The holidays are a time of joy and celebration. Once they’re over, however, many of us face seasonal sadness, and maybe even a few extra pounds of cookie weight. Why not push the reset button on the new year by starting your days with a refreshing blueberry spinach smoothie to boost your mood?
This blueberry spinach smoothie recipe features other mood-supportive nutrients and will keep you feeling satisfied. Feeling full may make it easier to pass by the cookie plate and skip the regrets.
Frozen fruits and veggies are a great start to any smoothie. They bring the signature frosty bite to your drink without the extra water of melting ice cubes. They are also a great addition to any good-mood food. Diets higher in fruits and vegetables are linked with a lower incidence of depression .
For this smoothie, we recommend blueberries and spinach as your fruit and veg, because of their individual mood-boosting properties.
With more antioxidants than any other common fruit or vegetable, blueberries really pack a brain-boosting punch. They contain a high concentration of a particular type of antioxidant called a flavonoid (more specifically anthocyanin and flavonol), which can help to regulate mood, improve memory, and protect the brain from some physical aging . All of these factors are important when it comes to mood. The aging brain is more vulnerable to brain disorders such as depression .
Antioxidants found in blueberries may even reverse some age-related deficits in spatial working memory and short-term memory, centered in the hippocampus . A recent animal study also suggested that the anti-inflammatory chemicals and antioxidants in blueberries may help to restore normal neurotransmitter balance and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain .
If you’d like to try adding an antioxidant supplement to your diet, Deluxe Scavengers™ is a great option.
Spinach is also a superfood. It is high in a number of beneficial nutrients like vitamins A and K, as well as fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. When it comes to mood and the brain, however, we are celebrating spinach for its folate and magnesium content.
Commonly, individuals with depression have lower serum levels of folate and dietary folate intake than individuals without depression . This relationship alone does not prove causation, but there is a relationship between folate and healthy neurotransmitter synthesis. In fact, in some cases, folate supplementation can improve the efficacy of traditional antidepressant medications .
Unfortunately, food folate is not as absorbable as active folate in the form of L-methylfolate. If you’d like to raise your circulating folate levels, an L-methylfolate supplement may be a more effective choice than food.
Spinach also contains the mineral magnesium. About two-thirds of the American population is estimated to be magnesium deficient, and magnesium is involved in more than 325 enzymatic reactions . At least one of those reactions can directly affect your mood. For example, magnesium is a cofactor for the COMT enzyme, which is necessary for the metabolism of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine .
Magnesium supplements come in several forms. Magnesium Citrate is one highly-absorbable option that can also help regulate bowel movements. If you have a sensitive stomach, Magnesium Glycinate may be a better choice.
Magnesium and folate should always walk hand-in-hand. Many people who have experienced folate deficiency also experienced the downstream symptoms of mood imbalance from insufficient or dysregulated neurotransmitter synthesis. Once the methylation cycle is stabilized with supplementation, adequate magnesium levels become more important as the body and brain need to process the increase in neurotransmitters being created .
Why Flax Seeds?
Although flax seeds are another excellent source of magnesium, the reason we recommend them for this mood-boosting smoothie is their omega-3 fatty acid content. You can purchase flax as whole seeds or ground up as flax meal (which is less likely to stick in your teeth).
Omega-3 fatty acid deficits have been associated with mood disorders and several treatment studies have indicated therapeutic benefits from omega-3 supplementation for depression . An association between omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and coronary artery disease has also been suggested as an explanation for the link between coronary artery disease and depression .
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of omega-3s, but fish would probably be an unwelcome ingredient in a fruity breakfast drink. If you don’t like the flavor of flax, you can supplement Omega-3s in a capsule and avoid the fishy flavor altogether.
Adding protein to your smoothie is a great way to make sure you stay feeling satisfied for longer after your meal. One excellent natural protein source that will add creamy texture, tang, and probiotics to your smoothie is plain, organic yogurt.
