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Why You Need Green Smoothies in Your Diet

Thursday, May 07, 2015

 

You have been hearing about green smoothies for years. They were absolutely the big fad a couple years ago, and now they almost seem overplayed. Health fads often miss the mark, and a few years after they arrive, they slip into some forgotten area only to be resurrected when you think about how silly you were for buying into them. Green smoothies, however, started somewhat of a revolution. They are what spurred the kale trend, the juice bars and have managed to sustain a 4+ dollar/bottle display at your local natural grocery store. The reason most nutritionists (myself included) still recommend green smoothies to their clients is first and foremost this: they get people to eat more vegetables.

Vegetables are sadly lacking in American diets. It is not uncommon for servers to hear their diners ask “is there anything I can sub for the vegetables that come with this dish? I don’t eat vegetables.” The average American gets just 3 servings of fruit and vegetables combined in one day. The recommended amount is 5-13 servings (or 2 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups) per day. You are currently living in a culture that is so unabashedly anti-vegetable that the USDA has mandated that tomato paste on pizzas can count towards the weekly vegetable total for kids getting hot lunches.

Yet you also live in a research-hungry society who demands that recommendations be backed up by real science, and the science is clear: eat more vegetables! Eating 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables (not just fruit) can decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, GI issues, vision impairment, and high blood pressure dramatically. But if you are one of the many people who struggle to get more veggies into your diet, or into your kids’ diets, the green smoothie can almost be a magic solution. You can make it taste great, it’s fast, easy and affordable to make at home, you don’t need anything other than a blender to make it, it’s portable and it is packed full of nutrition.

Here is what you need to make a basic green smoothie:

A base. This can be ice, frozen bananas (they make it the consistency of a milkshake), avocado, or water, milk or milk alternative. Stay away from juices as they will only add unnecessary sugar and calories.

Some green stuff. Obviously! This is where you can really pack in nutrition, so think about nutrient dense options like kale, spinach, or collard greens. Don’t shy away from unusual combinations or from adding extra veggies like cucumber, carrots or celery.

The fruit. If you want, you can stop with your base and veggie, but most people like to add some fruit for a bit of sweetness. Berries are the most popular option here because they pack in a lot of flavor and mix well with most of the bases and veggies — and don’t be afraid to throw them in frozen. If you are using more of a bitter veggie like collards, feel free to throw in some lime or orange to mellow the bitter taste.

Extras. This is where there is really no limit. This is where the calories can really pile up, but it is also where you can address specific health needs by adding superfoods and targeted nutrients. With patients who are dealing with constipation, I’ll suggest adding some flax meal during this step. If you are using your green smoothie as a meal replacement, you can add some protein powder. Toss in some chia seeds for extra B vitamins, magnesium and all around energy. Put in a bit of maca to potentially help regulate your hormones and enhance fertility. The options here are really only limited by your imagination and taste.

The order. You can just throw everything together and see what happens, but if you want to master the art of green smoothie making, here is the best order in which to blend: start with your liquid or base, add protein powder if using. Next add your superfoods and leafy greens. Top that with fruit (frozen or otherwise), then ice (if using). Finish it all off with a bit of liquid. Now blend to your desired consistency. 

If you make your smoothie correctly, and you will have a fiber-packed, delicious, portable and healthy way to get even the most anti-veg-head eating more vegetables. Once you find favorite recipes, it is simple to make big batches and freeze them in ice cube trays for future use. Just be sure to watch the calories, as smoothies do have the potential to be a diet crasher if you add too many fats and sugars. Play around and see what favorite combinations you can invent.

Erin Brockmeyer, LAc, is owner and acupuncturist at Solstice Natural Health in downtown Portland. She creates custom health plans for patients to help them tackle their most complicated health concerns, including infertility, prenatal care, fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions and chronic and acute pain conditions. Visit her website for more information and to download her free e-book 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today.

 

Related Slideshow: 7 Natural Options for Getting Gorgeous Skin

Fresh-faced, baby soft, glowing. These are all the words you want someone to think or say when they see your gorgeous face, right? They are the goal, the pie-in-the-sky dream adjectives that you think only belong to people whose faces are airbrushed into perfection on magazine covers. 

