Sunday, April 1, 2012
I having been getting some questions lately in regards to my love affair with the green smoothie. These questions have included why I drink them, how I make them, what I use for ingredients, etc. I first learned about green smoothies last summer when I stumbled upon a website called My Big Fat Life by Rick Labrecque. He had lost a lot of weight by switching to a whole foods diet and drinking green smoothies was a part of that. There is also a lot of information on the web about green smoothies but I would like to provide some information about my personal experiences with them so that readers can get a general idea about them.
A green smoothie is basically greens and fruit blended. For someone like me, whom until 2 1/2 months ago, ate very few vegetables with their meals, it is a good way to get important nutrients into your body. Greens like spinach, kale, collard green, dandalion, swiss chard and such are nutritional powerhouses and provide an enormous amount of vitamins and minerals. Most people don't realize how important they are or that kale for examply, actually has more calcium than milk. By blending the green with fruit, you are able to absorb these vitamins and minerals more readily than if you were eating them cooked or in a salad.
So people sit here and think "Eww, blended spinach!" OK, with God as my witness, when you add the fruit to the smoothie in the appropriate amounts, you DO NOT TASTE THE GREENS! No matter how many times I tell people this, there are still some who do not believe me. All you have to do is try it. Now, the proportions are different for everyone. I have been drinking them long enough that at this point, I don't mind tasting the greens and I even like the taste. When I started out out making them though, I would do about 25% greens and 75% fruit. I can do a lot more than that now, up to 75% greens, but I usually run around 50/50 because of my medication.
Speaking of medication, I would be remiss if I didn't pause here and mention this. If you take blood thinners like Coumadin or you have blood clotting issues, you MUST talk to your doctor before dramatically increasing your greens intake. Many of the greens contain high levels of Vitamin K which promote blood clotting and can interefere with your medication or your health. I developed blood clots in my lungs recently, not due to green smoothies (I had not drank them in months) and had to go on blood thinners. The green thicken my blood and the blood thinners thin my blood so you can see the dilemma here. I do drink the green smoothies, but it is critical that I drink the same amount every day to keep my blood levels stable and I have also had to cut back on the amount of greens I use.
Anyways, besides greens and fruits, all you need is a blender. I have researched every blender on the market and tried more than my fair share. People in the green smoothie community say the best way to go is to purchase one of the high tech blenders in order to get your drink as smooth as possible. Blenders like Vitamix and BlendTec are awesome and do a million other things besides make smoothies but they come with a price tag of at least $400. I had gotten one of the above mentioned blenders as a gift and it did not work properly and I had to return it. I ended up buying a new Oster Classic for like $40 and it has done right by me. People say the cheaper blenders don't last as long. We'll see; going on about 10 months right now with my Oster. If you don't know what to do with your money or find this will be a lifelong habit for you, it's probably a wise investment. However do not think you cannot get a great green smoothie without one of the more expensive blenders, because you can!
So what do you do? I put some water in the blender first and then add my greens. I have found this to be the best way to get my green smoothie nice and smooth. I use the pulse feature a few times on my blender and then graduate to liquify. I make sure the greens are all nice and liquified before adding anything else. I think this is the biggest reason to my success with using an inexpensive blender. Then I add in my ground flax seed because it is high in Omega 3's and my fruit. I blend that all again and once mixed well, add some ice and use the ice crusher mode on my blender. Ahhh, delightful!
You can pretty much add anything you want to the blender. I have used soy milk, almond milk, chia seeds, soy yogurt, agave, honey, and a few other additives; be creative! For me, I have come to the realization that I don't want the extra sugar in my smoothies as the fruit is sweet enough so I have cut out the additives like honey and agave. I have also switched to plain water from the different milks because I want to keep the green smoothie primarily focused on the fruits and vegetables.
I typically make a whole blender full and after drinking what I am going to drink for the day, I put the rest into a glass mason jar. I found this little tip online and it is a great idea. The green smoothie stays fresher and will keep through the next day so you don't have to blend every single day unless you are drinking more than that. I have tried just storing the blender pitcher itself in the fridge overnight but I found that it did not stay as fresh and you could taste the greens more the next day. Also the mason jars are portable for road trips and such. I keep a stock of those wide diameter straws and all you have to do is pop one in the mason jar and off you go.
I have experimented with what seems like a zillion and one different combinations of fruits and vegetables and have found some favorites. The important part is to rotate your greens so that you are not using one for several days in a row. I typically vary my greens between spinach, kale, and collard greens. I also try to add in dandalion on a regular basis as it is a great detoxifier. Kale is the most difficult to blend and may require a little more effort but definitely worth it. I have found in the past few months that stores like Trader Joe's have packaged kale and a combination mix labeled "southern greens" which has a variety of different greens in it. Fresh organic produce from the local farm stand is always best but my feeling is that if the packaged stuff, especially in the winter, gets me to make and drink my smoothies when I am sick and tired, then it is worth it.
You can use pretty use much any type of fruit but my favorites tend to be banana, mango, kiwi, berries, grapes, and pineapple both because of the taste and the consistency. I have used other fruits such as apple, pear, and melons but I find that they don't mask the taste of the greens as well and they can be more difficult to blend in a less expensive blender. The sky is the limit when it comes to all of the different fruits and greens combinations you can use.
I just think green smoothies are a great tool in changing nutritional habits. I found that the more greens and fruit I eat, the more I want them or that I miss them when I skip a day or two. Your body will crave healthy food when you give it healthy food. I have not made any green smoothies for kids but I would think that would be a win-win situatio. Kids get to drink something funky looking, it tastes great, and they get all those important nutrients as well. And for those of you looking for healthier nails and hair, nothing will improve both of these like a green smoothie, trust me.