People who have introduced Green Smoothies in to their diets have reported many health benefits. Raw food eaters in particular have embraced this nutritional powerhouse to boost their already nutritious diet, and to find that missing element to achieving excellent health and vitality.
What are they?
Green Smoothies are smoothies with greens blended through them, quite simple really. Greens are incredibly nutritious, however people struggle to eat enough of them with regard to quantity and many find them hard to digest. It has been suggested that this is due to not having enough stomach acid and not having enough jaw strength to chew them till they are a creamy consistency. Blended greens have their structure ripped apart and are effectively pre-digested. Adding fruit makes them taste great and is also a clever way of getting a lot of fruit into your diet, which most people don't have enough of in addition to enough greens.
Below I have detailed further theory behind this wonderful type of food/drink and provided some tasty recipes with photos. Enjoy!
What's the big deal about greens?
According to Victoria Boutenko (author of Green for Life) greens are the primary food group that match human nutritional needs most completely.
Greens are loaded with amino acids, (the building blocks of protein), minerals, vitamins, fibre & chlorophyll.
Greens can be combined with any other food and enhance digestion by stimulating enzyme production. Hence the combination of greens and fruit in green smoothies is very acceptable i.e. versus the combination of fruit with other food types, and starch with protein e.g. classic SAD fair such as cheese and bread, milk and cereal (See the book by Victoria Boutenko, Green for Life for more detail).
Take a leaf out of a chimp's diet...
Chimpanzees are the closest animal relative to humans sharing over 99% of the same genes. They eat a diet consisting of 50% fruit, 40% greens and 10% pith, bark and insects. This is all raw and whole food.
Over 50% of most SADs(standard american diet) contain cooked carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Approximately 35% fats, oils and animal proteins and the rest fruit, vegetables and greens.
Even the average raw food diet has about 35% plant based fats and oils and a small percentage of greens.
The chronic diseases of humankind are not seen in wild chimps so why not take a leaf out of their book and see what their big secret is? No secret, lifestyle and diet are blatantly different.
A diet of 50% fruit, 40% greens and 10% or less fat is the ideal diet according to many experienced raw foodists and those with the best health. Hence green smoothies are an excellent way of getting extra greens into your diet in addition to eating a lot of salad!
To eat or blend your greens?
Greens are biologically very hardy on a molecular level as they contain cellulose. Nutrients are stored within the plant's cells and their cell walls need to be ruptured to release them. This requires a significant amount of chewing, which humans struggle with, our jaws are not strong enough and we are very impatient. We also need strong stomach acid which many of us lack.
To get enough greens, blending them in a smoothie is ideal as it ruptures the plant cell membranes releasing nutrients very easily. Victoria Boutenko recommends a quart a day of Green Smoothie.
Any greens eaten whole are still encouraged, however they should be chewed very well!
What is the best blender you may ask....…Well, any blender works however cheaper ones will break down sooner. The popular, expensive and very effective blenders are Vitamix and Blendtec as brands. Personally I use a Vitamix which is a multi-purpose kitchen appliance that blends, food processes, crushes ice, mills grain and more...its awesome.
The Protein Myth
As a vegetarian or vegan one of the questions you regularly get from people who know far less then you do about nutrition is 'Where do you get your protein from?" After you wait for your blood to stop boiling from being asked AGAIN, you smile and politely reply "from my food".
Seriously though, there is no danger of protein deficiency if you eat calories that contain nutrition. I know there are vegetarians and vegans out there living on jam sandwiches, and yes, they may be protein deficient, however they will also be nutrient deficient overall.
The World Health Organization states that we only need 10% of our calories from protein. T. Colin Campbell, who wrote the amazing book, "The China Study" states that we only need 5-6% of our calories from protein, with 10% recommended to ensure we do get the 5-6% we need.
Carbohydrate is what we primarily need for energy, fat is what we primarily need for our brain and endocrine system, and protein is what we need primarily for growth and repair. As adults we are not growing like we do as children, and definitely as we do as babies. Mother's milk is the perfect food for— an infant up to 6 months of age and it contains around 6% of its calories from protein — only 6%! At the most rapid period of growth our lives. Mother's milk is mostly fat and much of it is lauric acid, which is similar to the extremely healthy fatty acids in coconut water.
Many fad diets are high protein and low carbohydrate with the mistaken theory that excreting ketones in your urine is a good thing. Aside from overly taxing your kidneys, a high protein diet is reported to lead to problems such as kidney stones, osteoporosis, mood disorders and bad body odor. High protein diets do tend to cause weight loss but this is not due to ketosis, it is due to calorie deprivation and the fact that protein is more satiating than carbohydrate based food of the same volume.
