Green smoothies are all the hype these days, but there's much confusion about how to get the most out of that daily dose of feel-good medicine.
One of the chief reasons you’d want to swap your dead, sugar-laden, complex breakfast with a “pre-chewed” living greens smoothie is to gain access to bioavailable nutrition while preserving your precious digestive fire. In this way, your body can focus its energy on other important tasks, like cellular repair, detoxification and the metabolism of that not-so-healthy late-night snack.
Unlike popular belief, it’s not necessary to start your engine in full force from the moment you wake up. Have your lemon water, take your probiotics, vitamin D, iron and B12, then get blending.
Confused about the process? Let me offer some simple tips.
Add more greens
If you want your smoothie to be healthy, keep the alkalizing greens dominant (60-80%). Know that these greens shouldn’t ever compromise the taste. Get them in, mask them with some low to medium GI fruit and a few delicious supplements, and both your belly and your palette remain satisfied.
Easy, neutral tasting greens include romaine and spinach. Start with these and you may get hooked. Other fun greens to play with include kale, collard greens (stems removed), butter/red/green lettuce, fennel, celery, cucumber and herbs (cilantro, mint and parsley — in smaller quantities). If you’re overwhelmed by the taste of pungent or bitter greens, halve the amount and substitute with romaine or spinach.
Use low glycemic fruit
A spike in blood sugar is not necessary for any of us, no matter what time of day. Because that’s usually followed by a crash, and we certainly don’t want to feel like we need a nap at 11 o’clock in the morning. To keep your blood sugar levels balanced, the majority of your fruit should be low GI, with a smaller quantity of medium-labelled fruit. Low GI fruits include apples, pears, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, strawberries and plums, while medium GI fruits include bananas, mangoes, papaya and pineapple, to name a few.
If you can, stick to organic varieties. If this isn’t possible, shop from the Clean 15 — you’ll be surprised how many delicious fruits and veggies make the cut!
It’s important to mention that each body will react differently to food combinations and health claims. The key is to experiment with yourself, cautiously and openly. I personally add a ripe banana to my daily smoothie and have never experienced a crash - or felt poor in any way (bloating, gas, headache). Others may beg to differ. I say stick to low GI, play with the medium GI options and listen to your body.
Use supplements! But make sure they’re clean.
These days, it’s just not enough to trust our fruits and vegetables alone to provide us with adequate nutrition. Not because they’re not amazing for your health, but rather it has to do with the quality of the soil in which they were grown - their source of health. If the soil is deficient in the first place, how do we expect our whole foods to live up to our expectations?
This is where organic and local also come into play. If we only opt for organic, often those varieties must travel the globe to get to our kitchens. Similar to globe-trotting humans, the process of air/ship/land distribution is tiresome, energy depleting and potentially toxic.
So, back to supplements. These babies are nutritious, specific, delicious (some, anyway) and accessible. Some supplements may also improve the absorption of nutrients from your living foods into your gut, which makes them crucial to getting that extra umph out of your daily smoothie. I’ll offer my suggestions based on the desired health benefits themselves — and look out for multi-functional duplicates!
Here are my top supplement suggestions, with some key, but non-exclusive benefits noted:
- Fiber: chia seeds (soluble and insoluble), flax seeds, psyllium husks
- Protein: spirulina, chlorella, nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, chia, flax, hemp) — or their respective butters, mesquite, lucuma, carob
- Vitamins and minerals: maca (B12, iron, calcium, libido boost), lucuma (potassium, magnesium, phosphorus), ashwagandha (antioxidant, adaptogen, great for men), shatavari (calcium, zinc, excellent for women), cacao (antioxidants, magnesium), carob (potassium, calcium), mesquite (calcium, magnesium, potassium), matcha green tea (antioxidant)
- Healthy fat: coconut (meat, oil, butter), avocado, nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, chia, flax, hemp — the latter of which offers both omega-3 and -6).
- Low GI sweet tooth satisfiers: stevia leaf powder or extract, medjool dates, lucuma (naturally sweet), mesquite (sweet, caramely flavor), coconut nectar
- Miscellaneous healers: vanilla bean powder, cinnamon (blood sugar regulator), ginger (digestive), turmeric (anti-inflammatory), cayenne (gut cleaner)
Switch it up frequently and mindfully
This one holds true for most things in life. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring and overwhelming, physically, emotionally and in the case of health, internally. There's quite a bit of talk about dark leafy greens like spinach and chard containing oxalates, which block or reduce calcium absorption, but this shouldn’t stop anyone from using these greens unless indicated professionally.
Diversity also applies to fruits and supplements. If you’ve been adding an apple to your smoothie this week, use a pear next week. Add flax today and hemp tomorrow. On days when your sweet tooth dominates, throw in some extra lucuma or mesquite. Maybe even a pinch of stevia or a date or two. Substitute your water base with coconut water or a homemade nut milk. For the daring or for those trying to prevent a cold, use a tea base, like immune-boosting chaga or reishi.
Switch it up, make smoothie prep fun and you’ll see how quickly it becomes a part of your routine.
My final tips and thoughts:
- Blend your greens first and then add the remaining ingredients and blend again. This creates more room for other goodies.
- If you’re hooked on blending, consider investing in the almighty Vitamix. It will turn your smoothies into pure decadence. Other high-speed blenders include the Blendtec and Nutribullet.
- If you’d like to creamify your smoothies, add a small amount of whole-food healthy fats, like avocado (1/2 is sufficient), coconut meat (2 tbsp) or a handful of nuts or seeds (nut butters, seed butters and milk included).
Don’t forget that digestion starts in your mouth! Activate those salivary enzymes by “chewing” your smoothie. If you draw unnecessary attention from bystanders, simply embrace and welcome it — unless it’s warranted by your green mustache!
Take advantage of the opportunity and flaunt that green drink like it’s a trendsetter. Why? Because it is. Health is the new wealth. Period.
Happy healthy-yummy-balanced smoothie sipping and chewing!
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