Green smoothies are all the rage these days. More and more people are blending up leafy greens like spinach, kale, mint, and more with fruit, supplements, and other healthy ingredients. These concoctions look like they came from the land of leprechauns and are touted as a nearly-magical method for fantastic health, weight loss, and more. Is it true? Can you really get healthier by drinking green smoothies?
The benefits of green smoothies
There are a lot of benefits to drinking green smoothies on a regular basis. The main reason for this is because of all the dark leafy greens. Here are just a handful of reasons to start blending up:
Green smoothies are an easy way to get in more greens
Dark leafy greens are one of nature’s healthiest foods, but very few people eat
enough. Greens like kale and Swiss chard are heart-healthy, they burn fat, they have anti-aging properties, and they are packed with antioxidants. Green smoothies are the perfect vehicle, and much more convenient than trying to shovel down salad after salad.
Smoothies make greens easier to digest
So you know that dark leafy greens are great, but some people have trouble digesting them because of the high fiber content. Breaking them down in a blender with water and other liquids is a good way to make them easier on your tummy.
They have natural detox powers
While the high fiber content can bother some people, that fiber is also what makes green smoothies a natural detox. Fiber sticks to the nasty toxins in your body and clears them out of your system. Dark leafy greens and fruits like apples and bananas are full of insoluble fiber, which flushes out toxins and eases constipation.
Green smoothies help ease acid reflux symptoms
If you experience frequent heartburn, green smoothies might be the answer. They are full of veggies and fruit that are naturally alkaline, an acid-neutralizer, so you should feel better soon after drinking a smoothie, and drinking them on a regular basis can help people with acid-reflux disease.
Drinking green smoothies is an easy way to stay hydrated
Most people don’t drink enough water, which is unfortunate, because water does amazing things for the human body, like increase your energy, clear up skin, and strengthen the immune system. With green smoothies, you’re getting a lot of liquid-rich foods and actual liquid (water, coconut water, almond milk) in one sitting, so when you start off your day with a green smoothie, you’re starting your day off hydrated.
They give you more energy
A green smoothie is a much healthier alternative to coffee in terms of an energy boost. The natural sugar in fruit gives you that first burst, while fiber-rich veggies with complex carbs help slow down and balance out the burn, so you have energy for a longer period of time.
They can be satisfying, but still low in calories
When you use the right ingredients, you can make a green smoothie that makes you feel full, but is very low in calories. This is essential for weight loss, and not feeling hungry and miserable throughout the day. Replacing breakfast with a smoothie is an option if you feel full after drinking one.
The green smoothie controversy
Though it seems like green smoothies are clearly beneficial, there is some controversy. Many people say that green smoothies are too full of sugar, but that’s only if you use the wrong ingredients. More vegetables than fruit is a must in order to keep them low-calorie, and you want to lay off using too much of any sweetener.
Another concern is that green smoothies can cause kidney stones. This is based in the fact that high levels of oxalic acid are found in plants, and when this acid combines with calcium, it forms a kidney stone. However, only people with a predisposition to kidney stones should be cautious about green smoothies, and should talk to their doctor first. There are other factors that are more closely-linked to kidney stones, like drinking too much soda and eating too much sugar, salt, and meat.
Green smoothies have also been called out for causing stomach aches and alkaloid build-up, which in the long-term can cause thyroid problems. The solution to this potential problem is simple and involves rotating the kinds of veggies you use as the base of your green smoothie. For example, use spinach for a few smoothies, then switch to kale, and then chard. This prevents alkaloid build-up in the body.
The benefits of green smoothies outweigh the health concerns, and if you’re worried that you might have a problem or have experienced stomach problems after drinking green smoothies, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist.
The perfect formula for green smoothies
To make a great green smoothie, there’s a general formula you can use with basically any (healthy) ingredient you can think of. With the right amount of liquid, greens, fruit, and any boosters, you can experiment with endless combinations. If the smoothie isn’t sweet enough for you, try adding honey, agave, or even dates.
To ensure you get a smoothie that’s drinkable and not too chunky, always add the liquid first. It helps the blades blend better. Start blending slowly to break up bigger chunks, and then speed it up. If you find the smoothie to be too thin, add ice to thicken instead of more ingredients.
What blender should you use?
Blending green smoothies requires a strong blender. A weak blender won’t be able to really puree any harder vegetables like carrots and celery, or crush ice. There are tons of blenders on the market, and the price range varies significantly. Brands like the Vitamix and NutriBullet Pro series cost hundreds of dollars, with the Vitamix clocking in at a massive $500+. A big reason for the price is because these blenders have really high-wattage motors. A high wattage means you can use a blender a lot without worrying about burning out the motor. If you have the funds, the expensive blenders really do hold up.
For more affordable options that are still high-quality, Oster and Ninja make good blenders that are still equipped with powerful blades. Many of these more affordable blenders also include extras like additional blending cups, lids, and so on, so check and see how much you’re getting for your money.
When shopping for a blender, consider the motor power (measured in watts), capacity (think about how many servings of smoothie you plan on making), blades (are they durable enough to last a while), construction (a weak construction means the blender isn’t super safe), and if the parts are dishwasher-safe. This will make clean-up easier, so you won’t put off making smoothies because cleaning is a hassle.
You should also make sure the plastic is BPA-free, and check out the warranties on blender parts, so if something breaks, you can get it replaced for free or for very little money. Ideally, a good blender won’t be breaking, but sometimes you get a bad model or a blender cup falls at just the right angle and cracks, so it’s better to be covered by a warranty and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Green smoothie recipes
With the formula I gave you, you can make just about any green smoothie you’d like, but it’s still helpful to see what other flavor combinations people have come with. Here are three recipes to try out:
Apple-Avocado Green Smoothie
Time: 5 minutes
This refreshing smoothie uses spinach for the “green” and is sweetened by a fresh apple. An avocado adds more bulk and fiber to keep you full. It makes enough for one healthy-sized, thirst-quenching breakfast drink.
1 ½ cups coconut water
2 cups chopped spinach
1 cored and chopped apple w/ skin
½ chopped avocado
- Pour water into blender before adding other ingredients.
- Blend until smooth.
Total calories: 244
Time: 5 minutes
For a more fruity green smoothie, try this banana-based treat with strawberries and pomegranates. For the greens, spinach is a great option, and using coconut water keeps it low-calorie.
1 ½ banana
1 cup strawberries
1 cup spinach
¾ cup coconut water
¼ cup pomegranate
- Pour water into blender.
- Add rest of ingredients and blend until smooth.
Nutritional info (1 serving):
Total calories: 142
Nectarine-Kale Green Smoothie
Time: 5 minutes
Kale is a bit strong for some people, so we’ll go with almond milk for our liquid base. Nectarines, pineapple, and ½ banana add sweetness, while 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed at the very end is great for even more antioxidants and texture.
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cups kale
1 cup nectarines
½ cup pineapple
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- Pour almond milk into your blender.
- Add kale, nectarines, banana, and pineapple.
- Blend well.
- Add flaxseed and serve!
Nutritional info (1 serving):
Total calories: 436