This time of year is my favourite time for green smoothies, because the greens come from my garden. But you don't have to have a garden to enjoy green smoothies.
Green smoothies have the benefit of getting large amounts of vegetables and fruit into your body in a way that is fast and easy to consume. Additionally there are some really tasty combinations so that you get a variety flavours, and nutrients from a diverse number of plants. If you are sick of salads, then smoothies offer another option for getting your leafy greens. Smoothies also provide a portable, quick meal. When I have clients scheduled back-to-back, or when I know I'm only going to have 15-20 minutes to eat, then I always pack a smoothie for my lunch.
I have a pretty simple formula for my smoothies:
50% fruit + 50% greens + fat + liquid = smoothie
This formula is not meant as a rule, but as a guideline to get you started. It doesn't work for all combinations (see my Strawberry-Mint Smoothie below), but is a useful starting point if you are new to smoothies, or if you want to start branching out and creating your own smoothies.
Other people like to add protein, but from a gut-healthy perspective there aren't a lot of options when it comes to protein additions. The only protein supplement I encourage people to use is a grass-fed collagen supplement such as Vital Proteins or Bulletproof - these are the two brands available in Calgary's stores. Adding nut or seed butters primarily adds fat.
Frozen fruit is a great option for smoothies. If you like a cold, thick smoothie then you can throw the frozen fruit right into your high-speed blender. I don't like drinking cold things, so I let my frozen fruit thaw overnight before using it.
Fresh fruit works better with some smoothies than others. I don't like using fresh strawberries - I just find the frozen ones are sweeter. Fresh fruit is best used in season when it is ripe and juicy. If you have a large freezer then, buying in bulk at summer markets allows you to save money by buying amazing fresh fruit and freezing it. Talk to market vendors to see if they offer seconds. Seconds are the fruit that doesn't look perfect or maybe has a bit of bruising. You can get some good deals this way if don't mind taking a bit of time to prepare and freeze your fruit. To freeze fruit, lay pieces out on baking sheets to freeze. Once frozen you can package it into serving sized bags or containers for storage in your freezer.
There are so many leafy greens available on the market now. If you are new to smoothies, then start with romaine lettuce. Spinach and baby kale are great. Many people don't like large kale leaves as they become very fibrous and can be hard on the digestive system. One of my favourite greens are pea or sunflower shoots, which are very easy to digest and packed with nutrients. Other greens include collards, dandelion, chard and a variety of herbs. Dandelion is very bitter, so be prepared for that if you are trying it out. Greens like arugula and some micro greens have a peppery flavour that doesn't lend itself well to smoothies. The one green I haven't liked in smoothies is beet greens, but if you have a good beet green smoothie, then let me know.
Fat added to smoothies has several benefits. Fats help to utilize the fat-soluble vitamins in the greens. Healthy fats are incredibly important to overall health, especially for hormone production, brain health, and heart health. Good options for smoothies include avocado, nut or seed butters, full-fat coconut milk, and coconut or MCT oil.
There are a variety of liquids you can add to smoothies. I usually just add water to mine because it's quick and easy, but full-fat canned coconut milk (carrageenan-free) is great because it also has healthy fats, so you are getting a two-in-one ingredient (fat + liquid). Coconut water is another option. I don't recommend using juices, because they raise blood sugar levels.
You can have the freshest, best quality ingredients, but if you don't have a good blender, you won't get a good smoothie. Getting a creamy, smooth consistency requires a high-speed blender. A Vitamix is the best blender I've used, and if you talk to anyone who owns one, they will likely tell you the same thing. It can emulsify any ingredients into a beautiful smoothie. Cost can be a factor though, so for people who can't afford a Vitamix I recommend a NutriBullet. These blenders are much smaller, and not quite as powerful, but are a great option. If you are making smoothies for your family, then the size of the Vitamin is definitely an advantage. We have a Vitamix in our kitchen, and my husband has a NutriBullet at his office - both are great tools.
MY GARDEN FAVOURITES
Apple mint has a mild flavour and the leaves aren't as fibrous as some other mints. It can be found at some health food stores and farmer's markets, so keep your eyes open for it. An alternative would be a Mojito mint. If you have a garden, consider planting it for next year.
2 cups frozen strawberries + 2 large stalks of apple mint + MCT oil + water to desired consistency
Just yesterday I tried Apple mint with peaches and it was AMAZING!
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries + 1-2 cups parsley + full-fat coconut milk + piece of fresh ginger (optional)
2-3 fresh peaches or 2 cups frozen peaches + 2 cups baby kale + 1 avocado + water to desired consistency
This smoothie doesn't require liquid because the watermelon and lettuce provide enough. If your child has never had a green smoothie before, then start with a small amount of lettuce and slowly build up over time. MCT oil has no taste, so is a good way to sneak these in to your child's diet. This smoothie can also be poured into popsicle molds to make a healthy popsicle. Use your child's favourite fruits if these don't look appealing.
1 banana and 1 slice from a large watermelon + 2 cups lettuce + MCT oil
Do you have a favourite smoothie you'd like to share?
This is the first post I've done that includes recipes. Do you want to see more gut-healthy recipe posts?
Further Reading: The Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko is full of smoothie recipes that utilize every possible leafy green known to man.
Happy, Healthy Eating!