Nutrition:

Getting your greens can be tough. The Challenge of five- plus a day servings of especially green leafy vegetables often proves too much for many. A handy solution is becoming increasingly popular: the green smoothie.

You may have heard the term but what exactly is a green smoothie?
A green smoothie is a drink of varying consistency made by blending raw leafy-green vegetables with water and sometimes (but not always) blended with fruit juice, fruit and/or berries. Nuts and seeds can also be added.

There you have it; the green smoothie is a simple solution to the problem of getting your green leafy nutrition up to recommended levels and remember, five-plus a day servings of greens is actually a minimum.

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Sweet as
What - no dairy?
That's right, you can make delicious smoothies to suit your own taste preference without any dairy. Yoghurt, ice-cream and milk are out. Of course you can make to your taste but the health benefits of non- dairy are worth capturing. If you want a creamy texture then use frozen fruit or frozen cucumber for a thicker, ice-cream or dairy style smoothie.

Even for the sweet-tooth green smoothies are ideal. To soften and sweeten the taste of so many leafy greens just add fruit. Bananas, apples and pears are sweet enough to totally overpower even strong-tasting greens like kale and spinach.

In my naturopathic practice many's the time I've taken the lid from the blender and poured a green smoothie to a suspicious client who is amazed that they can't tell the difference between a green smoothie and an ice-cream laden milkshake!

Grow as you go
Experienced green smoothie advocates may tell you to stay away from fruit and go all green. But don't rush; as you get used to the taste of greens the need to keep sweetening your smoothies falls away.

There are two beneficial processes in play here, one is that the fibre in leafy-greens actually helps slow absorption of sugar in fruit while you adjust.

I've also noticed - in myself first and then in others I advised to take this up - that as the amount of greens in your smoothie increases you may well notice your appetite for them grows. This happens as the body begins to desire, even crave the nutritious drink.

Beneficial blends
Hopefully now that you know the how of green smoothies you are getting interested, and a quick look at the 'why' will inspire you to begin blending. Let me list the wins of daily green smoothies; immunity improves, energy increases, mental focus and clarity improves, digestion eases and for weight management if your appetite needs stimulation or satiation, go for a green smoothie.

There so many health benefits because you are getting the green nutrients your body craves - without processed food - and taking in an anti-inflammatory food source in an easy-to-digest form.

The green is important too because green leaves don't have starch and while vegetables are vital to us and health-giving, many contain a lot of starch, which can cause digestive issues in sufficient amounts for many people. I have worked to help people with terrible cramping, bloating and flatulence who thought they were gluten intolerant only to find that starch was in fact the issue. It is hard to think of an easier or smoother ride to better health; go green.

Smooth start
You need a decent blender but the most expensive isn't necessarily the best.

If you're not used to raw greens, start with a 50/50 blend of green veggies and fruit. Fruit adds sweetness.

Fruits for blending

Bananas, pears, kiwifruit, apples and berries.
Experiment with different greens and combos.
As you drink more smoothies you can cut down (or out) the fruit.
Be bold with adding healthy ingredients like herbs, seeds, seaweed, nuts and spirulina.

Blend greens and fruit for 45 - 90 seconds.
Start on low speed before turning up to high. Higher green volume means longer blending time for smooth consistency.
Clean your blender straight-away.
Green smoothies can stay in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 days, but fresh is best.

Lani's pick of the bunch
All greens are good. My personal favourites; spinach, kale, green and rainbow chard, silverbeet and cucumber are all tasty and easy to blend. Parsley, coriander, mint, wheat grass, sage, marjoram and thyme add health, flavour and are easy to blend.
Chia seeds and berries are great additions. Chia gives energy and berries boost anti-oxidants.
Vegetables add taste and texture too but can be hard to handle for a low-cost blender.
I like to use raw grated carrots and beetroot.
Grated ginger adds bite and a health boost too.

Catch the kids
A frozen green smoothie, especially with fruit and berries added to sweeten the healthy leafy-greens makes for a tasty and kid-friendly ice blocks.

Lani Lopez Adv. Dip Nat, BHSc. is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and founder of lanilopez.com. Talk nutrition and winter wellbeing with Lani at facebook.com/lanilopez.com

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