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Green Smoothies: Three Ways

by Kristen Marshall

Green smoothies: a basic green, minty green, and piña colada green. Have you heard of them? More importantly, have you tried them? Basically, they’re smoothies that contain dark and leafy green plant food, commonly in the form of spinach or kale. If the thought of green stuff in your smoothie is unappealing, don’t run away! The case for a smoothie full of green goodness is about to be made.

We all know that dark green plant food is good for us. It’s chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and it supports all sorts of desirable health qualities—from good digestion to glowing skin and beyond. If you ask me, it should be eaten everyday! Smoothies are the perfect way to make this happen, and I really promise that adding greens will not destruct the flavor of your tasty smoothie.

Spinach and kale are both popular greens to use in smoothies. They’re accessible, and fairly familiar to most people. Raw kale has a more bitter flavor than does spinach, so if you’re new to the green smoothie game you may want to start with spinach before experimenting with kale. If you’re brave, you can experiment with chard, collard greens, or romaine lettuce. The flavor of the spinach in the recipes below is so mild that you may not even notice it. If you’re not convinced, start with a smaller amount and work your way up to the called-for amount (and beyond!). Any amount of greens is more than no greens, and you’ll feel really good about having consumed a healthy dose of vegetables—especially if you enjoy your smoothie in the morning.

If it’s your preference, you can substitute water for milk in any of the recipes. Using milk produces a creamier flavor and texture, but using water is equally delicious and nutritious. If using dairy milk, choose organic if it’s available. If using non-dairy milk, choose an unsweetened variety, organic if available.

Each smoothie makes about 16 ounces. Enjoy the whole thing if you’re substituting a smoothie for a meal; share the love if you’re just needing a snack or wanting to add a side of green goodness to your main course.

Basic Green Smoothie

Preparation Time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients: 
1 frozen banana (use organic if available)
2 heaping handfuls spinach (use organic if available)
1 T peanut butter
2 T chia seeds
3/4 cup milk (use organic if available)
5 cubes ice cubes
Stevia, to taste

Directions:
Place all ingredients except stevia in blender. Blend on high until smooth. If more liquid is needed, milk can be added one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Taste smoothie. If needed, add Stevia a tiny bit at a time and blend briefly. Repeat as needed until desired sweetness is reached.

Notes:
The banana does not have to be frozen, but using a fresh banana may call for a couple more ice cubes.

Variations:
Any type of nut butter can be used instead of peanut butter. Almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter are all good options, though they may not lend as strong a flavor to the smoothie as will peanut butter.

Flaxseed—either whole or ground—may be substituted for chia seeds. If whole, flaxseeds will become ground through the process of blending.

Benefits:
Chia seeds are incredibly high in fiber. Just one ounce contains almost 40% of your needs for the day! Bananas are also a good source of soluble fiber. Chia seeds contain a significant amount of calcium and several trace minerals, and bananas are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. They also contain many other vitamins and minerals.

Minty Green Smoothie

Preparation Time: 6-8 minutes

Ingredients: 
2 heaping handfuls spinach (use organic if available)
1 small handful fresh mint leaves (use organic if available)
1/2 medium avocado
1/2 t vanilla extract (optional)
3/4 cup milk (use organic if available)
6-7 cubes ice cubes
Stevia, to taste

Directions:
Place all ingredients except stevia in blender. Blend on high until smooth. If more liquid is needed, milk can be added one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Taste smoothie. If needed, add Stevia a tiny bit at a time and blend briefly. Repeat as needed until desired sweetness is reached.

Notes:
The ingredients in this version give it a fresher but less sweet taste. For a sweeter taste, you can add a banana or substitute a banana for the avocado. Using a banana in place of the avocado will produce a less creamy texture.

Variations:
Fresh rosemary and fresh lavender both pair very well with mint. Add a tablespoon of one or both to give your smoothie another layer of flavor.

Benefits:
Mint is a great source of vitamin A and contains many other vitamins and minerals. It is traditionally known to have properties useful for alleviating symptoms of indigestion, upset stomach, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is antimicrobial, and it contains phytochemicals that are known to be powerful antioxidants and promoters of open airways, the latter of which is particularly beneficial for those who suffer from asthma and/or allergies.

Piña Colada Green

Preparation Time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients: 
1 cup fresh pineapple
2 heaping handfuls spinach (use organic if available)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 T chia seeds
3/4 cup milk or coconut water
6-7 cubes ice cubes
Stevia, to taste

Directions:
Place all ingredients except Stevia in blender. Blend on high until smooth. If more liquid is needed, milk can be added one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Taste smoothie. If needed, add Stevia a tiny bit at a time and blend briefly. Repeat as needed until desired sweetness is reached.

Notes:
Using coconut water will give the smoothie a less creamy flavor and texture than using milk. If you’ve never had coconut water before, taste it prior to using it in a smoothie.

If using canned coconut milk, you may want to use half coconut milk and half water. Canned coconut milk is very thick and high in fat, which may alter the texture of your smoothie.

The inclusion of pineapple makes this version naturally sweet tasting, so you may find you don’t need to add any Stevia at all.

Variations:
Flaxseed (whole or ground) may be used instead of chia seeds, or chia seeds may be omitted completely.

For a tropical twist on the traditional piña colada flavor, substitute frozen mango for half the pineapple.

Benefits:
Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and has high water content, so it’s great for hydration. Coconut flakes are nearly free of sugar and are a good source of fiber. Chia seeds are incredibly high in fiber and additionally contain a significant amount of calcium and several trace minerals.

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Principal Author: Kristen Marshall
Last Modified: June 4, 2015

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