A How-To: Making the Perfect Green Smoothie

“A green smoothie a day keeps the doctor away!” ūüôā20131018-195453.jpg

Whenever the topic of green smoothies comes up in conversation (okay, I tend to bring them up a lot..hey, I’m a fan!), I say that they are downright life-changing.

I started slurping “green monsters” back in May, and since then, I have made them into a daily habit, drinking at least one a day. Prior to taking the plunge into green goodness, I had seem them around on the internet, especially from my health coach colleagues and always wondered: Can that really taste good? How does it NOT taste like grass?!

Let me tell you, once you get the combination of ingredients right, they taste simply decadent. I swear.

Add their great taste to the fact that these gems are jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and yield tremendous health benefits, and I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll be making a green smoothie into a daily habit too!

So, what makes green smoothies so great anyway? Well, they are:

  • like liquid nutrition for your cells – because the cell walls of the greens are broken down by the action of the blender, the nutrients are more easily digested and assimilated into the body
  • fiber-rich, unlike juices where all the fiber/pulp is removed. Fiber helps keep your system “moving along,” keeps you fuller longer, stabilizes blood sugar spikes, and helps bind cholesterol and remove it from the body
  • an immune boost! With so many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from the veggies, fruit, and “extras” you can add (see examples below), a green smoothie like a gigantic multivitamin for your body.
  • a great “pick me up”: due to all the nutrients you’re consuming and the easily-digestible nature of green drinks (did you know that the act of digestion takes up the majority of our energy throughout the day?!), you’ll get a burst of energy that lasts.
  • they make you more VIBRANT from the inside out: you skin, your hair, your digestive system, and your mood..all due to that lovely liquid gold (or should I say green?)
  • a great alternative to salads, which for me, can get dull. So many leafy greens go into my smoothies that they contain more than my typical salad!
  • super detoxifying and cleansing for the body: our bodies build up a lot of toxins on a daily basis, even when we’re eating well (see my post on toxicity), but the healthy punch of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll in green smoothies helps to neutralize and get rid of that built up gunk that’s just bogging down your health, your weight loss, and your mood.
  • incredibly versatile, as you’ll see below, so you can mix up and switch up ingredients to your taste (I even have a great one for chocolate lovers!)
  • perfect for on-the-go! Just stick it in a travel cup, a mason jar with a lid, or whatever you have on hand, and take it with you. You can even make them ahead of time (but stick it in the freezer to save the optimum nutritional quality) and just grab it as you head out the door in the morning. Super portable!

Now, let’s talk about how to make the perfect green smoothie..

BLEND IT UP, BABY!

Tools you need:

  • a blender (I’m even using my great-grandmother’s ancient blender, so believe me when I say you do not need a Vitamix to make smoothies)
  • measuring cups and spoons; hands work just fine for measuring greens and fruit too
  • a glass
  • a rubber spatula (to scrape the blender sides, if necessary)
  • a straw for sipping, if that’s how you like to roll

The goods:

20131018-195427.jpg

  1. Step 1: Greens and Liquid
    2-3 cups/handfuls of organic greens (switch them up periodically so you get a wide variety of nutrients)
    1 cup “milk”: almond, coconut, hemp, rice, etc. Coconut water works here too!
    other veggies: cucumber, celery, etc.
    herbs: parsley, cilantro
  2. Step 2: Blend (blending the mylk and greens first will decrease chunkiness, especially if you have sub-par blender)
  3. Step 3: Everything Else
    fruit: 1/2-1 frozen banana, 3/4 cup frozen mango or pineapple (these fruits really help cut through the “green” taste)
    protein: 1 scoop protein powder of choice (I like Perfect Fit because it’s raw, organic, non-GMO, vegan, and sprouted brown rice protein…and it tastes amazing!); 1-2 tbsp. soaked nuts or seeds (I like chia or ground flax)
    Extras:
    – 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries, peaches, grapes etc.
    – 1/2 avocado (for an extra creamy texture and good fats)
    – 1 tbsp coconut oil or unsweetened coconut flakes (for healthy fats and staying power)
    – dried fruit, such as: gogi berries or cherries
    – superfood powders like: raw cacao, maca root, spirulina
    – pumpkin puree
    – spices, such as: cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger
    Рice 
  4. Step 4: Blend
    20131018-195519.jpg
  5. Step 5: Pour, “chew,” and enjoy!
    * It’s important to sip, not chug, your green drink, for best digestion. Also, try to “chew” your smoothie because digestion begins with the activation of saliva in the mouth.
    *If the smoothie isn’t cold enough for your liking, just throw it in the freezer for a few minutes as you clean up the blender!

Here’s a recipe card of one of my favorite green smoothies ever. I especially love it post-workout since it has a great amount of protein (15g) for optimal muscle recovery. Save the image on your computer or print it out if you’d like!

Want to know more about eating healthy foods that actually taste good and make you feel awesome?!
Check out my Fall Clean Eating Program and join me on an 11-day journey to totally transform the way your think about fueling your body.
http://www.holisticshapeup.com/revitalize-your-body-fall-program 20130913-105229.jpg

It’s time to invest in you!
Grab my 11-Day signature Fall Program to reboot your body and revitalize your health!

