The Healthy Librarian's Vegetable-Heavy Smoothie - Mostly Kale (8 cups), 2 carrots, 1 orange, and 1 cup of berries
If you received this post via email, click here to get to the web version with all the links & photos--and to comment. I love feedback.
Yesterday, I received this email from Gael, a long-time HHLL reader:
"This does not make me happy!"
Gael was referring to a recent blog post written by Lani Muelrath, presenting the case against smoothies.
Lani's post didnt' make me happy, either. Not all smoothies are created equal. And I don't agree with all of her arguments against them. But, hey, there's room for differences of opinion.
Until I see a study that looks exactly at the digestion & nutrient absorption of my power-packed Green Smoothie, and convinces me otherwise--I'm sticking to my Green Smoothies. Using a study that compares an apple to apple sauce is just not the same! Sorry.
I wrote a lengthy response back to Gael, and then I decided to share it with all of you.
I'm not looking to stir up controversy. I just want to present another point of view.
My Smoothies Have Grown-Up--More "Savory" Than Sweet
Not all Smoothies are created equal! And they shouldn't be judged in the same way.
It's just like lumping the health of all vegans together.
Think about getting more vegetables into your body--not more fruit. No one has a problem eating enough fruit--right? It's the kale that can be more of a challenge--especially if you work.
Make your smoothies with a 4:1 ratio of vegetables (mostly greens) to fruit, & concentrate on low-sugar high-nutrient fruits like mixed berries, citrus or kiwi, & maybe 1/2 an apple. I use 1 orange, 1 cup of berries, & maybe 1/2 of a large apple in a smoothie that's large enough to last 2 days---almost 64 ounces. That's not much fruit, at all!
The bulk of calories in this smoothie come from kale & carrots: 177 calories are from the vegetables! That's 72%!!
My 64 ounce smoothie--that lasts 2 days--consists of:
- 8 packed cups of organic kale
- 2 large organic carrots
- 1 very juicy orange (or a kiwi)
- 1 cup of berries (usually mixed--but I only had wild blueberries today)
- Occasonally I'll also add 1/2 of a large Honey Crisp apple
- 3 cups of plain water--I like a drinkable smoothie
A Power-Packed Nutrient-Dense High-Fiber High-Protein Snack to Sip Through Out the Day
Here are my thoughts on Green Smoothies:
- The majority of the ingredients should be greens: kale, collards, spinach, or Swiss Chard
- Include carrots or other, not-too-strong flavored vegetables, if you like. Like celery, parsley, cucumbers, bok choy, or even cooked beets
- NEVER add a sweetener or fruit juice or yogurt or non-dairy milk!
- Fruit should be limited to about a quarter of the contents--I prefer berries, an orange, maybe 1/2 an apple. All low-sugar fruits.
- There is no way I could consume all these greens without drinking an almost daily smoothie, and I don't drink it as a meal replacement--or down it all at once. I'll divide it over the course of a day--as part of a snack, have a little with my lunch, after a work-out, or on my way home from work. There is no sugar rush whatsoever from my smoothies. It keeps me from overeating--and keeps my blood sugar steady.
- Diabetics or people with insulin-resistance may be wise to avoid them, consult their physicians---or drastically lower the fruit content of their smoothies.
- Dr. Esselstyn advises his patients (primarily people with heart disease, & some with other complications like type-2 diabetes) to avoid them. I want to make that very clear. These are my opinions--not his.
- If you are adding mostly fruit smoothies to your usual diet--you will likely gain weight!
Why Dr. Esselstyn Disapproves of Green Smoothies (my words--not a direct quote from him)
Dr. Esselstyn is not a fan of "Green" smoothies, because they're usually made with lots of fruit--and for some folks that quick rush of sugar can be a problem for their blood sugar &/or their triglycerides--and maybe not much different than drinking fruit juice.
And Esselstyn is a firm believer in chewing fruit--not drinking it--to get that amylase in the saliva flowing, I think. Amylase is an enzyme found in the saliva that helps to digest starches & separate out glucose for storage & usage. Click here to learn more And then there's the concern of getting too many added calories with the fruit in smoothies. All valid concerns.
