We all know we need to be eating our greens. But, let’s face it, how many of us are getting even 2 servings of dark green leafy veggies per day, much less the recommended 4 to 5 or more? Okay, let’s back up a minute, why are greens so good for us anyway?
It turns out that green “leafies” are actually one of the BEST foods for human beings! Why? Leafy greens are full of live enzymes, vitamins, alkalinizing minerals, antioxidants, fiber, amino acids (yes…there is protein in greens!) and chlorophyll: all of which are wonderfully nourishing and protective for human tissues and detoxifying at the same time.
Chlorophyll is what gives the leaf it’s green color and, interestingly, the chlorophyll molecule is only slightly different from the hemoglobin molecule (the molecule in human blood that carries oxygen to all of our body cells). Chlorophyll is known to stop yeast and fungus growth in the digestive tract, counteract toxins and radiation, de-activate many carcinogens, counteract inflammation, and promote healthful intestinal flora.
Greens help nourish, strengthen and heal every organ system in our bodies, as well as support the natural detoxification and cleansing mechanisms that we are born with. They give us more energy, cut cravings for sweets and stimulants, and prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
In Oriental Medicine, greens are said to build Blood and improve the functioning of the Liver, which is responsible for removing toxins that come from the external environment and from our own body’s metabolic and hormonal processes. This results in greater energy, better hormonal profiles, less depression, less PMS, luxurious hair, strong nails and dewy skin, as well as better overall health in general.
If you are looking to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, greens have the highest nutrient density of any foods on the planet. This means they pack the highest nutritional punch with the lease amount of calories. The more greens you eat, the easier it will be to lose those extra pounds.
So, now that we know we need to be consuming a LOT more greens, how do we get them into our diets easily? The answer is Green Smoothies:
- Green Smoothies are very tasty! There are a lot of smoothie recipes out there. Some are fantastic, and some are truly awful. You can do a google search to find hundreds of tried and true recipes, and you can experiment with making your own. Initially you will want more fruit than greens, in order to “hide” the green flavor. But as you become a seasoned smoothie drinker, you will likely find that you actually enjoy the refreshing green taste, and will want to experiment with more veggies and less fruit.
- Green Smoothies are easy to digest, because they are blended. A good blender does a far better job at chewing up the plant cellulose than people can really do themselves. Many people who can’t digest salad can often digest some green smoothie, especially if some warming digestive spices are added, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or clove. However, in order to further assist your body in optimally digesting such a large amount of concentrated nutrition, it is advisable to drink your smoothies slowly, and mix each mouthful with some saliva, as you would if you were chewing it.
- Green Smoothies are convenient! A great, “grab and run” item on your way to work or school. They stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Green Smoothies are quick and easy to make, requiring no special or expensive kitchen equipment other than a good blender.
Why Not Juices?
Some health-conscious people who are familiar with green juices may be asking, “Why smoothies and not juices?” Well, there are several reasons why I prefer smoothies over juices: the Number One dietary priority that I recommend is to consume Whole Foods. Whole foods are those that are as close to their natural state as possible. For example, whole grain brown rice, as opposed to white rice, and 100% whole grain bread, instead of white bread, which has been stripped of its fiber and its natural vitamins and minerals. Any type of food that has been processed or “refined” is no longer a whole food.
Whole foods contain all types of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and health benefiting phytochemicals that number in the hundreds, if not thousands, many of which modern nutritional science hasn’t yet even identified. Why not give ourselves every advantage in the quest for excellent long-term health by consuming as much of the beneficial elements that we can in the foods we know are health promoting? The best way to do this is by eating them in their whole-food form, and this includes fruits and vegetables.
While juicing does create a drink that is full of vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals, it strips the fiber out of the plant. In this modern culture, where people are already not ingesting enough fiber, it makes no sense to strip it away. Fiber helps bind toxins and wastes that have been excreted from the liver and gall bladder (such as excess hormones and cholesterol), and it helps sweep toxins, waste products, bad bacteria, yeasts and fungus from our intestines, while toning the intestinal muscles and walls. Fiber also slows down the absorption of the natural plant sugars, so that they don’t unnaturally spike the blood sugar. Juice does none of this. (Plus, juicer machines are very expensive and time-consuming to clean!)
Basic Customizable Smoothie Recipe:
I’ve been making green smoothies for myself and my family for years, and we love them. They are a regular part of our diets, often substituting as breakfast or a snack, or a light dinner. They make us feel cleaner, lighter and more energetic, and even help eliminate sugar cravings.
There are many green smoothie recipes on the internet and in books. Some are great, and some are not. I will give you my basic version here, which you can customize:
2 large handfuls greens (spinach, romaine, leaf lettuce, etc….mix it up!), 1 banana or 1/2 avocado (for creaminess), 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, peaches or pineapple, 1 cup water. (Optional: 2 dried dates, soaked in water for 1 hr).
Blend until smooth and enjoy! They are sweet from the fruit, with no need for sugar, sweeteners or dairy products. For a creamier smoothie, simply add more banana or ½ avocado, or 2 tsp of hemp hearts (hemp seeds). Simple, yummy and wonderfully nutritous! Aim to drink at least 4 cups per day (32 oz).
Be sure to change up your greens every few days, so that you can benefit from the nutrition in a variety of greens. And skip the iceberg lettuce since it has significantly fewer nutrients than any other leafy greens.
Lastly, try to use organic produce when possible. Organic food is less toxic, tastes better, and is more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. But it is still much better to eat conventionally grown produce than no produce at all.
Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM