Yummy Beet Smoothie to Build Blood

So last night I asked my 4 year old daughter, “what kind of smoothie do you want?” She replied a “red smoothie mommy.” Well okay so I thought I don’t have enough strawberries to make it red so I decided to go with beets. I have plenty of those since I’ve been doing some amazing fermented beets and veggies mix, but that will have to be another post…

The beet smoothie consisted of really simple ingredients and when I was thinking about their medicinal properties I realized that actually this smoothie was quite a blood building smoothie. In Chinese Medicine our Blood is made from the Spleen and Stomach Qi and stored in our Liver. Basically it is a part of our post natal essence that we can affect through diet and lifestyle. Our Blood gives us energy and turns into Qi. The Blood is what nourishes our organs, tendons, and ligaments and is even a part of our Yin… pretty important stuff isn’t it? So of course I want to build my blood to help nourish my whole body, mind and spirit. Here is a delicious smoothie to help and nourish our blood.

Beet Blueberry and Hemp Smoothie

  • 1 small beet (can include the greens too)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • about 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • enough water to blend

In TCM most dark colored fruits and vegetables build blood. In this case the beets, beet greens and blueberries and blood builders. Beets and their greens are also great for the Liver, which is the complimentary organ for this time of year, Lungs. Hemp seeds are actually an herb used in TCM called Huo Ma Ren to build the blood. Since it is a smoothie these ingredients are easy to digest and better assimilated. Hope you enjoy this as much as me and my daughter!!!

Jade drinking her Beet Smoothie

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Beets are a Beautiful Blood Building Food

The Fall Equinox has come and it is time to celebrate the amazing colors of the season. This time of year is considered the transition between Earth and Metal in Chinese Medicine. We are into the full phase of harvest time or late summer which represents the Earth energy in its fullest. There is just a sprinkling of color and leaves changing, that will soon indicate we have moved onto Metal or Fall. One of the beautiful colors I have in my garden are beets and beet greens.

Beets are a beautiful red color. To just call them red seems so inaccurate, the color is deep and the red veins in the leaves are more vibrant than my words can do justice. So like the veins and brilliant color you can see, the root is even shaped like a heart. These are one of those foods that even without nutrition training you can imagine how it can really nourish our heart. In TCM we say beets have blood building and Liver cleansing properties. The root itself is so sweet and nourishes the Spleen and Stomach as well. The leaves are more bitter to nourish the Heart and sometimes have a slight astringent quality that nourishes the Liver.

One amazing discovery I had about the regenerative properties of beets was made in my compost bin. I would get whole beets and use the greens for soup/smoothies and the root I would roast; I would then have a section of the beet that still has a little of the root and a the smallest amount of foliage on the top. I would throw this into the compost bin. Then a few weeks later while turning my pile I saw fresh leaves growing out of the top. So I started just planting this little bit in my garden and here are the results:

beets-in-garden

I can’t decide what my favorite part of beets are, the root or the leaves! They are both so delicious. Use beet greens as a green in any green smoothie; they are mild tasting and so so good!

Here is a recipe for beet roots used in soup:

Beet Soup with Lemon Dill Sour Cream

  • 3-4 Beets
  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 1 Potato
  • 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2-3 cups beans (I used black beans)
  • 2 cups cooked rice (optional for more texture)
  • Beet greens or 1/2 bunch kale
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt or liquid aminos to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon each (oregano, cumin, celery seed, chipotle or black pepper)

Wash and cube beets and potatoes (no need to peel them). In a large skillet saute beets with half the onion and half the sweet potato for 5-10 minutes until the beets are starting to get tender. Add enough water to the pan to cook fully cook beets and sweet potato and blend in a food processor or blender. Set Aside.

Then in another pan cook the rest of the onion and cubed potatoes and boil for 10 minutes with the seasonings listed to make a nice veggie broth. I used about 4 cups water, but feel free to use more or less depending on how thick you like your soup. Add the rice, beans, and whole lemon halves after they have been juiced and cook for another 5-10 minutes. I added the kale, cabbage, and juice of 1 lemon at the end since I don’t like my greens very mushy. Add salt to taste and REMOVE the lemon halves. Then add the pureed beet, sweet potato and onion mixture. Remember to garnish with some delicious Lemon Dill Sour Cream (see recipe below).

*side note on why I add the lemon halves to the soup… the skin of the lemon has all the essential oils and a very potent lemon flavor so I like to add them just to up the lemony goodness.

