Superhero (Superfood) Smoothie

raw superfood smoothie

That’s a wrap, guys! As of this evening, the great battle that was my Spring 2012 semester drew to a close. I am so tired, and so relieved.

On Monday, after my Orgo final, I came home at 4 pm only to confront the fact that my biochemistry final would be about 36 hours later. I took a deep break, and quickly assembled a list of things I could do to get myself into the right frame of mind to head back to the library:

1. “Stronger.” Kelly Clarkson. The post-bacc theme song.

2. Yoga Download. 20 minutes to a clearer frame of mind.

3. ESPN’s greatest sports moments of the 20th Century. Does the trick every time. And I don’t even like sports. At all.

4. Calming manatees. A friend just shared this link with me. Just see for yourself.

5. This superfood smoothie.

I have written at length about my feelings on “superfoods,” so I’ll just give you the summary: “superfood” isn’t a regulated term, so there’s a fine line between what is promised by the makers of these foods, and the legitimate benefits of the foods themselves. Nearly all superfoods are antioxidant-rich, but then, so are onions and tomatoes and berries and spinach and dark chocolate, which can be had a little more cheaply. Many superfoods are said to boost libido and energy, but the studies linked to these claims are not always conclusive. So, when all is said and done, it’s smart to think of these foods as splurges that may offer some special benefits, but not as life-saving and vital foodstuffs that you must spend money on, even if you can’t really afford to.

When you can afford to, my favorite superfoods are goji berries, mulberries, cacao, mesquite, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. I use the latter two especially often; you’ll see them in tons of my recipes! But when I have a little extra money to spend on food, I love getting goji berries, too. It took me a while to adjust to the taste, but once I did, I loved it. They’re tremendous sources of antioxidants, and relatively high in protein as well. And they give smoothies this awesome, awesome color.

raw superfood smoothie

Pinky orange, and oh so beautiful.

The following recipe is every bit as tasty as it is vibrant, and it’s packed with nutrition. It’s also not overly sweet, which makes it a good afternoon snack: I personally find that super sweet smoothies make me crash in the afternoon. This was exactly the right amount of sweetness, and it fueled me well for the long day and night of study ahead.

The Superhero Superfood Smoothie (raw, vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Serves 1-2, depending on appetite/time of day

1 1/4 cups hemp milk (or your favorite non dairy milk)
1/4 cup goji berries
2 tbsp cacao powder or nibs
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tsp chia seeds
1 heaping cup strawberries
1 date, or a few drops stevia

Blend all ingredients on high. Serve in the morning or as a very nutrient dense snack!


raw superfood smoothie

So, on that note, this semester comes to an end. I’m sure it’s no surprise that these were a very trying few months for me academically. I struggled terribly in my classes, and I’m still unsure of my fate in terms of grades. Still, I’m moving forward, doing my best, and keeping my fingers crossed.

I try not to vent too much about my post-bacc here on the blog, because I hate looking whiney. Also, I’m waiting for the day when one of my readers says: “wake up. If you choose to go into medicine at the age of 30, there will be a lot more tough academic struggle, a lot more science, and many more challenges. If you can’t take this, then perhaps you aren’t cut out for the future you’ve chosen.”

Or maybe I’m waiting for that comment, because it’s the dialog I often have with myself. I want this path as much as I did when I began, but these classes have made me question whether or not it’s the path that wants me—or rather, whether or not it’s what I’m best suited for. Try though I do, my brain struggles to work in the “hard science” kind of way. I’m getting better, but only in the slowest of baby steps.

That said, I know that pre-med classes are not the final word on whether or not someone is going to be a good physician. It may be that I’ll ultimately need to examine whether or not this is the right path for me. But I don’t think that the Orgo II/Biochem experience should be the catalyst for that moment of self-examination. Much still lies ahead of me, and this is only one—albeit a big—moment of self-doubt. I’m pushing through, both determined to persevere, but also well aware that if I should realize that this isn’t the right path for me, there will be many others, and my years as a post-bacc student will lead me directly to them.

