By now, you’ve probably seen someone walking around with a sludgy-looking green juice or smoothie, and may have even asked WHY in the world anyone would drink something so … green. Sales of super-premium fruit and vegetable juices have risen 58% since 2004, and smoothie chains on every corner are offering “healthy add-ins” or green options. So … is it worth all the hype?
In my opinion, it depends. I love my green smoothies as a way to pack in a ton of extra veggies and nutrients, and I do think they give me a burst of energy (read on for my go-to smoothie below!). Plus, I get to enjoy a delicious meal, and it takes me a long time to eat (I’m definitely a “volume eater”). But I also think you need to be careful about what you add into your smoothies (or what you buy in a bottle) – it’s NOT necessarily healthy just because it’s green.
First, let’s discuss juices vs. smoothies. I’ve always preferred smoothies over juices, mainly because you’re passing up on almost all the fiber when you simply juice the ingredients. Besides some of the benefits of fiber I discussed in the whole grains post, it also slows down the absorption and digestion processes, which is especially critical to prevent blood sugar spikes when you’re eating something with high sugar content, which juices can have. I can also add healthy fats and protein to my smoothies, but couldn’t do that as easily with a juice. I personally feel more energized and more satisfied when I’ve had a green smoothie than when I’ve had a green juice. That said, I’ve talked to many people who swear by the energy boost that green juices give them, and who have experienced great results by incorporating green juices into their diets. I’ve never done a juice cleanse, but I’m not against trying it, so long as you don’t think it’s a surefire way to drop 5 pounds in 3 days (it will likely come back!) and are using it only every once in a while to detox your body and give it a boost of nutrients. So, as always, the bottom line is that I believe you need to find what’s right for you, as long as you’re doing it mindfully.
Second, be sure you’re cautious about the ingredients in your smoothie or juice. Because they are made from mostly fruits and vegetables, juices and smoothies tend to be high in sugar, and even though the natural sugars of fruits and veggies are far healthier than processed sugars, it’s still good to be mindful of the quantities you’re consuming. Jamba Juice’s 30 oz. Strawberries Wild has 118g of sugar (well over a healthy daily limit), and Smoothie King’s 20 oz. Strawberry Hulk has more calories than a Burger King Double Cheeseburger AND medium fries – yikes! So what can you do if you’re buying a pre-made smoothie or juice? Be sure to check the ingredients for any ADDED sugar (“sugar,” “cane juice,” “molasses,” anything ending in “syrup,” or “glucose,” to name a few), and avoid products that include it. Also look for the bulk of your smoothie or juice to come from actual fruits and vegetables (you probably don’t want the frozen yogurt, whole milk, or sweeteners in your drink).
When I make my green smoothies, here is what I include. It’s easy and fun to play with different flavor combinations. Let me know what you like!
- a healthy dose of greens (kale, spinach, cucumbers, celery, and even zucchini and broccoli are some of my favorites for smoothies)
- a flavor boost from fruit (I usually go for frozen berries since they’re so easy, but also like pears, apples, or 1/2 a frozen banana)
- liquid (I like using 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk to give it a creamy taste, then enough water to get it moving)
- protein powder, if you choose (I am currently loving the Vega One Vanilla Chai Nutritional Shake, which has a great blend of complete vegan proteins, greens, antioxidants, and even probiotics and digestive enzymes … and tastes delicious!)
- a bit of healthy fat (throw in 1/4 of an avocado or some chia seeds, or add a scoop of almond butter on top)
- some spices, if you like (I love cinnamon, or try ginger and lemon juice for some tang)
My go-to recipe includes several big handfuls of kale, about 1/2 a cucumber, a few stalks of celery, ~3/4 cup frozen mixed berries, ~3/4 scoop Vega One Vanilla Chai, 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, ~1 cup water, a hefty shake of cinnamon, ~1.5 cups ice cubes. Just give it a whirl in your blender, and enjoy! I love to eat mine with a spoon from a bowl, because it lasts even longer and I can really enjoy it :). Don’t be scared of the funky green color … I promise it tastes delicious, and NOT like a mouthful of kale! (And if you’re curious, this whole smoothie, including 2 teaspoons of almond butter on top, clocks in around 300 calories, 10g fat, 38g carbs, and 18g protein … all with only 12g sugar!)
So tell me in the comments… Have you ever tried green smoothies or juices? What are some flavor combinations you love or would like to try?