Lemon Dill Cashew Sour Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soak them first if you don’t have a high-speed blender)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon + a little lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • pinch of salt

If using a high speed blender add a little bit of water and blend until super thick and creamy (almost as thick as sour cream). Then put in freezer while heating up soup to thicken and spoon it on top. If using a food processor make sure to soak the cashews ahead of time (at least 4 hours… can even soak overnight for convenience) and only add water as needed. You may want to double this recipe to have some amazing sour cream on hand… keeps in refrigerator for about a week.

Beet Soup with Lemon Dill Sour Cream

Beet Soup with Lemon Dill Sour Cream

Blood Building Hot Cereal with Goji Berries

goji berries

Goji Berries or Gou Qi Zi are an awesome Traditional Chinese Herb. They are used to help build the blood, supplement the energy, and build the Liver blood and are good for the eyes. They also happen to be super tasty. Since I have a 2 year old and we are raising her vegan it is always on my mind to make sure to get her the right kinds of foods that will keep her healthy and strong. In Chinese Medicine veganism is sometimes looked upon in not the best light because there is a fear that if you don’t eat animal products you can become blood deficient. Well I have been vegan for almost 20 years, had a vegan pregnancy and then gave birth to an amazing daughter. Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the things that can really tax our bodies and take a lot of extra blood and energy to accomplish. Many of my non-vegan friends had issues with anemia during pregnancy and I was never even close. I was hiking and riding my bike right up to the day Jade was born.

Goji Berries are a fun herb to grow in the Pacific Northwest too, but I am yet to find the best location in my garden. The first year I was growing them I got a few berries and then not much since. I think they just needed a bit more sun than what I was giving them. If anyone has some tips on growing them in the NW please let me know.

Toddler Approved Hot Cereal

Toddler Approved Hot Cereal

Here is the hot cereal recipe:

Hot Cereal with Goji Berries

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 2-3 TB Coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1 TB sesame seeds (unhulled)
  • Generous handful of Goji Berries

Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cover with water about a 1/2 inch over the dry ingredients. Then bring to a boil and cover, turn down heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. I also added a pinch of cinnamon and a couple TBS of coconut oil.

Chinese Medicine Properties:  The goji berries, sesame seeds and coconut are blood building. The bland flavors of oats, millet and quinoa are beneficial to the Spleen and Stomach and are good for supplementing them which is also helpful in building the blood. The cinnamon is good for increasing digestive fire, which is important since too many blood building foods can be harder to digest. The cinnamon helps to aid the digestion. Enjoy!!!

What does Vegan Acupuncture mean anyway?

I first moved to Portland 10 years ago to attend graduate school for Traditional Chinese Medicine at OCOM. There were two things that greatly surprised me: that Portland was a vegan mecca and that I would face many challenges as a vegan at a school for TCM.

Unfortunately veganism is not something that is looked very highly upon in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncturists will often say that if someone is vegan or vegetarian that they are “blood deficient” or need to build up the blood. Why is that? It is because in TCM we look at the nature of the foods we eat as important to our health. If someone has a weak constitution or recovering from an illness or surgery they need strong, nutrient rich foods to build them back up… i.e.. animal products (this is the theory anyway). Now I am a vegan and was a vegan many years before I went to school for TCM and I have studied vegan nutrition extensively along with nutrition from a TCM perspective. There are many other foods that nourish the blood and are super nutrient rich that are plant-based. I will get to those shortly, but first I want to talk a little bit about the theory that makes many TCM practitioners believe you have to eat animal products to be healthy and build the blood.

In TCM theory our blood is made by the Spleen (this is obviously much different than what we know of the spleen in western physiology). The Spleen and our digestion need to have digestive fire in order to transform the foods we eat into the essence that will become the blood.  Animal products already have a warming nature (they are mostly warm-blooded and active creatures) so the pathway is shorter in that they turn into blood faster than eating plants. This is where the theory of TCM directly conflicts with my personal beliefs and clinical experience.

I get around this cognitive dissonance by eating plant foods that build my blood. Below is a list of foods that build the blood.

Blood Building Foods: dark leafy greens (kale, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, parsley, cilantro, nettles, dandelion greens), beets, carrots, black sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, goji berries, kidney beans, legumes, peanut skin, avocado, apricot, grapes, almonds, and brown rice. You can see from this list that it’s pretty easy to get lots of blood building nutrient dense foods in a vegan diet. My favorite way to get lots of those dark leafy greens is through green smoothies!!!

Enjoying a Green Smoothie

Clinical Experience: many people that I treat have chronic pain, allergies, fatigue, digestive issues, and trouble maintaining a healthy weight. These are all symptoms usually related to diet and lifestyle or inflammation in the body. When I can get someone to cut out processed foods and animal products the results are amazing! I get to see people totally transform and feel better than ever before. This is what inspires me everyday and makes me so grateful to be able to help people heal themselves.