The new advent of the health food world is called the green smoothie. These blender drinks pack in phytonutrient-rich leafy greens with a serving or two of fresh fruits. Throw in a superfood of your choice as an addition, and you have yourself a meal or a snack that will give you lasting energy plus loads of vitamins and minerals to keep your nutrient levels strong.
Most leafy greens are a rich source of Vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, magnesium, folate, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, healthy muscle and nerve functioning, blood pressure control, and blood clotting.
You may have seen green smoothies on the menu at the juice bar or at the café at the gym. But its great to know how to make these for yourself without having to pay high prices for someone else to switch on the blender button. Here is a primer on how to get started:
Get out the blender! You will need a high-powered unit (like a Vitamix or a Blendtec). These have motors and blades that will turn your kale or chard into liquid in seconds. If one of these isn’t in your kitchen arsenal yet, use the blender you have, but choose tender greens to include like spinach or parsley while you save up for the blender upgrade (they are pricey, but worth it!)
Add 2 cups of a liquid base into your blender: Choose from water, coconut water, rice milk, almond milk, or cow’s milk.
Add 2-3 handfuls of leafy greens: Choose from kale (discard the tough fibrous stems), collards, beet greens, swiss chard, spinach, parsley, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce or a combination. It is recommended to rotate through the leafy greens on a regular basis to lower the buildup of goitrogens and oxalic acid present in many of them. Rotating through a variety of leafy greens will also ensure that you get a wider range of vitamins and minerals in your diet, boosting your overall nutritional intake.
Add 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen fruit, depending on the level of sweetness you want: Choose from raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, pears, peaches, oranges, or cherries. Make it easy and buy packs of fruit in the freezer section of the store. Cost-cutting tip: buy fruit on sale, let ripen, cut and peel if needed (make sure you peel the bananas!) and pop into baggies to freeze. The fruit will balance out the bitterness of the greens, and make the drink more palatable. As you experiment and find combinations you like and get used to the taste, you can reduce the amount of fruit in the smoothie, reducing your sugar intake.
Add the creamy factor—either 1 banana, ½ of a ripe avocado, ½ cup of dried coconut flakes or ½ cup of raw coconut oil. These will put the “smooth” in your smoothie and will keep you coming back for more!
Step 6 (optional)
Pack in even more nutrition with a hint of superfoods—just a small amount will put your smoothie over the top in terms of nutrient richness—choose from chia seeds, bee pollen, royal jelly, spirulina, or maca powder.
Getting on the green smoothie bandwagon takes a little bit of planning and preparation, but once you make it a part of your routine, keeping a stock of fresh produce on hand will become second nature. An upside to adding them to your diet is getting your kids into the fun as well! Starting with a ratio of more fruits to greens will make the smoothies sweet enough for children to enjoy, giving you a practical strategy for giving their growing and developing bodies the essential nutrients they need.