Something's different, and I can't quite put a finger on it.
Well, a lot's different actually: I've moved to New York City, my parents got divorced, a good friend passed away, and I'm doing the freelance hustle, getting whatever jobs I can in the event production world. Throw in a new and different social life and the temptation of the underground NYC party scene, and it's a miracle I can still recognize myself in the mirror. The toll these changes have taken on me is significant—the complete lack of stability puts me under a subtle but constant amount of stress as I can never rely on a steady paycheck and I wonder every day about my decision to move into the city (why did I ditch my life of wildlife research and traveling to dodge taxis and be surrounded by concrete?). My meager income has me cutting corners with my diet and exercise routine (a heads up for anyone wanting to try out the NYC yoga scene—be ready to blow your savings), and working late hours in event production means not only am I getting significantly less sleep, but the few zzz’s I do manage to catch aren't up to par, and I rarely wake feeling refreshed.
Normally, even just one of these factors would make me sick as a dog in no time. One late night out, a few missed meals, or a particularly stressful gig and I'm done for. My system is a delicate one; it needs to be held and cuddled, soothed by security, and lots and lots of sleep, good food, and sunshine.
I've got none of these at the moment. But something's working, something is protecting me like a suit of armor, and I think I know what it is. The one thing that's been consistent through all of the inconsistencies of the past year is my morning glass of Goodforyou, a blended bevy of all the most nutritious things I've got lurking in my kitchen.
While nothing can replace the benefits of whole, solid foods, I'm convinced that my daily smoothies are the one thing keeping me moving forward. Or sideways. Or diagonally. Whatever direction my life is going, I'm somehow still trucking along, bright-eyed and without even a hint of a sniffle. Strongly lacking any culinary skills and perpetually running late for things, I thank my tiny blender for enabling me to fill my belly with minimal time and effort.
I start with a nut milk base. Unfortunately, my limited budget means I'm partial to whatever's on sale, but I mostly gravitate toward Zen's plain soy milk for a number of reasons—while I'm aware of the environmental impacts of soybean production, these same arguments apply to many other kinds of mass-produced crops, and this option is certified organic, committed to being non-GMO, grown in the US, and donates 5% of profits to wildlife conservation efforts. And it comes in chocolate and vanilla.
In addition to arguably the most essential ingredient in a smoothie—bananas—the one component my smoothies never lack is bee pollen. This is it, folks. This is the jackpot, the golden ticket, the mother of pearl, the be-all end-all cherry that broke the tip of the camel's back! I swear by bee pollen. Before I razzle and dazzle you with exactly why bee pollen is so amazing, however, a quick disclaimer: if you're allergic to bee stings, stay away from all bee bits. Honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis—all great, but not worth the trip to the hospital. If you're unsure of your tolerance, start slow and test the waters with just a granule of bee pollen on your tongue. See how you do!
Bee pollen is more than just the male seed of a flower blossom. It's pollen that's been collected by honeybees to which special elements have been added. As the bee forages for nectar, she gets covered in a fine dusting of pollen, which she scrapes off her body with stiff hairs on the back of her legs (for those who don't know, aside from a hive's handful of male bees called “drones” who exist only to mate with the queen, all bees are female!). The pollen particles are moistened with nectar and her own digestive enzymes, and then transferred to a small “basket” of hairs on the outside of her hind legs, where a “pollen press” in the mid-joint of the leg packs the pollen in. She'll return to the hive when her basket is full, and transfer the "pellets" into a cell, where it's needed as food for the baby bees.
Ready for some numbers? Check this out: according to research like that of Steve Schechter, N.D., H.H.P., these golden granules are approximately 25% complete protein; contain at least 18 amino acids; provide more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes or co-enzymes, 14 beneficial fatty acids, and 11 carbohydrates; are rich in minerals and vitamins; and they're low-cal! To take things up yet another notch, “bee pollen provides antioxidants that scavenge free radicals caused by exposure to radiation, chemical pollutants, and other intense physical or emotional stressors,” says Schechter.
The physical benefits of bee pollen are plentiful; from boosting immune system functioning to soothing troubled skin, aiding digestion and supporting the cardiovascular system, there are a number of reasons to add bee pollen to your diet. It's even been linked to longevity! Dig a bit deeper and check out this article for more insight on the benefits of bee pollen.
And, rest assured my fellow creature lovers—beekeepers harvest pollen from hives without harming the colony or disrupting the bees' routine.
Speaking of bees, another ingredient I always toss into my smoothies to sweeten things up a bit is local organic honey. Many believe there's a connection between consuming local honey and a reduction in pollen-related allergies, although this is controversial (as is the very definition of “local” in regards to honey). Believe that connection or not, it's hard to refute the fact that supporting your neighborhood beekeepers is better—for the planet, for the community, and for you. Andrew's Local Honey, foraged right here in NYC, is a personal favorite of mine.
I also decided at some point in my journey to smoothie nirvana that some sort of nut butter is an essential additive to any concoction. Like many of my other beliefs in life, it has little substantial reasoning behind it—I just like it! Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter, butter butter . . . you name it, I'm into it (well, hold off on the “butter butter” with your smoothies). Maybe it's what it brings to the table as far as consistency, or maybe I just like to lick it off the spoon. Regardless, it's key.
I always like to throw an assortment of seeds into the mix as well. Flax seeds and chia seeds are my go-to’s, both chock full of omegas and easy to blend. Flax seeds, according to Martha Rose Shulman, “are loaded with vitamin E, B vitamins and certain important minerals (manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium).” With similar nutritional benefits, chia seeds also provide a great energy boost, as “the complex carbohydrates found in chia break down slowly to maintain energy levels for improved stamina and endurance,” says FitDay.
When it comes to protein powders, if I can afford it, I'm a big fan of Tera’s Whey Organic Whey Protein Powder. Like my decision with soy milk, there are many aspects I have to consider when choosing a product (and when they conflict with one another, which they so often do, I end up leaving the store empty-handed), but for the most part, Tera's Whey is a solid choice. It's certified organic and sourced from grass-fed, ethically-treated cows free of artificial bovine growth hormones. It's also got 20-22 grams of complete protein and is naturally sweetened, whereas many other protein powders are loaded with artificial sweeteners.
From here on out, things tend to get a bit creative. Delicious and nutritious, but definitely a bit creative. With the right blender (or patience—in my experience, an inexpensive blender can yield the same results as a high dollar one with just a bit more blending time), you can let yourself experiment with almost anything. From matcha to cayenne pepper, fresh mint to kale, if it's in my cupboard or fridge, there's a good chance it's ending up in my blender. I've even been known to chuck in some of my favorite granola by Purely Elizabeth (1% For the Planet, B Corp, organic, non-GMO—what's not to love?). Be brave, and when your creative side ends up tasting a little gross, you can always just add more honey.
So, to recap: a bit of this, a dash of that, and a spoonful of bee pollen. Voilà—a glass of Goodforyou!
** Please show our girls some love and help save honeybee populations from disappearing **