Anatomy of a Green Smoothie

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As much as this may seem like a no-brainer, green smoothies can be easy to make and easy to screw up without a little know-how.  Trust me, I know.  I’ve done it!  Just to be clear, green smoothies aren’t always green; some are brown, blue or even red.  A green smoothie is simply one that has green (leafy) vegetables blended into it.  They are usually made sweet with fruits and/or juices.  There are probably thousands of smoothie recipes out there but this is the basic process to get you started making magic in your blender.

 Green smoothies are a wonderful way to get your greens in when you or those youngin’s may otherwise not.  Health-wise, they actually give you a great “bang for your buck.”  You remember all those recommendations that you chew your food 32 times before swallowing?  This is because in order to get the most out of our foods, they should be fully masticated (pretty well liquefied) in our mouths.  Yet, who does that?  Most people, while we know we should, simply don’t.  With a green smoothie, you’re basically letting the blender do all that chewing for you.  Blending makes it easier for the body to process and absorb the nutrients in the food.  Adding the fruit makes it more palatable and offers a quick boost of energy.  You get to go about your busy day while you sip on a glass chock full of easily assimilated nutrients.

 Green smoothies can also be a great aid in detoxification and weight loss and there are countless testimonies as to their benefits in improving people’s overall quality of life.

Step 1. Pick Your Greens!

(you can still make a tasty smoothie without them but then it wouldn’t really be a greensmoothie would it?)

While you can make a smoothie with just fruit, I consider greens an indispensable part of any healthy diet.  What better way to get them and make the most of them than in a deliciously sweet and fruity smoothie?!  Greens are essential because they play a vital role in overall nutrition and should make up a noteworthy portion of your diet in order to achieve optimum health.

I know many are somewhat repulsed by the idea of drinking anything green, especially thinking of it as a bunch of “rabbit food” thrown into a blender.  However, fruits actually do a really good job at masking their typically bitter taste, as does chocolate and/or spices.

Start with lighter greens before moving to more full flavored or bitter greens. Spinach is usually a great leafy green to start with as it has a very mild flavor that is easy to blend with most anything.  Kale, collards and chard can have much stronger flavors that may impart more of an earthy taste than most naturally appreciate.  Too much at first can be enough to make you sensitive to the flavor for some time.  Know your limitations and remember, it’s about you improving how you and your family eat; not living up to someone else’s “perfect.”  It’s your smoothie.  It can be yellow and taste like nothing but apples or forest green and taste like grass clippings.  So long as it’s beneficial and satisfying to you, that’s all that really matters.

The recommended percentage of greens to use in a green smoothie is generally 40% greens to 60% fruit.  This often equates to about 1-2 cups/handfuls of greens depending on the recipe, how much you’re making and how green you want your smoothie to look and taste.

Be sure to rotate your greens to prevent a buildup of alkaloids! Spinach in a smoothie is healthy.  Only using spinach for green smoothies everyday, probably not so much.

Tip:  Blending greens smoothly in a regular blender can be a challenge.  If you do not own a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, blend your greens with your liquid BEFORE adding your fruits.

Step 2. Pick Your Liquid

Liquid is necessary for helping your blender to mix the ingredients and to make it a beverage instead of a sweet soup. It’s nigh impossible for most standard household blenders to make a smoothie without some added water, (nut) milk, juice, or something.

Keep in mind, the liquid you use to blend your smoothie doesn’t always have to be water and you don’t always need to use ice to chill it.  Fresh fruit juices and nut milks can take a smoothie from good to over the top and I love using frozen bananas in place of ice cubes.

The amount of liquid you will need to add will vary depending on your blender’s make and model, as well as how much you’re making (I know, duh, right?).

Filtered Water: This gives you a good, healthy base that won’t affect the overall flavor of the smoothie or interfere with the flavors of the fruits.  It also adds zero calories/fat to your smoothie and keeps it simple; especially good factors when using green smoothies for cleansing and weight loss.  Still, its water so, obviously, it can “water down” the flavor.

Coconut Water: Gives any smoothie a sweet, tropical undertone.  Young Thai coconut water is best but you may also use the water of brown coconuts, or packaged/bottled coconut water (while fresh and raw are best, you can use bottled varieties.  Many health stores now also offer raw, young coconut water in their coolers so be sure to ask.  REALLY!  It tastes so much better!).

Fruit Juices: I generally don’t recommend using commercial fruit juices for anything for a number of reasons.  Fresh juice is best.  Be mindful that fruit juices quickly add a lot more sugar content to the mix.

Nut MilksConsidering the end we’re looking to attain through making them, dairy milks and yogurts are not my first choices for green smoothies.   Really, most people don’t have a problem getting their kids to eat dairy products anyway so, my take on it – use it to focus on getting in the extras that are a harder sell.  I personally think they detract from the fresh flavor I enjoy out of my green smoothies anyhow.  I like my green smoothies to leave me feeling light and dairy does anything but.

A major benefit of green smoothies is their alkalizing effect on our bodies’ pH.  Dairy is known for being acidifying.  Most dairy on the market is terribly denatured through processing and can contain any number of undesirable tag-alongs and add-ins.  If you must use dairy, steer clear of sugar-laden yogurts or over-processed milks.  Stick to organic, plain and minimal.  Its better to add in your own flavors and sweeteners than purchase products loaded with sugar, preservatives, flavorings, and dead probiotics instead of live cultures.

To soften the flavor of your smoothie and add a touch of delicacy, try a homemade or pre-made nut milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or other plant-based milk.