My Amateur Argument for Green Smoothies--Dr. Joel Fuhrman-Inspired
I respectfully disagree with Lani. The study she cites as an argument against smoothie, compares eating an apple with eating applesauce or drinking apple juice that has a fiber supplement added to it. That is not enough to convince me. Applesauce is a fruit, it's heat-processed, and the peel has been removed. It's not comparable to drinking a fresh, vegetable-heavy Green Kale Smoothie.
And the purpose of the Penn State study was more about the benefits of eating raw apples before a meal to curb your appetite--which is exactly how I use my Green Smoothie.
My Mostly Vegetable Green Smoothie - Not Very Different From Vegetable Soup
Many people make sweet smoothies filled mostly with fruit--and sure, that could be a quick rush of insulin. My smoothies are mostly kale & carrots, an orange, berries, & sometimes an apple. They aren't at all sweet, and those are low-sugar foods.
With all due respect to the "Anti-Smoothie" Theory--that it interferes with satiety, makes you crave more calories, & that it "disrupts" fiber in a negative way--it just doesn't make sense to me!
Dr. Fuhrman specifically explains how breaking down the tough cellulose opens the vegetables' cell walls & makes it easier for us to absorb its nutrients.
The Up-Side of Smoothies--According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman
This comes from Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat for Health book, vol. 1. It certainly makes sense to me--and I absolutely can see (literally) the benefits of my morning/afternoon "green heavy" smoothie snack & this excerpt is what influenced me to make vegetable-heavy green smoothies.
Juicing & Blending:
All plants are composed of cells whose walls consist mainly of cellulose, a type of carbohydrate. Humans do not have the enzyme capable of breaking down cellulose, so we cannot utilize cellulose as an energy source. The only way we can break down these walls and release the most nutrients possible from the cells into the blood is by thoroughly chewing fruits and vegetables.
However, when we chew a salad, we often don't do an efficient job of crushing every cell; about 70-90 percent of the cells are not broken open. As a result, most of the valuable nutrients contained within those cells never enter our bloodstream and are lost. They just travel through our bodies until they are excreted. This is one of reasons why practicing the chewing exercises detailed in Phase One is so important to the Eat for Health plan.
An even more efficient way to ensure you receive these needed nutrients is using a blender to puree raw, leafy greens. The blending process aids your body in the work of breaking down and assimilating nutrients. It guarantees that a higher percentage of nutrients will be absorbed into your bloodstream.
Making "green smoothies" or "blended salads" is also a delicious and convenient way to pump up your consumption of greens. It is amazing how many people love the taste of these liquefied mixtures of raw greens and fruit that can be made in a high-powered blender. While you sip or eat a creamy smooth blended salad with a spoon, think about all of the nutrients that are now powering your body to restore and maintain optimal health. Savory blended salads can be made with endless combinations of vegetables & fruits.
And it continues on.
Heat softens the cellulose walls of vegetables--which is why we can often better absorb nutrients from vegetable soups -- we don't usually chew our soups--especially blended ones.
Kicking Green Smoothies Up a Notch with Dr. MGs Power Green Smoothie - It Powers Her All Day
First off, I've got to tell you about son #2 (the 28 year-old)--a lawyer who rarely cooked when he was in law school. That's when he first started to make Green Smoothies--as a way to get some quick, easy, quality nutrition into his body. Eventually he kicked his smoothie-making up a notch, too. He used to make his with mild spinach, heavy on the fruit. Then he graduated into the kale world, and adding carrots in to the mix.
In his words, "Oh yeah, kale really does make a difference. Mom, did you know there's a web site all about the benefits of kale? 365 Days of Kale. Written by a cancer-surviving dietitian. Check it out!" I did--you should, too.
