I love green smoothies. Real, raw, whole food, organic glasses full of delicious, healthy, green goodness. Not fast-food cups full of sugar and artificial ingredients, or even smoothie bar, "all natural" (not organic), smoothies that are overpriced and way too sweet. My husband still teases me about drinking "swamp water" but I love how they make me feel and I think their vibrant green color is gorgeous! Making them at home is definitely the way to go and I'll show you how.
I love the green smoothies I make myself because they give me the nutritional punch my body needs, I can control exactly what goes into them, they're easy to make, and they taste like happiness! By using fresh (and fresh-frozen) ingredients, I swear I can feel the smoothie boost my energy right away and it feels like my cells are celebrating when I drink it.
I started out by juicing and even though I compost, I hated seeing all that leftover pulp get thrown out, along with the fiber and nutrients it contains. Fresh juice IS delicious and packed with nutrients but by eliminating all the fiber, juice's high levels of natural sugars get absorbed by our bodies very quickly, and that can have a just-as-bad effect on the body as eating refined sugars. Unless you juice all green vegetables, things like beets, carrots and any fruit you add are very high in the natural fruit sugar, fructose. You can read more about the trouble with sugars here.
I love smoothies because they keep all the fiber, along with the nutrients, and actually fill me up! Plus, I can pack way more veggies into a smoothie than I could ever sit down and eat in one sitting, so they help me get the nutrition I need. To digest the smoothie well, it's good to hold the smoothie in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing so the enzymes in your saliva have a chance to work! It's food, not just a drink to chug down. Remember amylase from high school biology? It starts the breakdown of carbohydrates and that all starts in the mouth.
Some people think you need a bunch of specific or fancy ingredients to make a smoothie, like cashew milk or greek yogurt, but I never do that. All you need is water, fruit and fresh greens like spinach, collard greens, kale, etc. If you're brave and want a noticeably earthy flavor, beet greens and chard are amazingly healthy leafy greens, too! Try different kinds and see what you like.
The only thing I'd highly recommend investing in is a high-power blender like the VItamix or the Ninja. Those babies really make the difference because they're powerful enough to pulverize your fruit and veggies and make a deliciously creamy smoothie. Who wants texture and chunks in their smoothie, right?
These blenders can be pricey but the smaller, less professional versions cost less and if you don't need to do any hardcore blending, and are willing to chop your fruit and veg into smaller pieces before you blend it, they work just fine. My mum has a small Ninja that's perfect for making single serving smoothies.
I made this smoothie with about of cup water, big handfuls of organic baby kale and baby spinach, a granny smith apple, a frozen banana saved from when it started to turn brown and I didn't want to throw it away. This is a great way to save bananas you don't get around to eating! Then I added half a bag of frozen tropical blend fruit (sliced banana, pineapple chunks and strawberries). That's it. Water, greens and fruit. And it was an AWESOME 30+ ounces of healthy, delicious lunch, no loss of fiber or nutrients, in a giant mason jar mug.
I like adding a stalk or two of celery, a whole cucumber, and even an avocado instead of a banana for creaminess if I want a more veggie-focused smoothie with less sugar sometimes, and different fruit like blueberries, blackberries, mango, peaches, oranges, a little lemon, or whatever suits my mood at the time.
I also try to rotate my greens, using different kinds week to week so I, number one, get flavor variety, and number two, avoid overloading my body with a plant's naturally occurring oxalic acid and alkaloids, etc. These are the plants natural defenses against the bugs that eat them, and in very concentrated amounts, they can be harmful to us. It's why we don't eat rhubarb leaves (they contain these things in very high concentration and they ARE poisonous ). I've never heard of anyone getting sick from using only spinach or kale week after week, but I just want you to know that the possibility exists so you can get the most out of your smoothies. You can read more about it here, here, here and here.
And always, always use organic produce because leafy greens and fruit typically retain high levels of pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group's independent testing. My body has been through so much already, I'm always aware of what I'm feeding it because I know my brain is still healing in many ways and my cells need food that helps them function, not toxic chemicals that make their functioning harder.
I prefer using frozen fruit because it gives me the most choice during the winter, even in California, and my blender does warm up my smoothies a little bit from all the friction happening during blending. I've seen a lot of info circulating on the internet about heat destroying the enzymes in raw foods, and cooking certainly changes which vitamins etc. we are able to absorb from different foods, but I can't find a definitive source that says the warmth from blending deactivates or destroys beneficial enzymes. But I like to keep my smoothies cold because they just taste better! Let's face it, warm smoothies are gross.
Frozen fruit isn't QUITE as nutrient dense as fresh fruit (fresh meaning picked by you or your farmer that day and eaten right away - fruit in the grocery store has often come from hundreds/thousands of miles away, picked before it's fully ripe just so it will make the trip and it's not fully mature when you buy it) but frozen fruit is frozen immediately after being picked, usually at peak ripeness, locking in those nutrients, and I love the variety and the convenience it provides. We've got to find what works for us because it's not good for us if we can't be bothered to make it and it never gets in our bodies!
I want to mention that smoothies and fresh juice are also naturally very acidic, and can be very sweet if they contain a lot of fruit, so I try to swish some fresh water around my mouth when I finish drinking my smoothie to help protect my teeth. I lost all but one of my front teeth in the accident and they were replaced with dental implants, so the natural teeth I have left are very precious to me. And it's pretty counterproductive to drink green smoothies to boost my health but destroy my teeth at the same time. Green smoothies have a lot of beneficial fiber and nutrients but I try to use common sense, I don't drink them every day and I change it up.
Earlier in this post I mentioned my 30 oz. mason jar mug and I know that's a BIG smoothie. I love those mugs though because they often come with lids, so if I can't finish my smoothie, I screw the lid on and stick it in the fridge for later. I always finish my smoothie at the latest the next day because the longer it sits, the more it oxidizes and loses nutrients as the vitamins and enzymes do break down.
You may have also noticed the straws I'm using! I never use plastic straws anymore because of the chemicals they contain that I don't want in my body (chemicals in the plastic can leach into the beverage your drinking as you suck on the straw). Plus, they're wasteful and I really believe the health of the planet affects our health directly. Instead I always use reusable stainless steel or silicone straws that don't leach any unwanted chemicals into my beverages, and can be washed and reused. Don't worry, they don't add any funky tastes to what I'm drinking and they're a much healthier way to go!
So give a green smoothie a try and tell me what you think, or if you drink them already, leave your favorite flavor/ingredient combo in the comments below! Maybe I'm missing out and you know something I don't know!
PS - Add a clean boost to your smoothie with my favorite vegan protein!
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