Green smoothies are a great addition to a healthy diet, and can even replace a meal. With the right ingredients, they beat any ‘superfood’ or supplement
While we’re all isolating at home this year, it can be all too easy to overeat out of boredom or to subsist on a diet of microwaved dinners. But if you want to stay healthy, you still need your fruits, vegetables and antioxidants.
Green smoothies have long been a healthy way to get more produce in your diet. While they’re not always as low-calorie as you may think, with the right ingredients, smoothies can be excellent meal replacements. And with a few added boosters, they can be among the best foods for supporting your overall heath and immune function. If you are counting calories, each of these smoothies is 400-500 calories.
Green Smoothie Formula
Every herbal green smoothie contains at least four ingredients: vegetables, fruits, liquid base, and powdered herbs and/or flavor enhancers. The exact ratio between these ingredients determines the taste and texture of the smoothie. To get more specific, every smoothie should contain the following:
- 2 cups of vegetables — spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, dandelion greens, cucumber, beet greens, collard greens, sweet peppers, or lettuce.
- 2 cups of a liquid base — water, ice, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, coconut water, or carrot juice. Fruit juice is not desirable as blended whole fruits will have less sugar and more nutrients; you may make an exception for carrot juice if your blender can’t blend carrots.
- 2-3 cups of fruits — apples, grapes, pineapple, orange, mango, peach, pear, banana, berries, cantaloupe, melon, or avocado.
- 1-2 tablespoons of “boosters” — herbs like maca or ginseng, seeds such as chia or flax, nut butters such as almond butter, or healthy flavor enhancers like cinnamon or cacao.
Blending a green smoothie properly is a two-step process. First, blend the vegetables and liquid together. After they’re thoroughly blended, add the fruit and boosters and blend those as well. You can vary these proportions slightly to change the flavor, thickness and texture, but most people will prefer something close to these proportions.
Energy-Boosting Sweet Smoothie
- One cup of Swiss chard
- Half a cup of cucumber
- Half a cup of sweet peppers
- A cup and a half of low-sugar rice milk
- Half a cup of carrot juice
- One peach (pitted, of course)
- One cup of strawberries
- Half a cup to a cup of grapes
- One tablespoon of maca
- One tablespoon of acai powder
- One teaspoon of cinnamon
This recipe is designed to be sweet without being excessively sugary. Adjust the number of grapes and strawberries slightly depending on the size of the peach you use. Peaches and grapes have a moderately high calorie count, but strawberries are pretty low-calorie.
Wondering why boosters are so important?
Cinnamon may also help with blood sugar management, and in any case improves the flavor.
Maca supports mood, libido, fertility, and energy levels, as well as being rich in vitamins and minerals, some of which are otherwise not common in produce. Maca doesn’t taste great on its own, but mixing it with sweet ingredients, as well as cinnamon, solves this issue.
Stress-Fighting Tangy Smoothie
- One cup of kale
- One cup of beet greens
- Two cups of low-sugar coconut milk
- One cup of raspberries
- One small apple
- Half a cup to a cup of pineapple
- One tablespoon of ginseng powder
Ginseng belongs to a class of herbs known as adaptogens. These help the body regulate its stress response which helps you sleep better, have energy when you need it, and supports proper immune function and positive mood. Ginseng also tends to taste slightly tangy, though this is less noticeable when it is in powder form.
Immune-Boosting, Cancer-Fighting Chocolate Smoothie
- 1 cup of spinach
- 1 cup of dandelion greens
- 2 cups of sugar-free almond milk
- 1 cup of goji berries or blackberries
- 1 cup of cantaloupe
- 1 tablespoon of reishi mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon of raw cacao
- Optional: 1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup
Mixed in the right proportions, this smoothie will taste a bit like chocolate-covered berries — and the chocolate syrup only adds 45 calories. Although cacao is an immune booster in itself, the lion’s share of the immune support comes from the reishi mushrooms — also known as lingzi mushrooms — which have been shown to enhance immunity, reduce cancer risk, and improve energy level, good cholesterol, and overall well-being.
Ways to Modify Each Recipe
You can use each of these recipes as is, but there are a few ways to modify each one to suit your needs.
First, you can make any of them more or less sweet by varying the ration of fruits to vegetables. Most people prefer around 2.5 to 3 cups of fruit per 2 cups of vegetables, but you might like slightly more fruit, or even slightly more vegetables than fruit. Note that although it’s a fruit, avocado is not sweet and has a more vegetable-like taste. It also provides a creamy texture, rather than the watery or pulpy texture of other fruits.
Second, you can reduce the calorie content by using water or sugar-free liquids. To make up for the reduced flavor, you can add stevia for sweetness, or low-calorie or calorie-free additives like cacao or cinnamon.
Third, you can add protein. Many people prefer seeds for this, but that will most likely get you only ten or so grams of protein, and they don’t always blend well. The alternative is to add a scoop of protein powder. The best protein powders are usually blends of two or three different types of protein, such as whey/casein, whey/casein/soy, or soy/hemp/pea protein. Protein powders are more voluminous than the herbs listed in these recipes, so you’ll need to adjust the rest of the recipe to keep the smoothie from getting too thick. Adding half a cup to a cup of liquid and subtracting a quarter cup to half a cup each of fruits and vegetables, usually does the trick.
Fourth, you may wish to add more calories by adding fruit, using sugared liquids, or adding protein powder. But another option is adding almond butter. At 100 calories per tablespoon, it is rich in vitamin E, and a staple of weight gainer shakes for good reason.
Finally, if you want to enhance the flavor, add non-caloric ingredients such as cinnamon, stevia, vanilla extract, lemonade powder, or tea. Whatever satisfies your personal preference… and adds to your overall health. Enjoy!
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