Did I tell you I got a Vitamix and a juicer for Christmas this year? I’m sure I did because I was on cloud nine after I opened them and have used one, if not both, every single day since then.
As soon as I got home from spending the day with my family I immediately set them up on the kitchen counter. It was late, I was tired, and I really wanted to go to bed. But all day long I got to watch everyone else in my family play with their presents while I just sat around and read recipes from my Vitamix and juicer cookbooks. I was dying to make something (or lots of things) but who busts out their blender or juicer at someone else’s house? Don’t worry, not me. However, when I go out of town I do take them with me (and sometimes I take my food processor too).
It took me a while to get all set up because I had to rearrange some things in the kitchen to make space, but I did it!
Every single day since Christmas (which I guess is a whole month now) I have made either a juice of some kind or a green smoothie, sometimes both. Both of these things are really good for you in different ways.
I love to make green smoothies for many reasons:
1. They taste good.
2. They include real fruits and veggies, so I’m getting lots of vitamins and fiber without having to eat a giant salad.
3. I can easily put lots of other “superfoods” in them.
I’ve read a few different articles over the last few months discussing whether or not green smoothies are really good for you. Some of the arguments against them are that it’s better for your body to actually chew your food (you digest it better) and that smoothies pack in a lot of sugar, and potentially a lot of calories as well. Yes, all of this can be true. However, I try to think about it like this: Eating all of the vegetables and fruit that I put in a smoothie may be better for me if I eat them individually rather than blending them all up, but how likely am I to have kale for breakfast? I’m still getting all the vitamins and the fiber this way, and by getting in some of my veggies at breakfast time I end up worrying less throughout the day about whether or not I’m eating enough veggies (which I never am). I also try to keep the sugar and excess calories down by not adding too much fruit and by using water as my mixing liquid. So far, smoothies = good!
Smoothies also allow me to add in some other good stuff that I don’t know how I’d work into my diet otherwise (i.e. Chlorella, Spirulina, Maca, Hemp Protein, Ground Flax Seed). Are you wondering what the hell most of those things are? Yeah, I’m not surprised. Until a couple of months ago I didn’t know what most of those things were either. Let me help you out with that.
Chlorella – is made up of 65% protein and is actually the most easily absorbed form of protein. It contains essential fatty acids and tons of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Chlorella also contains the elusive B12 which can be hard for vegetarians and vegans to come by! It’s got 19 amino acids, 10 of which your body can’t produce on it’s own, is alkaline in the body (helps battle fatigue and disease), is an antioxidant (cancels out the effects of free radicals in your body), is very easy to digest, and helps your body to recover faster from workouts as well as daily wear and tear. Chlorella is also a natural detoxifier and helps to reduce the stress on our bodies from environmental pollutants. It directly enhances the immune system on a cellular level, speeds cell regeneration, and slows signs of aging as it’s a single-celled organism capable of reproducing itself four times every 24 hours. Suggested daily dose: 1 teaspoon
Spirulina – is high in protein and iron, and it contains 70% of your daily dose of B12! It also helps to cleanse and oxygenate the blood and it promotes the quick rejuvenation of our cells so you’re able to recover from workouts faster. Suggested daily dose: 1 tablespoon
Maca – A root vegetable with medicinal qualities. Maca curtails the effects of stress by aiding in the regeneration of the adrendal glands, which are what produce your hormones. A prolonged hormonal imbalance can cause excess body fat to be stored and induce premature signs of aging. It lowers cortisol levels, which improves sleep quality, which in turn increases energy. Maca also supplies the body with what it needs to contruct serotonin, thereby reducing or eliminating sugar cravings and the vicious cycle they initiate. Be sure to choose the gelatinized powder form. Suggested daily dose: 1 teaspoon
Ground Flaxseed – Really rich in lignans, which have also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and in omega-3s, which are in integral part in the metabolism of fat. It’s also rich in fiber and in potassium, which is an electrolyte responsible for smooth muscle contraction. Ground flaxseed is not the same as flaxseed meal. Suggested daily dose: 1 tablespoon
Hemp Protein – Alkaline forming, contains antioxidants and essential fats, as well as the very obvious protein. Hemp protein contains all 10 of the amino acids that your body cannot produce on it’s own, therefore making it a complete protein. Hemp foods are also natural anti-inflammatory foods. Since hemp protein is a raw protein the digestive strain placed on the body to absorb and utilize it is removed, thereby making it easier to digest than other protein powders. Suggested daily dose: 1 tablespoon
These foods are often called “superfoods” because of how great they are for your body and I like to include them in my smoothies. They are certainly not necessary to enjoy a great green smoothie though! Some of them can be hard to find in the grocery store (spirulina and chlorella) and they can all be a little pricey, so I like to order them through iHerb.com. This site has sales periodically and you can order larger amounts so you run out less and spend less on packaging. If you use the code PWM620 then you also get $10 off your first order!
