by Linda Carrington
First and Foremost: A Disclaimer
I am not, nor do I pretend to be, a nutritionist or any kind of expert on nutrition. While I have studied nutrition rather extensively, both formally and informally, and I am a near-lifelong vegetarian and vegan-in-progress, I am presenting this program simply because I have found that, with the addition of green smoothies and other whole foods to my diet, I have been in better overall health than I have since I developed a serious, disabling case of ME/CFS in 2004.
Though I can’t explain it scientifically, (even if my former science teacher self thinks I should be able to), here is what I know: This past year has been one of the most stressful of my life. Normally, that would have left me bed-bound and sick with swollen glands, sore throats, fevers, flu-like symptoms and major fatigue and weakness. But, after being forced by circumstance in May of 2010 to increase my fruit and vegetable intake, largely in the form of green smoothies, I have had zero… count ‘em… zero traditional ME/CFS crashes. I can only attribute this to my greatly improved diet and my three new best buddies: green smoothies and a couple of pretty impressive blenders!
So, What IS a Green Smoothie?
A Green Smoothie is typically a blended concoction made primarily with nutrient-rich and oh-so-healthy fresh greens and/or other vegetables combined with fruit.
• Nutrient Density: A green smoothie can provide a full day’s worth of fruit and veggie nutrition in one easy to digest drink. Good digestion begins in the mouth, and as stated at http://www.greensmoothie.com/blend/green.php , “A blender is a perfect set of teeth.” Give your digestive system a head start with a gift of smooth green goodness every day!
• Energy Savings: It is quick and easy! I find it much easier to toss a bit of this or that in my blender, mix it up, drink it down, and be done with it than to hang out in the kitchen cooking for any length of time.
• Nutrient Bio-availability and Blood Sugar Stability: By blending your fruits and vegetables, you help break down the plants’ cell walls in advance of them hitting your mouth, giving you a head start in the nutrient absorption process. By using the complete food, fiber and all, you slow down digestion of fruit sugars that can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes.
• Rehydration: We are often more dehydrated than we think, especially after a night’s sleep. Having a green smoothie every morning is a great way to re-hydrate and nourish yourself with green, water-filled goodness to start your day.
• Portability: You can mix a day’s worth and bring some along in a bottle for later use.
• Easy Clean-up. No washing a lot of dishes after! Rinse your knife, blender, and cup with a couple of drops of dish soap, and you’re done!
But What About Protein?
There are many schools of thought about protein and what kind and how much is enough, and you will have to decide for yourself what is right for you. But, you might be surprised to learn that your body can do very well (some would suggest far better) with less protein than we Americans have traditionally been taught. You might also be surprised to learn that plant foods are full of protein. Most vegetables have around 10% protein, while spinach and broccoli are about 40% protein. The big winners in the plant protein contest, weighing in at 58-90% protein are seaweeds (algaes) like spirulina and chlorella.
For more on the protein content of various plant foods, see: http://www.vegparadise.com/protein.html, http://www.soystache.com/protein.htm, and USDA Nutrient Database: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl .
• Start with more fruit, fewer veggies, and slowly reverse that as your palette adjusts to new and interesting flavors and textures.
• Start with already established recipes from books and websites, some of which are listed below.
• Vary your greens and fruits daily. Your body needs nutritional variety in order to stay healthy. While it may be easy to make the same smoothie every day, real health benefits are seen when you rotate your recipes and try new combinations. The more variety you get in, the more likely you’ll be feeding your cells the nutrients they need.
• Add sweeteners if needed. I have a fondness, when my smoothies need to be just a bit more sweet, for flavored Wisdom Naturals Sweetleaf liquid stevia. I also find that adding a bit of good, natural organic lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered licorice, or other natural, unsweetened juices and spices help make a recipe-gone-wrong more palatable.
• Start with spinach. Adding spinach to almost anything does little to alter its taste. Add more and more spinach and when you are ready, move on to other, potentially more bitter greens like kale and collards. Note: Removing the stems of large-stemmed greens like kale can cut down on the bitterness.
• Experiment! Start with a basic smoothie recipe like the ones offered below, and then play with adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to the mix. I have successfully used cooked sweet potatoes, cooked squashes, cucumbers, carrots, cooked and raw beets, tomatoes, dandelion greens, and more to my smoothies. Sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t. But it makes me feel like Harry Potter in Potions Class when I experiment, which is pretty darn fun, I must say!
• If you feel like you simply must have more protein, feel free to supplement with one of the many products out there on the market. Lately, I’ve been using Garden of Life Raw Meal if I feel like I’m not eating very well and need a boost.
• Sensitive to Fruit Sugars? Have candida or blood sugar issues??
According to Tera Warner, the Green Smoothie Queen and founder of the Raw Divas, a group of diverse women dedicated to spreading the word about nutrition and healthy living, blood sugar issues can be aggravated by having too much fat in the diet. So, first cut back on fat (it’s a good thing to do for all of us, really!) Then add more veg and less fruit to your smoothies. If that isn’t helping, substitute sweet fruit with non-sweet fruits like cucumber, tomato, avocado, etc. Also try sub-acid (more alkaline) fruits like apples, pears, and berries instead of bananas, mangos, and other highly sweet and/or acidic fruits.
The Psychology of Good Nutrition
Change is hard.
Change is hard.
Change is hard, but so worth it!
• Start small and work up. You can succeed with making changes in your life on a gradient, not all at once. Moving too quickly into new habits can leave you feeling stressed out, deprived, and discouraged and could result in binges on less healthy foods.
• Leave perfectionism behind. Any improvement is good improvement, no matter how small! Pat yourself on the back for each and every healthy choice you make as opposed to beating yourself up about “falling off the wagon.” (Top Secret Info: There is no wagon!!)
• Timing is important: We are most likely to follow through on our good intentions early in the day, when we are not tired, stressed, or over stimulated. I love how each morning, I am able to get a full day’s serving of both fruits and vegetables into one
basic breakfast drink. Anything I do on top of that is worth bonus points for my body.
• Establish a routine. Arrange your environment for success. Have your blender out and ready to go at all times. Pre-wash and store your fruits and greens in a handy, easy to grab spot. Keep your fresh ingredients on your upper refrigerator shelves, not buried below in the crisper where they will just turn into compost.
Add water as needed to blend. You may want to start with about 70% fruit and 30% greens, with your goal being to reduce fruit and increase greens. Work up to 30% fruit and 70% greens.
Here's a selection of Green Smoothie “recipes” chiefly from Frederic Patenaude and the Green For Life book by Victoria Boutenko (http://www.greensmoothie.com/blend/green.php)
Always blend the fruit first –add water as needed.
1) 2-3 cups any greens of your choice, 2 cups papaya, 2 oranges, 3 dates (soak dates for a few hours ahead for best results).
2) 1 handful lettuce leaves, 1 handful mint, 4 bananas, 1/2 cup water.
3) Winter Smoothie - 1 cup organic frozen berries (any kind), 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/4 inch fresh ginger, water.
4) Spring Smoothie - fresh orange juice, ripe bananas, frozen mangoes, and several large leaves of kale (extra frozen mango gives lovely thick consistency you eat with a spoon).
5) 1/2 bunch romaine lettuce, 1 cup strawberries, 2 bananas, water.
6) 4-5 kale leaves, 4 apples, 1/2 lemon juiced, water.
7) 2 big handfuls mixed baby greens, 2 pears, 2 mangoes, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.
8) Choc-mint – 2 cups spinach, 10-12 mint leaves, 3 bananas, 2 Tbs. carob powder, 1 cup water.
9) 1 handful of spinach, 2 stalks of celery, 2 bananas, 2 pears, 1 apple, 1 cup water.
10) 1 small handful of spinach, 2 cups arugula, 2-3 mangoes, 1 cup water.
11) 1/2 head romaine lettuce, 1 small pineapple, 1 large mango, 1-inch fresh ginger.
12) 1 handful wild greens (e.g. dandelion), 1 small handful mint leaves, 3 cups honeydew melon.
13) 3-4 stalks celery, 2 ripe persimmons, 1 banana.
14) 1 handful chard leaves, 5-6 kale leaves, 3 large bananas, 1 cup water.
15) 1 handful parsley, 3 cups of peeled papaya.
Return to Home Page