Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Green Smoothies to Start the Year Off Right

So whether or not you took your nutritional typing test yesterday, the fact remains that the majority of Americans do not get enough vegetables, raw food or good fats in their diets.  Sometimes a little creativity and concentrated effort can make a big impact on your health.  As we made our way through all the goodies, cookies, candies and hot chocolate of December, I could feel my body caving from too many carbs and too much sugar.  I immediately felt that I needed to get back to my "green smoothie days."

In the past I have drank a lot of green smoothies at different times for both health and weight loss reasons.  I first started when Julius was 5 months old when I felt I was not dropping the baby weight like I wanted.  Not only have green smoothies helped me lose weight and feel full for a good portion of the morning, they make me feel wonderful and energized.  My biggest problem has been consistency.  I have mainly only consumed them during warmer months.  At the end of December, I decided I could not wait for warmer weather because my family and I needed them.  More recently I have also discovered many foods that I wanted to incorporate into our family's diet and smoothies seemed like a perfect spot to sneak them in.  So in between Christmas cookies and gum drops I actually managed to make smoothies for the family during Christmas vacation.  Since school has started back up we have been having smoothies every other day or every two days.  That way I get a break from making them and no body seems to tire of them.

What's a green smoothie, you ask?  It is a smoothie that consists of both fruits and vegetables.  Some smoothie enthusiast actually like and prefer all-vegetable savory smoothies.  But around here we like them sweeter, so we stick to a ratio of 60% fruit and 40% vegetable.  I'll give you a run down of what's in our smoothie and why we chose those ingredients.

Our typical smoothie ingredients are:
  • banana
  • frozen spinach
  • frozen mango
  • frozen strawberries
  • chia seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • ground flax seed
  • coconut oil, melted
  • raw honey
  • filtered water
  • homemade plain yogurt
I have no tried and true recipes, I just have experimented some and have learned ratios that make everyone happy.  I try and put as little honey in as needed and let the fruit be the main source of sweetness, but if you are used to a sweeter smoothie, a raw, natural and unprocessed form of sweetener will help you along.  Over time you may find you need less and less for your tastes.

My biggest food priorities in the smoothie are:
  • Coconut oil
  • spinach (or some other type of green)
  • chia seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • ground flax seeds
These foods are my priorities because I have a harder time finding ways to incorporate them into our daily meals.  Fruit, yogurt, honey and water are easy to get in and don't have near the health benefits of the other ingredients.  What makes the above foods so special?

Coconut oil falls into that mysterious wonder food category with so many health benefits (amazingly good saturated fat, helps weight loss, blood sugar control, has antiviral and antiseptic qualities) it is hard to comprehend.  Head on over to Organic Facts to read more. Spinach or similar greens are packed with Vitamin K and other minerals that help strengthen bones.  Too much attention has gone to calcium through the years, and research has found that calcium is a dud if it doesn't have the proper vitamins and minerals working with it.  Greens provide those necessary complimentary nutrients to calcium.  Spinach and coconut oil work well together because it is proven that eating vegetables with a good saturated fat allows the body to better digest the vegetable and get more nutrients from it.  Most people are deficient in Vitamin K, so for that reason alone, greens added to smoothies are a big plus.

I have long heard the benefits of ground flax seed.  It is high in B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytonutrients.  It is also cheap and readily available because of it's current popularity, so it makes a nice addition to a smoothie without hurting the pocketbook too much.  I can also get sesame seeds very cheap at my health food store.  Sesame seeds are high in copper, magnesium, manganese, and calcium.  They also have a high phytosterol content which helps lower blood cholesterol,  improve heart health, enhance the immune system and decrease malignancies.  The last little addition to our smoothies is chia seeds.  I have only recently heard of their benefits and now you can too!

7 Good Reasons To Start Eating Chia Seeds

  1. Help weight loss. Chia seeds are popular for weight loss. They reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper.
  2. Feel fuller faster: They can also help your diet by making you feel full. This is because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel.
  3. Hydration for athletes: They are also great for athletes because the "chia gel" can hydrate the body.
  4. Reduce your blood pressure: There's evidence to suggest they can reduce blood pressure.
  5. Omega-3: They are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation—such as arthritis—and heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon!
  6. Benefits for diabetes: Because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, studies indicate they can control blood sugar. This leads scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics.
  7. They are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don't need to be ground up.
So there you have it.  This post is very long and probably overwhelming.  I know I haven't even begun to give justice to the true benefits of such amazing foods.  The key is just to start somewhere.  If I recall correctly my first green smoothie had romaine lettuce and pears in it.  I just kind of expanded from there.  Most people have either made or drank a smoothie at some point.  Start by taking your average, full fruit smoothie and adding a handful of greens to it.  If that goes well, a tablespoon or two of melted coconut oil goes in pretty unnoticed.  After that is accomplished, experiment by adding a tablespoon or two of a healthy seed.  If you are worried about the taste, maybe these pics of little people sucking down their green smoothies will convince you that they can be quite tasty if done right!

1 comment:

  1. I am definitely going to try one of these!!!