my daily lemon water cup. Never thought of combining basil with blueberry before, so I’ll have to try it tomorrow morning with our blueberries picked at the local farm nearby. Thank you Sarah and enjoy the visit with your family. Wish I was living nearby, so I could attend your pot luck picnic in the park – sounds fun and yum too!

  52. Sasha

    Oh, Canadian wild blueberries are just king. It took me a while to understand why the ones in Europe just pale in comparison, until I finally looked it up and learned that they are an entirely different species (hence them not being sweet). I look forward to trying them, nonetheless, with basil until I’m lucky enough to be back in Canada for summer too! I’m sure this combination would be also pretty wonderful in a salad.

    I’m sad I’ll miss the Potluck Picnic this summer! Last summer’s was a total highlight. Have fun and eat well!

  53. harriet

    I’ve been thinking about finding more places for protein lately, so this post is perfect! I’ve always been a bit cautious about protein powders, but I think I’m going to try and find one that I like – I love smoothies and the idea of them packing an extra protein kick sounds awesome. I am also SO intrigued by the blueberry and basil combo – it sounds like summer in a cup!

  54. Carol

    YAY~I live in Toronto. But the people in your picture all look so young, I’ll have to bring my daughters. I’m an oldie (but hopefully goodie). What a timely post too as I just bought a Vitamix blender for smoothies. All three of us are trying to do more of them. Thank you!

  55. DessertForTwo

    Thanks for all the information about smoothie components! I’ve been curious about hemp hearts, and now I’m positive I’ve got to buy them.

    I hope your picnic is a blast! :)

  56. Corrina

    This sounds delicious. I’m just wondering your opinion on adding raw green to smoothies and the nitrates being toxic? I hear so many things that green smoothies are great but can also be quite dangerous or would this only be I you are consuming everyday?

  57. Daria

    oh man… we just left Toronto less than a week ago( I’d choose different days to go if I knew about the potluck((
    Have a great time!! hope I’ll make it to the next one and my 2 years old will meet your little fellow;)

  58. Blaine Arin

    This was a goldmine of info, Sarah!

    A protein powder that’s been sashaying into my smoothies lately is Sprouted Brown Rice by Sun Warrior. It’s not gritty and I admit to liking the distinctive rice-y flavor.

    The potluck sounds like loads of fun, I would be there in a heartbeat if I was closer!

  59. McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN | Nutrition Stripped

    I love making smoothies all day every day, they’re such a fantastic way to get in nutrition in a small volume! I’m always recommending green smoothies to my clients and everyone else, I also have a similar blueberry smoothie but I love your addition of nut butter in this to thicken it up for a “meal”. Thanks for sharing Sarah!

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