What keeps me going more than anything is the commentary I get on this blog—the support and encouragement and all the incredible, wise, humorous feedback I get from med students and professionals everywhere. So the “superhero” referenced in the title of this post is really many heroes: you guys. You are my heroes. Thank you for giving me a space in which I can be reminded, each day, of why I wanted to become a post-bacc in the first place. I’m so very grateful.

On that note? Nearly 3 weeks vacation starts NOW…with the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.


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Categories: Smoothies
Dietary Preferences: Raw

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  1. I love this smoothie recipe! I make it at least once a week. Me and my kids love it 🙂

  2. Just made this with almond milk and spinach as my morning green smoothie! I forgot the cacao but it was still awesome! I also left out the date. Thanks for a great recipe!

  3. It’s obvious you have worked so hard this semester and I hope you have a wonderful break from classes! It is inspirational to see you face the challenges of hard science classes to pursue a career that is calling to you. I know your decision to continue pursuing medicine or to switch to a related career will be a very thoughtful one, and I wish you the best in figuring out what’s best for you. Thank you for continuing to put so much effort into your blog while you have been so busy with school. I am so impressed at how much you manage to do, and how your blog posts have been just as thoughtful as ever. I really appreciate you taking the time to write here.

  4. Hey Gena: I’ve been a lurker for a while and finally decided to comment because this post is incredible relevant to me right now. I just finished my semester too and it’s been quite the haul. Summer break comes as a great relief. Thanks for the post, and it sounds like you’re taking a much needed vacation. Enjoy every second!

  5. Gena, I’m a little late to the game, but you’ve taken on an enormous challenge, and you’re doing your best. That’s all one can ask herself to do. No matter how things come out in the end, the most admirable part is that you chose to take a risk and go down this path.

    Being the great literary gal you are, I’m sure you’ve read this passage before, but please read it again. You are surely the Woman in the Arena, “striving valiantly.”

  6. Congratulations on making it through the semester, Gena! I have been reading your blog for…over two years now, and since you decided to go back to school, I’ve been rooting for you. It’s important to ME, selfishly, that you make it through post bacc and med school—I want a doctor like you one day! I’ve always had doctors/nutritionists discourage a vegan diet for me; there’s such a lack of understanding on their part, I think. I know that you understand as well as anyone the power of a healthy vegan diet, and I wish more medical professionals weren’t so dismissive of “natural health” (or whatever you want to call it).

    So, thank you for your voice. We need more intelligent & compassionate people like you in the world—especially as medical professionals! But whatever you decide to do, even if you don’t become an MD, I expect you will find a way to help people be as healthy as they can be, in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way. That is invaluable, whether you do it through your blog, as a doctor, or any other way.

    Thank you thank you thank you for your blog; it has helped me SO much over the past couple of years.

    • Oh, Genevieve, thank you for introducing yourself to me. And thank you for reading! I am so grateful, and delighted that I help you. xo

  7. Your superfoods are actually pretty “normal” and prettty affordable. I grow weary of every single latest & greatest pricey product as well, that pops up in the raw food world. However, often it takes that kind of “passion” or “craze” to really push something forward and a few good things come out of it. Hemp, Chia, and Cacao are on Amazon pretty cheap (for what they are). Oh, Goji Too. Hemp & Chia are always in my freezer…………..
    You don’t have to figure out your whole life this second. And no matter what, you have a huge following, so whatever you do, people will want your advice and trust you. They already “know” you more than they would “know” other health care peeps…………You will thrive and change lives no matter what direction you take.

  8. On phone so don’t have ability to write the long meaningful message you deserve. I am proud of you for all the work you’ve done so far. I know what it’s like to have an uncertain future. It makes you focus a lot more on the present. I hope those professors let you through because we need you in the field!!!

