You may be wasting your
green leafy money
drinking your green leafy vegetables
What's up, Doc?
These days, whizzed up ‘rabbit food’ has become all the rage. Green Smoothies lie somewhere between a vegetable/fruit juice, and a traditional smoothie with fruit, yoghurt, and milk.
Green Smoothies feature green leafy veges such as spinach, kale or dandelion leaves. They contain fruit, such as banana, berries, cherries, pineapple, or mango to make it drinkable. They also use some sort of fluid to make it ‘whizzable’ — water, coconut water, or non-dairy milk. These smoothies may also contain seeds (flax, hemp) or their oils.
Green Smoothies seem like a wonderful idea. Simply chuck your ‘5+ A Day’ into a blender and drink your fruit and vege quota before the day has even begun. Boom, job done! However, on further inspection, this type of smoothie may not be as beneficial for your health as expected. This is especially true if you consume them frequently, and particularly if you’re only ‘gakking them back’ for the supposed greater good!
Check out my part-two of Green Smoothies. It really puts things into perspective.
(Please check out this link to read more blog-posts from me about food advice/reviews e.g. Kombucha, Coconut Water, Coconut Oil, Green Smoothies, Apple Cider Vinegar, and NZ Farmed Salmon.)
The plus side
01—Yes, yes it will
There is no denying that by including this type of smoothie in your diet that it will increase your consumption of veges and fruit (at least in the morning anyway — or whenever you’re having them).
02—Fresh foodstuffs are fab
Vegetables (in particular) and fruit are vital to our diets. They provide us with an abundance of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals (and a modest amount of protein). These nutrients ensure that we function optimally. Amongst many other things, they give us energy and they afford us protection from disease.
03—Start me up
Initially you can feel great when you start drinking them (assuming you enjoy the taste, and they don’t make you feel sick, or cause a detox reaction). This could be because of the rush of nutrients you receive, or potentially because it is a change from your normal routine. It would certainly be an improvement over processed cereal with dairy milk, or no breakfast at all.
01—Everything’s getting so mixed up!
Keep in mind that we don’t need to consume extra fruit and vegetables in our diets — we just need to consume the required amount!
We seem to have forgotten how important for our health and well-being it is to eat adequate daily amounts of fresh produce. Hence, the reason that ‘green powders’ such as Spirulina, Wheat Grass & Chlorella came onto the market. Because we were too busy getting into our cereal, bread, pasta, rice & processed/convenience foods, we forgot to eat enough fresh foodstuffs.
Note: Wouldn’t it make more sense just to include a healthy serving of veges (your green leafies) at every lunch and dinner – rather than puree them for brekky? Personally, I’m holding off on consuming a ‘blended food’ diet until I’m much (much!) older.
02—Don’t take it out on your blender
I find people tend to cram too many things into their smoothies (and into their poor blenders… and therefore their poor digestive systems). They believe that ‘more is better’:
MORE of each ingredient
(including MORE super food powders added)
MORE times consumed per week
(and sometimes even MORE times per day)
in next week’s blog!
Whizzed up veges are for fussy children, the sick and the elderly.
Out of kilter
After having their Green Smoothie for breakfast, I find a lot of my clients and customers diets ‘go rogue’ later in the day. This is because they think they’ve fulfilled all their daily dietary requirements. It’s like when you exercise in the morning and then think you can eat what you like for the rest of the day because you’ve ‘been good’! This approach is counterproductive.
On the flip side, I have other clients and customers who get obsessed thinking that Green Smoothies are the ONLY way to achieve good health (I’ve heard of people having them 3x daily). Because of this, they don’t listen to what their body is telling them. They can experience digestive complaints such as burping, bloating, excessive (and often smelly) flatulence, constipation, and/or diarrhoea. However, they won’t consider that this could be attributed to their beloved Green Smoothies. Because this would be impossible — they’re supposed to be good for you! This approach is also counterproductive.
Why Green Smoothies might not be good for you
The no Chewing
Because you don’t chew your smoothie, you actually bypass a very important part of the digestive process, thus making digestion incomplete. This can therefore hinder the breakdown, and absorption of your food.
