There's long been a lot of buzz in the health and fitness world about green smoothie cleanses and detox shakes. We looked beyond the buzz to learn just what makes going green so appealing. Read along as we dig into the many benefits of green drinks, what to watch out for when upping your intake of greens, and a green smoothie recipe that's easy to make in your BlenderBottle shaker.
Green Drink Benefits
Dark leafy greens are often viewed as a ticket to vitality, and indeed they pack a powerful nutritional punch. They're absolutely loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to good health. A diet rich in a variety of greens provides plenty of Vitamins A, C, K, B, and E, as well as key minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and other trace minerals. The countless benefits of green drinks can include:
- Rich with antioxidants to boost immune health and defend against diseases such as heart disease and cancer
- High in potassium to help lower blood pressure
- Full of healthy bone-building nutrients calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus
- An excellent, non-dairy source of calcium
- Promote healthy vision
- Enhance skin health and make skin glow
- Cost-effective alternative to multivitamins
- Quick to absorb, easy to digest nutrients
- High in fiber (when greens are pureed)
- Can help reset taste buds to develop cravings for healthy food
- Can aid in natural weight loss
- Increase energy and decrease fatigue
- An ideal way to add plenty of veggies to your diet
- An easy way to get kids to eat their vegetables
A Word About Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass deserves special mention, as wheatgrass juice is a nutrition craze unto itself. Wheatgrass is considered a superfood among greens; it contains a high concentration of the phytonutrient chlorophyll, along with Vitamins A, C, and E, plus iron, calcium, magnesium, and amino acids. Fans of wheatgrass believe it to be somewhat of a nutrition miracle worker, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with weight loss, liver detox, circulation, digestion, skin health, nail strength, energy, depression, and even the treatment of sunburn and prevention of body odor. Wheatgrass makes an excellent addition to any green drink or can be consumed in straight "shots" but note that it's best to ease into wheatgrass intake (i.e. no more than an ounce per day at first) and avoid taking it after a meal, as it may cause nausea.
Green Drink Drawbacks
Overwhelmingly, adding green drinks to your diet is a healthy choice. But there are a few things to watch out for.
Some people struggle with the taste of raw greens, and opt to balance the bitterness with the natural sweetness of fruit. That's fine to do, but make sure you don't overload your supposedly healthy smoothie with excess sugar that can cause an insulin spike. To keep blood sugar levels in balance, the majority of fruit in any drink should have a low glycemic index (meaning fruits that are slowly metabolized and cause a low, slow rise in blood sugar and insulin). Low-GI fruits that work well in shakes include apples, pears, peaches, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, and bananas. If you reach for a store-bought green drink, be sure to read the label and pay extra attention to the sugar content and number of servings per bottle; popular ready-to-drink smoothies often contain a higher percentage of fruits than veggies, and upwards of 50 grams of sugar in a single bottle!
Another potential pitfall to the green drink craze is the trend of juice fasting. While there may be some benefits to a short-term fast or cleanse, more often than not, the practice leads to quick yet short-lived weight loss, plus a lack of necessary nutrition and fuel for energy. A more balanced, sustainable approach is to embrace an overall clean-eating nutrition plan, which includes the addition of plenty of healthy greens to your daily diet. A green smoothie can certainly act as a meal replacement especially when it includes a serving of protein powder but in terms of restricting one's diet to only green drinks or juice, it's wise to consult with a physician or registered dietician first.
Getting Started with Green Drinks
For green drink beginners, two of the most neutral-tasting leafy greens are spinach and romaine lettuce. Kale has become wildly popular in the past few years. Other great greens include Swiss chard, beet greens, red and green lettuce, arugula, collard greens, dandelion greens, carrot tops, fresh herbs (parsley, mint, and cilantro), and celery. Some greens have stronger, more bitter flavors than others, and the taste can be a turn-off for unaccustomed eaters. Try balancing the vegetable flavors with low-GI fruit, naturally sweet nut butter, or high-quality vanilla protein powder to cut any bitterness and create a tasty, nutritious shake. Make a green drink part of your daily routine and soon enough you'll start to crave that fresh veggie flavor.
No-Blender Green Smoothie Recipe
While many green drinks require a blender, we're obviously fans of those that work with the ease and portability of a BlenderBottle shaker. Here's one of our favorite no-blender green smoothie recipes:
1 handful ice
1 ½ cups coconut water or cold almond milk
2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder
½ teaspoon cold pressed wheatgrass juice
½ teaspoon organic matcha tea
Directions: Add ingredients to your favorite BlenderBottle shaker cup, close the leak-proof lid, and shake until smooth.
Do you have a favorite green drink or detox shake? Share your recipe in the comments below we'd love to give it a try!