“What are you doing?! Is that salad?” I stopped filling ingredients into the blender for a second to look up into my girlfriend’s incredulous face. Ceren was standing in the kitchen with a bewildered expression. Not noticing or consciously ignoring my “good morning!”, she continued “And what is this under there, a banana?”
Over time Ceren had become quite tolerant of my food experiments. While she doesn’t share the same enthusiasm (give that woman some pasta and a glass of Coke and she has an enjoyable meal), she was at least used to it. But this was going a little far even taking into account her previous experience.
So what on earth was I doing? The above episode happened a few weeks back when I started reincorporating smoothies into my diet. This wasn’t a new thing for me as in 2012 I lived off green smoothies for a week (which is not something I recommend by the way, as the lack of calories will make you feel sluggish), but for the first-time witness it can be a little “unusual”.
Why the hell would you do that?!
Let’s face it, there is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to nutrition and eating healthy. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a confusing topic. Especially since there are people on every corner of the internet peddling views which are in stark contrast to one another.
However, in the battle of nutrition advice, there is one thing that pretty much everyone can agree on and that is that fresh vegetables and to a lesser degree fruit should be an integral part of your diet. Yet very few people consume adequate amounts. Luckily that is exactly what smoothies are made of.
Note that I’m not talking about those you can buy in the supermarket, which are basically sugar bombs made from juice concentrates and all kinds of additives. What we want are self-made smoothies from real fruit and veg. And there are very good reasons to chug down pureed produce.
The Benefits of Green Smoothies or Reasons to Drink Your Salad
Smoothies are chock full of nutrients
Fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens, are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and loaded with good stuff. To name just a few they contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and fiber. Plus since smoothies are made from fresh whole foods, the nutrients have not been destroyed by heavy processing and don’t contain synthetic artificial ingredients.
Smoothies have a high nutrient density
A legitimate question is why you would want to consume your veggies in liquid form instead of the classic approach of, you know, eating them. What smoothies have going for themselves is that they allow you to compress a lot of nutrients into small space. I have had mornings where I already consumed five to six servings of fruit and veg before even having one piece of solid food.
Smoothies are easily absorbed
Grinding the ingredients to mush takes care of much of the work that is usually done by chewing and the digestive system. The food is broken down before consumption and is therefore easily digested and absorbed by the body. This way you get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.
Smoothies are quick and easy to make
Even if your kitchen skills usually don’t stretch beyond making pasta, smoothies are within the range of anyone’s abilities. Absolutely no cooking required. The only thing you need is a blender.
Smoothies are delicious
Seriously, it sounds weird and I was very skeptical in the beginning myself, but with a little experimentation on your part, smoothies are pretty damn delicious. Plus, there are so many ingredients to choose from (as you will see below) that there are endless possible combinations.
The drink of world-class athletes
If you decide to give this healthy drink a try (or if you are already consuming them on a regular basis), you are in good company. Many vegan athletes such as triathlon champion Rich Roll, Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete and kettlebell guru Mike Mahler start their day with a serving of liquidized veggies.
You don’t have to be a hippie or a vegan (or a hippie vegan) to profit from adopting smoothies into your life (though it doesn’t hurt either). If you are looking to overhaul or improve your diet, instead of trying to change it all at once, just add one green smoothie to your morning routine. This is already a HUGE step as you will be consuming more fresh fruit and veg in one meal as most people do during the whole day.
When I first tried it, my experience was very positive. While I am not one of those fanatics who ascribe all sorts of miracles to green smoothies, I definitely noticed a range of improvements when I started drinking them: better skin and digestion, as well as more energy and alertness. I have since had several phases in which I made smoothies part of my regular diet (alternating with eating a salad with every meal).
The thing that surprised me the most was that I craved less and less junk food. No joke. It’s one of those things that I would have called bullsh*t on before trying it out myself. But when I started consuming smoothies on a regular basis and found myself in the presence of chips, fries, chocolate, or any other unhealthy food, instead of needing to exert will power, I found myself thinking “meh, I’m good”. Not bad eh? Now let’s get to making the good stuff.
Introducing: The big smoothie toolbox
The idea of the toolbox is this: It all starts with a basic recipe. This recipe provides you with a framework and the ratios you need in order to make any smoothie. It is followed by a (by no means complete) list of possible ingredients for the different parts. This way you can use one recipe to make literally thousands of smoothie combinations.
There is no need to get too fancy with the ingredients and stock up on superfoods (though nobody says you you can’t do it either). Merely mixing big amounts of fresh fruit and veg will give you a giant health boost.
How to make a basic smoothie
Fill your blender with the following:
- ¼ base, consisting of:
- 1 soft fruit or vegetable (so that the smoothie deserves its name)
- Optional: 1 handful of additional fruits for taste and extra nutrients (frozen is fine)
- ¾ greens, washed and chopped
- Optional: boosts/superfoods/extras/protein
- Fill up with a filler liquid until all other ingredients are just covered
- Blend until smooth and enjoy
Now comes the fun part: pick one of each from the list below to make your first smoothie. Be sure to try out a few combinations. The ingredients marked with * are my personal favorites.
Smoothie base – A soft fruit or vegetable
Here come the vitamins – The greens
- Baby spinach
- Swiss Chard
- Lamb’s lettuce* (my absolute favorite)
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
- Green and red leaf lettuce*
- Mustard greens
- Carrot tops
- Radish greens
- Broccoli* (I like to use frozen)
- Cauliflower (not technically green)
- Chia seeds*
- Maca powder
- Ice (omit if you use frozen ingredients)
- Flax seed
- Lemon/lime juice
- Oil (olive, hemp, or combinations such as Udo’s oil)
- (raw) Cocoa powder
- Coconut oil
- Hemp seeds
- Natural nut butter (for protein)
- Protein powders (rice and hemp works best)
- Coconut water
- Juice (beware of the sugar)
- Tea (green tea especially is full of antioxidants and other good stuff)
- Milk substitutes (almond, nut, etc.)
Here are a few recipe ideas in order to get you started:
- base: half an avocado
- greens: lamb’s lettuce
- extras: 1 tsp chia seeds, juice of half a lemon
- filler: water
- base: 1 banana
- greens: baby spinach
- extras: 1 Tbsp ground flax seed, 1 Tbsp olive oil
- filler: water
- base: 1 banana, 1 handful of frozen berries
- greens: one half lamb’s lettuce, one half frozen broccoli
- extras: none
- filler: water
If you want to dive a little deeper into the nutritional side of things and learn more about the different ingredients, I recommend checking out whfoods.com to look up vitamin and mineral content of vegetables.
One additional tip on preparing greens when you can’t buy organic:
Of course you should always try to buy organic. Conventionally grown fruit and vegetables contain a lot of pesticides and other stuff you don’t want to put into your body. But I also understand that it’s not always possible. For example I am currently living in Turkey and eating loads of raw vegetables but organic isn’t really a big thing here. In that case mix water with acids (lemon juice, cider or distilled white vinegar) in a ratio of 3:1. Fill into a spray bottle and spritz the produce. Let them sit for a minute and then wash and use as usual.
You can use the above list to create an almost endless number of combinations. Don’t be afraid to experiment, trying out new things is half the fun. Use ingredients you already like and see how they work together. You will quickly develop your own favorite recipes. Enjoy!
Have you tried out green smoothies? What was your experience? Did I forget any ingredients? Share questions and your favorite recipe in the comments.