I like to think of green smoothies as the lazy person’s salad. They are easy to make, help me get my day’s helping of fruits and veggies, and, most importantly, they make it easier for my body to digest the nutrients from the produce in the smoothie.
There are an absolute ton of green smoothie recipes out there, and I thoroughly enjoy reading through them all. Heck, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to them! But I always tailor them to follow a specific formula, that of the perfectly balanced green smoothie.
The perfectly balanced green smoothie has four requirements:
- A minimum 1:1 greens to anything else ratio
- Healthy fats
- Vitamin C
Too many people slurp down green smoothies loaded with sugary fruits, bananas, and sweetened nonfat yogurt thinking they are helping their bodies. But the fact is, this is a sure recipe for increased blood sugar levels and, later, a sugar crash, which will leave you hungrier and craving sugar more so than before. To avoid this, make sure you have at least a 2:1 ratio of greens to anything else in your smoothie (not including water or ice). It is supposed to be a “green smoothie” after all, not a fruit smoothie with a few pieces of spinach or kale.
Now that that is settled, let’s talk about fat. That’s right, I’m suggesting you put fat in your smoothie. Here’s why: the fat helps you body absorb all of the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables in the smoothie. According to Purdue University food science professor Mario Ferruzzi:
“If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings. If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.”
For this reason, I add a tablespoon of coconut oil to my daily green smoothie (about 16 oz). In addition to amping up the fruits and veggies, the health benefits of coconut oil are vast, including regulating blood-sugar, negating the effects of free-radicals, boosting energy and metabolism, and curbing cravings. Plus, the coconut oil gives the smoothie a slightly tropical taste. Fun fact: I sometimes like to close my eyes and pretend I’m in the Caribbean while I’m actuality just on the bus to work. Oh to dream…
On to vitamin C. In addition to being an awesome antioxidant that by its own right deserves a place in my green smoothie, vitamin C helps make plant-based iron more absorbable, converting it into a form similar to that found in fish and red meat. While I am an omnivore, I do not eat a lot of meat and rely on leafy greens to help me get the necessary amount of iron in my diet. Iron is necessary to transport oxygen throughout the body as well as for muscle and brain function. Great sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, and red bell pepper.
Last but not least, protein. The perfectly balanced green smoothie requires protein for added sustenance and to keep blood sugar from spiking, which commonly occurs as fruit sugars break down (this is the main argument people make against smoothies). My personal favorite smoothie protein is raw shelled hemp hearts. Just three tablespoons provide 10g of protein. Hemp hearts are also a great source of healthy fats, so can be used to satisfy both the fat and protein requirements of the perfectly balanced green smoothie.