Most Americans follow the typical S.A.D. diet (Standard American Diet,) choosing convenience over health. Fast-food restaurants and convenience foods continue to make up a significant (and unhealthy) portion of our American diet. The bulk of our calories come from refined and processed foods, surgery soft drinks, and packaged snacks and desserts. These foods deplete our body of vital nutrients needed for health.
It is my mission as a health coach, to help clients learn ways to crowd out the foods that cause inflammation and ill health. One of the quickest ways to do this is with smoothies. Fresh smoothies have a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, healthy fats and lots of fiber! Making smoothies is the easiest way to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet.
Smoothies also aid in our body's hydration. Most of us are not drinking enough water. Instead, we’re drinking sugary soft drinks, flavored coffees, teas, and fruit juices. We are seriously dehydrated and nutrient deficient, which leads to food cravings. And, unfortunately, the foods we crave are the foods that cause us harm, not healthy foods that are good for you.
There are many benefits to adding dark leafy greens to your day, and some of those benefits include, aiding your body's detoxification process, glowing skin, increased energy, fighting free radicals with high levels of antioxidants, and improved bone health.
The Basic Building Blocks of a Green Smoothie
Dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collard, lettuce, swiss chard, mustard and dandelion greens.) You’ll receive health-sustaining doses of vitamins A, C, K, folate, potassium, calcium and fiber.
Fruits (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, lemon, lime, banana, dates, green apples) Fruits are natural sources of vitamins and minerals and dietary fiber.
Hydration Fruits and Vegetables (celery, cucumber, cauliflower, green peppers, spinach, baby carrots, broccoli, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, cranberries, orange) When using fruit, beware of the sugar content. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit your serving size to a small amount.
Healthy Fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, MCT oil, olive oil) Fat is the brain’s preferred fuel source. Studies show that nutrients from fruits and vegetables are better absorbed when combined with fats. Think salad with olive oil, or broccoli with grass-fed butter or ghee. By adding a healthy fat to your smoothie, you’ll help with nutrient absorption and satiety. A tablespoon of nut butter or ¼ of an avocado goes a long way.
Fiber (most vegetables and fruits, chia seeds, flax seeds, figs, cooked sweet potato, cooked pumpkin, cocoa powder, cooked butternut squash.) Fiber helps with digestion. Also, fiber-rich plants are pre-biotics. They feed the good bacteria in your gut, helping your gut flora stay healthy. Fiber aids in the body’s detoxification process, removing toxins from the body. Fiber also helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (hemp seeds, avocado, coconut cream, chia and flax seeds, strawberries) Cancer-fighting, brain-boosting ingredients. Omega 3 fatty acids control the clotting in our blood. Omega 3 fatty acids fuel our brain. Unlike other fatty acids, Omega 3 fatty acids cannot be created from within our bodies, it must come from food.
Nut Milk (almond, cashew, coconut, flax, hemp) Nut milk provides a healthy dose of fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. There are a lot of nut milks on the market today. I would recommend not buying those with carrageenan, a common additive in nut milk, used as a thickener and emulsifier, to improve the texture. This ingredient is commonly used in ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and processed foods. It can cause a host of problematic digestion issues.
Herbs and Spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, mint, cilantro, parsley, basil) In addition to adding flavor, the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits alone make these a great addition to your smoothie.
Protein (a high-quality protein powder such as Sun Warrior brand, hemp seeds, almonds, tahini, nut butter, pumpkin seeds, chia and flax seeds, oats, dark leafy greens)
Sweeteners (dates, stevia, raw honey, maple syrup, coconuts, lemon and lime) Most of the time, if you are using fruit, you won’t need added sweeteners. You will find that after a while, your taste buds change, and the sugar in the fruit will be enough. Contrary to what we have been told, Agave nectar's manufacturing process makes it into a syrup and is 90% fructose . It has the same damaging effects as High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Steer clear of any artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutriSweet, and Sweet 'N Low. Artificial sweeteners are made of toxic chemicals, cause major blood sugar spikes, make you crave more sugar, and cause visceral fat around the belly. Visceral fat is a form of gel-like fat that’s actually wrapped around major organs, including the liver, pancreas and kidneys. This dangerous fat leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia and sleep disorders.
Water (filtered water or coconut water, avoid tap water) Tap water contains a host of ingredients that could be harmful if used on a daily basis. It’s best to use filtered water. Coconut water is high in potassium and electrolytes. It is considered nature’s sports drink. Raw, unpasteurized coconut water is best, when available. Pasteurization kills most of the natural-occurring enzymes in the water.
Superfoods (Acai, Aloe Vera, Cacao, Spirulina, Maca, Goji Berries, Bee Pollen, Camu, Acerola Cherry) These superfoods will kick your smoothie's nutritional powerhouse up a notch. They are high in antioxidants and naturally support detoxification, anti-inflammatory, and have anti-aging effects. Adding any one of these superfoods will have you feeling and looking your best. I have found a superior company that makes a product Organic Superberry Antioxidant Smoothie Mix, by Organic Living Superfoods. They combine 11 superfood powders, so you can just scoop and mix into your favorite smoothie.
A note about dark leafy greens and thyroid issues. If you are living with thyroid issues, raw dark leafy green vegetables contain glucosinolates, which can inhibit uptake and act as a goitrogen (goitrogens are substances that can suppress thyroid function.) People living with thyroid issues, if consuming too much of these vegetables in their raw state, will irritate their condition, which creates a buildup of oxalic acid, that can negatively affect the thyroid. I would suggest a light lettuce instead of kale or spinach. In general, if you include a mixture of vegetables and fruits, herbs and spices, instead of the dark leafy greens, you’ll get plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Is organic produce better than conventional produce?
When buying produce, refer to the Environmental Working Group's Clean 15 (safe to purchase conventional produce) and Dirty Dozen (high amounts of pesticides, buy organic) lists. (www.EWG.org)
What’s the best smoothie if I want to lose weight?
When making a smoothie, it is important to consider whether you are just maintaining your weight or if you are trying to lose a few pounds. If it is the latter, you will want to limit the amount of fruit you put in your smoothie. If you want to add some fruit, stay with the low sugar fruits such as berries. I buy the organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in the freezer section at the supermarket. That way you don’t wait until they are in season, and can enjoy them all year long. When watching added sugar, make up for sweetness by using fresh lemon, lime, and spices. Zesting the lemon and lime will add more sweetness too. Use spices like Apple Pie Spice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Pumpkin Pie Spice, to add more flavor. Using an organic apple with cinnamon and you will feel like your drinking a delicious apple pie, less all the added sugar and carbohydrates.
Create a healthy habit, making smoothies a regular addition to your meal planning. You’ll crowd out the starch, sugar, and refined ingredient foods, with this nutrient powerhouse.
Play around with different ingredients. There are endless ways to make a smoothie. One of my favorites is below:
Kicking Cancer’s Butt Kale Smoothie
1 cup coconut water
1 cup kale
½ green apple
½ lemon (zest and juice)
a handful of cilantro
1 scoop Sun Warrior Vanilla Protein Powder
Water and Ice for consistency
Add all the ingredients to the blender, except water. Check consistency and add water if needed.
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To your health and happiness,