  9. Hi Gena,
    I am about to graduate from a PA (Physician Assistant) program in July. PA school is similar to med school in that the pre-reqs are basically the same but you study medicine in a condensed format (2 years not 4). As a person who excelled at orgo & biochem, in my opinion medicine is more physiology (and anatomy) based and less chemistry based. I think if you can go into med school with a solid A&P foundation that is much more important than you understanding reaction mechanisms and condensation reactions. Just my opinion. 😉
    Someone once said to me, you never regret the things you did only the things you didn’t do. If this is your dream, don’t give up!
    Emma :o)

  10. Do not give up! Being a good doc is really hard work and the system is trying to weed out the weak. But you are strong. You were meant for this!

    This, or maybe a career as a food writer, blogger, etc. You’re so good at this too! In fact, today I’m going to make this smoothie and your new Purple Kale Salad.

  11. Gena, you always manage to fit so many emotions into your posts so beautifully that I often sit at my computer compelled to comment, but with so may thoughts in my head it often takes me time to actually get them out! Congratulations for finishing the spring semester! Stay strong, and most importantly, listen within. Your heart will tell you what the right decision is and whatever that may be, I know that you will succeed and help so many people in the process. You have already made such a profound impact in my life through this blog. Happy 3 weeks off!

  12. Congratulations! And thank you so much for sharing your journey here — I find it so inspiring.

    Just for the record, yes you’ll face more academic struggle and science, but this experience is preparing you for that, and you will be ready.

    In my observation, those whose brain is “hard-wired” for science always end up at a significant disadvantage compared to those who are not, because all of them eventually reach a point where their hard-wiring fails them, and at that point they will not have had the repeated practice of figuring things out the hard way, persisting, teaching themselves to think differently, etc., that you have had.

  13. I am so inspired by you, Gena. You are brilliant and gorgeous and creative and I would trust my life in your hands. So there!

  14. Congrats of making it through this semester and it sounds like you toughed it out beautifully. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go back to college in my 30s and applaud you for doing so! And the smoothie sounds perfect, agreed on a good smoothie – a nutrient-dense green monster is the best comfort food for me.

  15. Hi,
    long time reader first time commenter. I am with you all the way! I am 34 and just started medical school, with aims to be an integrative oncologist. I have been a naturopathic doctor already for 6 years, and a yoga teacher, and decided I wanted to be another voice of integrative medicine in the medical world and just went for it. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, and I have my moments of doubt. But in the end, for me, and I suspect for you as well, the passion keeps you going through all the hurdles.

    If you ever want to connect with someone on the same path a few years ahead of you to keep you going and let you know what’s ahead, please feel free to contact me, together all of us who want to be another voice in medicine and provide alternatives will be heard, and all our struggles and living off smoothies for lack of time will be worth it!

    Sending many blessings, Carlin

    • Carlin,

      How wonderful to connect with you! I may well be emailing you soon for advice and comfort. Meanwhile, I looked at your site, and it’s very inspiring. Keep the faith!


  16. Gena, don’t doubt yourself on the basis of these courses. I struggled through them and I’m wired for hard science. The fact that you got accepted to the post-bacc program speaks volumes about your potential as a physician, as do your determination and groundedness. There are so many more aspects to medicine than learning the hard science that can’t be learned from textbooks, and these are qualities that you already possess. Stay strong, you will make it!

  17. What a delicious blend of Vitamin C, B1, B2 and other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids!
    Congratulations, you are finally free! It means we are gonna be getting more of the delicious and super healthy recipes!

  18. Hi Gena,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and loving it (the smoothie looks gorgeous!), but your last post spurred me to de-lurk. I watched my boyfriend do what you’re doing now–the post-bacc, the MCAT, and finally med school. He was 34 years old when he started med school. I was 29 when I started my PhD (in Spanish). We’ve both “felt old” (though we know we’re not!), struggled, been scared, stressed, frustrated, felt stupid and had deep doubts. Thankfully, we managed to stay positive and are nearly done with this part of the journey, ready to move on to whatever life as an MD or PhD may hold for us! (Full disclosure: our relationship didn’t survive, but our friendship did, and we still root for each other to this day.)

    You will find a way, I’m sure of it. Thank you for all you do. All the best to you and hope you get to enjoy your break!

