Drinking the Green Smoothie Cool-Aid

Photo of blender with fruit

Was I motivated by the prospect of  having an easy way to have green vegetables for breakfast? Or, was it the promise improving my health through better nutrition? Was it all the compelling information I’d been reading about the benefits of eating raw food? The prospect of using my bountiful supply of green vegetables and frozen berries in a new and endlessly creative way? The fun of drinking the green smoothie cool-aid I’d been hearing such a buzz about?

All of those things, and more, nudged me to purchase a high-speed blender.

Green smoothie advocates say the nutrients in leafy greens, which are most potent when eaten raw, become more readily available after blending.  The vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber and chlorophyll are released from the plants cells during the process of high-speed blending.    The cellulose, left behind after the cells are ruptured by high-speed blending, provides a source of pure, beneficial fiber to the digestive tract—fiber that carries toxins out of the body as it goes.

“Drink your food and chew your drink,” the saying goes. Chewing our food until it’s totally liquified is the best way to ensure that we’re getting the maximum nutrition from every meal. Chewing four or five leaves of curly kale until liquified is an arduous task, and probably not one that most of us would tackle early in the morning as we hurry off to work. Chew that raw kale hastily, and much of the nutrient value moves, unreleased, right through the digestive tract. Many of us lack the strong stomach acid necessary to break down the cell walls, increasing the likelihood that we miss out on the nutrient value even more.

Dropping more than $400 on a blender was not an easy decision. When it comes to kitchen equipment, I like to keep things simple. A couple of good knives, a grater, a garlic crusher and a stick blender meet most of my needs and keep my work area clear (at least, that’s the theory, if not the reality). I argued with myself for months about the pros and cons of the purchase. The cost, the logic (or lack thereof) of drinking food that was “meant” to be chewed, the risk that I might not enjoy a green smoothie routine, which blender to buy—I considered all of these things, and more.

One day, I just did it. I’ve been making smoothies ever since, in endless colors and varieties. It’s true: green smoothies are not always green. Think red curly kale, red cabbage, strawberries, blueberries and plums, for example.

Photo of purple kale smoothie

A good friend often reminds me that we eat with our eyes first, and it’s really true. Take two smoothies: one made with green kale, strawberries, apple, blueberries and flax seed; the other made with red kale, strawberries, apple, blueberries and flax seed. You could close your eyes and detect no appreciable difference between the two. Open your eyes and sip the brownish-grey smoothie, then the vibrant plum purple smoothie. I suspect that you, like me, will prefer the purple smoothie.

Because it’s so beautiful.

Try a Kermit the frog green smoothie made with green kale, parsley, avocado, apple and flax seed. Strange to look at, but every “bite” is delicious.

Photo of green smoothie

Color is important.

There’s so much great information available about green smoothies (and, smoothies in general). It was easy to find recipes to help me get started. I also had a little group of smoothie role models, eager to share what works and what doesn’t. The basic formula is about 60 percent fruit to 40 percent leafy greens and a cup or so of water per serving. The fruit provides sweetness and flavor to offset the somewhat bitter taste of the greens. Some fruits, like banana, create a creamy texture. Frozen fruits create a thick, icy-cold smoothie. Additions like almonds and oatmeal add protein.

I’ve experimented with a full range of available fruits and vegetables, even bananas and avocados, but my goal is to use mostly fresh, organic ingredients that are locally available. I’ve added herbs from my garden, like parsley and sage, which bring nutrients and healing properties of their own, as well as earthy green flavor. Today, I added cinnamon to my apple, blueberry and red kale smoothie; cinnamon is known to be helpful for arthritis, has a regulatory effect on blood sugar and is believed to boost cognitive function and memory. It tasted great.

Since my approach to cooking is to embrace the process as a creative experiment or adventure, I happily eat what I create, even if it’s not a masterpiece. In the case of that brownish-grey smoothie … well, let’s just say I only made it once, and I distracted myself pretty successfully while I drank it.

I usually end up pouring my smoothie into a glass jar and toting it to work, to drink as I get started with my day or even at a morning meeting. That’s where thickness comes in. Working from a philosophy that water doesn’t bring any nutrition to a smoothie recipe, and not quite paying attention to the recipe details my smoothie advisors so eagerly shared, I skimped on the water in my first few tries. Ground flax seed absorbs a lot of water! The result was thick—very thick. Like a frappe made only with ice cream, it’s difficult (sometimes ridiculously so) to sip a drink so thick. Even if I had to hold that jar upside down, my head tilted back and my mouth open and waiting for a “sip” of smoothie to plop in. Chugging my green smoothie at a morning meeting, while others sipped their lattes, just wasn’t possible—at least with any amount of dignity. Increasing the amount of water by a few ounces solved the problem and my dignity is restored.

Drinkers of the green smoothie cool-aid are quick to make grandiose promises: clear skin, better memory, weight loss, better digestion and elimination of unhealthy cravings are just a few. Green smoothies are even touted as an effective means of fighting cancer and certain chronic diseases. Comparing humans to chimps (which are largely free of chronic diseases), smoothie advocates promote a diet of 50 percent fruits, 40 percent vegetables and 10 percent fats—perfect proportions for a delicious green smoothie.

It’s been about three weeks since I began starting my day with a green smoothie. I noticed right away how completely satisfied I felt all morning and how steady my energy was. It’s too early to tell if I’ll see any real health improvements, but I do feel like I’m doing something really good for my body. My energy and digestion are great, and I look forward to my smoothie every morning.

Purple Smoothie

  • 8 to 12 ounces water
  • 1 small apple
  • 2 small, very ripe Stanley plums
  • 5 or 6 large frozen strawberries
  • 5 leaves of red kale
  • 1 large handful of frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed

Place ingredients in blender, in the order given above. Blend to smithereens. If the smoothie is too thick, add a little water. Drink immediately, or within an hour or two.

13 responses

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  2. “Drink your food and chew your drink?” Did you make that up? I never heard that one – love it! Your smoothies look like a meal – yum. As for drinking (and chewing) your smoothie during meetings I say, throw caution to the wind and do it – look what some of your fellow meeting attendees are stuffing in their mouths!! Crumbs everywhere!

    • It’s true! If you swish liquids around in your mouth longer (“chew” them), you mix them with saliva, which starts the digestive process. If you chew your solids until they’re liquid (“drink” them), you’re getting the maximum nutritrition out of the food. But, who does that? As for the meetings, I’m choosing the smoothie-drinking opportunities carefully!

  3. Boy do those look good! I love the creamy green Kermit! And I can totally relate to the fretting that went into the purchase. I finally bought it about a year ago and put it in the garage and told the boys to give it to me for Christmas as I didn’t want to spend another dime. It sure does make a difference though!

    • Some have been yummy, some not quite what I hoped, but I drink them anyway. Please share your favorite recipes; I’m eager to keep trying new ones. I’m glad to hear from yet another person that drinking green smoothies really does make a difference. For me, it feels good, but it’s too soon to tell if it’s having a real impact.

  4. We love green smoothies here too. I’m just coming off a candida cleanse and think I’m going to start slowly with smoothies. The energy the provide is just amazing.

  5. Hey – thanks for turning us on to this … it’s a wonderful tool for me! I love being able to get what I need nutrition and fiber-wise without a lot of fuss. And the flavor is ALWAYS good … and ALWAYS interesting. I’m sold … as you can probably tell by the CAPS and exclamation marks)!!!

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