For ages doctors and dietitians have been spouting off about how we need to eat more vegetables, and at the top of that “must eat” list are dark leafy greens. Unfortunately many greens, such as kale, are not exactly palatable to most people, making it difficult to get folks to eat an adequate amount. While the recommended consumption amount varies from study to study and doctor to doctor, one thing is for certain: most people do not eat enough fresh greenery on a daily basis. And contrary to popular belief, cooked greens really aren’t going to cut it. You need to eat greens raw to get their maximum benefit.
I’m hoping to change that in my life. I’m trying (trying being the operative word here) to get more raw greens into my diet. I feel better when I do, and as I get older, I’m beginning to realize that being lazy isn’t a good enough reason to feel like crap most of the time (*couch*needmoreexercise*cough*).
A lot of people have a difficult time digesting raw greens, due in large part to the fact that it’s not something we do regularly. Our jaws are used to soft foods and therefore aren’t strong enough to really macerate roughage into an easily digestible consistency, something anthropologists have found that our ancestors were able to do. Also, we often eat too fast, and in order to really break down tougher leaves and mix them with the amylase in our saliva (which is where digestion begins) we need to slow down and chew for a good long time. Our jaw muscles have atrophied to some degree from all of the cooked foods we consume, and even when you make it a point to chew and chew and chew your greens to a creamy consistency, it’s a fairly difficult thing to do.
As such, what we swallow isn’t broken down enough, and the unbroken, fibrous cellulose of that leaf of swiss chard essentially cause your gut to say, “Wha….?” As a result, raw greens tend to upset the stomachs of many modern day people. Eating more greens is important, but they need to stay in your digestive tract long enough for you to absorb their nutrients to be of any value, not come flying out at warp speed.
Enter the green smoothie!
Some time ago I picked up a copy of Victoria Boutenko’s Green for Life, in the hopes that I would somehow manage to incorporate a green smoothie into my morning ritual. For those not in the know, a green smoothie is basically a fruit smoothie with a handful of dark leafy greens thrown in. Blending them breaks everything down into a consistency that your body is more easily able to digest. You don’t need a $400 high speed blender to pull this off – your Oster will work just fine if you let it blend for a full sixty seconds.
Now, I understand that the thought of throwing some swiss chard into your blender with an apple and banana might make the majority of you shudder with revulsion, but I’ve got to tell you that honestly, it’s not bad. In fact, if done correctly, it’s damn good! Seriously folks, I’m not lying. A green smoothie is a tasty way to help get your daily dose of greens.
As with anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to make a green smoothie, and Victoria’s book is a great primer to the art. She goes to great lengths to outline exactly why drinking one quart of green smoothie a day will improve your health, and then gives you a series of recipes to try. If you’re interested, start simple and follow tried and true mixtures. You will find what you like (spinach and apples) and what you don’t like (brussel sprouts and strawberries). Once you’ve got the hang of it, not only will you become more adventurous with your smoothies, but you’ll also feel more energetic and alert overall. As you get used to the idea of blended veggies, up the amount of roughage you add to your smoothies to get as many greens into your body as you can.
Keep this in mind when you begin: don’t jump into dino kale – start with milder greens like spinach and romaine. And obviously, stronger tasting fruits such as pineapple will balance out stronger tasting greenery. The recipe I’ve listed below is very sweet and honestly, there’s only a hint of “green taste.” I think you’ll like it, and the color is pretty damn awesome.
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 whole peach, cut into slices and frozen
- ½ mango, cut into cubes and frozen
- 1 large handful of baby spinach
- Blend until smooth, but not so long that it heats up. If you’re feeling adventurous, add four or five basil leaves. It’s actually a pleasant compliment to the peach and mango.
- Note: be sure to freeze your fruit first as it will result in a nice, frosty shake. Many health food stores and organic co-ops now stock frozen organic fruit in the freezer section, which is great to have on hand in a pinch.