"About twenty years ago, researchers found the missing link. They discovered that colorful plant foods in their natural state were also rich in thousands of compounds with important health properties for humans—phytochemicals.
Only by eating an assortment of natural foods that are micronutrient-rich can you get enough of these compounds to protect yourself from the common diseases that afflict Americans."
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of "Eat to Live"
Back in March 2008, I heard Dr. T. Colin Campbell's evidence about the disease-fighting virtues of a vegan diet and I learned about NFL player Tony Gonzalez' vegan diet & his Green Smoothie breakfast. I've been drinking Green Smoothies most everyday now--and I even took my Vita-Mix 5200 on vacation to Martha's Vineyard in June. Is it working for me? Absolutely!
My husband and I purchased our powerful Vita-Mix blender in March and it has become a daily habit. We each mix up our own favorite greens, vegetables & fruits in the morning and within minutes the blender grinds through the tough cellulose of kale, collards, swiss chard, carrots, apples, oranges, and berries. All the fiber remains---this isn't a "juice extractor" that leaves behind the messy residue of vegetable & fruit pulp. The results are 2 quarts of a nutrient-antioxidant-rich smoothie that we can drink for breakfast or snacks for 2 days.
How does it taste?
Absolutely delicious! I've shared my Green Smoothies with house guests, friends, & co-workers and most everyone has given it a big thumbs-up, in spite of its odd green color. Mixing fruit and a little orange or pomegranate juice with vegetables produces a mild-sweet-tasting-nice-textured smoothie. If you want more sweetness you can always add additional fruit, some honey, agave syrup, maple syrup or stevia. I don't.
What's in my smoothie?
- I'm a creature of habit, so I often stick to the fruits & vegetables that are highest in nutrients. I'm juicing at "the top" of the ORAC scale (the Oxygen Radical Absorption Scale--foods with the highest antioxidants that scavange free-radicals) and the *ANDI scale (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index).
- A rainbow of colors-each with its own special benefits. Green, red, orange, blue and purple.
- 1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice (Trader Joe's)
- 6+ cups of mixed greens like, Swiss chard/kale/collards/spinach
- 4 large carrots
- 1 orange
- 1 cup of blueberries or mixed berries or strawberries
- 1 apple
- enough water or ice to make a drinkable consistency--try 1 1/2 cups of water (12 ounces)--you want it drinkable--not like applesauce.
- I usually add 2 TBS. of ground flax seed or chia seeds for additional omega-3's & some healthy fat UPDATE: I stopped added flax or chia to my smoothie--it just makes it harder to drink. I like my chia sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, & with water & lemon juice--Chia Fresca!
- This makes 2 quarts of Green Smoothie. I'll take about 27 ounces with me to work in my Klean Kanteen, either for breakfast or as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. It's also great to refuel after a work-out. And then I have enough left for the next day.
- The variety of vegetables you can "grind up" with a Vita-Mix is endless. Consider tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, bok choy or cabbage. Whatever is in your fridge. The same goes for fruit.
What's the advantage of "drinking" fruits & vegetables?
- There is absolutely no other way that I could or would be able to eat the same amount of fruits and vegetables as I can drink in a smoothie.
- With one day's smoothie I'm getting the equivalent of 3 fruits, 3 cups of the highest quality greens and 2 additional vegetable servings. That's 8 servings of fruits and vegetables--my entire day's requirement, and that's not counting any additional vegetables I'll get through the day with lunch or dinner.
- Let's face it. It's easy to make a salad, but it takes effort to cook kale, collard & Swiss chard. They are tough greens that require cooking.
In a nutshell, what's so good about greens?
- They are at the top of every experts' Top Foods List for a good reason.
- According to Dr. Steven Pratt of "Super Food Rx" fame, the dark green leafy vegetables "have more demonstrated health benefits than almost any other food." They improve cardiovascular health and prevent a host of vision problems, as well as some cancers. They contain a "synergy of multiple nutrients/phytonutrients" that you could never get in a pill. Don't forget, the omega-3's that we get from fish are only there because the fish are feasting on plankton, which are "dark green leafy fish vegetables"!
- Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., author of "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" advises all his patients to load up on kale, collards, spinach & chard. They are critical to helping restore the endothelial cells that line our blood vessels. The "greens" contain the biochemical building blocks that enable the endothelial cells to produce the nitric oxide which " 1.) will relax the blood vessels 2.) prevent the white blood cells and platelets from becoming sticky and producing plaque 3.) keep the smooth muscle cells of arteries from growing into plaque and 4.) may even diminish vascular plaques once they are in place.
- Esselstyn advises any of his patients with chest pain (angina) to eat as many greens as they can---and within 3-4 weeks of loading the system with greens the endothelial lining will restore itself, and they'll get rid of chest pain.
Have I noticed any benefits from the Green Smoothies?
- I hesitate to mention specifics because I'm a sample of one, and I never ran any before & after blood work. Remember, even Dr. Walter Willett, the prominent Harvard nutritionist & epidemiologist notes that it can take many years for nutritional benefits to show up. In the Physician's Health Study, one of the longest running randomized studies, the cognitive/memory benefits of beta carotene supplements did not show up after even 12 years. It took 18 years of taking the supplements for the brain benefits to show up!
- My borderline hypertension is now in the "healthy normal range".
- This is subjective, but my skin color and complexion look much better to me. I'm often asked where I've been on vacation, because my skin has a healthy glow. Probably all those carrots coloring my skin.
- Again, this is subjective, but I have more energy, even on days when I exercise for 2 hours. My "nap urge" is disappearing. Watch, now I'll probably need a nap, having said that!
- I'll spare the details--but my digestive system is in excellent shape.
- I just asked my husband if he's noticed any juicing benefits--He thought for a second & said, "I think I have more energy--yes, definitely more energy!". I've got to agree. He woke up today, Sunday, at 5:30 am so he could run for 4 hours. Yep, he ran for 22 miles & he's still awake, with plans to picnic, hike or go to an outdoor concert tonight. Well, that's the plan, at least. Don't forget the guy's 58 years old. In case you're wondering why someone would run for 22 miles on a Sunday morning....he's training for the JFK 50 miler in November.
Who else has started juicing?
- This was a surprise to me, but my niece & her boyfriend (PhD students in physical therapy & neurological bio-engineering respectively) have taken the plunge. The upside for the them is making quick healthy meals after a long day at work. At 8 or 9 PM they don't want to cook or eat a heavy meal. A smoothie does the trick.
- A doctor friend started juicing as a way to incorporate more vegetables into his diet, and cut down on the grains that were irritating to his digestive system. So far so good---and he's able to do all his juicing with a regular blender. It's worth a try!
- Granted, the cost of a Vita-Mix is high at $450, but for a product I use everyday, that will last for years, to me it's worth the investment. I always make my own breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and more often than not, I find eating-out an unhealthy expensive experience.
Nutrient Count of a Sample Green Smoothie with spinach/chard/pomegranate juice/blueberries/orange/carrots/apple/chia seeds
Serving Size: 1 serving
|Amount Per Serving|
Top 30 Super Foods Score
1. Collard, mustard, & turnip greens 1000
2. Kale 1000
3. Watercress 1000
4. Bok choy 824
5. Spinach 739
6. Brussels sprouts 672
7. Swiss chard 670
8. Arugula 559
9. Radish 554
10. Cabbage 481
11. Bean sprouts 444
12. Red peppers 420
13. Romaine lettuce 389
14. Broccoli 376
15. Carrot juice 344
16. Tomatoes & tomato products 190-300
17. Cauliflower 295
18. Strawberries 212
19. Pomegranate juice 193
20. Blackberries 178
21. Plums 157
22. Raspberries 145
23. Blueberries 130
24. Papaya 118
25. Brazil nuts 116
26. Oranges 109
27. Tofu 86
28. Beans (all varieties) 55-70
29. Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower, sesame 45
30. Walnuts 29