I used to not be able to choke a green smoothie down. For some reason, the taste of vegetables in a drink made me gag. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to work on making our breakfast meal a little more balanced, and he suggested we throw some leftover kale and spinach we had in a smoothie. Reluctantly, I agreed. But this time, I found I loved the taste and I sensed a noticable change in energy and focus throughout my morning. So, what exactly is it about these green smoothies that makes them so special?
The science of it comes down to this: plants that produce the leafy greens we throw in our smoothies typically contain nutrients and compounds that are absolutely crucial for our body to have in protecting us from disease or in healing injuries that have already occurred. One compound for example, called polyphenol, is a compound abundant in plants. Studies in recent years have expanded our knowledge about them, and have shown that they play a crucial role regulating and maintaining a healthy metabolism, weight, and cell proliferation. This growing body of research suggests that plant-based nutrition could be a key aspect of nutrition therapy for diseases like diabetes, cancer, and chronic illness(1).
In addition to greens, we are likely to throw in fruits or vegetables which lend even more potential to our morning concoctions. Blueberries, for example, have been shown to mediate insulin sensitivity and resistance, as well as modulate the immune system and play a role in lowering inflammation(2,3). The water and other liquid components also help to hydrate us, and the smoothie form means the blender has already broken down some of the food. Since our bodies use a considerable amount of energy for digestion, this suggests that a well-designed morning smoothie really can give our body some extra energy.
So what are the components of a green smoothie? I have a little formula I like to use:
1 cup frozen fruit (my favorites are strawberries or mango chunks)
3/4 cup spinach and/or kale (I use a 50/50 blend or a mix with chard as well)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup canned coconut milk (adds a creamier element to the smoothie)
1-1 1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
1 scoop plant based protein powder
Then blend together and enjoy! I regularly change out or substitute these elements for something similar, so you can tailor it to your tastes. Don't forget to tag me in your creations and tell me about your own green smoothies (@anniweeks)!
Cory H, Passarelli S, Szeto J, Tamez M, Mattei J. The Role of Polyphenols in Human Health and Food Systems: A Mini-Review.Front Nutr. 2018;5:87. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00087
Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women.J Nutr. 2010;140(10):1764-1768. doi:10.3945/jn.110.125336
Nair AR, Mariappan N, Stull AJ, Francis J. Blueberry supplementation attenuates oxidative stress within monocytes and modulates immune cell levels in adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.Food Funct. 2017;8(11):4118-4128. doi:10.1039/c7fo00815e