Now back to Dr. MG. She's a busy second year medical resident or fellow (not sure which now) with whom I correspond occasionally. She's got a crazy busy schedule--but Dr. MG is serious about nutrition & a nutrient-dense diet. She blogs about medicine & life as a resident at Adverse Effects.
Almost a year ago, she picked right up on my comment that Dr. Esselstyn isn't a huge fan of smoothies, because he's concerned that they're too fruit heavy--and he thinks it's better to chew your food--not drink it. Here's why I got hooked on green smoothies back in 2008.
Here's what Dr. MG had to say:
"Hey, green smoothies don't have to have too much fruit!
For today's smoothie I packed the hopper full of dandelion greens, dino kale, parsley, and arugula.
Then I added a lemon, baby beet, carrot, small knob of fresh turmeric root, chia seeds, wild blueberries, and a few frozen strawberries.
I admit I'd never choke this down without a nice thick glass straw, but it truly fills me up, gives me more energy, and my skin tone looks better than it has in years. Can't get around the no chewing, tho'."
Not enough info for me. "Tell me more." I wanted more exact amounts. Dr. MG delivered & here's what she wrote back. Honestly, I'm going to try some of her ingredients: Fresh turmeric, the power-packed antioxidant--I never knew it came in any other form but powdered in a jar--beets, cayenne? Wow!
"My smoothies are limited only by the size of the Vitamix container.
I cram as many greens as I can into the hopper. Dandelion and arugula go bad fast, so I try to use them within a couple days of purchase. Kale, parsley, and cabbage keep longer. Oh, and I include the stems!
Today, I had no room for celery, but I usually add that, too. I usually add 1-2 carrots. Any size will do, but mine tend to be smaller as I buy them in 1 lb bags.
I add raw beet to most smoothies, either a single baby or a chunk of a larger one. Gives it a deep fuschia color.
I usually add half-to-one cup of frozen wild blueberries in every smoothie plus one other fruit. Today I added ~5 organic strawberries. I know they're not in season, but they add a nice flavor. I often add half a lightly peeled grapefruit.
Orange gives a very nice flavor, too. A peeled lemon or two is refreshing.
But the point is that adding two of the above fruits really doesn't break the sugar bank. On rare occasions I'll add half a banana or a whole one if I'm serving someone less accustomed to weird smoothies. :-)
I get the turmeric at Whole Foods. For the sake of accuracy, I should add that it's a rhizome, or an underground stem. It has a fairly unique flavor that is stronger than the powdered version.
Fresh ginger (also a rhizome!) goes wonderfully in smoothies.
Savory smoothies (e.g., lemon/parsley/tomato/beet/celery) do very well with a little cayenne.
MG's Mixing Technique:
I fill the container about 3/4 full with water after I add the solid contents.
When blending, I always wrap a clean rag around the tamper and spout to avoid splash.
About That Glass Straw:
I want to emphasize the importance of a good glass straw to get these smoothies down. At a minimum, the veggie bits get stuck in teeth and blueberries/beets stain.
For more strongly flavored smoothies, the straw really softens the flavor. You can water the smoothie down more if it's too thick for a straw.
I use smoothie straws from glassdharma.com. They're strong, not too expensive, and have a great warranty. The skinnier version is great for tea or coffee. Be sure to get the pipewire cleaner (comes with all sets or is available for sale). Hope this helps. I'm the first to admit that this approach is unconventional, but I know I'd be a lot less healthy without my veggie-heavy smoothies. Let me know how your smoothie adventures go!
Smoothie Words of Advice from the Doc:
You know, I should add that I really don't use recipes for the smoothies. I buy whatever looks good at Whole Foods (oh, how I miss California farmers markets!) and chuck it into the VitaMix.
My rule of thumb is that if you can eat it raw then it's fit for the VitaMix!:-)
I might limit certain potent ingredients if I'm serving the uninitiated since I can see how my smoothie tastes have evolved since I started doing this last June. Another great perk is that my produce never goes bad anymore!"