The extra effort
Raw food can be hard for some people to breakdown
(it requires a robust digestive system).
Fruit doesn’t play nicely
with other food groups
Fruit is something that should be eaten separately in the diet (either a good 20 minutes before a meal, or as a snack). This is because it requires different digestive enzymes to be broken down. Fruit can therefore cause digestive issues when eaten with other types of food.
However, let’s be honest. No-one is going to follow this advice! No smoothie or juice would taste good without the addition of fruit. We just wouldn’t drink them without it.
Note: In all of the above cases, digestive issues could include burping, bloating, pain, ‘farting’, constipation and or/diarrhoea.
Why having Green Smoothies daily might not be good for you
Don’t have these smoothies every day for breakfast, otherwise you can overdo things. You can put yourself out-of-balance. Especially if you always have the exact same concoction.
Anything you eat or drink, regularly for any length of time, can result in a food intolerance. Food intolerance is basically your body getting ‘fed-up’ with continually having the same food group (regardless if the foodstuff is good or bad). These ‘cyclic allergies’ are difficult to pinpoint without professional assistance, and can manifest anywhere in the body e.g. the gut, the respiratory system, and the musculoskeletal system
Metabolic conditions – Oxalic Acid
This substance is a legitimate part of the food chain. However, when consumed in excess it can seriously distress the body (especially in some susceptible people1). Green Leafy veges are high in oxalic acid. If you are piling these into your smoothie, and also eating them later on in the day (everyday) then you may be at risk of nutritional deficiencies, kidney stones, chronic vulvar pain, or rheumatic and metabolic conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout.
Thyroid conditions/Iodine Deficiency – Goitrogens
This would apply if you were using any of the Cabbage Family in your Green Smoothie on a daily basis.
Rotation, variation, moderation
I’m a big advocate of this dietary ‘mantra’. You’ll know this already if you’re one of my clients. Or if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts!
If you’re solely focused on Green Smoothies, you’ll miss out on other wonderful opportunities to have variation in your diet. Other breakfast food ideas: eggs, beans, salmon, vegetable hash/fritters, whole grain toast with nut butter, home-made muesli, porridge, and other types of smoothies.
If you’re going to have Green Smoothies 2,3 then only have them 1–2x weekly, or better yet simply have them ‘as required’. Just when you feel like you could really do with one! You shouldn’t have to consume these on a daily basis. If you feel like you do, then you may want to consider talking to a qualified, experienced, and registered natural health practitioner.
Only use a small number of fresh ingredients in your smoothie at one time e.g a ‘green’, a ‘fruit’, a ‘fluid’, and 1–2 Tbsp of seeds or oil. Ensure you don’t overdo it on your quantities/serving size! Rotate these ingredients so you’re not always using the same ‘blend’. Make sure you drink it slowly, and swish it around your mouth before swallowing.
Adding a ‘Superfood’ powder to your Green Smoothie is total overkill.
If you drink your greens, you don’t need to add powders to your smoothies as well (Spirulina, Wheat grass, Chorella). The reason you are chugging back a ‘Green Sludgy’ is so you don’t have to take these supplements.
That’s not to say they’re not useful, you could either add the powder to a standard smoothie e.g. banana, protein powder, and milk. Or add it to water or a simple juice between meals as a nutrient booster (the juice should be diluted 1:1 with filtered water).
Eat your food
In most cases, I encourage my clients to eat 5–7 handfuls of veges, and 1–2 handfuls of fruit everyday.
I also encourage my clients to eat a ‘rainbow’ of fresh veges and fruit throughout the week, and to strike a balance between having them raw and lightly cooked. ‘Eating’ not only gives the jaw a good workout but it also promotes correct digestive processes. Chewing is prewarning that food is coming, so that digestive enzymes and secretions will be activated. Chewing also slows down the whole process, as it takes time. This promotes satiety, which helps prevent overeating.
I don’t actually recommend Green Smoothies to my clients
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Lisa Fitzgibbon is a qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath and Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice OOMPH, in Grey Lynn (Auckland, New Zealand). Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 13 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.
Book online to see Lisa at OOMPH.
Lisa sees clients from all over New Zealand either in person or via SKYPE.