Those of you who consistently follow this blog know that I am vegetarian. I will not recap here my reasons for becoming a vegetarian. What I would like to do is share with you a recipe that gave me an easy entry into getting my daily fruit and vegetables and eventually becoming a vegetarian.
The recipe below is for my green smoothie—so-called not so much for its color as for some of its ingredients. In fact, it starts out purple and after 15-30 minutes reverts to green.
Until I started having the smoothie every morning, I rarely ate vegetables or fruit in any quantity or with any regularity. Although odd to say for a vegetarian, I really don’t like vegetables, and have historically concentrated on the “meat and potatoes” of my evening meal up until my conversion.
Even though you may have no desire to become vegetarian, this smoothie is a very healthful whole food that allows you to get a big portion of your daily fruits and vegetables in one great tasting shot. This drink is (and must be) prepared in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix. There are a number of reasons for this. High power and high RPMs are needed not only to blast through frozen fruit (which will destroy a conventional blender), but also to break open the plant cells of the fruit and vegetables, release the contents of the cells, and reduce their components to subcellular and micron-sized particles.
Releasing the internal components of the cells gives our digestive system access to them. Chewing intact vegetables, whether cooked or uncooked, is very inefficient. Much of the nutrients they contain is not accessible, because we are unable to digest the plant’s cellulose cell walls. Heating helps but may inactivate important components. Using live, raw fruits and vegetables assures that all of the nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants are preserved and not modified or inactivated by cooking.
I do not have data, but if I had to guess, I would say that chewing cooked or uncooked vegetables might release at best 20-30 percent of the nutrients, while high speed blending might release on the order of 90 percent. An implication of this is that the amount of nutrients derived from a relatively small amount of high speed-blended raw vegetables is comparable to a relatively large amount of intact vegetables. That is, you would have to eat three to four times more unblended vegetables to get the same amount of nutrients, antioxidants, etc. that are obtained from a given amount of high speed blended vegetables. That’s good for someone like me who doesn’t like vegetables to begin with.
Organic vegetables and fruit should be used to avoid or minimize herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer residues found on conventionally grown crops. Conventional crops should be vigorously washed with a veggie wash detergent before use. Another benefit of using organic fruits and vegetables is that genetically modified plants are avoided.
For purposes of flavor and stability of the nutrients released from the cells, the smoothie must be ice-cold. This is most easily accomplished by using frozen fruit in the recipe. Otherwise, you will need to substitute one cup of ice for the water.
You may read other opinions, but I strongly recommend that the smoothie be consumed within 30 minutes. The shift in color of the smoothie from purple to green suggests that some oxidation is occurring. Once released from the cell, some of the components may be labile and lose potency with storage, even in the refrigerator.
Generally, the recipe below yields approximately a quart. I drink the whole thing, but you may choose to share it with another person. Some small high speed blenders are now available that make much smaller portions. However, I am not sure that the small volume produced will provide adequate daily amounts of nutrients and fiber.
Of course you are free to experiment with the ingredients, but I recommend that you start with my recipe first because I know it tastes good. Not all combinations of vegetables are pleasing to the taste, and not all are packed with nutrients like those below. If you want to try others, then change only one vegetable at a time in the recipe.
The Green Smoothie*
*My recipe is based on one originally developed more than five years ago by the Green Smoothie Girl as a healthy drink for her family. She has now established an online business selling a line of health products.
Blending times are for the Vitamix set to the highest speed.
2/3 cup filtered or spring water
1/8 lemon (skin, pulp, and seeds included) thoroughly washed before cutting
Add the vegetables below in roughly equal amounts. Enough to loosely fill the blender jar. Tear the leaves into pieces as you might do for a salad. Depending on the size of the leaves, 1-2 leaves of each should be enough. All veggies should be organic.
Kale (any variety or mix: green, red, black)
Curly or Italian parsley
Protein powder (equivalent to 20 grams of protein)
One banana, peeled
(optional) 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds for extra fiber and omega 3.
Blend on high speed for approximately 45 seconds.
Add the following to a one cup Pyrex measuring cup:
2/3 cup frozen organic blueberries
Then fill the remainder of the measuring cup with frozen mixed fruit.
Add the fruit to the jar with blended veggies and blend on high speed for 60 seconds. The consistency will be like a thick shake.
(optional) add your daily omega-3 supplement. I use the plant-based Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend. It has the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6.
Note: Do not blend longer than the times indicated, because longer time will cause heating of the mixture which may reduce potency.
Consume within 30 minutes.
Considerations for Choosing Other Varieties of Vegetables
While dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard are staples for the smoothie, another goal is to introduce a variety of colors into the mix. This is desirable because the different colors reflect a wider array of antioxidants. Some antioxidants are more powerful than others and some plants provide better carriers for vitamins and other nutrients than others. Using a variety of fruits introduces color as well as vegetables like red, yellow, or rainbow chard and red kale.
It would be wise to look up the nutritional values of vegetables you are considering as additions or substitutes to the recipe. For example, the various types of lettuce offer much less than other choices. Beware of strong-tasting vegetables like mustard greens as these will dominate the taste. Bok choy, spinach, dandelion, and carrots are good variants to use periodically.