It will soon be 19 months since the beginning of the green smoothie revolution in my life. I have been enjoying it so far. More importantly, my kids enjoy it too.
The daily habit
As a family we drink a green smoothie every day. The only exception was our recent travel, where I found it too complicated to stick to the green smoothie habit. Nevertheless, these two weeks brought me valuable lessons.
First, after a few days, I began to experience strong sweet cravings and had to deal with them daily. (As a result I ate a number of cakes.) Secondly, I discovered I really missed the sweet-bitter, yet satisfying taste of a green smoothie. Thirdly, after being back, my kids welcomed the green smoothie drink with joy and a demand for more. This was a surprise for me and a sign they missed that too!
Sweet cravings are explained by Victoria Boutenko as an insufficient intake of calcium. Calcium is sweet. And even though you may think you drink milk and eat vast amounts of diary, there is more and more evidence that calcium from milk or cheese is not as easily absorbed as we want it to believe. Moreover the mucus forming feature of milk as well as pasteurization likely make milk more problematic for our health than valuable (see e.g. at the study which shows that pasteurized milk has a carcinogenic effect). In the end, calcium in the milk should come from the grass or hay that cows eat 😉
Leafy greens are great
Leafy greens are a wonderful natural food we can eat, enjoy and prosper from. They are the most nutrient dense of all vegetables. Green dark leaves provide most of the nutritients and minerals we require. They contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, folate, vitamins A,C,K1 and B1 and so on. They also contain fibre which is a natural aid in digestion. And what is even more important, they have the energy of life, preserved in chlorophyll that makes them green.
Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight and uses its energy to synthesise carbohydrates from CO2 and water. What I find surprising is that chlorophyll is chemically and structurally similar to heme in a haemoglobin in human red blood cells. The basic difference is about the atom at the center. In chlorophyll, this central atom is magnesium, while in blood, this central atom is iron. Chlorophyll acts positively on human health, but more research needs to be done.
When we cook leafy greens we will loose lots of their natural nutritional value. Eating them raw is the best option but it requires a substantial amount of chewing and doesn’t taste that well. Eating them raw is not appealing to many. A green smoothie drink is the solution. It provides us with a pleasurable way to substantially increase the intake of green dark leaves in our diets.
How to enhance the green smoothie even more
Sesame seeds and flaxseeds
I add sesame seeds and flaxseeds (linseeds) to the green smoothie I prepare. Although some people recommend to stick to the basic recipes: fruits + leafy greens + water/coconut water, I only experience benefits from adding these seeds. I use approximately a tablespoon of seeds per person in the making.
Sesame seeds are a very good source of manganese and copper as well as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and zinc Flaxseeds are rich in minerals, but they do not contain calcium. Instead, they are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that is a precursor to the form of omega-3 found in fish oils (EPA).
I soak both seeds overnight in warm water in the room temperature, at least 10h before blending them together with smoothie ingredients. Many people use shorter times (4-6h), but an overnight soaking fits well into my routine. I use twice as much water as seeds.
The soaking of seeds is very important
Although seeds, nuts and legumes are rich in nutrients and enzymes, they also contain phytic acid. This phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, and especially iron and zinc in the intestinal track and inhibit their absorption. In addition, it also contains enzyme inhibitors that also work to block the absorption of minerals. Finally, phytic acid, is indigestible by humans.
In nature, phytic acid has a specific role. It simply acts to protect the seed until proper conditions (moisture and sunlight) are met for it to grow and sprout. Once soaked, the phytic acid is deactivated and released into the water, and the enzymes and minerals in the food are more readily available for absorption into our bodies. Studies, at least for beans, confirm that soaking is more efficient than cooking or sprouting. As a result of soaking, your body can absorb much, much more vitamins and minerals from leafy greens, fruits and seeds than without soaking. A simple technique of soaking and so much beneficial!
