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Micronutrient Madness

A smoothie flavor standby is kicked into overdrive with a surprise ingredient.

By Amanda Burrill, MS


Are you downing the same old protein shake every day? I am going to awaken your taste buds. Let’s teach that old blender some new tricks.

I began playing with bell peppers because they are delicious, subtle—the capsaicin level, what makes some peppers “spicy hot” is very low—and they are very low calorie. You may think tossing half a red bell pepper into the mix would destroy an otherwise tame smoothie by turning it too savory. Not the case, it turns out. The pepper actually complements the mild sweetness of strawberry and carrot and adds just the slightest hint of pepper. Sometimes my culinary misadventures are putrid, but not this one.

I expect anyone reading this at least loosely tracks their macronutrients: carbs, protein, and fats. This shake lines up a large number of micronutrients—the vitamins and minerals your body needs in small amounts to function optimally. Some of us fitness folks get into a regimented fueling routine that while healthy on a macro level, might be lacking in specific vitamins and mine/rals. Over time this adversely affects the body. We combat this by changing it up as much as possible.

And here’s a pro tip: Don’t be afraid to use frozen strawberries for this recipe. Not only can frozen be more affordable, but research indicates frozen fruits carry higher levels of antioxidants because they were flash frozen at the height of their season and ripeness. Let’s blend.



1 cup strawberries

1 small carrot

½ of a small red bell pepper (seeded)

1 tablespoon hemp hearts

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

6 oz. favorite milk (I like unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

Handful of ice


Total (per serving): 281 calories, 25 g carbs, 25 g protein, 8 g fat, 7 g fiber


Combine all ingredients in a blender, beginning with the liquid to avoid sticky protein-powder clumps. Blend until smooth.




Carrot: Most of the benefits of this very popular root vegetable are attributed to the beta-carotene and fiber content. Beta-carotene consumption is linked to a reduced risk of several cancers, most notably lung, and is well known for its eye-health benefits. The fiber content is excellent for digestive health, helping everything pass more smoothly through the digestive tract. Other micronutrients include vitamin A, C, K, B8, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.

Red Bell Pepper: As I mentioned, these are very low calorie; a whole cup has only 45 calories but packs more than your daily quota for vitamins A and C. Specifically the red-colored bell peppers are the highest in vitamin C to support your immune system. They also are a good source of B6, essential for the health of the nervous system and cell renewal. After you tear those cells up, you have to build them back.

Hemp Hearts: Good gosh are these ever the micronutrient holy grail. These seeds contain 20 different amino acids and all nine of the essential amino acids (much like flax seeds, which you can swap out if you’d like). These nutty-tasting little guys are a perfect nutritional security blanket. The healthy fat content in this smoothie also lies in these hemp seeds.



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