Like many baby boomers and older adults, I’ve adopted a plant-focused life over the past few years. In fact, I like to say I’m 90% vegan, with dairy products creeping in every once in a while (I do love pizza, ice cream, and enjoy eggs some weekends).
So I’m always looking for plant-based recipes to increase my protein intake, especially in the morning. That’s why I was so happy to come up with this idea to combine two of my favorite morning drinks—coffee and smoothies—to create a nutritious coffee beverage that sustains my energy throughout the morning with protein, long after the caffeine boost fizzles out. I like to call these coff’oothies, or smo’ffees! (Can’t figure out which name sounds better.)
Why is protein important?
Protein is one of three macronutrients required in our diet (carbohydrates and fats being the other two)—it’s needed in large amounts (grams versus milligrams or micrograms like vitamins and minerals) and it provides calories.
Protein has been called the building block of life—every cell in our body contains protein. We need sufficient amounts to make enzymes, hormones, and other critical substances. Protein is present in muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, blood, hormones, and enzymes. It helps support wound healing and bolsters the immune system.
Our digestive system constantly breaks down protein from our diet into its amino acid components. These are then reassembled into the protein our bodies need for muscle building, muscle repair, and maintenance of key bodily functions.
And some research indicates we actually need more protein as we age. Older adults progressively lose muscle and are no longer very efficient at building it, so more good-quality protein, along with strength training, is critical for an independent life.
Why protein in the morning?
Our bodies have a limited capacity to store protein for later use (whereas we are efficient at storing carbs and fats); we generally use protein as we eat it. If amino acids are not utilized soon after consumption to build protein, they can be transformed into carbohydrate (glucose).
So physiologically, if you eat large amounts of protein at night, and then sit down to watch TV, you don’t need to build/replace/ repair muscle. The protein is used elsewhere. And then, if you get up the next morning and exercise after a breakfast of cereal and fruit, the protein is gone from your overnight fast, so you might not have enough from your morning meal to fill your muscles’ rebuilding needs for activity.
Therefore, protein is best utilized if spread out evenly throughout the day.
This smoothie wake-up drink contains 13 – 20 grams of protein (depending on the protein/smoothie base you use), the pick-me-up from caffeine, and lots of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and other health benefits from cocoa, turmeric, and chili powder.
Brew up your favorite cup of joe, raid your spice rack, and indulge!
- 8-oz fresh brewed coffee (make a small cup size and add ice cubes or your favorite milk to bring liquid up to a full cup measure)
- 1 scoop protein mix (I prefer plant-based Complete from Juice Plus+)
- 2 Tb.cocoa (I’ve been enjoying Hershey’s Coca, Special Dark, 100% Cacao)
- 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon, turmeric, and chili powder
- Brew coffee and add cooled beverage to blender. To make sure your coffee is not too hot, again, combine with ice or milk.
- Add other ingredients.
For more food-based smoothie ideas, check out these recipes from Juice Plus+.