21 Apr 2011
I for one like to follow my gut. For major life decisions, I listen to those gut instincts. When faced head on with a situation, I let my gut reaction take charge. And when I’m not feeling well, my gut is typically the first to let me know. So why am I tempted to ignore it sometimes?
Bombarded with convenience foods and quick sugars, digestive issues have become the norm rather than the exception in our society. Our stomachs often tell us what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, outside influences can sway us away from that gut feeling, and lead us to continuously abuse that precious pathway.
I could write an entire book, or three, on how digestion relates to our overall health, but I think I’m supposed to keep this brief. So instead I’ll touch on one small portion of this topic, damage control.
Because my own prior illnesses turned out to be related to my digestive system, I’ve learned to listen more to the internal cues. But I’m not perfect. I know that eating just two more bites could mean the difference between a satisfying meal and rolling on the floor like a beached whale, but I can’t stand to waste a single morsel. I know that taking antibiotics will deplete my healthy intestinal flora, causing a host of symptoms, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks. And I know that consuming an excess of sugars will feed the bad bugs in my gut and cause me to suffer peaks and valleys of energy as I absorb near worthless calories, but those cookies look so darn good!
Let’s face it; we all need damage control sometimes, which is why I’ve been reading up on beneficial foods for healing the gut. Probiotics are all the rage these days, and for good reason … according to World’s Healthiest Foods, “These beneficial bacteria produce vitamins and digestive enzymes that improve our ability to absorb nutrients, plus compounds that protect us against unfriendly microorganisms.” But behind every star, there’s an amazing support network, and in this case, it’s prebiotics.
Prebiotics feed probiotics, helping them to expand their beneficial population. But beyond aiding probiotics, prebiotics tackle some duties on their own, including reducing gastrointestinal transit time (and subsequently lowering the risk of colon cancer) and … here’s the kicker for you dairy-free divas like me … they increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium!
So where does one get these unsung heroes? Food, good quality food. Some foods are power providers of prebiotics, including one of my favorites, bananas. They are “an exceptionally rich source of fructooligosaccharide” (aka an awesome type of prebiotic). Just seconds after discovering this juicy tidbit, my gut led me to the kitchen, and a simply delicious recipe was created …
The Symbiotic Chocolate Chunk Banana Shake
Chocolate and bananas may be a natural flavor pair, but who knew they could also combine their powers for digestive wellness? Probiotic-rich chocolate and a prebiotic-rich banana are the stars of this sweet show; the rest can be adjusted to suit your taste and texture preferences.
- 1 Large to Medium Very Ripe Banana, frozen and broken into chunks
(1 to 1-1/2 cups of frozen chunks)
- 1/2 to 3/4 Cup Milk Alternative (I used Unsweetened Vanilla Almond
Dream), or more as needed
- Sweetener of Choice, optional (see my tips and notes below)
- 1/2 of One Attune Probiotic Chocolate Bar, this is .35 ounces of
chocolate (I used the dark chocolate one, which is dairy-free – they are
scored and neatly break in half)
Add the banana and milk alternative (I start with ½ cup and add more as needed) to your blender and puree until smooth. You want the mixture to be thick, like a shake. This isn’t a problem for high powered blenders, but if you have a wimpy one like mine, it helps to pulse the mixture first, to break up the bananas, before trying to puree.
If desired, blend in sweetener to taste.
Now add the chocolate and pulse chop or lightly blend to break it up. I like it with flecks of chocolate throughout and some small chunks. Eat with a spoon or thin it to a drinkable texture.
Makes 1 serving
Tips and Options:
- If you wish to up the calcium and probiotic power even further (each
Attune bar contains 300mg of calcium!), simply replace some, or all,
of the milk alternative with yogurt. I prefer the coconut milk-based
yogurts for their creamy texture, delightful flavor, and dairy-free
- For a richer texture and flavor boost, add 1 tablespoon of creamy
peanut butter or your favorite nut or seed butter
- If you want some notable chocolate chunks, then tread lightly if you
are using a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blend Tec. I don’t
have one, but those babies could probably turn this into a full blown
chocolate shake, rather than a chocolate chunk one, in no time.
- I was rationing and saving half of the bar for after dinner, but you
could always throw the whole Attune chocolate bar in if desired.
- The banana sweetens this drink nicely on its own, but if your banana
is under ripe, I recommend using a regular vanilla milk alternative
(which is usually lightly sweetened – as opposed to the unsweetened
version), adding a few drops of stevia (use a light hand! This stuff can
overpower), or sweetening with something that dissolves well in cold
liquids. Maple syrup, agave, and finely granulated sugars work well,
but honey and larger crystals really need heat to dissolve.
AlisaCheck out my latest posts here