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Antioxidant Berry Smoothie

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2023-06-20

For a local foodie like me, summer is a true delight. The farmer’s markets are overflowing with colorful abundance and the berry bushes in my backyard are alive with color. Having fresh beautiful produce makes it easy to load up on nutrients without going very far, but let’s face it, summer isn’t always all fun and games, bright berries, and slow sojourns. For many of us, “the lazy days of summer” don’t necessarily happen. We can find ourselves on the go and over scheduled, trying to cram as much as we can into our daylight-filled days. I’ll admit I’m guilty here!

For the parents among us, the over-scheduling may be due to lack of scheduling, with entire days spent darting and dashing.

Amid it all, I find myself craving the slow-down diet, in every sense of the sentiment. I want to turn down the dial, step back and ask, what do I really need right now? Not surprisingly, the answer is never to do more. Often, it’s the need to wander into my urban backyard for a sweet treat and a little vitamin D.

Count colors, not calories

The question of calorie counting comes up from time to time in our practice at the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic. It’s important to recognize that, for most people, counting calories is unhelpful in achieving sustainable health and body composition goals.

The concept that “not all calories are created equal” has been widely discussed, but can be challenging to fully embrace in a society that remains highly focused on calorie consciousness. Even so, not all calories are created equal. This is because calories can come from various sources and carry different nutrients, some of which are beneficial while others are not as favorable.

As an example, let’s consider a 100-calorie snack pack of Oreo cookies. While it may be low in calories, it falls short in providing essential nutrients that the body needs for growth, metabolism, repair, and satiety. Consuming low-calorie, highly processed foods like this regularly or in excess may not only deprive the body of necessary nutrients, it can also cause more harm than good.

Rather than fixating on calorie counting, a more favorable approach is to prioritize nutrient-dense foods whenever possible. While this advice may sound familiar, implementing it in practice can be challenging for many. It requires a mindset shift and an understanding that true nourishment comes from choosing whole, unprocessed foods that provide a wide array of essential nutrients.

Here are two simple principles that will help keep you (and your clients) on what I like to call “the path” of nutrient-dense eating…

First and foremost, it’s essential to prioritize the consumption of whole foods whenever feasible. Whole foods, in their unprocessed form, are generally more nutrient-dense compared to foods that come in boxes, bags, or packages. 

While this advice may seem obvious, it’s crucial to acknowledge that access to diverse and fresh food options can vary significantly among individuals and communities. We must recognize and respect the diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and geographical factors that influence people’s food choices. That time constraints, budget limitations, and the availability of fresh produce may be barriers. Understanding these barriers allows us to work toward finding creative solutions for enhancing access to nutrient-dense foods for all, regardless of circumstances.

Second, focus on eating the rainbow. A plate filled with a variety of colors is a good indicator off nutrient-density. If you have kids, you may be teaching them this, but are you doing it for yourself? Reflect on your meals today. Is your rainbow a little lackluster? What colors are you missing and where can you make some upgrades? I find that even those who believe they’re already eating “healthfully”, can use this reminder from time to time. Even me!

Two colors for immunity

The assortment of colors in your meals signifies a diverse range of nutrients, each offering their own health promoting properties. Let’s talk specifics…

Purples and blues are rare in the food world. These hues are like precious nutrition nuggets, holding immense health benefits. I find that these colors are the ones I’m most often missing when I tally up my daily rainbow.

Blueberries, and their purple berry counterparts, are bursting with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

When I think of purple and blue foods, here’s what comes to mind:

  • blueberries (of course!)

  • purple grapes

  • purple sweet potatoes

  • purple skinned potatoes

  • eggplant

  • purple cabbage

  • blackberries

  • purple carrots

  • purple cauliflower

  • purple asparagus

  • elderberries

  • maqui berries

  • purple corn

When I see these options at the farmer’s market or my local co-op, I opt to buy them for their rare phytonutrients and benefits.

Read on for some additional blue-spiration, including one of my favorite smoothie recipes for celebrating summer berries.

7 health benefits of blueberries

Anti-inflammatory properties: rich in antioxidants, blueberries decrease systemic inflammation and help cells repair quickly.

Memory booster: research shows that blueberries may reverse some age-related memory loss and motor skill decline.

Brain protector: berries contain unique phytonutrients, called proanthocyanidins, which protect the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage from some environmental toxins.

Blood sugar balancer: increase the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine to reduce sugar cravings and soothe depression.

Cancer fighter: rich source of ellagic acid that has proven anticancer properties and encourages a healthy rate of apoptosis (cell death).

Fat burner: the catechins found in blueberries activate fat-burning genes and assist with weight loss (especially belly fat).

Gut goodness: blueberries provide a good source of pectin and contain antimicrobial agents that help improve gut flora.

Antioxidant Berry Smoothie

2 servings

I must admit, I rarely follow a recipe for my smoothies. I grab and go with whatever I can forage in the fridge, freezer or from my garden. Frankly, my smoothies change with my mood and the seasons.

That said, I know it can be nice to have a starting point and I consider this the perfect summer smoothie blueprint.


  • 2 cups coconut water/juice or water

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

  • 1/2 cup strawberries

  • 1/2 cup dried goji berries, soaked

  • 1 large handful spinach, parsley or cilantro

  • 5–7 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice, to taste)

  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds

  • 1 Tbsp. hemp protein or other protein powder of choice

  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

  • pinch sea salt

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


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