Even though our mothers admonished us as children to “eat our greens”, trying to lay a healthy foundation for life, most adults confess that it’s not that easy to get it right.
But what if there were a delicious, easy way to get all the nutritious benefits of healthy greens without having to chomp your way through mountains of broccoli and spinach?
Enter green smoothies – a fruit smoothie with added leafy greens.
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These smoothies taste a lot better than they look and contain high doses of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and easily digestible proteins, all in one glass. Think combinations of fresh, raw, green leafy vegetables such as rocket, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, watercress, parsley, lettuce, endive, chicory, broccoli sprouts and mustard sprouts…
A brief history
Although green smoothies sound like the latest health buzzword, they are in fact not that new. They were invented years ago by Lithuanian holistic health practitioner and author Ann Wigmore, described as a food genius by The Vegetarian Times Magazine.
Her personal experience of healing colon cancer with the help of wheatgrass juice, along with other vitamin- and enzyme-rich foods, resulted in her spending the next 35 years of her life studying and educating others about natural healing, whole foods and optimum nutrition.
Although Wigmore died tragically in a fire in 1994, aged 84, her pioneering work continues through the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute and other “green-food” proponents such as Victoria Boutenko, author of the international bestseller Green smoothie revolution (North Atlantic Books).
While Wigmore initially advocated juicing fruits and vegetables as a way to obtain optimal nourishment, she later supported the concept of blending foods rather than juicing them. She believed that the rapid cleansing action of juices could be too much for most people’s bodies to handle.
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In one of her 15 books, Wigmore commented that “blending helps the body clean itself and thus it restores health much quicker than just eating the foods as salads; yet it doesn’t overtax the system with the rapid cleansing action of juices”.
She added that juices also don’t contain enough fibre and that “separating the fibre and other elements from the juice results in a food that’s not as balanced as nature would have it”.
The most nutritious source of food on earth
Award-winning author Victoria Boutenko took up the green food cause after her own family switched to a raw-food diet to rid themselves of numerous health problems.
Writing in one of her green smoothie online blogs, Boutenko comments that “greens are the most nutritious source of food on earth”. All creatures, she adds, consume some form of greens – even whales eat algae and polar bears eat moss.
Boutenko says that, although greens have been an essential part of the human diet since the beginning of time, people in Western countries have almost completely stopped eating greens over the last two centuries.
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It’s a fact that many people, even those who follow a raw-food diet, don’t consume enough greens.
“By drinking two or three cups of green smoothies daily, you’ll consume enough greens for the day to nourish your body; and all of the beneficial nutrients will be well assimilated,” she remarks.
According to Boutenko, some of the reasons why you should go green include the following:
- Green smoothies are extremely nutritious and
easy to digest. The blending process will rupture most of the cells in fruits
and greens, making it easy for the body to absorb and assimilate the nutrients.
- Green smoothies with a 60:40 fruit to vegetable
ratio are surprisingly palatable, since the fruit flavours tend to dominate.
- Smoothies are easy to make – unlike juicing
greens, which is expensive, messy and time-consuming. It’s also quick to clean
- Incorporating green smoothies into your daily
diet greatly reduces oil and salt consumption.
- Regularly consuming green smoothies makes it
easier to get into the habit of ingesting greens, which is difficult for many
people, especially children. A delicious green smoothie is a sneaky way to get kids
to eat their greens.
- Smoothies are a convenient way to consume
healthy nutrients on the go (e.g. at work or while travelling) as they’ll keep
for up to three days at a cool temperature.
The perfect, healthy breakfast
Green smoothies are the ideal way for people who routinely skip breakfast to quit this unhealthy habit.
Skipping breakfast is one of the worst things you can do as it disrupts the body’s normal circadian rhythm of fasting and feeding, writes nutrition expert Dr David Ludwig of Boston’s Children’s Hospital in a Harvard newsletter.
“When you wake up, the body’s blood glucose (needed to power muscles and brains) is usually low, and breakfast helps to replenish it,” Ludwig says. “However, when you miss the day's first meal, you may start tapping your energy reserves — including what's stored in your muscle,” he explains.
Ludwig adds that skipping breakfast causes tiredness and increases the likelihood of overeating in general or being tempted to have an unhealthy pick-me-up snack later on.
He recommends that a good breakfast should include some carbohydrates with fibre (whole grains, fruits or vegetables), a source of lean protein such as Greek yogurt, and some healthful fats (e.g. nuts and seeds). If you make a green smoothie the night before, nothing could be easier than pouring and enjoying it before dashing off to work the next day.
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After losing more than 50kg by eating green smoothies and overcoming chronic fatigue syndrome, she firmly believes that green smoothies aren’t just a passing fad.
“There are so many reasons why people are turning to green smoothies,” Katherine enthuses. “They’re quick, healthy, easy to drink, a great way to get your greens and any other foods that blend easily, and they taste great.”
Experiment with smoothie flavours
Have fun experimenting and create your own smoothie favourites. Add these nutrient-dense foods regularly for the ultimate health kick:
- Chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens,
- Bell peppers, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms
(crimini and shiitake)
- Cantaloupe, papaya, raspberries, strawberries
- Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower)
- Almonds, cashews, peanuts
- Low-fat yogurt
- Oats, quinoa
Victoria Boutenko recommends alternating greens to include ones from various different plant families. This way, you’ll enjoy different tastes and also maximise the nutritional value of your smoothies.
A few tips:
• Include greens such as rocket, asparagus, celery, chard, collard greens, endive, Romaine red and green-leafed lettuce, radishes and wheatgrass.
• Good herbs to add to green smoothies are aloe vera, baby dill, basil, cilantro, fennel, mint, lemon balm, parsley, peppermint leaves and stevia.
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Image: Blended green smoothie with ingredients from Shutterstock.