Yesterday I made a smoothie and I tracked exactly how much of everything I put in it so I could share it with you. I’m was out of bananas and hemp protein, which usually go in my smoothies, so I had to leave those out. Here’s what I did put in:
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 huge rainbow chard leaf with stem (seriously the size of 2 or 3 regular leaves)
- 3 medium curly kale leaves with stems
(stop and blend this all up before adding everything else)
- 1 and 3/4 cups frozen mixed berries
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 tsp chlorella powder
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 1 tbsp spirulina
- 1 packet stevia
(blend until smooth)
I weighed each item on my kitchen scale before adding it to my blender so that my calorie count would be exact.
Like I said, I usually put a banana in there too and then use only 1 cup of berries. Banana helps to make the smoothie a little creamier. Today’s smoothie with 1 medium banana (95 grams) and just 1 cup of berries (153 grams) came out to 311 calories total.
The hemp protein is something I only use when I’m running 5 days a week and training for a race because I’m not worried about my protein intake, even as a vegan. Without the protein powder this smoothie still had 16 grams of protein!!
You can also use whatever kind of fruit or greens you want in the smoothie. I always use frozen fruit so that my smoothie is cold, but I like to mix it up with what I use (peaches, blueberries, mangoes pineapple, strawberries, kale, spinach, swiss chard, rainbow chard, collard greens…). I’ve heard that you can also use half an avocado instead of the banana for creaminess but I haven’t actually tried this yet. Let me know if you do!
If you stick to something close to this recipe then your smoothie is going to come in around 250-300 calories of pure goodness! I try to have a green smoothie at least five days a week, usually as an on-the-go breakfast option or as a sweet afternoon pick me up.
I can’t decide which I love more: juicing or green smoothies. I love juicing because:
1. I can easily put things in my juice that I wouldn’t be excited to put in my smoothie (sweet potato, broccoli, tomato, celery, parsnips, etc.)
2. Juicing allows me to get a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into my diet in a way that tastes good and is refreshing
3. Pure fruit and vegetable juice allows for a gentler digestive process and the nutrients are more quickly absorbed by your body
Some will argue that juicing isn’t as good for you because you’re removing all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables, which is completely true. However, removing the fiber does not remove any of the nutrients. The other down side to juicing is that removing the fiber from the fruits and vegetables does not remove the calories so you have to remember that you’re still drinking your calories. Even so, I still make a fresh fruit and vegetable juice almost every single day. I just try to remember this is not a beverage to be enjoyed alongside a full meal! When I juice I usually make about 24 oz at a time (that’s how much my juicing container holds). Sometimes I’ll have the juice as breakfast alongside a piece of toast, or sometimes I’ll have a smoothie for breakfast, half of my juice as a morning snack, a regular lunch, and then the other half of my juice as my afternoon snack.
I also try to include more vegetables than fruits in my juice, or at least an even mix, as this helps to keep the calories and sugar content in check. If I’m going to make a mostly fruit juice then I try and drink it earlier in the day and have juices that are mainly vegetables later in the day.
Here’s what I had in my juice today:
- 1 green apple, cut into quarters
- 1 orange, cut into quarters and peeled
- 4 medium carrots
- 1 large stalk of celery
- 2 beets, cut in half
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- about 3 cups of broccoli
The only thing to ignore from this nutrition facts chart is the fiber! Like I said earlier, with juicing you keep all the goodness of the fruits and vegetables but you loose the fiber. I always enjoy my juice over ice or after it’s been in the fridge for several hours because it tastes better cold! You should also stir your juice well before drinking it to ensure that it’s well mixed.
So there you have it. I still feel that there are more benefits to drinking green smoothies and juicing than there are drawbacks. You just have to be careful and make sure that you’re being aware of your calorie intake, especially when juicing!
With that said, I still feel that it’s better for you to eat meals and snacks that are made up of primarily fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether or not your juicing and making smoothies. The more fruits and vegetables you include in your diet then the less room you have for other junk!