eat_your_greens2

How are your mornings? Let me guess…. 

Stressful. Fast pacing. In hurry.

Some coffee. Something to eat. On the go.

But…

What would you say about changing the whole experience? What about a magical drink that is not only nutritious but also a great boost for the day?

Every morning I am looking forward to enjoying my magical drink. I am craving the subtle taste of this drink. I drink it sip by sip and simply love it.

It is green smoothie. And, yes, it looks very green 🙂

It has been a year since I started my daily habit of drinking green smoothie. This is one of a few habits I implemented problem-free directly after taking the decision. And I stick to it. Every day I drink two green smoothies and I adore it.

What is green smoothie?

Green smoothie is an energizing drink made by blending green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, with fruit and water. If you like, frozen fruits and ice can be used as well. Another variant of green smoothie includes also non-starchy vegetables, such as cucumber or celery. The typical ratio in a green smoothie is about 60% fruit to 40% leafy greens in order to balance both nutrition and flavor. This is suggested by Victoria Boutenko, the pioneer of the green smoothie revolution.

I recommend you read her book Green for Life or Green Smoothie Revolution: The Radical Leap Towards Natural Health. Victoria developed the early ideas from the so-called Energy Soup by Ann Wigmore , so studying her work will give you even more foundation.

Motivation + benefits

The motivation behind green smoothies is to substantially increase the consumption of leafy green vegetables, or leafy greens, in their raw form.

What are leafy greens?
Leafy greens are vegetables with (dark) green leaves. They include spinach, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, lettuce, kale (a few variants), rocket leaves, watercress, parsley leaves, coriander (cilantro), chard, collard greens, all types of salad greens, basil, etc. There are also wild edible which can be hand-picked and used in smoothies as well. For instance, these are sorrel, stinging nettles, dandelion leaves, grape leaves, aloe leaves, etc. And guess what? The wild edibles are even more nutritious than the domesticated leafy greens and they are… uhm… yammy!

Why leafy greens? Because they are nutritional powerhouses. Just to mention a few advantages:

  • low in calories
  • low in fat
  • high in fibre hence improve digestion
  • low glycemix index (can be eaten by diabetes-2 people)
  • high in vitamin A, C, E, B2 and other B-vitamins, and K1
  • rich in in potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium
  • high in phytochemicals such as carotenoids, lutein and folates; the best source of folic acid and folates
  • some claim leafy greens help to remove toxins and toxic metals from the body; kale and coriander are of key interest

Why smoothie?
To increase the quantity of leafy greens in the diet while enjoying the experience. While some leafy greens are quite tasty in salads such as the rocket salad or baby spinach leafs, other are much less so. For instance, eating raw kale requires quite some chewing and is not a pleasant experience in my opinion. Moreover, it is usually not appealing to eat a bunch of raw spinach or chard.

So, if eating big amounts of raw spinach or kale is not your cake, there is a great solution. Prepare a delicious drink from blended leafy greens and fruits or fresh vegs. Green smoothies are surprisingly very tasty, because the fruits dominate the taste. I fell in love just after my first drink.

How-to

For the best and most nutritious experience follow the ideas below:

  • Remember the rule of 60% fruit + 40% leafy greens.
  • Collect ripe fruits and leafy greens of your choice and wash them. Put them into a blender, add little water and blend them well. Depending on the leafy greens you use and the amount you have you will need 20-80 sec of blending. Your goal is to make a dense, well-textured smoothie.
  • Don’t peel apples or pears. I blend them whole except for the endings.
  • Always include at least some fruit from the following: banana, avocado or mango. They provide smooth texture (and not a watery feeling) and a great taste. Banana gives the best base.
  • Use fruits which are seasonal. Frozen fruits can be used as well.
  • Use single or maximum two leafy greens per smoothie.
  • Use maximum two extra fruits in addition to banana/avocado/mango. The flavor worsens when too many fruits are added.
  • Rotate leafy greens daily or every few days.
  • Drink it on an empty stomach in order to assimilate the nutrients well. Wait 50-60min before eating afterwards.
  • Eat your green smoothie. The key is to take a spoon or a sip and mix it with a saliva for 15 sec or more so that your digestion will start in the mouth. It is important for the best absorption of the nutrients. Similarly, as you chew your food, you need to “chew” your smoothie. You know the enzymes have started working in your mouth when you begin to taste an increased sweetness.
  • Add additional seeds or oils (if you like) although Victoria Boutenko does not recommend it for the fastest absorption.

Very basic green smoothie recipe

  • bananas
  • spinach leaves
  • water

My basic green smoothie recipe

  • bananas
  • avocado  (note: I skipped avocado a few months after this post)
  • apples
  • leafy greens of choice
  • a mix of flax seeds and sesame seeds (soaked a night before in sour water)

Leafy greens should be rotated frequently. The reason for this is explained in the Green for Life book, but basically refers to minute amounts of alkaloids in greens which are toxic. Tiny quantities of alkaloids cannot hurt you; they will even strengthen the immune system. However, if you keep consuming any chosen leafy green for weeks without changing, the same type of alkaloids can accumulate in the body and cause some symptoms of poisoning.  Every leafy green vegetable has somewhat different alkaloids, so by changing them we do not build an overload in the body.

Note that this does not hold for fruits so the same fruits can be used daily. However, rotating fruits will enhance both flavor and nutrition in your smoothies.

My usual rotation include spinach, watercress, rocket, flat parsley leaves, kale, romaine lettuce, baby leaves and coriander. I sometimes use other greens such as black kale (cavolo nero), chard, dandelion leaves (collected on meadows) or sorrel.

Blender

The key to the smooth experience of a green smoothie is a blender. A very basic kitchen blender will not do the job. I know because I experimented with a few blenders and I burned two of them.

I first learned about green smoothie about 5 years ago. I immediately liked the idea but I did not have a good blender. I was preparing green smoothies with my kitchen blender but the results were  … ehhh…urgg… well, not tasty to say at least. It was a mix of coarsely blended fruits and greens that did not make a united whole. It was hard to gulp down without the horrendous fibres clinging everywhere in the throat. Not the best experience, I must say.

There are two key elements of a powerful blender: the motor power (or the rotation speed) and the blade length. There are many blenders with motor power of less than 400-600 Watt. They will not work that well. You also need a long blade, at least 4 cm  long. I will write more about blenders in the next post, where I provide information on how to choose the best smoothie blender.

The look or a simple how-to

“This is cool”, you may think, but “How such a green smoothie looks like?”. Well… you have guessed it right. In most cases, it looks as intensive green. It is sometimes dark green or red-brownish when you add red fruits such as strawberries. It is usually a dense drink (unless you add lots of water), denser than a usual milk-based smoothie. Here are two example of green smoothies. Have a look.

Learning points

Obviously, the only way to justify whether green smoothies are beneficial or not is to do own experimenting. The idea of green smoothie resonated with me, so I decided to give it a go for 30 days and evaluate my findings. I discovered that I loved it, so it was natural for me to continue. As a result, I established a daily habit. My family (3-4 adults + 3 kids) has now been a year on green smoothies. Below are my observations and learning points along the way:

  1. High energy levels. 
  2. Improved digestion.
  3. Green smoothie provides a good start of a day (no coffee!).
  4. Developed a good habit of eating greens. After a few weeks of drinking green smoothies, everybody craves and enjoys eating more greens.
  5. My kids love it! This is a big surprise, indeed. My twins have been on green smoothie since six months old and have loved it since beginning. A basic green smoothie  (spinach, banana and a bit of water) was one of their first food after baby rice. Introducing green smoothies to my toddler was more challenging as he was discouraged by the green look of the drink. But after a week of my offers he finally got interested. I guess, because he saw us drinking it as well. Now, he loves it, and often demands it a few times a day.
  6. Cravings for sweets have become close to zero. This is the biggest surprise for me. I usually got some cravings for sweets but after 2-3 weeks of green smoothies I stopped having them. I will occasionally eat some chocolate or cookies, but often, still to my surprise, they do not taste good to me. I believe that the perception and taste of sweetest has changed because of the green smoothie experience. I stopped eating ice-cream, simply because they taste too artificial to me nowadays.
  7. We feel healthy.
  8. Some people recommend drinking green smoothies to lose weight. It was not our experience, perhaps because we were not overweight, neither we drank smoothies promoting weight loss. If you are interested in a significant weight loss, you can learn from Angela Stokes Monarch how to approach the problem. She is respected in the Raw Food Community.
  9. Making daily green smoothies requires an extended shopping list and a routine to stick to. It is not difficult once optimized. What helps me is to order most of my fruits and leafy greens online and have it delivered. It is somewhat more expensive than buying in local grocery shop, but saves me what is currently most pricey for me, which is time.
  10. Smoothies are super easy to prepare. Fresh is always best, but green smoothies can be made in one go for the whole day. They can be stored in a refrigerator even for two days. I usually make smoothie once in the evening.
  11. You need a powerful blender to make a great smoothie every day. Consider VitaMixBlendtec 4″ Blade or Omni blender. Omni blender is especially interesting since it is as good as the other two competitors, but much cheaper. Overall, Omni blender is a great value for money. Other choices, include mid-priced blenders as described here.
    It takes me 15-20 min, from start to finish, including preparation and cleaning, to make 2.5-3 litre of the green smoothie. I do it in three batches as I also make a bit different version for the kids. You will need 5 min only if you are alone or have a small family.
  12. Green smoothies are costly especially if you buy organic fruits or vegetables. We cut down on meat, sweets and other fruit to balance the expenses. What is great is that we buy very little sweets, indeed.

Summary

Drinking green smoothies is a pain-free way to eat more leafy green vegetables and fruits a day:

  • They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and many others.
  • They are made from raw ingredients hence you get the best nutrition value.
  • They are easy to prepare and can be stored in a fridge for a day or two.
  • They are very tasty because sweetness from the fruit dominates the flavor.

From the 30-40 people whom I treated with green smoothies, only one did not like it. Many love it from the first sip. 🙂  Kids love them too. Yes, they are very delicious. And appealing in the look of fresh green.

Too busy in the morning?

If you think you are too busy in the morning to prepare the smoothie, I am with you. I am too busy myself.

But … I have a solution. Make your green smoothie in the evening and store it in the fridge. When stored immediately, the drink remains fresh and tasty in the morning. Obviously, you will loose some nutritional value by storing overnight but I personally prefer to do it this way than not to do at all.

And … don’t forget to find out  how to choose the best green smoothie blender.

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Photo courtesy McKay Savage, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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Other posts on green smoothies and raw food

 

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