Are Green Smoothies Good or Bad for You?

If you have had problems with kidney stones, be careful with green smoothies, especially if they are made with spinach or Swiss chard, because those two types of greens are very high in oxalates.  (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
If you have had problems with kidney stones, be careful with green smoothies, especially if they are made with spinach or Swiss chard, because those two types of greens are very high in oxalates. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

I remember coming home from a full day of dance training, muscles exhausted and mind fatigued, but not tired enough to lie down and nap. I really wanted to feel replenished and turned to fruit after fruit after fruit… but none ever really hit the spot. I consulted a macrobiotic counselor, who suggested I was taking in too many yang foods, on top of training — which is also yang — and that I needed to eat more balanced meals.

He got me to toss the bagels, coffee, and meat in exchange for kale, carrots, brown rice, and tofu. It felt great for a while. My skin cleared up and my body and mind felt better overall, but I was still having intense sugar and fruit cravings after class, even when I wasn’t hungry.

I complained about this to a shiatsu massage therapist who had been working on me for a while, and he suggested I take a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice after class everyday. That did the trick! I realized that living a balanced life is not always possible, but that it is possible to make choices to live life in a way that’s as balanced as possible.

Today, there are so many more suggestions about healthy breakfasts and post-workout recovery snacks than there used to be. Back then, diet books typically listed oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. But today, pick up a diet book and you may find yourself enjoying quinoa, ginger, and goji berries, or green smoothies.

Had I known about green smoothies or coconut water back then, I would certainly have benefited from them greatly because, although orange juice brought me back to a more balanced state, it is quite high in sugar and made it difficult to keep my weight down.

The green smoothie: A history

Victoria Boutenko is a raw food expert and nutrition writer. She wrote Green for Life, and started to champion eating large amounts of greens after she read about the strong resistance chimpanzees exhibited against diseases that scientists tried to infect them with for medical research.

Boutenko suggested looking at the chimpanzees’ diet to understand why their immune system was so strong, rather than try to infect them with disease and then try to fight it with experimental drugs. As a result, she found out that chimps live on huge quantities of greens.

With our human teeth, we aren’t built to break down the quantity of greens that chimps eat, so Boutenko used a powerful blender to break them down and added fruit to make the concotion enjoyable. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

With our human teeth, we aren’t built to break down the quantity of greens that chimps eat, so Boutenko used a powerful blender to break them down and added fruit to make the concoction enjoyable. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

With our human teeth, we aren’t built to break down the quantity of greens that chimps eat, so Boutenko used a powerful blender to break them down and added fruit to make the concoction enjoyable. Thus, the green smoothie was born.

Since then, many chefs, bloggers, and foodies have created their own versions of health smoothies. The drink has gotten so popular that you’ll find it highlighted in best-selling diet books, such as The Beauty Detox by Kimberly Snyder, and on TV on Dr. Oz, Oprah, and even Fox News.

Contradicting views

Google whether green smoothies are good for you, and you’ll likely find contradicting information and heated debates. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. states on his website that we should avoid smoothies due to the processing.

There is a conflicting argument by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. in his book Eat for Health, Vol. 1. According to Fuhrman;

He goes on to suggest we make green smoothies or “blended salads” as a way to “pump up your consumption of greens.”

So one doctor is telling us that breaking down the integrity of the foods’ cell walls is bad for us, while the other says it is good for us. Contradictions are typical in the world of nutritional science, partly because it is a relatively new science, but also because people interpret the research differently.

Contradictions are typical in the world of nutritional science, partly because it is a relatively new science, but also because people interpret the research differently. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Contradictions are typical in the world of nutritional science, partly because it is a relatively new science, but also because people interpret the research differently. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Food is also so tied to our culture that it is difficult for people to separate their feelings and opinions from the truth. But perhaps there is no absolute truth — because we’re all different. We have different constitutions, conditions, and environments.

Why green smoothies may not be good for you

If you have had problems with kidney stones, be careful with green smoothies, especially if they are made with spinach or Swiss chard, because those two types of greens are very high in oxalates, which can cause stones to form.

Who are green smoothies good for?

If you do not absorb your nutrients well and need to hydrate and nourish yourself with high doses of antioxidants, then green smoothies may be the perfect food for you. Drink it slowly, at room temperature, and try chewing your smoothie.

If you chronically crave sweets because of low energy or emotional tribulations, green smoothies made on the sweeter side may help you stave off a binge, especially if you add in some nuts such as cashews, a banana, and some blueberries. It will taste sweet, creamy, and wonderfully nourishing.

Inspired to make your own smoothie with the goodness of green veggies and fruits? Heather Umlah offers a couple of recipes below. A teacher, chef, and graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, her focus is on holistic, whole-foods based nutrition.

Green beauty smoothie

  • 1 avocado
  • 5 romaine leaves
  • 3 kale leaves
  • ½ seedless cucumber
  • 1 cup purified water
  • 1 banana
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 inch peeled ginger

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Blueberry detox smoothie

  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 2 tbsp chia seed
  • 2 tsp bee pollen, optional
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • 4 kale leaves
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 kiwi, peeled
  • 1 cup water

Blend chia seeds and coconut oil first. Add the blueberries, other fruit, cucumber, and supplements. Blend just until mixed through. You can also add fresh papaya, mango, spinach, flax seeds, and/or unsweetened rice milk.

Simple morning 1-1-1 smoothie

  • 1 cup blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries
  • 1 cup almond, rice or soy milk
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 scoop protein powder

Blend all until smooth.

By Tysan Lerner

Tysan Lerner is a certified health coach and personal trainer. She helps women attain their body and beauty goals without starving themselves or spending hours at the gym. Her website is www.lavendermamas.com

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