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Archive for August, 2010

The Power of Greens

Looking for a power drink, easy to make, loaded with nutrients, a complete meal in itself?  Try making a green smoothie  – greens added to your fruit blender drink of choice.

I must confess,  when a friend suggested this to me, I was horrified – adding kale to a fruit blender drink?   I like healthy, but it has to taste good.  With my friend’s assurances that it would, I tried it – and it’s delicious.  Even my 11 year old drink, who was quite suspicious of the green stuff added in, proclaimed upon tasting it:  “I like it – and I didn’t even taste the kale!”

I am thrilled with how much energy these green smoothies provide and can’t say enough about them!! (Friends and family:  my apologies for the constant ravings.) For instance, I like to hike, but eating a nutritionally-balanced meal with adequate protein was not appealing with the heat that we have been experiencing in New York this summer.  When I make a green smoothie – fruit, greens, juice, water with a few possible additions (see below), I do not experience any hunger, weakness, or energy lag.  I can have the smoothie in the morning, bring a sandwich and snacks for lunch, and hike for hours, no matter how high the temperatures.  On a side note, I discovered a great electrolyte powder, Ultima Replenisher, which has been a perfect workout / hike accompaniment.

As for GREENS –  kale, spinach, carrot tops, beet greens, wild weeds such as dandelion, lambsquarters – they are a power source of nutrition. Adding them to your daily diet will guarantee extra energy and improved health.  Why are greens the perfect food?  They match human nutritional needs most completely. Loaded with minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fiber, rich in fiber, they provide excellent sources of easily-assimilated protein.  The chain of amino acids in greens is much less complex than those from animal sources – meat and dairy for instance – and the body digests them easily.

By greens, I don’t mean any green vegetable – green zucchini, green beans are not in this category.  Leafy greens are what you want (see list below), which are practically a food category of their own.  Those concerned about combining fruits and vegetables, for fear of digestive issues (gas, bloating, etc)  need not worry.  There is no problem mixing fruits with leafy greens, which are not starchy.  In fact, greens are the only food group that helps digest other foods through stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes.

It is late August  and we are in the Earth element – late summer, the 5th season in Chinese medicine.  The harvest is abundant and diverse.  Farmers’ markets offer a plentiful variety of fruits and vegetables and getting the recommended daily 9 half-cup servings of fruits and vegetables can be easily accomplished.  Even easier by making a green smoothie with your local produce.  A perfect addition would be wild greens  (aka weeds) growing in your backyard, if you have one – or find them in a park (make sure they are not sprayed with pesticides).  The wild weeds/ greens have so many minerals and are even more easily-assimilable than farm-grown greens.

Adding these raw greens to your diet will give you energy , will help stop sugar/ junk food cravings (the body is nutritionally satisfied), and can improve your health on so many levels.

By coincidence, I recently happened upon a book in the library called The Green Revolution.  The book proclaims miracles for the participants in their study who added these “green smoothies” to their diets.  I can attest to my own improved  health and energy, as well as a few family members and friends.  We were all in fairly good health to begin with, so no miracles were needed, but I was intrigued by the book’s claims.

There’s a lot of information in the book, a little bit here, but the main point of my blog entry is:  TRY A GREEN SMOOTHIE.  Better yet, try them every day for a week or more and witness improved health!

BASIC INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of greens

2 fruits

2 cups of fluid:  water mostly, but you could use some fruit juice

Blend well in the blender – you might want to chop the greens and fruits if your blender is not high-powered.

I like to use water with pomegranate juice, as it’s high in anti-oxidants, and I like the taste.  Frozen blueberries and a banana tends to be my personal fave, but use what you like / what you have on hand.  You could also make a SAVORY GREEN SMOOTHIE, with no fruits – adding tomatoes, avocados (which technically are fruits, but are more savory), garlic, onions, scallions.  The juice of a lime, or a lemon adds a nice touch.

Flax seed oil is great to add or ground flax seed, but be careful about using the flax meal itself.  It must be ground fresh, and then stored in the fridge or freezer (as you would the flax seed oil).  Flax seed has a high degree of rancidity.

Nuts can be added – walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts (perhaps chop them a bit at first, to help your blender).

It’s really important to vary the fruits/ vegetables you use – for one, you won’t get bored with the drink, for another you’ll get a more diverse sampling of nutrients.

GREENS: Kale, beet greens, swiss chard, collards, romaine lettuce (any lettuce but not iceberg), spinach, mizuma, arugula, celery, edible flowers, endive, escarole, mustard greens, radicchio, radish tops

WEEDS: chickweed, clover  (greens and flowers), dandelion (greens and flowers), lambsquarters, plantain, purslane, stinging nettles, lemon, sorrel, garlic mustard, wild chives (aka onion grass)

HERBS: aloe vera, dill, basil, cilantro, mint, parsley

SPROUTS: alfalfa, broccoli, clover, fenugreek, radish, sunflower

This is a high protein drink, without using protein powders, many of which have heavy metals in them. (google recent Consumer Reports article for info).  Most Americans either consume too much protein, or the quality of the protein is not digestible.  With the greens, the chain of amino acids is more easily assimilated, as opposed to meats and dairy whose complex chains are harder to digest.  When the body has too much protein, and cannot digest it, this taxes the kidneys – one side effect is that the perspiration can smell like ammonia, which means your sweat smells like urine.  This is not uncommon, and if the person goes off the protein powders and drinks these type of smoothies, this will correct itself.

For some people, taking in raw fruits and vegetables may be problematic at first.  If you notice this, start slowly.  Signs of this could be:  bloating, gas, loose bowels.  What would be good to add is ginger – a warming essence – to your diet.  Ginger tea is one way – fresh is best, but a good bag tea would suffice.

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