Going Green!

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By Candace Byington

Anyone can log onto Pinterest and find countless recipes and images for green smoothies. The health conscious on Facebook often post memes depicting the benefits of these blended drinks. Many celebrity doctors praise the green smoothie for a variety of health benefits from mental clarity, disease prevention and smoother, younger looking skin. Yet fear and negativity about the green concoctions persist.

Many think it they taste like salad and refuse to try them. Others believe that smoothies in general are messy to make and avoid them. Still others believe that drinking meals will leave you feeling hungry. Finally, the biggest complaint: they look gross! Whatever. Haters gonna hate.  There are advantages…serious advantages to using the green smoothie for general fitness and weight loss[cycloneslider id=”green-smoothie”]

Green Avoidance

Let’s dispel the mythologies! Green smoothies do not taste like salads.  A typical green smoothie recipe includes avocado, kale, spinach, cucumber, banana, ginger and/or a few blueberries. Blended greens have no flavor. Blended greens with fruit taste like the fruit.

The second myth is that green smoothies mess up the kitchen. Frying bacon is messy too but that never stops us from eating bacon. Smoothies require chopping veggies into chunks that can be easily pureed by the blender or food processor. Most blenders and food processors are designed to clean easily. The concern is more about the “fuss” than the mess. Like any attempt to eat healthy, a little planning goes along way. Washing all of your smoothie ingredients when you get home from the grocer along which prepping the ones you can ahead of time will greatly reduce the fuss and mess.

Another lingering myth is that you will be hungry after consuming the smoothies. This comes from the misconception that smoothies in general are just “juice”. Nothing is farther from the case. Smoothies have fiber, appropriate carbohydrates, some protein and depending on what you add, a small amount of healthy fat. In other words, a meal. There are some additions that will add even more calories for those on a workout routine.

Green Anatomy

Green smoothies have four basic components.  In a smoothie you want something fruity, something green, something with some protein, and something creamy. You may also add a healthy fat (like avocado or nut butter), which is optional.  Here is a great smoothie truth:  many ingredients carry with them several components. A banana is both fruity and creamy. A little plain yogurt is creamy, has some fat, and carries protein. A quarter of an avocado carries with it creamy and a healthy fat.

Fruity: Bananas and berries are the two workhorses of the smoothie pantheon, partially because both can be easily frozen. You don’t have to buy expensive pre-frozen fruit either (although it is available). When berries are on sale simply wash them (and hull the strawberries is freezing them) and throw them on a sheet pan. Freeze for a couple of hours then put in a freezer bag. For bananas you can simply peel and freeze whole. Bananas cut easily even after freezing.  Yes, bananas will brown a bit in the freezing process but who cares? If you do choose to buy pre-frozen fruit it is a good idea to spend the money on organic. The quality of the fruit is better and is worth the small increase in expense.

Greens: Many, many, many stores carry prewashed, ready to serve greens. USE THEM. Greens have a variety of nuanced flavors and health benefits but if you are a novice start with spinach or romaine.

Protein: Protein comes in many varieties and will be carried along with some ingredients, like yogurt, seeds, and nuts. However, there is nothing wrong with using a simple protein powder to enhance your smoothie drink. You want to stick to organic, all vegetable protein powders. They come flavored or unflavored. The most important thing to remember is to not use too much. Start with half of what the manufacturer recommends.

Creamy: Yes, dairy is ok if you want it. Yogurt (unsweetened), a small amount of cream or even a bit of milk will help richen the flavor. You can also turn to “alternative” milks like almond or cashew (also unsweetened). Both of these nut “milks” add a different flavor and bring some nutrients as well. Again, a little goes a long way.

Healthy Fat (optional): Avocado and pure ground nut butters are the usual choice and they help with flavor, mouth feel, and more importantly they add to the balance of the smoothie, giving it more “staying” power when it comes to hunger pangs.

Green Acceptance

“Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.” –Michael Pollan

We navigate in a world of unhealthy eating. From super-sized everything to processed meal bars, getting enough natural, healthy fruit and greens into our diets is a challenge. Here is the thing about green smoothies: they are natural food. Sure, a bit of protein powder might skirt the edge of that premise but buying the right, organic, vegetable-based powder comes pretty close. Smoothies are just food. They are fruit, greens, a bit of nuts or seeds, a bit of plain yogurt, and maybe some milk or avocado. In other words, real natural food. That alone should be a selling point.

The other great thing about smoothies is that we can control what goes in them. That control extends to both taste and quality. Unlike meal bottles and bars, making smoothies give us ultimate control of what we are consuming. We have control of both taste and quality. If you are a believer in organic, non-GMO products those are easy to get for a smoothie. If you have food sensitivities, those are easy to avoid in a smoothie. If you want to support local farms and farmers, smoothies are easily tailored to what is in season.

Finally, using a green smoothie as part of an overall healthy lifestyle makes good budgetary sense as well. Everybody knows that buying real food and preparing it at home is cheaper than any alternative.

If you are curious to know more about green smoothies and their health benefits check out http://www.rawfamily.com/. Author Victoria Boutenko shares her experience and knowledge about eating raw and the benefits of green smoothies. Vegkitchen.com offers recipes and a convenient top ten list: http://www.vegkitchen.com/tips/top-10-benefits-of-green-smoothies/. If you are starting or maintaining a fitness routine and feel a need for higher protein, check out 14 Green Smoothie Recipes at the Daily Burn. Finally, for those looking to incorporate the green smoothie into a weight loss program check out these lighter smoothie recipes from Lose Weight by Eating.