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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Tuesday
Jun022009

Seven days of green smoothies: kale, collards, watercress, oh my!

I had been feeling a bit weighed down.  Heavier. Part of it is that I am heavier - I've gained some weight.  As I've been healing, I've been gradually putting weight back on, the last couple months especially so. This is a good thing, because I had gotten too thin for my body type, and felt totally deficient.  And while I feel better, and my naturopath, friends, and family all agree I look healthier, I feel every ounce of it.  Like maybe I gained a little more than ideal, and need to moderate out a bit.  Maybe I've been baking too much and eating too much flour (this is a VERY distinct possibility).  A person only needs to eat so many muffins, cookies, and breads over the course of a week, even if they are vegan, sugar free, and gluten free.  Who knows.  Anyway, I needed a change.  With my recent feeling of heaviness and the coming of spring, I wanted to feel lighter and more alive, and not so digestively sluggish and weighty.

So, of course, I first turn to food.  What am I eating?  How can that change?  I decided breakfast would be my focus.  I need a filling, big breakfast, otherwise I'm starving by 10 am, and my blood sugar is a disaster.   I need something with a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat, and I feel weird if it doesn't include some form of vegetable.  A little piece of fruit or a piece of toast just doesn't cut it. I really had been eating just about anything for breakfast - chickpea flatbreads with veggies, steamed squash with yogurt, grain salads with beans, homemade sushi rolls, leftover soups, whatever.  It was always kind of random.  

So, instead of the random approach to breakfast, I decided to start making green smoothies.  I'd really forgotten about smoothies.  I used to make them all the time, but had really lapsed out of them, especially when I was feeling so ill.  I was reminded of how awesome they are after reading something on Vegan Whole Foods Momma about her green smoothie habit.  "Oh yeah!", I thought to myself.  "Green smoothies! Of course!"  I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner.  Filling, full of veggies, and a great high energy way to start the morning.   I could add some protein powder for the protein I need in the morning, and I wondered if a lower GI start to the day would help stabilize my unreliable blood sugar.  It seemed like the perfect solution to my dilemma.  I decided to embark on a trial week of green smoothie mornings to see how I felt during, and after.  

A Week of Smoothies: My Recent Morning Elixers

Here's a record of what has been going into my blender the last week.  Some were better than others - there were no disasters, but definitely some winners. 

 
DAY 1: WEDNESDAY, 5/27/09
BLUEBERRY KALE CARROT SMOOTHIE

5 kale leaves
1/2 c blueberries
3 small carrots
2 T carrot juice
1 T ground chia seed
2 tsp lemon-flavored cod liver oil
1 scoop berry rice protein powder
1 c water

Review: Super delicious.  It was a vibrant blue-green color, was nice and thick, and had a lightly sweet flavor.  This was a smoothie to chew.  Don't be turned off by the inclusion of cod liver oil.   My brand has a great lemon flavor, and it actually added a nice lemony flavor.  And it was definitely better adding it to the smoothie than taking teaspoons of it plain (my normal habit).  If you aren't vegan, I'd totally recommend taking cod liver oil.  It is full of great omega fatty acids and vitamin D.  This smoothie made a little over 16 oz.

DAY 2: THURSDAY, 5/28/09
COLLARD RASPBERRY CUCUMBER CASHEW MINT SMOOTHIE 

9 small collard leaves
1 large handful fresh mint
1 c raspberries
1/2 cucumber
1/8 c soaked cashews
1 scoop berry rice protein powder
2 tsp lemon cod liver oil
1 c filtered water

Review:  This smoothie had too much going on, as evidenced by the long title. And while it was fairly tasty, it was not as tasty as yesterday's, and just involved too much stuff.  The color was kind of a browny green, it wasn't very pretty.  But it was nice and thick, and very filling.  I think it actually would have been better without the berries.  And I don't think I'll add cashews to a smoothie again anytime soon - I'm having trouble digesting cashews lately, I'm getting stomach cramps after eating them (boo!!!!).  This was my final cashew experiment to determine if it has just been random or if the cramps really have been cashew-induced.  Unfortunately, the cramps came, so cashews and I are now officially on a break.  This recipe made about 20 oz, and held me through until lunch.  Despite feeling a little crampy, my energy level all day was great, no mid-morning or mid-afternoon blood sugar issues, and I felt very focussed and alert.  