In green smoothie making I also use hemp seeds, chlorella powder or some seaweeds such as dulse (no, you don’t taste it in the smoothie). I do it sometimes. I also experimented with adding flaxseed oil, walnut oil or coconut oil, but my family did not find the combination that great. They felt it was too heavy for their stomachs.
Is green smoothie for you?
If you are wondering whether a green smoothie is for you or not – I want to encourage you to taste it. No reading and thinking about green smoothie is going to give you sufficient evidence in favor or against. Opinions differs as well as tastes. What you need is a direct experience. Simply make a green smoothie yourself and drink it.
Even if you don’t have a powerful blender or the best green smoothie blender such as Omni blender or Blendtec blender, a mid-price blender from the Hamilton Beach brands or the KitchenAid blenders will allow you to make a decent green smoothie provided that you stick to easy greens such as spinach or rocket leaves and follow a suitable blending procedure as detailed here. A hand-blender will not make it work, I must warn you, as you will get a lumpy liquid.
There are basically two main factors determining how successful a blender is: the motor power (> 500 Watts, ideally more than 700 Watts) and the blade length (the longer the better). But again, even a poor blender will give you a rough idea and a basic taste.
The simplest green smoothie recipe
- 1 big ripe banana (or two small ones)
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 0.5-1 cup water
Your ideal proportion is 60% of fruit (or fruit + vegetables such as cucumbers, celery sticks, carrot etc) and 40% of leafy greens.
Who is green smoothie for?
In general, green smoothie is for everybody. I introduced the basic green smoothie to my kids at the age of 6 months. They have loved it ever since.
What you need to know, however, is that raw leafy greens require a working liver and the whole digestion system. So, you need to take care if you suffer from indigestion, irritable bowels syndrome, poorly working liver or pancreas. Green smoothie may impose a challenge for your internal organs. But, again, my friend whose liver is in a poor condition, drinks green smoothies daily. Her body easily enjoys spinach, rocket, watercress, dandelion leaves, or parsley, but she finds raw kale, broccoli, celery sticks or carrot troublesome. So, she avoids them. All in all, what you need to do is to drink the green smoothie and observe its effects during the day and the day after.
Start slowly and build it up
Short term: buy or borrow a mid-price blender if you don’t have one at home. Even if you have the simplest blender possible at home – give it a go. Make a green smoothie and drink it every morning at least 30min before eating. Again, if you are an evening person, drink it in the evening, ideally 30-60min before the meal time or at least 1h after. Evaluate how you feel during a day (or the next day).
Long term: In a long run, the quality of the green smoothie makes a difference, not only in the taste, but actually in your willingness to make it and drink it frequently or set up a habit. It is all about the time efficiency and the fun of making it (smooth, easy, fast). I’m sure I would not stick to the daily habit with a poor blender.
So, if you like a green smoothie, my advice is to buy the best blender you can afford.
Start slowly: Again, if you want to start a daily habit of green smoothie – you need to start it slowly. Start with 10-15% of leafy greens and build it up to 40%. Alternate at least two leafy greens, say spinach and parsley (or lettuce, romain lettuce, rocket, etc). Do it for a week at least, ideally for a month. Make notes. Evaluate.
It may take up to a week or two for your body to adjust to ingesting raw leafy greens especially if you don’t regularly eat raw vegetables. This may include effects of a mild detox such as headaches, chills and even a mild cold. The strength of the effects is correlated with the amount of pre-processed (cooked, steamed, baked, or otherwise treated by a high temperature) food in your diet. For this reason, it may take two weeks before you observe the real benefits of drinking green smoothie. But, you may also see the advantages after the first drink. Be patient.
What stops you from taking action? You likely have a blender at home. Even a poor blender will give you an idea how the green smoothie may taste.
Other posts on green smoothies and raw food
- Green smoothie (r)evolution: eat more greens and love them too!
- Best smoothie blenders for making green smoothies
- Best green smoothie recipes
- Summer bliss: how to make raw ice-cream?