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1. Raw Honey 

Raw honey (it must be raw to get these benefits) is amazing for your insides and your outsides. It has enzymes which gently exfoliate, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which can help with acne (treatment and prevention). It is exceptionally gentle, so can be used on sensitive and rosacea-prone skin. It also helps to draw moisture into the skin and when used as a face wash, it will help prevent moisture loss. It can really be used on almost any skin type, but is especially good for aging and slightly dry skin. To use as a face wash, use it in the morning (it will not remove makeup). Take about 1 tsp of raw honey and warm it between your fingertips. Add a few drops of water if needed for a more spreadable consistency, massage onto your face, then rinse off. Follow with your favorite moisturizer or serum.

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2. Coconut Oil

While coconut oil is not the skincare cure-all it was thought to be a year or so ago, for many people it can be a lovely part of their beauty regimen. It is best for skin that is moderate — not too dry, not too oily. For a lot of people, because of the antibacterial properties it possesses, it can be great even on acne-prone skin, but for some, its comedogenic (pore clogging) nature is too much. With very dry skin, coconut oil can sometimes cause increased dryness, but for many it works well. One of the best options for incorporating coconut oil into your beauty routine is as a gentle makeup remover. Simply grab a bit of organic unrefined coconut oil, massage it between your hands until it is a liquid consistency, and massage on your face. After massaging for about 30 seconds, you can either rinse it off with a warm washcloth, or simply rub it off with a soft dry cloth (this leaves a bit more moisture on your skin). Voila! Even your eye makeup will be removed.

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3. Yogurt

This staple of the dairy aisle has all kinds of benefits for your skin. It is a great sunburn soother, can help moisturize, and can brighten skin by way of gentle exfoliation. Make sure to buy the organic plain yogurt, and do a test first as some people will have reactions to this skin treat. The yogurt mask is one of the best ways to incorporate this goody into your routine. For aging skin, start with 3-4 tablespoons of yogurt, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix and leave on your face for about 20 minutes once a week. This mask is great for brightening and gently exfoliating the skin, and will leave the skin soft as a baby’s butt.

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4. Aloe Vera

Of course you’ve used aloe for a nasty sunburn, but did you know it could be a part of your regular beauty regimen, too? It’s a fabulous light moisturizer for those of you with oily skin (yes, you still need a moisturizer!). Because of its incredible anti-inflammatory properties, aloe is an effective acne fighter, as well. Because aloe is high in antioxidants, beta carotine, Vitamins A and C, it also works as somewhat of a firming, anti-aging megastar. There is almost nothing that this gel can’t do — and it makes a pretty plant on your windowsill.

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5. Cocoa Butter

This is the go-to moisturizer for many women with dry skin because it is high in fatty acids. Soothing and gentle, it can be used for chapped skin, and can often even be used by people who suffer from eczema. High in antioxidants, cocoa butter will help your skin fight free radicals that cause aging. Plus, if you get the raw, unrefined food grade cocoa butter (you should) it doubles as a tasty treat! 

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6. Rose

First up is rose hip oil. This little gem is high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A (retinol) which are two ingredients often found in expensive anti-aging skincare lines because of their purported ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Do be aware that both Vitamin C and Vitamin A can make your skin extra sun sensitive, so make sure you protect yourself. This oil has also been shown to help reduce sun spots, as it can reduce pigmentation.

Next there is the popular and old-fashioned rose water. This is something your grandma may have used when she was young, and it has a delicate rose scent. Because rose oil has been shown to have high levels of antibacterial properties, it has often been suggested that rose water (a much diluted rose oil) could also be slightly antibacterial and could be helpful for those with acne. Overall, rose water is touted for its ability to soothe, hydrate and balance oily skin. It is also easy to make it

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7. Acupuncture Facelift

This may not be a product, but it does fall in line with the natural products in this article. Before I was even fully licensed in the state of Oregon, I took a certification class so that I could offer acupuncture facelifts for my patients . The reason was simple: it offers a non-surgical, all natural way to deal with fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin and to get you an amazing glow. It won’t be as dramatic as a surgical facelift, but you will notice results — the most noticeable of which come after 3-4 sessions, though it may take more to achieve lasting results. The really big benefit here is that because acupuncture is holistic, after treatment you’ll likely feel benefits that extend well beyond your aging skin.

 
 

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