A green smoothie is a blend of green, leafy vegetables such as kale, chard, spinach, arugula and collard greens (among others), mixed with fresh fruit. The result is a sort of power-smoothie: a blast of micronutrients and antioxidants that can provide some serious benefits.
When we consume a soda or many fruit juices (especially from concentrate) we experience a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash to lower levels than where they started (thus prompting the body to release fat in an attempt to stabilize). In fact, the removal of fiber from foods (such as with juicing, especially fruits), can cause a phenomenon called rebound hypoglycemia, meaning that our blood sugars end up much lower after this spike/dip cycle.
However, this dramatic blood sugar spike and dip depends on which food is being juiced or blended. For example, studies have shown that apple juice or blender apple (as in a smoothie), causes a much steeper rise and fall in blood sugar, whereas eating a whole apple, does not (1).
On the flip side, banana, mango and berries seem to have the same effect both whole or blended. In fact, blended berries actually improve blood sugar control, as they slow blood sugar uptake into the blood stream. This is why berries are an excellent fruit choice for diabetics.
Are Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Really So Important?
Simple answer: yes. Both fresh fruits and vegetables (but especially vegetables) are the most nutrient dense foods in existence. Unfortunately, most people living in the U.S. do not get enough fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet (2).
Not only that, but nutrient levels in our fruits and vegetables are, sadly, lower than they used to be, largely due to nutrient depletion in our soils. As if that wasn’t enough, even more nutrient value is often lost in the process of harvesting, shipping and processing, since our produce is rarely local, anymore. (3). The combination of these three factors make micronutrient status in many individuals quite low.
A low micronutrient status can set us up for a slew of diseases, as plant foods are by far the highest foods in disease-protective compounds such as minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients and more (4).
Where Do Green Smoothies Come In?
In an ideal world, we would all eat 9 servings per day of vegetables, and 2 of fruit (1 serving=1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw). However, given that so many people do not get anywhere close to this intake of plant based foods, green smoothies can be an excellent way to pack extra servings of micronutrient-dense foods into the diet on a daily basis.
One study showed that consuming the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables was able to improve the bodies status of key nutrients such as folate, beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, as well as antioxidants (5). Yet another study showed similar results, that fruit and vegetable juice over a 14 week period improved levels of selenium, folate, vitamin E, C and beta-carotene (6).
While these studies were done on juice instead of smoothies, this can perhaps give us even more confidence in the health benefit of our smoothies. For example, this study concluded that eating an apple without the fiber (which is what occurs with juicing) drastically reduced the apple’s health benefits (7), and other studies have drawn this same conclusion. With smoothies, we are not discarding the fiber, so one might say it is the best of both worlds.
Experts speculate that certain important antioxidants actually attach themselves to fiber molecules, and are therefore lost if we eliminate the fiber from our food (8).
What is the Best Way to Drink Green Smoothies?
Green smoothies can be used as a meal replacement in a pinch, but are best consumed alongside a healthy meal or snack. If using your smoothie as a meal replacement, consider adding a healthy protein powder, such as a grass-fed whey, hemp or pea powder. This will help to counteract the blood sugar spike that can occur with any smoothie or juice (although it is typically less with smoothies than with juice).
Try your green smoothie in the morning, and you just might find it gives you a bigger energy boost than coffee! You can even add an extra nutrient punch by adding a superfood such as spirulina or chlorella. Drink your smoothie alongside one or two pasture raised eggs, and some raw sauerkraut for its immune enhancing and digestive supporting properties.
Not only are green smoothies helping us to meet our micronutrient needs, but they can also be an excellent addition to our detox plan.
3 Easy Green Smoothie Recipes
Here are some quick and easy ways to whip up your green smoothie, and reap the many benefits.
TROPICAL GREEN GOODNESS
Kale provides over 1,000% RDA of vitamin K, along with being incredibly high in key vitamins A, C and many other vitamins and minerals. Some experts consider kale one of the healthiest foods on the planet. This delicious smoothie combines sweet and nutritious fruit with both kale and spinach, leaving you a tasty and micronutrient-packed blend.
2 cups kale
1 cup spinach
2 ripe banana, fresh or frozen
1 cup mango, fresh or frozen
1 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen
1 cup coconut water
ice as desired for consistency
Simply blend and enjoy! Add a bit more coconut or regular water if needed.
SPINACH BERRY BLAST
Spinach is also high in vitamins K and A, while offering a mega-dose of magnesium, which is a key mineral for stress management and relaxation. This smoothie combines the creamy goodness of spinach with antioxidant-packed berries and creamy coconut or almond milk. You are sure to start the day right.
2 cups spinach
2 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen (strawberries, blueberries and blackberries taste great)
1 banana, fresh or frozen
ice as desired for consistency
1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
Blend and enjoy! Add more coconut or almond milk if needed.
REFRESHING CUCUMBER DELIGHT
While cucumbers are often thought to be mostly water, this is far from the truth. This refreshing, summery vegetable contains a plethora of free radical fighting antioxidants, and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Try this smoothie on a hot day, or just when you’re craving a cooling, nutritious beverage.
2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks (fresh or frozen)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups kale
3 tbsp. fresh mint leaves
2 cups water
ice as desired for consistency
Blend and enjoy, adding more water if needed.
(Read this next: 30 Fat Burning Green Tea Smoothies)
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