If you are averse to or sensitive to dairy, of course, you can substitute with a non-dairy yogurt for a similar probiotic dose. You do want to be careful reading yogurt labels because high levels of sugar are often hidden by tangy flavor. This is why we suggest always buying plain and adding your own sweetener and fruit.
Although you may generally associate probiotics with your digestive system, they may actually be working to help balance your mood as well. Research shows that the gut and brain are closely connected through the gut-brain axis, a biochemical signaling relationship between the enteric nervous system in the digestive tract and the central nervous system, which includes the brain .
The brain and gut are connected by the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, and a healthy gut is actually responsible for making many of the same neurotransmitters produced by the brain (such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA). In fact, it has been estimated that up to 90% of circulating serotonin is made in the digestive tract . You can read more about supporting your gut with probiotics here. Evidence indicates that supporting the health of your gut will also support the health of your mind and mood.
Why Matcha Powder?
Your smoothie will already have a hint of green from the spinach you’ll add, but why not make it just a little greener? Matcha green tea powder will put a pep in your step and give you a boost of calm, focused energy to start your day.
The chemical constituents of green tea that have long supported its reputation as a brain food are caffeine, the amino acid L-theanine, and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) . Caffeine alone can improve performance on long-duration cognitive tasks and alertness, arousal, and vigor .
L-Theanine alone can help with relaxation, calmness, and reducing tension. EGCG has even been shown to have some fat-burning properties. Together, L-theanine and caffeine benefit sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction, and L-theanine counteracts the jitters that caffeine can cause .
Blueberry Spinach Smoothie Recipe (makes 1 smoothie or smoothie bowl)
- ½ cup blueberries
- ½ cup spinach
- ½ cup yogurt
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- 1 tablespoon flax meal (or whole seeds)
- (optional) A drizzle of honey or agave syrup to taste (about 1 Tbsp)
- (optional) Purified water or fruit juice to taste (about 1 Tbsp for a smoothie bowl or ½ cup for a drinkable smoothie)
By blending these ingredients, you’ll have a rather thick smoothie that is quite tart (especially if you forego the sweetener). If you prefer a smoothie bowl, you can pour these ingredients, blended, into a bowl and top with an extra drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of granola, sliced fruit like bananas or strawberries, and maybe some dried coconut for texture.
If you prefer to drink your smoothie, you’ll likely want to add more liquid to get the consistency of your preference. By adding a small amount of fruit juice (orange or apple) you can both sweeten and thin with the same liquid. Otherwise, a drizzle of honey or agave syrup makes a great sweetener, and water works just fine to thin the smoothie to your desired consistency. Add just a few tablespoons at a time while you blend.
- Liu, Xiaoqin, et al. “Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis.” Nutrition 32.3 (2016): 296-302.
- Spencer, Jeremy PE. “The impact of fruit flavonoids on memory and cognition.” British Journal of Nutrition 104.S3 (2010): S40-S47.
- Sibille, Etienne. “Molecular aging of the brain, neuroplasticity, and vulnerability to depression and other brain-related disorders.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 15.1 (2013): 53.
- Ebenezer, Philip J., et al. “The anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” PloS one 11.9 (2016): e0160923.
- Bender, Ansley, Kelsey E. Hagan, and Neal Kingston. “The association of folate and depression: A meta-analysis.” Journal of psychiatric research 95 (2017): 9-18.
- Greenblatt, James. ”Magnesium: The Missing Link in Mental Health.” Integrated Medicine for Mental Health. November 17, 2016. “http://www.immh.org/article-source/2016/11/17/magnesium-the-missing-link-in-mental-health
- Parker, Gordon, et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders.” American Journal of Psychiatry 163.6 (2006): 969-978.
- Harvard Medical School. “Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function”. Healthbeat – Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed December 3, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitive-function
- Dietz, Christina, and Matthijs Dekker. “Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition.” Current pharmaceutical design 23.19 (2017): 2876-2905.