    • Sara,

      Thank you so much for this comment. I can relate to everything, both the school and the story of a relationship that did not survive, but transitioned into a loving and supportive friendship. Good luck with your endeavors!


  19. You should be very proud of yourself for what you’ve done and where you are. I know I, and many other of your faithful readers, am in awe of what you are doing. Enjoy your well-earned break and don’t forget that we are all behind you!

  20. Hi Gena,
    I know how you feel. I went down the same path and finished my Post Bach at NYU 5 years ago. After 2 grueling years, I realized it was not for me. Lucky enough, walking through NYU halls, I stumbled upon my current profession; Occupational Therapy, which requires a lot of the same classes.

    Point is, everything is meant to be! The education you are receiving now will play into your life someway or another be it as a Physician or something else. Don’t get discouraged and keep your head up! Enjoy your break.

  21. Hi Gena,
    I know how you feel. I went down the same path and finished by Post Bach at NYU 5 years ago. After 2 grueling years, I realized it was not for me. Lucky enough, walking through NYU halls, I stumbled upon my current profession; Occupational Therapy, which requires a lot of the same classes.

    Point is, everything is meant to be! The education you are receiving now will play into your life someway or another be it as a Physician or something else. Don’t get discouraged and keep your head up! Enjoy your break.

  22. Baby steps are the key words here! I believe that as long as you keep following your passion, then the challenges will be meaningful. Enjoy your break and pat yourself on the back for getting to this point. And, as you said, if you ultimately follow a different path, then I’m sure it will be equally as positive for you as the one you set out to follow. P.S. I love that you added goji berries to your smoothie, I have only eaten them on top of salads.

  23. Congrats on finishing the semester even though it was challenging. I totally get you with the “hard science” – my brain just doesn’t work that way! You’re going to make a great physician. I wish there were more docs like you out there Gena!

  24. Oh this is a delicious smoothie and is most certain to become a regular in my rotation! Enjoy a well-deserved vacation Gena!

  25. Gena, you will, without a doubt, make a fantastic doctor, if that’s what you choose to do. Your empathy, kindness, and holistic understanding of the body will serve you far more than being able to diagram the elements on the periodical table, and they set you apart from a sea of scientists who, despite having an MD, do not make good doctors. You are tremendously hardworking and disciplined (seriously, how do you do it?!) so I am super confident that you will be very successful in whichever career you choose. I’m certain you would make a great doctor, naturopath, osteopath, or anything else that you choose. Please enjoy your much deserved time off!! And thank you for continuing to write wonderful posts and share healthy recipes

  26. Oh Gina, that manatee link made me crack up! You sure are amazing. I wish you a healing and totally regenerative 3 week vacation and thank you so much for this incredible smoothie recipe!

  27. As a fellow postbac just finishing my first semester and waiting anxiously for my grades, I look forward to your school updates and find them really encouraging. I wasn’t so great about planning/packing meals while I adjusted this semester and I’m looking forward to trying out a bunch of your recipes over the summer term, when I ought to be a little more motivated, if no less busy…

  28. Gena, I think it takes a lot of courage to start a completely new career at any point in life, especially when you already had one you loved. If it makes you feel better, I know many undergraduates (you know, the 19 and 20 year olds) who also struggle with Orgo and Biochem. It’s not just you! And I know you’ll do well, and that you’ll end up doing something that makes you happy and that makes a difference, just like you want to!

  29. um. you are the furthest thing from a whiner! i fully understand how taxing these courses are and it’s not pretty! i consider myself to be a person that picks up things science-y fairly easily and my last year was pure hell. i lived in the library and slaved for a mediocre orgo II grade. nothing worth doing doesn’t come with a grain of self doubt sometimes. if it makes you pause, then maybe it is worth doing after all! now go get some sleep! perhaps in the quiet and self reflection, your answer for your own future will become quite clear. x

  30. You don’t have to respond, but if you are not doing well in your classes, do you think you will continue the program despite the fact you will be seen as a less competitive applicant for med school or will you apply to osteopath schools or schools in the islands?