Dr. Maring's Amazing V-7 Juice
"A well known vegetable juice blend (can you guess which one?) has 480 mg of sodium in its "classic" version. In response to new national guidelines about sodium intake - 2300 mg per day for many, but 1500 mg per day for all people 51 years of age and older, African Americans of all ages, or anyone with heart disease, kidney disease or hypertension - they offer a lower sodium version that has 140 mg per cup.
Here's a homemade Farmer's Market knock-off I call V-7 for obvious reasons. As a teaspoon of salt has about 2300 mg of sodium, you can make your own low sodium version with a half teaspoon of salt for 8 cups. The heavy dose of Tabasco doesn't add that much sodium as it only has about 30 mg per teaspoon."
-Dr. Preston Maring, a Kaiser Permanente physician and surgeon with 36 years of experience in obstetrics and gynecology. Because of his passion for organic local produce & cooking, Maring started the Friday Fresh Farmer’s Market at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in May 2003-
This was written at the end of the summer--August, 2011.
When you go away in August, you better believe you come home to loaded-down tomato plants.
Before even unpacking the car, my husband headed out to the backyard to see how his beloved tomato plants were doing. He filled baskets with mega-giant Brandywine heirloom tomatoes and plenty of sweet 100 cherry tomatoes.
On Monday morning before heading off to work I spotted Dr. Maring's recipe for V-7 juice on my RSS feed & printed it off for my husband to see. Hint! Hint!
He fell for the bait. When I got home I found 2 half-gallon jugs filled with this gorgeous amazing anti-oxidant orange-colored smoothie concoction. OMG! Fabulous!
Of course he improvised a bit. He added more garlic than Dr. Maring. Maybe more tomatoes. And a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce. But, this is just a template. Create your own V-7 Juice.
I think even Dr. Esselstyn would approve of this all vegetable smoothie. He's not a fan of "Green" smoothies because they're usually made with fruit--and for some folks that quick rush of sugar can be a problem for their blood sugar &/or their triglycerides--and maybe not much different than drinking fruit juice. And Esselstyn is a firm believer in chewing fruit--not drinking it--to get that amylase in the saliva flowing, I think. And then there's the issue of added calories with the fruit in smoothies.
Dr. Maring's V-7 Juice (modified by my husband) - A Smoothie Maybe Even Dr. Esselstyn Would Approve Of
Click here for the original recipe
Makes about 8 or more cups — about 2 servings of vegetables per cup
8 heirloom tomatoes, cored and chunked (our heirlooms were gigantic--so my husband used about 4) NOTE: I think the fresh heirloom tomatoes are the secret to the delicious taste.
6 medium carrots, chunked
4 celery stalks, chunked
1 medium yellow onion, chunked
About 1/2 cup fresh parsley, loosely packed
1/2 bunch spinach (about 4 cups)
4 cloves garlic (my husband grew his own this year--OMG what a difference from the grocery store variety. He used Georgia Fire garlic for this juice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (to taste)
Worcestershire sauce to taste (vegan or regular)
Note: He made ours in a Vita-Mix (of course), in batches, as Dr. Maring suggests.
Dr. Maring suggests doing this about 4 cups at a time in your blender or food processor. Divide the veggies — 1/2 the tomatoes, carrots, etc. Put the squishier vegetables in first, e.g. tomatoes and onions. Add the rest of the vegetables then water to make four cups. Blenderize. Transfer to whatever storage container you are going to use in the refrigerator. Process the remaining vegetables with water. Mix all together and stir in salt and Tabasco. Chill. Maring says his turned out sort of a weird green color but it sure tasted good.
As you can see, ours was a gorgeous pinky orange.
Low Sodium V7 Juice
Serving Size: 1 serving
|Amount Per Serving|
Honestly, after tasting this savory blend of juice, I just might start making fruit-free savory smoothies a regular habit!
And maybe tonight I'll turn some of the leftover V-7 into a super-healthy Bloody Mary!
So, there you have it.
A lot of words that can be summed up into just five: I think Veg-Heavy Smoothies Rock!!
Please tell me what you think! To Smoothie or Not? That is the question.