I have a early bird special running now for just $49.95 (a $20 savings!) until Wednesday October 23rd! Get it now! 

squash pic

How Chocolate Can Be Your Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

I’m sure you may have heard that certain kinds of chocolate are considered “good for you.” Some are even touting it as a “health food,” but you may be wondering if this claim could even possibly be true. Honestly in my opinion, if I’m looking at raw cacao, I’m standing in the “health food” camp. The stuff is quite spectacular. Are you smiling yet?

Cacao pods are extracted and fermented to remove bitterness and increase rich chocolate flavor.

source (3)

The word cacao refers to the plant from which cacao seeds/beans, cocoa, and chocolate are all derived. In ancient Central/South American cultures, such as the Aztecs, cacao beans (and drinks made with them) were considered a privilege only the elite experienced. Today, you can find raw cacao beans, powder, or nibs in your local health food store or on Amazon, and in this raw, unprocessed form, cacao has numerous healthy attributes and can be enjoyed guiltlessly (in moderation, of course!) as a part of your diet.*

Let’s break down the health benefits of raw cacao:

  1. fiber: with 4g/serving (1), this will help keep you feeling fuller longer; high fiber diets are also linked to better insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood cholesterol levels!
  2. health health: naturally high in magnesium and potassium, raw cacao powder provides minerals necessary to helping decrease cardiovascular disease and blood pressure. A 2012 meta-analysis showed a decease in both cardiovascular disease (by 37%) and stroke (by 29%) by eating chocolate.(2)
  3. iron: one serving of raw cacao powder provides 8% of your daily need of this essential mineral, which is often low in pre-menopausal women. (1)
  4. mood-booster & stress-buster: raw cacao gives serotonin (that feel-good neurotransmitter) a boost, decreasing depressed moods, stress, and PMS.(3) Higher serotonin also means heightened endorphins, so you’ll feel even better.
  5. sulfur: this mineral helps strengthen keratin-rich structures, like your hair and nails, and is found in high amounts in cacao. (3)
  6. anti-inflammatory: packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavanols, cacao has the tools necessary to pack a serious punch to free radical damage as well as inflammation, which underlies numerous diseases from heart disease to Alzheimers to cancers. Chocolate has been shown to decrease C-reactive protein (CRP), a measure of the body’s inflammation, by 17%! (2)

20130729-203812.jpg

So, what should you look for when purchasing a chocolate product to ensure you’re getting these healthy benefits? Ideally, you want it to be raw, as this keeps the nutrients and natural enzymes intact; plus, eating raw cacao means you’re safely keeping away from the junk (like high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors) that is in many other processed chocolates. However, if you can’t find raw cacao, or you find the taste too bitter, look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao. Secondly, it is best to look for an organic, non-gmo product, as chocolate is often genetically modified. Third, if you’re sensitive to dairy, lactose-intolerant, vegan, or are concerned with the added hormones and such in many commercial dairy products, look for a vegan cacao to ensure there is no milk in it. I personally like the Navitas Naturals brand, which I buy on Amazon.

My favorite way to enjoy raw cacao powder is in smoothie form. Here is my nutritiously delicious chocolate green smoothie recipe – a perfect alternative to your standard summer chocolate milkshake! With the added greens (I promise you can’t taste it!), you not only get your chocolate fix, but you also provide your body with the amazing, fiber- and vitamin-rich, beautifying, hydrating, and detoxifying effects of these great vegetables.

20130729-203759.jpg

_________________________________________________

Cacao Chia-Coco Bliss Smoothie

1/3 cucumber, sliced
1 small head romaine
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2-1 frozen banana
2 heaping tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1-2 tsp. unsweetened coconut flakes

Blend until smoothie reaches desired consistency. If the smoothie isn’t as cold as you would like, stick in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes – this also seems to enhance the chocolate flavor for me! Yum!

____________________________________________________

20130729-203825.jpg

Are you a chocolate lover? Give this smoothie a try! What are your thoughts on cacao being called a “health food”?

___

* Please note that the nutritional/health benefits of cacao have not been evaluated by the FDA. Enjoy chocolate and cacao only in moderation. If you are caffeine-sensitive, raw cacao, as other chocolate, does contain caffeine and theobromine. Listen to your body and consult your physician if you experience adverse effects or are wondering if cacao is okay for you. Consider the source of your cacao/cocoa products, as certain places such as Nigeria, have previously been shown to have high levels of lead in their cacao/cocoa products (3,4).

Sources:
1. “Cacao Powder.” Navitas Naturals. http://navitasnaturals.com/product/441/Cacao-Powder.html
2. Dr. Mercola. “Surprise! Chocolate Can Be Good for You, At the Right Dose.” Mercola.com. Aug 26, 2012. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/26/no-sugar-chocolates.aspx
3. Ingalls, Lindsay. “Health Benefits of Raw Cacao Nibs.” Livestrong.com. Aug 20, 2011.http://www.livestrong.com/article/522112-health-benefits-of-raw-cacao-nibs/
4. Rankin CW, Nriagu JO, Aggarwal JK, Arowolo TA, Adebayo K, Flegal AR. (2005) Lead contamination in cocoa and cocoa products: isotopic evidence of global contamination. Environmental Health Perspectives. Oct;113(10):1344-8