I decided to try green smoothies after realizing I wasn’t getting nearly enough vegetables in my clean-eating diet – particularly dark leafy greens. I could see in my calorie tracker that I was woefully low on vitamin K, and it was time to face up to the fact that I was a fruit addict who didn’t eat many salads!
But why not eat loads of vegetables? Dark leafy greens are truly an elixir of good health. They’re full of vitamins (particularly folate, which promotes heart health and cancer prevention), minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Dark leafy greens may even help lower your cancer risk, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research . Not only that, but dark leafy greens have a relatively low-calorie and carb content and low glycemic load, beneficial to those wanting to lose weight or simply maintain their weight.
As a newcomer to green smoothies, I wondered if a shake full of spinach would taste bitter and rank. But after diving in and experimenting with various ingredients, I discovered that green smoothies are delicious and help fulfill the recommended daily allowance of vegetables, too. The USDA’s ChooseMyPlate website recommends at least three to four servings of dark green leafy vegetables per week and four to six vegetable servings a day. I probably wasn’t getting that much, even though I eat very healthy.
So I was happy to find that while green smoothies include nutrient-dense greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, they taste more like the other ingredients you add, such as pear, mango, pineapple, or banana.
Planting a Green Smoothie Garden
Not only is planting your own leafy greens convenient and organic, it saves money! You can pick what you need during warm months and store the greens in the freezer for organic winter smoothies. Some plants, like chard, are perennials and will come back for several years.
This year we planted kale, spinach, and parsley. Of course, you can use these in salads too!
How to Make a Green Smoothie
The varieties of green smoothies are truly endless. The secret is in using a water-soluble fruit to provide creaminess and sweetness (see the list below). Incidentally, you can also put leafy green stalks in your smoothie, not just the leaves. (Just make sure you have a high-powered blender if you do.)
Add ingredients in this order: Liquids, fruit, and greens. Don’t mix the greens too long or their nutrients will break down. If this is your first green smoothie, try adding a bit more fruit than greens at first. Then, as you get more experienced, use about half greens and half fruit.
Base: Water, unsweetened almond milk, green tea, coconut water (or plain water), plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
Healthy fats: Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almond, cashew or peanut butter (careful when adding whole nuts; they can be hard to grind), coconut oil
Fruit (fresh and/or frozen): To ensure proper texture and flavor, include at least one kind of fruit that is high in soluble fiber, such as banana, mango, orange, peach, pear, or kiwi. Then add other fruit, like blueberries, strawberries (with leaves!), watermelon, avocado, apple, pineapple, etc. Berries will turn the smoothie brown but it’s still tasty and nutritious.
Dark greens: Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, dark green leafy lettuce (like Romaine or watercress), beetroot greens, bok choy, cabbage, mesclun, Italian parsley
- Low-carb version: Leave out the banana.
- High-protein version: Add a scoop of vanilla protein powder.
Green Smoothie Recipe
Add the following to a blender and mix until smooth:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
½ ripe avocado
1 small banana (leave out for low-carb smoothie)
2 tbsp parsley (optional)
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
3-4 ice cubes
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.