A green smoothie is a great way to squeeze in a nutrient-dense meal when you’re in a hurry. They take mere minutes to make but can provide a large number of vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants. This makes them an excellent option for those with busy lifestyles. All you need is a blender and some whole plant foods. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
I love to start my day off on a good foot, nutritionally speaking. This means that I take some extra care in choosing my breakfast foods. Having a nutrient-dense breakfast fuels me for a busy day and keep me energized and feeling good. So, this week I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite green smoothie recipes. I’ll even go over the optional add-ins that I include and why you may want to add them to your smoothies too.
A Note About Smoothies
I know smoothies are often thought of as a fruity treat, but when I make a smoothie, I think about it as a salad in a glass. I include a lot of vegetables in my green smoothie, and add fruit for flavour. This may sound strange at first (and you’re probably rolling your eyes at me), but it’s actually a really good way to get more vegetables in your diet if you’re having trouble with that. You can include lots of veggies while covering them with the more pleasing flavours of fruit. This makes them a great option for picky kids as well.
I know that some people advise against drinking your calories, but for a lot of people, green smoothies can be a huge step in the right direction. If a smoothie allows you to eat a serving or two of greens at a meal where you typically wouldn’t, I call that a win. If making a quick smoothie allows you to have a nutrient-dense meal instead of calling a cup of coffee breakfast, that’s a win too. For more info on smoothies and some tips on how to make them in a super-healthy way, check out this post.
Green Smoothie Basics
This smoothie is in regular rotation at my house. It contains some really health promoting foods that we should aim to eat every day.
Greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods there are. Meaning, they contain more vitamins and minerals per calorie than most. If you’re eating plant-based, greens are a great source of calcium and iron. They also contain other important nutrients like folate and vitamin K. Amounts vary by variety, but the point is, these should be eaten on the regular to help promote good health. If you’re already aware of the health benefits of greens but can’t get past the taste, check out this post where I give you some tips to help with that.
These little gems are chalked full of nutrients, but that’s not the only reason I include them in my smoothies. They are also well known for their anti-cancer properties. I’m all about loving the foods that love you back, and cruciferous vegetables definitely fit the bill.
These little guys are sweet and delicious. We could leave it at that, but they are also antioxidant powerhouses. This means they help fight free radicals in the body, which, left unchecked, can cause damage to your DNA and increase your risk for disease. Yet another powerful plant we should aim to eat regularly. If they aren’t in season in your area, frozen berries make a great alternative. They are flash frozen at peak ripeness, so they maintain their nutrients better than those that have been picked early and ripened on a truck.
There are some things I like to add to my smoothies that you may choose to skip. I’ll go over why I add each one so you can decide if that’s something you want to try adding to yours.
Pound for pound, herbs and spices contain more antioxidants than any other food group. But that’s not where the benefits end with turmeric. It’s also been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with everything from injury to post-workout recovery. But that’s not all (she says, sounding like a game show host)! Turmeric has also been shown to help prevent and stop cancer growth. A powerful spice indeed. A small amount will do, I aim for ¼ teaspoon of turmeric a day. A really easy way to incorporate it is to throw it in your green smoothie and call it a day.
Now, I will warn you that turmeric is not exactly the mildest flavoured spice out there. Even at this small amount, you may notice a slightly odd flavour in your smoothie. Not particularly bad, just different than you would expect. However, after including turmeric in my smoothies for a couple of days, I stopped noticing the taste. Proof that our taste buds really are quite adaptable and will get used to just about anything we throw at them.
This may seem like an odd thing to put in a green smoothie, but you won’t notice it. Black pepper, while having anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of its own, actually helps to increase the absorbability (and thus effectiveness) of turmeric by up to 2000%. No, that’s not a typo, the number is two thousand percent. So, there’s a great reason to add a pinch of pepper to any dish you’re adding turmeric to.
You may have heard about some of the benefits of flaxseeds. They are a great source of omega-3 (an essential fatty acid) as well as soluble fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol levels. They are also a concentrated source of lignans, which are another plant compound known for their anti-cancer effects. Flaxseeds have also been shown to help lower blood pressure in those with elevated levels. Just be sure to include ground flaxseeds. Due to their small size and tough outer shell, they tend to go right through the digestive tract unscathed when ingested whole. You can purchase them pre-ground or grind them yourself using an herb or coffee grinder. Just be sure to store it in the fridge or freezer so it keeps longer for you.
Flax meal has a light nutty flavour that you likely won’t notice in your smoothie. It can help to thicken it a little, but you shouldn’t notice a difference beyond that. It’s also really easy to incorporate flax meal in other ways. A common way is by making flax eggs to use in place of eggs in baking. One tablespoon of flax meal mixed with 2.5 tablespoons of water will thicken up to make an excellent substitute without all the cholesterol and saturated fat found in eggs.
What About Protein?
It’s common these days to see a green smoothie recipe like this loaded up with protein powder. While you can certainly add some if you like, it’s really not required. We’re often told we need a lot more protein than we actually do. It’s actually really easy to meet your protein needs even on a plant-based diet, so don’t sweat it. If you’re consuming enough calories to maintain your weight (ie: you aren’t starving yourself) you’ll get enough protein.
Ideally, we should be getting protein from whole food plant sources rather than isolated protein powders. So, if you’re wanting to add some extra to this meal, you can add some hemp seeds. They’re high in protein as well as those essential omega-3 fats. If you’re looking for other whole food protein sources you can check out my post on protein powder alternatives.
Whether you’re new to green smoothies or a seasoned pro, give this recipe a try. It’s designed to tick a lot of nutritional boxes, but can be easily adapted to your comfort level. If you’re new to adding greens and veggies to your smoothies, you can start with a smaller amount at first, and eventually work your way up.
- 1.5 cups non-dairy milk or water
- 2 small bananas
- 2 packed cups kale, (or greens of your choosing)
- 1 cup cauliflower
- 3/4 cup strawberries, (frozen)
- 1/2 cup mango, (frozen)
- 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
- 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp hemp hearts
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
- You can use fresh or frozen ingredients for this green smoothie. Frozen will result in a thicker consistency. If you use fresh ingredients, you may want to reduce the liquid amount for a thicker smoothie.
- Amounts are adjustable based on your taste preference. You can decrease the fruit and increase the greens once you enjoy the taste of them.
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