Green giants: Proponents say green smoothies pack a powerful punch
By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer
It looks green. It acts green. But it certainly doesn’t taste green.
Behold the green smoothie, a mounting food craze that transplants leafy greens from your salad bowl to your blender. The drinks typically combine the greens with fruit and a base liquid, like milk or water, creating a vividly hued and surprisingly tasty concoction that’s healthy to the hilt.
“The reason why … this whole trend is emerging is because people are looking for ways to get the most amount of nutrients,” said Stephanie Vella, a registered dietician at Sola Life & Fitness, a Beaumont Hospital-affiliated facility in Rochester Hills. “Smoothies are a good way to ‘hide’ vegetables, if you will. It tastes sweet. You cannot really taste the greens in it.”
Such smoothies, she said, are especially timely with greens in season in Michigan. There’s a variety available, and most boast the same nutritional profile: low calorie, low sodium, no fat, high fiber, she said.
They have “anti-cancer properties,” a big perk in an increasingly prevention-minded world, and abundant phytonutrients, nutrients exclusive to plants, Vella added.
“In today’s society, where people are generally eating a lot of animal products, we miss out on a lot of those healthy nutrients found in plants,” she said.
According to Sterling Heights resident Beth Wilke — owner and president of Raw-For Life, a company that educates people on healthful eating — the body uses vitamins culled from juiced or blended vegetables more effectively than the same vitamins in synthetic supplement form.
“It’s a very effective way of getting more benefits to the body with the nutrients, at the same time as you’re hydrating the body,” she said.
Lori Meadows, of Macomb Township, likened drinking green smoothies to “bathing your organs in liquid sunshine.”
She learned of them through a patient at her workplace, Baypointe Dental in Clinton Township, and a book the patient recommended, Victoria Boutenko’s “Green for Life.”
Meadows became so impassioned that she developed a website, GreenzWithEnvy.com, where she posts recipes, blogs and video demonstrations. She also sells cups bearing her favorite green smoothie recipe, which involves combining an apple, a banana and a mango with strawberries, greens and water.
“You can add or delete any fruit you don’t like,” said Meadows. “It’s really more about getting those greens in. If you don’t like the fruit, that’s fine, don’t eat it, but just don’t delete the greens.”
For a thicker, milkshake-like consistency, freeze the bananas beforehand, suggested Vella.
While Wilke personally prefers all-vegetable smoothies to avoid the high natural sugar content of fruit, she acknowledges that newcomers might find her some of her favorites, like cucumber juice blended with greens, a little hard to swallow.
She suggests starting heavier on fruit and slowly working up to higher greens content. As a “sweet green,” parsley is a good beginner’s option, she said.
Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, romaine and arugula also work well, said Vella.
According to Meadows, it’s best to rotate greens to reap the most nutritional benefit. She also advised steering clear of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, as they can be hard on the digestive system.
For the liquid component, Vella said skim milk is her smoothie staple, but she’s also used unsweetened soy, almond or vanilla-flavored coconut milk, as well as kefir. The fermented milk drink, which she likened to yogurt, promotes healthy digestion and “healthy gut flora” in the intestinal tract, she said.
If the finished drink’s color is off-putting, “put it in a container that you can’t see the color, with a straw,” said Wilke, while Meadows suggested relying more heavily on red berries, which will tone down the “lime green look.”
Store-bought counterparts, the three women concurred, don’t even come close to replicating the benefits of whipping up green smoothies at home.
Pre-made, packaged products often contain copious preservatives to prevent oxidation, which “has compromised the vitamin/mineral content,” said Wilke.
And if you swing by the mall smoothie station thinking you’re making a wise nutritional choice, think again. Vella said shops often create their smoothies with a frozen fruit mix that contains added sugar.
“Not all smoothies are created equal,” she said. “(Those contain) extra carbohydrates, extra calories, that we don’t need.”
Wilke credits eschewing processed food for a healthy diet that includes the green smoothies for her ability to cope with severe rheumatoid arthritis, which her doctors told her would be crippling.
Meadows said she’s noticed positive changes in her hair, nails, skin, energy levels and mental outlook. Smoothies have become her breakfast of choice, along with her 3 p.m. “pick-me-up,” replacing the usual cup of coffee.
“You’ll find yourself craving it,” she said, “because they sound so darn good.”
Eager to whip up a green smoothie at home? Fans offer up some of their tried-and-true recipes,
all of which call for combining ingredients in a blender and blending until smooth, then serving immediately.
Stephanie Vella, Sola Life & Fitness
1 ½ cups skim milk (or try unsweetened soy, rice or almond milk)
1 cup chopped raw kale leaves
1 cup raw spinach leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries
Makes two servings.
Lori Meadows, GreenzWithEnvy.com
2 cups of water
2 cups of greens
Makes two servings.
Beth Wilke, Raw-For Life
1 cup pineapple
1 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup parsley
Makes one serving.