I have had many a health food love affairs. Some never really caught on, or I forget about them for a while, only to rediscover them later. A couple have been just plain bad, kind of like a guy you dated for a while only to look back on it and realize, woah... what the *&^% was I thinking? (I'm looking at you, agave, daiya cheese, and fake soy meat. NOT A HEALTH FOOD!) A few others have stayed for the long term- keepers! But the green smoothie is my one true, passionate love. I start probably 6 out of 7 mornings with a shake, and more often than not this is the base of them. I consider this recipe to be one of my most valuable key health and healing building blocks. If you do nothing else for your health, 1 green smoothie a day will provide invaluable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. Anytime anyone has a hangover, I hand them a green smoothie. I'm gonna be the cool mom passing out green smoothies to my teenagers on Sunday mornings.
You know those recommendations that you should be eating 12 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits per day? A daunting task to even seasoned health foodies, and seemingly impossible for people who haven't made fresh foods the basis of their diets yet. I find that the only way to come close to these numbers is to incorporate a vegetable smoothie. You are literally drinking a giant blended salad, and because many of the nutrients have already been broken down, you don't have to burden your system with a huge meal to digest first thing in the day. I personally feel best starting my morning with a smoothie as opposed to a thick porridge or a sauteé- it's lighter, easier to digest, and sets the stage for a healthy day ahead. Also, you can safely combine fruits and vegetables in this case, whereas fruit should otherwise be consumed alone as it digests the fastest!
I've heard from many people that green smoothies "look disgusting". Yeah, I guess so, if you add berries and it turns brown. Most of said people have never tried a green smoothie. For some though, it is an acquired taste, so you might want to start with the inverse of the green smoothie and begin blending mostly fruits with some kale, greens and carrots hidden in there, and then slowly upping your greens and lessening your fruits. I don't suggest to stay like this though- fruits, though natural sugar, are still extremely high in fructose- especially the really tasty ones like mangos, pineapple, and banana. Even if it's natural sugar, consuming giant amounts of them at once is good for your health, much less your blood sugar. It can lead to insulin disregulation and feed pathogenic bacteria, not to mention that giant frozen shakes also slow down your digestion immensely. Yeah, of course a giant fruit smoothie is delicious! That's because it's TOO MUCH SUGAR!! Sugar is delicious. It's also bad for you in excess. A vegetable smoothie is a far more sustainable and balancing choice.
For extra nutrient absorption, I always suggest to add a vitamin C source (citrus is great for this, as is Camu Camu powder) and some type of fat in order to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dark leafy greens are powerhouses of Vitamin A but they need fat in order to be converted to retinol, which is the usable form of Vit. A in your body. Healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, MCT oil, flax oil, and hemp seeds or hemp protein powder are delicious in this smoothie!
Many people ask me about juicing vs. blending. Both have their benefits, but I personally believe that blending is the preferred way to go. I love (GREEN!) juice and I incorporate them daily into my life, but never as a meal replacement or substitute unless I am on a specific cleansing protocol. The key here is FIBER. If you are going to use this as your breakfast, the way to keep your blood sugar balanced, your appetite satiated, and to meet your macronutrient nutritional needs (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) is to include the fiber. Juice is full of vitamins and minerals, but lacks fiber that will keep you full, energetic, and vibrant and your digestive system moving. A note on juice: I do not endorse fruit-based juices. The natural sugars in fruit are regulated by their fiber content, and when you take that away you are left with a giant insulin spike. If you juice, choose the greenest blend possible and if it does have fruit, drink it with a meal to lessen the blood sugar impact. Think about it- on a traditional juice fast, you could be consuming upwards of 200 grams (TWO HUNDRED GRAMS!!) of sugar in a day... doing that for two, three, seven days? Not great. Those foods are full of incredible nutrients and vitamins but while you are releasing the burden on your digestive system, you are adding an incredible burden to your liver who has to process, release and store all of that glucose being consumed. Eat your fruits (in moderation) and drink your veggies is my juice philosophy.
