Smoothies are one of the foundation foods that I am often getting patients to start experimenting with. People usually think of smoothies as a pseudo milk shake. The way they are sold at various fast food joints and even juice bars, make them more of a “treat” food, and less a part of a healthy daily regime. Smoothies, the way I recommend them, are a way to quickly and easily get an entire meals worth of raw fruit/greens/seeds & nuts, into a glass. It is in line with the basic principle I have of making every meal and drink as densely nutritious as possible. The varieties are endless, but having a few basic start up ideas can get you confidently experimenting. Green smoothies are a fantastic breakfast, but also make a perfect snack throughout the day. There are no hard fast rules about the Green Smoothie, except maybe, that it’s supposed to be YUMMY!!! When I first started making these concoctions, I really really couldn’t believe that such a collection of ingredients would actually be delish. That a huge handful of lettuce or sunflower sprouts can ACTUALLY go undetected in the smoothie, that half a beetroot only really adds delightful colour and no crazy flavor. That said, when you start off you may wish to increase the amount of fruit so that you feel more confident that you’ll enjoy it.
Equipment- Now many advocates of the smoothie and indeed many raw foodist use and recommend high speed blenders, such as the Vitamix. While it is my dream to have a $700 blender with the engine of a small motorboat, at the moment I’m working with a good-ish quality basic kitchen blender (I believe a Breville) . The result is not as smooth and creamy as with a sooper dooper one, and that may influence how many greens I stuff in to my smoothie before it’s just too texturally unappealing, but we work with what we got, and I don’t expect people to have to invest in a million specialty gadgets to get started on healthy living. You do need a good blender though, not a bar mix or a food processor, if you really want the experience to be… drinkable.
Fruit- I am very fortunate to live in a part of the world where there is always some kind of fruit in season. This may not be the case for some of us, and then, either having frozen and stored our favorites during the glut or buying frozen may be the way to go (I’m specifically thinking about berries here, but bananas freeze well, as so do mangos and even pineapple ect). Ultimately, working with seasonal fruit is ideal. What is in season, is a food in perfect harmony with the conditions and the weather outside. Summer fruits often have a higher sugar content- they are energetically more “yin”, which helps us to balance in the heat (yang). During the colder months, we need the fruits more adapt to that time of year to help balance ourselves. This may be apples/pears/berries or perhaps no fruit is able to grow in your area in winter, in which case, my natural inkling would be to consume less fruit smoothies, as it’s not as appropriate a food to help acclimatize to the season. When reading the recipes below, keep this in mind, and if the recipe calls for mangos and there aren’t any about… don’t worry, just work with what you have and go back to that one when you’re at the market and there’s some enormous display going cheap cuz they’re fresh and in season.
Milks- I’m not in to using dairy in my smoothies- though I have been known to use kefir (we’ll talk about this in another post) or raw milk on occasion. I do make my own nutmilks, but I’m not consistent with them. I would say if I’m in a busy phase, I would be using Oat milk, store bought. It’s a compromise definitely. Firstly, it comes in a tetra pack- which has waste and packaging to deal with. It also contains oils and sweeteners that are definitely not ideal. Lastly, anything tinned, canned or in tetra type packs has to be heated to a very high temperature to allow for shelf life/preserving. This food, is pretty much “dead”. The heat and processing has made it of very little nutritional value. So, in a busy phase, if I can’t DIY, it’s a compromise. Along the same lines are rice milk and almond milk, which I use from time to time. I tend to avoid soy milk, for a few reasons (it’s influence on hormones/ digestibility). Also, you can always use just water. I do this quite regularly, as the nuts in the smoothie are enough to give it a creamy texture. A tablespoon of nut butter or tahini can also suffice. It’s not AS creamy as a milk smoothie, but after a while you don’t even notice.
Todays smoothie- lettuce, chickweed, tat soi, soaked goji berries, soaked shredded coconut, soaked linseed and chia seed, pecans, banana, the water and flesh from one young fresh coconut, raw cocoa- ROCKET FUEL!