Step 3. Pick Your “Base” Fruit

Base fruits are generally rich in soluble fiber and give smoothies a creamy texture.  When adding fruits, you want to be sure that you have a rich source of soluble fiber in the mix (I consider these my stabilizers).  Greens contain lots of insoluble fiber which separates very quickly after you stop your blender.  If you only use fruits which also contain a lot of insoluble fiber, you will find it ridiculously difficult to keep your mixture from separating into layers while drinking it.  It will usually just be watery and inconsistent, not to mention a little chunky and maybe even a little on the gritty side.

Keep in mind, a base fruit doesn’t necessarily have to be the prominent or majority fruit/flavor.  You may make a smoothie that has 3 or 4 oranges and only 1 banana and still have a nice texture so long as you blend the oranges well enough.  The idea is that the base fruit is the “must-have” or the cream base to build upon.

I like to pick a base fruit but set it aside to be amongst the last things added.  I found this made it easier to achieve the smoothest end result before we purchased a high-speed blender, as these creamier textured fruits don’t take as long to blend in smoothly and things like bananas can quickly make the blend too frothy.

My favorites to use are bananas; then things like hemp hearts or coconut.  You may also use mangos, papayas, peaches, or pears.

Avoid water-rich fruits like citrus-fruits or grapes for your pick as a base fruit.  These may be included in your smoothie.  They just don’t work so well as a base fruit.

Avocado and coconut meat can also help thicken your smoothie while adding more calories and healthy fat for a meal-replacement shake.  These are good alternatives to bananas but as they do add more fat, you may want to use less of them in smoothies when attempting to lose weight or cleanse.

As another option, you may use nuts/seeds, like hemp hearts, to smooth out and thicken your blend.  As these are higher in fats, they should be used more conscientiously.

Finally, Greens will also help to thicken your smoothie as their fibers break down, so the more greens you add, the less base fruit you may need. However, greens are less than preferable for use as a base due to their lack of insoluble fiber.  If you were to blend just greens and water, you could quickly watch the particles separate into layers.  Not ideal.

Step 4. Mixing Flavors (optional)

Flavor fruits are optional. They do enhance the flavor of your green smoothies as well as boost the overall nutrition. However, you may omit them and just make the whole thing out of your base fruit. Oranges, berries, pineapples and other strongly flavored fruits make great mixing flavors.

Tip:  Looking for fresh ideas for flavor combos?  Check out your juice and yogurt sections at the grocery store.  You will get tons of ideas for flavors that should pair well together in smoothies.  Also, take a few moments to peruse the myriad of online forums, blogs, and community sites offering smoothie recipes.

Let your palate be your guide and don’t be afraid to get creative.

The Following are some tasty combos to try:

Base Fruit + Mixing Flavors

Pear + Orange

Mango + Pineapple

Coconut + Apples

Coconut + Tropical Fruits, such as mango or papaya

Banana + Oranges

Banana + Blueberries (esp. with vanilla)

Apples + Blueberries

You can also add originality to your smoothies by flavoring them with vanilla bean, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, even cayenne pepper (pairs especially well with chocolaty smoothies).

Flavored protein powders are another option that will change the overall flavor of the smoothie so keep this in mind when mixing fruit.  I like to use a vanilla protein powder to soften the flavor of my smoothies on occasion and sometimes to cut the tart taste that results from accidentally adding too much citrus.

Tip:  When adding citrus fruits, I like to blend those down first to have a smooth liquid base to start with so my end result is not too watered down.

If not using a high speed blender, now would be a good time to blend your mixing flavors/fruits with your liquid and/or greens.  Be sure to coarsely chop fruits into small chunks and discard tough parts such as apple & pear cores or the somewhat woody centers of pineapples.

Step 5. Blend & Adjust

Depending on your blender, you might need to hit the “Pulse” button a few times to get your mix moving before pressing “puree” or “liquefy.”  Of course, if you own a high-speed blender, you already know how to blend that baby up and if you don’t, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Try to blend just long enough to make it smooth but not so long as to overly aerate the mixture and make it frothy. 

Other Tips for making the best green smoothies:

  • Play up on the presentation.  Even when you’re just making it for yourself, pour it into a pretty glass and toss a little garnish on it.  Remember:   No one likes food just thrown at them.  You are treating yourself and your family to the healthiest foods on the planet.  Compared to what many others consume daily, these smoothies are an indulgence that results in a better quality of life.  Enjoy it and be grateful for the blessing in the glass!
  • While it may be tempting to throw in 15 different superfoods and every fruit you can think of, try to hold yourself back.  While it may be good to add some superfoods or other benefit boosters to your smoothie, you don’t want to get too wild with it.  Keep in mind that the more different ingredients you put into it, the more variables you’re giving your palate and body to sort through.  While smoothies are much more easily assimilated than other foods, creating such a hodgepodge of a mixture can slow digestion and possibly interfere with nutrient uptake.  I.e., you may not be making the most of all you’re putting into it.  This equates to wasted cash and resources in my book.  Besides, you’d be amazed how quickly and easily those calories can add up, especially when taking an every-thing-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

Green Smoothie Gone Wrong?

Too Earthy or Bitter? Sweeten and mask these flavors with additional sweet fruits, especially bananas, oranges, pineapple, or ripe berries. Dates and honey are also great for sweetening up a smoothie without adding extra bulk to your blender.

Too Sweet?  Add more greens or hemp hearts.

Too tangy?  Add more base fruit such as banana or avocado or a scoop of raw protein powder.

Particles Keep Separating?  Increase the amount of your base fruit/soluble fiber.

One thought on “Anatomy of a Green Smoothie”

  1. very well written. A lot of good information! I look forward to ready more

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