If I'm making a more flavorful or sweet smoothie, I will still always use greens but I use a little bit different of a base in order to incorporate strong flavors like chocolate, fruit, chai, or more prominent or specific flavor profiles. I will share that one soon!
The green smoothie is the savory, fresh and invigorating base. Feel free to add (or subtract) as many or as little things as you like. Drink your greens!
1.5 cups leafy greens ( I prefer kale & spinach; also can use watercress, bok choy, lettuce ( **STEAM them first if you have a thyroid condition to reduce the goitrogens and oxalates, which can inhibit iodine uptake in the thyroid! most will be removed by steaming lightly before blending.)
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/4 fresh or frozen avocado
1/4 cup frozen fruit (I choose berries or acaî for a lower sugar content)
8 mint leaves
1/4 cup cilantro (you can include stems!)
1/4 cup parsley (for these, too!)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 inch fresh ginger + turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp real vanilla powder
1.5 cups filtered water OR milk of your choice (I often use hemp milk or almond milk!)
OPTIONAL: PROTEIN POWDER (If you are using the green smoothie as your sole morning meal you should add a protein powder to the smoothie, at least 12-20g. I prefer hemp protein, sprouted brown rice, pea protein, grass fed gelatin or whey if you can tolerate it. Please choose a clean, minimally processed and organic source of protein! Stay away from any grain that is unsprouted as its vitamin and mineral levels will be significantly less absorbed in actuality.)
in addition to the vegetables above, I love to add in zucchini, beets, fennel, squash, sweet potato and starchy veggies. play around and see what combinations you love!
- wash and cut all vegetables, ensuring any mold, black or bad spots have been removed
- combine all ingredients in a high power blender (I love my Vitamix!)
- blend on high for 1 minute until creamy consistency is achieved
- if you do not have a high powered blender, that's fine! your smoothie will still be delicious, maybe just not quite as smooth. start by adding your leafy greens and water + blend, add carrots celery cucumber + blend again, then add the rest of the fruits and herbs and blend one last time. breaking it down into steps will help assimilate all of the different components into a smoother consistency!
- Try making double batches, or even make the night before so you can grab in the morning and go. Seal in an airtight bottle. Will last 2 days in the refrigerator.
Many of you know from my Instagram that I loooove the add-ins. But remember- they are just that, additions! They are not the main foundation. Supplements and herbs are valuable and have many medicinal properties, but it's important that we start with the building blocks first, ie. fresh, organic vegetables, herbs, and a bit of fruit. Here are a few of my favorites:
- flax oil & flax seeds: excellent sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. the seeds "gel up" with liquid and provide ample insoluble fiber and lubricating effects for the digestive system. excellent for relieving constipation and normalizing bowel movements. add these to the smoothie or sprinkle on top!
- chia seeds: another incredible nutritional powerhouse, chia seeds have tons of complete protein and omega 3's. they possess many of the same digestive regulating properties as flax seeds. consume in the smoothie so they have time to absorb the liquids and expand.
- camu camu powder: one of the highest sources of plant-based vitamin C, these berries from the Amazon contain 60x more than oranges- 1,180% of your daily value of vitamin C in 1 teaspoon!
- moringa powder: a tree from India, Moringa Oleifera has a rare combination in the plant world of 18 amino acids, including all 9 "essential" aminos that make up a complete protein, as well as over FOURTY (count 'em, 40!) powerful antioxidants... not to mention ample vitamins and minerals. a super food, indeed!
- bee pollen: a rich source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids, bee pollen is slightly sweet and can also significantly boost ones resistance and tolerance to seasonal allergies if purchased locally. I find that it helps with digestion and boosts my immune system.
- spirulina powder: a blue green algae, spirulina is a good source of plant-based protein- 65% with complete amino acids! it is rich in omega 3's , bioavailable iron, B vitamins, chlorophyll, and can be helpful in detoxification. Many people say that it is a good source of B-12 but it is highly debatable whether this form of B-12 is bioavailable. I do not suggest it in place of animal products as a sufficient B12 source.