The basic green smoothie recipe I use is:
2 cups filtered water/ milk of your choice (almond, oat, rice, coconut ect…)
1 cup frozen berries
2 tablespoons soaked (overnight) chia/linseeds
1 tablespoon of tahini/macadamia butter
1 tablespoon organic shredded/desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon agave nectar/raw honey
1-2 cups of lettuce, spinach, chard, beet greens, or kale, sunflower/buckwheat sprouts.
Depending on the power of your blender, you may need to add slowly while blending. Blend for 1-2 minutes, or until very smooth.
Make Your Own Variations
Other ingredients I like to add, include/play around with are:
beetroot, soaked (overnight) goji berries, soaked dates, water and flesh of fresh young coconut, raw egg, soaked nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower, pepitas), avocado, raw cacoa powder, maca powder, spirulina and other super foods. You can also use a fresh made juice as the base for the smoothie.
Soaking is way to increase the digestibility and therefore the nutrition available from many foods, especially nuts and seeds. Dried fruits are an ideal way to sweeten a smoothie, by soaking and using both the re-hydrated fruit and the water.
The Best Way to Digest
Green smoothies digest best when eaten alone on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning and mid-afternoon are great times. If you drink your smoothie with a meal, you may find it creates gas, bloating and other digestion issues. Fruit rich meals tend to digest best alone. Everyone is a little different on this, so experiment for yourself but don’t give up on green smoothies if they don’t agree with your stomach at first.
When I first started my exploration in to raw foodism and recipes, I was a bit shocked at the things that were suggested to go in to smoothies. Beetroot? I mean REALLY????!!!!! But I swear to you this, you get all that stuff blended in there, with a bit of sweetness from dried fruits/agave, some raw cocoa for a chocolate hit, or desiccated coconut which has been soaked, and you will be AMAZED at the stuff you can hide in a smoothie. And when are you really eating beetroot and greens for breakfast? Have a green smoothie and you’re setting up your day for a spring in every step. Beats dead inert Weetabix and Vegemite on toast ANY DAY, no matter how many times Sanitarium will tell you it’s a healthy breakfast.
These smoothies are very nutritious and deeply cleansing. People often detox, lose weight or notice improved skin and increased energy after simply adding green smoothies to their regular diet. They can give you a real buzz. Drinking them daily is a great step toward clearing toxins and increasing vital nutrition.
Green smoothies are best fresh, but can be kept cold for up to three days. However because the greens will start to oxidize over time, the green drink can become the brown drink, and it will definitely be less appealing. Fresh IS best. Make certain to use a wide variety of greens- your body needs a variety of nutrients.
Here are some other recipes to give you ideas, but remember there are no set rules here. Use whatever combination of fruit and greens work for you. Think about what’s in season. Get out to the farmers markets and fill your fridge for the week!
*** ONE LAST IMPORTANT POINT- Smoothies are a GREAT way to get sneaky extra nutrition in to kids. Older ones may be a bit suspicious of tiny green particles in their smoothie- ok, so maybe you blend it all up, pour out their bit, then add the greens for yourself and the younger kids who you are training up to love such things. But all those seeds/nuts are fantastic sources of protein and omega fatty acids which are essential for hormone and brain development. Raw cocoa is full of antioxidants to help their immune systems as well as magnesium. Not to mention about 3 serves of fruit…
2 cups water (or fresh young coconut water if available)/milk
1/4 of a fresh pineapple
1-2 tablespoons macadamia butter
2 tablespoons organic desiccated coconut (soaked overnight is best)
1/2 head romaine lettuce, sunflower sprouts or other mild greens
Pretty in Pink
2 cups water/milk
1 cup strawberries/mixed berries
2 tablespoons soaked in water over night chia seeds
2 teaspoons soaked in water over night goji berries (add the water too)
3 soaked in water over night dates (can soak with the goji berries)
1 good sized chunk of fresh beetroot (1/4 – ½ depending on the size), chopped in to pieces
2 cups spinach
Chocolate is for Lovers
2 cups water/milk
2 handfuls spinach/lettuce leaves
1-2 tablespoons of tahini/macadamia butter
2 tablespoons soaked in water over night chia & linseeds
2 teaspoons soaked in water over night goji berries (add the water too)
1-2 tablespoons raw cacoa powder
1-2 tsps agave nectar
1 teaspoon spirulina or other green powder