DAY 3: FRIDAY, 5/29/09
WATERCRESS CELERY APPLE PARSLEY SMOOTHIE ***WINNER!!!***

about 1/2 large bunch watercress
1 Fuji apple
3ish stalks celery and leaves
1 handful fresh parsley
1 scoop vanilla rice protein powder
2 tsp lemon cod liver oil
2 tsp flax oil
1 c water

Review: Third time is the charm, they say, and that is definitely the case with my third smoothie project. It is a beautiful bright green, with a light, sweet, refreshing flavor.  The bite-y flavor of watercress is really delicious with the apple.  I added a whole cup of water, forgetting the large amount of water already present in the celery, and ended up with a ton of smoothie - about 32 oz worth.  So, I drank half right away in the morning, and had the other half as a mid-morning snack, which was great. As the other folks at the photo studio chowed down on donuts and a catered bagels and cream cheese (just the thought makes my intestines bind up), I relished in my energizing, electric green smoothie.  

DAY 4: SATURDAY, 5/30/09
MINTY BEETY GOATY SMOOTHIE

1 1/2 raw beets
beet greens
1 large handful mint
2 tsp cod liver oil
1/4 c goats milk yogurt
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
flax oil

Review: I added something else to this and I am totally blanking on what it was.  Seriously, I don't remember.  Anyway, it was good.  The beets, beet greens, and mint were an awesome combination, and the goat's milk yogurt added just a little bit of creamy goodness.  The smoothie was a beautiful deep red color - gorgeous. It was sweet and refreshing and very filling, which was good, because my morning making wedding invites for my friend's wedding ended up much longer than I anticipated and crept into mid-afternoon.  The smoothie kept me going strong, along with some rhubarb scones (yes, I made another batch!) and lots of baby carrots.

DAY 5: SUNDAY, 5/31/09
ARUGULA CARROT BLUEBERRY PARSLEY SMOOTHIE  ***RUNNER UP!***

1 cup packed arugula
5 small carrots
3/4 c blueberries
1 large handful parsley
2 scoop vanilla rice protein powder
2 tsp lemon cod liver oil
1 T chia seeds
1/2 T ghee/flax oil/olive oil blend
1/2 tsp cardamom
water

Review: Super delicious, kind of a funky greeny brown color with blue flecks.   I really really liked this one.  It made a ton, about 4 cups, enough for one big glass right away and a 16 oz jar for a mid-morning snack.  This smoothie combination was great - the arugula added a nice bite-y twist, and the overall blend of flavors was very delicious - the hint of cardamom was nice.  Highly recommended combination.   I made it very protein packed (2 scoops!) because I knew today would be another long day, and I needed a strong start to the morning.  And it worked, because my energy level was great - I really think the green smoothies in the morning are the way to go!  

Anyway, my sustained, rockin' energy allowed for lots of spontaneous, strange adventures to occur today.  Today I saw oddities that will forever be burned into the back of my mind. So I'm glad I added an extra scoop.  

DAY 6: MONDAY, 6/1/09
KALE APPLE CELERY BASIL SMOOTHIE***RUNNER UP!!!***

3 leaves kale
1  small green apple
3 stalks celery
fresh basil leaves
2 tsp cod liver oil
2 tsp azuki miso
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
water

Review: the combination of kale, apple, and celery sounded like a good salad.  So I decided to make it into a smoothie, with a little slightly wilty basil that needed to get used up.  It was really delicious, and the basil was very refreshing.  Great flavor combination, and it was a beautiful green color.  Adding a blob of miso sounded like a good idea to get some good bacteria in the mix.  Made about 24 oz, enough for a big glass right away and a nice midmorning snack.

DAY 7: TUESDAY, 6/2/09
CHARD BLUEBERRY CHAYOTE SMOOTHIE

3 leaves swiss chard
3/4 c blueberries
1/2 chayote
2 scoop berry protein powder
2 tsp cod liver oil
1/2 tsp cardamom
SweetLeaf Sweetener (stevia)
water

Review:  I didn't plan on berries today, but found these lovely blueberries at the store yesterday that were too good a deal to pass up.  So, in they went with some berry protein powder, and I ended up with a super berry smoothie.  It was sweeter than usual because my sweettooth was aching this morning and I medicated it with some stevia.  It was a dreadful brown color.  But it was pretty tasty and did the job of filling my tummy.  Not my favorite combination thus far, but not bad.  Made about 20 oz.

SO, THE VERDICT?

After 7 days of green smoothies, I feel more energetic, more alert, less heavy, less bloated, and definitely more cleansed in the digestive tract.   My smoothies fill me up, but without the feeling of heaviness from grain-based or starchy breakfast foods, and without blood sugar crashes later in the day.    I have felt so much like "myself" this past week, I feel more alive.  Maybe part of it is the great weather - but I also think that my body is just happier starting the day this way. And it is fun to blend a bunch of stuff together, it is kind of like a little experiment.  And it is a delicious, easy way to start the day - I find throwing stuff in a blender to be pretty darn simple.