    It’s really none of my business, it’s just I’m in a similar place career wise and I was given much different information about my school options if I got anything less than As in my classes. I’m not sure if it’s my program or professors, but it’s something with I struggle with it if it makes sense for me to invest time and money into something given I’m not 20 anymore and there’s such a high bar I have to reach.

    If you don’t feel comfortable answering, I understand.

    • A,

      I don’t feel that island schools would be the right path for me, but I do have pathways that interest me if I don’t get in because I’m less competitive. I’m going to finish the post-bacc and apply, hope for a “yes,” but I also have other routes in mind if I don’t get in. Hope that helps!


  31. Regardless of what happens, you are such and inspiration for even attempting this career change. I’m yearning to quit my corporate IT job and become an organic farmer. The jump, the doing-it part, is what scares me, but you did it and you moved cities as well. You put a ton of stress on yourself this past year and I’m sure you learned a lot of lessons. The most important lesson I have learned is to do what makes you happy. I know you are focused on your goal, but know that there are many paths to the same destination. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and you may be surprised 🙂

  32. Question on smoothies.
    For health reasons I’m cutting out sugars for the time being, to see if it helps certain symptoms. This means no frozen bananas or berries in my precious morning smoothie, I miss the flavor, sweetness and texture they provide but I’m also looking for suggestions of other things to add. Basically, I add to my current smoothies on rotation, avocado, chia, hemp seed, kale, sun warrior protein powder, almond butter, romaine, nut milk, water. It’s different then when I add my frozen fruits, still good but I’m looking for any suggestions anyone else might have. Would coconut oil be a good add, I might have to try. Fats scare me a bit.
    Thanks and stay the course whatever that may be.

  33. Congrats on finishing the year girl! No matter the grades that you are awarded, you are a total inspiration. You can now tell people that you were willing to turn your whole life around in order to pursue what you felt was right in your heart. That is ALWAYS an admirable trait to have, and one that few posses. I believe that you have and will continue to inspire people to take giant risks, just as you have. Please feel nothing but pride in yourself and your accomplishment as a human being.

  34. Your Chem classes do not define your MD ability! I have a degree in Analytical Chem, and I wondered what the heck I was thinking too. Chem is hard. People that love Chem (geeks like me), still think it’s hard. It’s part of the appeal. You got through it, you’ll get through more of it! Keep your faith, you got this far!!

  35. As a chem major, I’ve taken almost all of the pre-med classes (for my degree, not med school) and I know what you’re going through. It’s not easy, but you can do it. 🙂 I have a lot of respect for people who go back to school. My mom’s doing her nursing degree now and it’s a very different experience for her than her first degree. I’m amazed you can write such lovely posts while being so incredibly busy. Reading your blog is definitely one of my favourite parts of the day.

  36. Pardon the interruption, but you’re 30?? I honestly thought we were the same age.

    You’re my hero just for trying, Gena.

  37. Oh, Gena, you are so courageous for so many reasons, my heroine and friend! You are anything but a whiner. I personally benefit tremendously when you share your level-headed analysis/inner dialogues with us, as I and I’m sure the vast majority of us go through similar self-doubting/over-thinking reflexively.

    Now, I hope you’ll spend the next three weeks fret-free, deep-breathing and trusting that these academic/professional matters will fall into place just as they should. You did your best; now let it go. What I know for sure is that your good sense and intuition will guide you to making the right decisions should you cross that bridge. With your intelligence and talent and personality, opportunities abound.

    re. goji berries – I haven’t fallen in love with the flavor yet, but maybe I’ll give them another chance…

    • I am so glad, Karen, that my more honest posts about struggle resonate! I find it so important for us all to share our self-doubt — it’s a universal experience, indeed, and we’re all here to support each other.

  38. Congratulations on completing the tough semester and enjoy your 3 weeks vacation. It gives me hope for the medical field that there are people like you entering. I LOVE your blog. I LOVE your recipes. Since I started reading your recipes I’ve bought goji berries, dates, hemp seeds and chia seeds. I have never had a smoothie before (I’m more of an eater than a drinker) but I think I might make this one. I just need to get the cacao nibs. You really are something special and no matter what path you choose, you will make it better!!!

  39. I give you major credit for making it through such a challenging semester. And whatever you decide, you will be that much stronger for this experience. Enjoy your very well-earned vacation!

    …I’m off to add goji berries to my grocery list. 🙂

  40. Congratulations on making it through this grueling semester. It’s such a testament to your will that you didn’t just throw in the towel when the going got tough. It’s obvious how incredibly hard you’ve worked and though the grades might not be what you had initially hoped for, you’ve prepared yourself for the hard work you have ahead of you. Whether you end up in med school or end up choosing another path, the post-bacc experience will certainly never let you forget what you are made of. And just to note, you are never whiny on this blog! I for one appreciate your honesty about your experience. You’ve never once made excuses nor placed blame on anyone but have instead told it like it is. That takes a lot of guts. I’m still rooting for you! Enjoy your well deserved vacation. xo

    • Thank you, my dear. I am so grateful for this comment, and I’m glad I don’t seem whiney. I’d never assign blame for my struggles, not even to my teachers! It’s just a challenge for me. We’ll see how the pieces come together 🙂

  41. You fabulous, courageous, strong-beyond-words (see that logic-and-calm-infused pep talk you just gave yourself up there? Incredible. Not everyone can see themselves into that rationality in periods of upheaval) woman. Absolutely, there are a myriad paths for you, and also absolutely, one section of the pre-med experience doesn’t define being a physician.

    Also, when you talked about waiting for the “reader” who’ll snark at you… that sent shivers down my spine. I recently realised I’ve been doing a very similar things lately (the expecting, not the snarking! [Yes, yes spellcheck, I know that’s now a word]), but I’ll save that for the email I owe you (but which I’m delaying as you deserve all things resting right now). xo

  42. <3 <3 <3 I don't know how you do it, but my brain would explode even if I tried to wrap my head around pre-med classes. It's awesome that you got in there are and going full throttle, even if you question it at times. Have a wonderful vacation!!

  43. Congratulations and keep on keeping on! You are a true superhero! I’m so happy you’re taking a break, and glad to hear you thinking aloud on here, making sense of all the huge and not always comfortable input you’re receiving from life right now, getting a sense of perspective on it.

    I adore the color of goji berries in smoothies! I wish gojis and mulberries were less “exotic” and pricey–they’re both just darn good dried fruits. Dried apricots and figs both are probably comparable in goodness nutrition-wise, though. My favorite superfoods are surely spirulina and chlorella–acquired tastes both.

  44. Gena- wake up. If you choose to go into medicine at the age of 30, there will be a lot more tough academic struggle, a lot more science, and many more challenges. You are RISING to those challenges and pushing through- clearly you are cut out for the future you’ve chosen!

    From what I’ve seen of med students, the abilities that make for success are the abilities to memorize quickly, focus and work really hard, and think quickly and logically. Not at all the ability to solve chemical equations or keep a beaker at the right temperature. And once you’re a doctor- wow, you have so many abilities that AREN’T selected for in med school that will make you amazing for your patients. (And there’s always ND, nutritionist, or clinical psych degrees should med school not select you. But really, I think it’s all about persistance). HUGS

  45. Thinking of you, Gena! Whatever happens. Whatever you decide. I look up to you and wish only for your happiness + success! xoxo

  46. Go Gena! I am rooting for you! I rarely comment but just wanted to say that you have helped me so, so much over the years. I have complete confidence that you can do whatever you set your mind to, be it medicine or some other wonderful profession through which you offer your many talents to the world. Don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy your vacation! Xoxo, Ellie

  47. Gena, you are by far the sweetest, most talented, and most stubborn. If you really want to do it, you can and you will. Just remember to take care of yourself mentally as well as physically. Either way, you’ll have learned so much!

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