It is important to eat protein at each meal if you wish to lose weight and keep your blood sugar levels even, however this does not mean a slab of meat at each sitting. Protein rich plant sources are very abundant and include green leaves! Also seed grains like quinoa and amaranth, sprouts like alfalfa and lentil, nuts and seeds like almonds and sesame, and legumes like chickpeas.
The idea that you have to combine different plant based protein sources together to make a complete protein such as beans and rice, was debunked in the 1970s! As long as a variety of protein sources are being consumed regularly, it is not necessary to consume all essential amino acids in one meal.
What are amino acids? - They are the building block of protein. We eat foods that contain protein, our digestive system breaks it down into individual amino acids, then re-assembles them into new proteins needed by the body e.g. enzymes.There are 22 amino acids and 8 are essential amino acids, meaning we must eat them because we can't manufacture them. A complete protein has all 8 essential amino acids and includes foods like meat & eggs. The problem is that most concentrated protein sources are cooked and cooking destroys 50% of the available protein. It may be complete but it is only half available once eaten. Raw plant foods are 100% available and some plants are also complete proteins like soy, quinoa and amaranth.
A big misconception is that people wanting to put on muscle need to eat more protein and some bodybuilding often involves extraordinary amounts of eating lean chicken breast or drinking protein powder shakes. Yes, we need protein for growth but, what builds muscle is weight bearing exercise and we need fuel to do this. You cannot build muscle without resistance training e.g. weight lifting. You can eat lots of chicken and it will fuel your body, but its much harder fuel to process. Exercise and complex carbohydrate intake is the best combination as it is an energy efficient fuel. Training with higher carbs (complex/whole food carbs not simple/sugary/starchy carbs) will result in excellent energy, great mood, excellent elimination through the bowel (because diet high in fibre) and great muscle tone and recovery after exercise.
Green Smoothies are a great source or protein when you are consuming a good 40% of your smoothie as greens. Greens are protein rich, with the obvious evidence being grazing animals like cattle and sheep. Not to mention apes! How muscular are these animals and they are vegan! Spinach has 30% of its calories as protein compared to cheese at 26%, milk at 23% and beef at 50%. But remember cooking destroys protein by 50%, so 100 g of cooked beef is similar to around 80 g of raw spinach for available protein content.
Popeye couldn't be wrong could he?
My Green Smoothie Recipes
Firstly can I say that green smoothies don't taste horrible. They look green but taste like the fruit in them. Obviously if you go overboard with the greens it will taste pretty green, but generally speaking you don't taste the them much if at all.
The recipe below is approximately enough for two large glasses of green smoothie holding 2 cups, or 16 fl. oz or around 1 quart in total.
It is generally recommended to use 40% greens and 60% fruit. If you do happen to overdo the greens, try a bit of vanilla or some lemon juice to take the edge off.
Greens I use are usually a combination of Kale, Collards, Chard and Spinach. If Kale is used I usually use it with a milder green as it can be strong. I have also recently experimented with my regular salad mix when I have run out of my 'greens for green smoothies container' in the fridge. They are also great, however be mindful that the red leaves are generally more bitter.
I have also used Celery (stalks and tops), cos/romaine lettuce, carrot tops & parsley stalks. Any green can be used but be careful it is not a mustard green or rocket as the taste is dreadful!!! Experiment yourself however don't use the same one all the time. Its important to rotate your greens to respect the seasons, however it is more important to get a variety of nutrients and avoid the same plant alkaloids in greens. Chard & Spinach contain oxalic acid and if you only eat chard or spinach in your green smoothies, you may start to have problems with too much of it in your system. One issue is It binds with calcium which will decrease absorption of this important mineral. I can tell if I have been eating too much of the same green, because I start to not want smoothies and I feel a bit queasy mid morning.
Try to buy organic greens , they won't contain pesticides and herbicides and will contain more nutrients than conventional greens. If you can only buy non-organic please wash them very thoroughly with a good quality and chemical free fruit and veggie wash. Even better, grow them yourself. Chard is so easy to grow, even someone without green thumbs can do it!
Be sure to blend thoroughly to break up all the greens, rest your blender if needed should you have a less expensive/powerful model9.
Please only use filtered water or pure spring water
*Before following this or any other diet plan seek the approval of your Physician