I don't add ice because icy cold smoothies tend to make my digestive system seize up like a car in the cold Minnesota winter.   So, instead, I drink mine room temperature, with no resulting stomach cramps.  I've always known this to be better for me, but I was interested to learn that it actually makes sense.   Here's why, from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective: An excess of cold drinks (as well as an excess of raw food) cause cold in the stomach, which is destructive to stomach qi.  The stomach and spleen need to be warm and energized in order to function properly and to regulate the partnering systems of the body.  But an excess of cold, raw foods deplete that energy, leaving an exhausted stomach that does not have the energy to properly digest food. Other irregular eating habits, like eating late at night, overeating, eating too quickly, drinking liquids with meals, or eating too often also deplete stomach qi.  A stomach qi deficiency can cause a variety of issues, like stomach pain, poor digestion, weakness, loose stools, nervousness, and lethargy.  It can lead to a qi deficiency in the spleen and a general disharmony between the two organs, which are very closely related in TCM theory.   For those of us with sensitive or healing digestive systems, we need to save all the qi we can down there!  I have found that nearly eliminating all cold drinks from my diet (among other stomach q-friendly modifications) has definitely left me with a happier stomach-spleen and much better digestion.  The Chinese medicine advice for good digestion and health?  Moderation.  Eat things at a moderate temperature, eat moderate portions, eat a moderate mix of both raw and cooked foods, and chew well.

GREEN SMOOTHIE BENEFITS 
  • Fast to prepare - wash vegetables, put in blender, and blend.  5 minutes, tops.
  • Cleansing - vegetables are cleansing to the system, and it is a great way to start the day
  • Low calorie, and nutrient dense - provides a nutrient-packed punch of energy in a relatively small number of calories.  You won't even need coffee!!!!
  • Easily transportable - pour into a jar or thermos and take with you!
  • Endlessly versatile - any vegetable combination works and it can be tailored to fit your needs exactly!
  • Easy servings of vegetables - no easier way to pack in those vegetables, seriously
  • Low carb, low sugar, and diabetic and candida-friendly - depending on what you add, this is a great solution for people watching sugar intake
A FEW SMOOTHIE-FRIENDLY SUGGESTIONS
  • As my mom used to tell me, "Chew your juice".  Seriously, that's what she said.  We had a Vita-Mix and made crazy thick "juice" smoothies a lot.  So, make sure to chew your smoothie as you drink it.  This isn't really juice, it blended vegetable, and your body still needs to do work to break it down and digest it.  Chewing will stimulate stomach secretions and make it even easier to assimilate all the good nutrients in that smoothie.
  • If you buy or make fresh juices (carrot, beet, etc), freeze leftover juice in ice cube trays.  Then you can have a cube or two ready to add to a smoothie whenever you'd like.
  • If fresh berries are on sale, buy a bunch, wash them, and freeze any you don't eat.  
  • Add leftover salads from yesterday to today's morning smoothie.
  • Always keep a variety of fresh greens and vegetables in your fridge so you can always make a smoothie.
So, give it a shot.  Maybe you'll like it.  As for me, I'm going to keep on this smoothie kick!  I'd love to hear your favorite recipes and suggestions.  I'm thinking tomorrow I might try a creamy pear-zucchini-kale combination...

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Reader Comments (4)

hey, i feel exactly the same. I was doing so many cleanses this winter I got really thin and started to feel weak. since I've been eating more normally again, I've put on a bit of weight, and I'm not heavy, but everything feels heavy after being feather-light and empty! So maybe this will help! do you just blend all the veggies or do you juice some? I don't have a juicer available, so I'm hoping a blender works! thanks!

erin

June 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Yes, you put it so well, that is exactly how it feels!

A blender works great - I even have a pretty cheap blender, and it worked just fine! I just had to chop things up kind of small, and stir things a few times to get everything blended evenly, but it definitely worked.

As for the veggies and fruits themselves, I left things pretty much as they were - didn't peel carrots, didn't remove the ribs on the greens, left the seeds in apples, etc - and just chopped them up and shoved them in the blender. Easy!

Have fun! I keep thinking of different combinations to try... I'd like to try kohlrabi in a smoothie. Or maybe something with apricots - I have a few sitting in my fruit basket at home that are just begging to be blended. :)

June 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Wow, I was planning to do a green smoothie post this week in conjunction with my raw detox. I really enjoyed your post, especially the tips!

June 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterswellvegan

funny timing! . yes, it is that time of year, isn't it? i think in spring and early summer our bodies just yearn for cleansing and detox and lighter, fresher foods. i think all of us food/body aware people must be on the same page with this. : ) I'm glad you liked the post and suggestions, I had fun making all these and documenting it the last week i look forward to seeing your green smoothie post!

June 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo