Recipe and article by Lila Volkas.
Lila Volkas is a food illustrator and writer for KQED, health educator and holistic nutrition student at Bauman College in Berkeley. Food has played a major role in her own healing journey and allows her to connect with others and help them deepen their relationship with what they put in their body. Follow her on IG: @lilaceline or visit her at lilavolkas.com to find out more about her work or to attend her next monthly kombucha brewing workshop in in the Bay Area!
Smoothie Bowls: Dancing With Digestion
As a yogi and dancer, I move to fill up my physical vessel with life. As a Holistic Nutrition student and health educator, I bring my awareness and care to the dances within our body that usually undulate unnoticed. The autonomic nervous system steers our digestion, elimination, heart rate and many more automatic functions of our body. Making food and lifestyle choices that allow these pathways to function at their peak is what makes me feel the most embodied.
In collaboration with IMBŌDHI, I have created some unique smoothie bowl recipes to bring nutritional embodiment to pre- and post-movement breakfasts. These smoothie bowls can support the dance of your digestive system.
Eat your smoothie with intention.
It is common practice to slurp up your smoothie with a straw on the go, but that might not be the best way to get the most out of your breakfast. Our bodies prefer the nourishment to come in slowly and well mixed with our saliva. This is why I eat my smoothies in a bowl with a spoon and with intentionality.
The importance of the first two stages of digestion are often overlooked. Did you know that digestion starts in the brain? When we see or even think about food, our body starts our salivary response, secretes acids and enzymes and releases gastrointestinal hormones. We also want to slow down and breathe, bringing gratitude to our food and ditching screen distractions to make sure that we are in our parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode.
The second stage of digestion happens in the mouth when we chew our food. Even though smoothies are already liquefied, that doesn't mean we don't need to chew them! When we chew, we mix food with our saliva’s digestive enzymes. Ptyalin starts to digest carbohydrates in our mouth and lingual lipase begins fat digestion. We need the action of these enzymes to completely digest our food, so skip the straw and grab a spoon.
When I eat my smoothie out of a bowl with a spoon it helps me to remember to chew and mix it with those golden salivary enzymes. Toppings of nuts, coconut, cocoa nibs, whole fruit are also helpful in giving my body something to munch along with the liquid.
Embrace the vegetables!
Vegetables are nature’s multivitamin with magical nutrient synergies and bioavailable vitamins and mineral better than any supplement. The more I learn about nutrition, the more I am reminded how incredibly valuable vegetables are.
It’s so easy to sneak a variety of veggies into your smoothie bowls. One unique aspect of my recipes is that I cook almost all vegetables that go in my smoothies. Why? Cooked vegetables are easier to digest compared to raw ones (especially in the morning). It is true that you get different nutrients when you consume raw vegetables vs. cooked ones, so feel free to include both in your smoothies. I believe, however, that you that you are what you digest, not what you eat. For me, cooking my vegetables in my smoothie bowls makes a huge difference in how I feel after I eat them.
Smoothies don’t have to be cold.
It takes more energy for our bodies to digest food that is cold versus room temperature or hot. Most smoothies often include ice and/ or mostly frozen ingredients, so I trade the “cool factor” for a more digestible meal. Our digestive strength rises and sets with the sun. So in the morning, our whole body is still waking up and our digestive juices may not be at their strongest capability. I enjoy my smoothies room temp or only slightly cold with one frozen ingredient. For some people with a more compromised digestive system, smoothie bowls may be best enjoyed as a snack when digestion is stronger later in the day and not for breakfast.
Don’t forget the fat!
There are two groups of vitamins, water soluble (B group and C) and fat-soluble (A,D,E, and K). To get the most out of a smoothie with an abundance of vegetables and fruits it is important to include some healthy fats. In my recipes, you’ll find nuts, seeds, avocado or coconut milk. These ingredients also give a decadent creamy texture to your smoothie bowl.
Now, here is a delicious recipe for the smoothie bowl that I designed to match IMBŌDHI's Red Reversible Bodysuit.
The Heart Beet Smoothie Bowl
Beets contain the phytonutrient, betalain, which gives them their delicious red color and antioxidant qualities. Flax seeds have omega-3 essential fatty acids that humans can only get from food (our bodies can't make it). These healthful fats can support mood, skin and manage inflammation.
Serving Size: 1-2
2/3 cup chopped beets (previously steamed)
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup strawberries
1 cup packed spinach
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3/4 cup almond milk
(optional: 2 scoops of your choice of protein powder)
garnish: cacao nibs and sliced almonds