Monday, May 21, 2012

Green Smoothies

I've recently become more interested in the idea of "green smoothies." While mine generally have consisted of almond milk, whey protein, frozen bananas, and spinach, there are a variety of healthy additives that can provide a convenient nutrition boost! Not only do I have a personal interest in chia seeds, flax seed, and almond milk....but friends have been inquiring about recipes and "how-tos" so I've done some research and put the best of the best information into this post!! Just like your nutrient packed smoothie, this blog will provide you with the resources you need to jump start all kinds of ideas!

Why Drink a "Green Smoothie"?
Green smoothies are a great way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake and incorporate other superfoods/nutrients into your diet. They offer a convenient way to eat clean by providing ingredients that grow muscle, burn fat, and increase your energy level. Green smoothies, as opposed to juices, are a complete food because they still have fiber. Fiber is especially important when dieting because it increases your sense of fullness. Fiber also helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Read on for more benefits of green smoothie ingredients!

Typically, I use fresh baby spinach in my green smoothies...however, I've also put bags of spinach in the freezer (a great idea from my friend Kim) and that adds some thickness to the smoothie and lengthens it's "shelf life." One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating. Flavonoids -- a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach -- have been shown to slow down cell division in human stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer. Neoxanthin and violaxanthin are two anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls that play an important role in regulation of inflammation and are present in unusual amounts in spinach. The vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, keratinization, acne and even wrinkles (

I ALWAYS use frozen bananas!! This gives the smoothie an "ice cream like" consistency and makes it much thicker and satisfying. Other fruits are very beneficial as well! I typically use bananas and chose to highlight them for that reason. After buying them, I break them into smaller chunks so they are easily blended, and put them in bags, then in the freezer. Bananas provide energy through their high content of healthy carbohydrates and potassium, which makes them a perfect food for athletes and active people. Eating bananas also helps to restore the electrolyte balance in your body which is important after a strenuous workout. Bananas are a rich source of potassium, a mineral that has been linked to maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Studies show that a diet rich in foods containing potassium (such as bananas) significantly lowers the risk of stroke. The fiber in bananas also help promote cardiovascular health. The tryptophan content of bananas which lead to the production of serotonin also helps regulate mood, sleep patterns, muscle contraction, appetite, memory and learning. Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, which studies suggest may reduce the risk for Parkinson’s disease. Bananas have been shown to play a role in the improved absorption of minerals such as calcium. Adding a banana to your fruit or green smoothie will help maximize the nutrients that are available. Bananas are a low-calorie food, about 100 or so calories in a medium fruit. The fiber content in bananas helps you feel full which can help you avoid snacking between meals. Bananas are beneficial in helping you reach your weight loss goals (

Whey Protein
Whey is a component of cow's milk that is isolated in the standard cheese-making process. Whey contains proteins, peptides (or protein segments), lactose (a type of sugar found only in milk), fat, salts and water. Whey protein is a group of three main proteins that are distilled from whey into a powder containing little or no fat and lactose and used in a variety of protein supplements ( Whey protein has been shown to help increase muscle size and strength when used in conjunction with resistance training. At the root of these benefits is whey’s ability to enhance exercise recovery, providing the nutrients to rebuild muscles while decreasing soreness. And with a heavy complement of amino acids (including fatigue-fighting branched chain amino acids), whey’s protein boost promotes both healthy immune function. Not looking to bulk up? Whey protein can also aid in weight loss by signaling the digestive system to reduce feelings of hunger. Whey protein is a great choice following a workout because it is quickly digested, getting to the muscles most efficiently (  Purchase whey protein here from Vitamin Shoppe.

Casein Protein
Casein protein is the predominant protein found in milk. It makes up about 80% of the protein in cow's milk, while the remaining 20% of protein in milk comes from whey. Casein protein is extracted from the milk through ultra filtration, without the use of chemicals. The key benefits of casein protein are that it is slow-digesting, has an excellent amino acid profile and enhances muscle growth. Unlike whey protein that peaks absorption in forty minutes, casein protein takes 3-4 hours to reach peak levels in blood amino acids and protein synthesis. The body can continue to absorb casein protein for up to seven hours. Casein protein is the best and only protein to take before going to sleep. Since casein breaks down steadily over time, it will continue to allow the body to absorb muscle-sparing protein throughout the night. Casein protein may also be used if you are going to go without food for more than three hours or are using a protein shake as a meal replacement. Ideally, a 50/50 blend of whey and casein is your best choice as a meal replacement. This blend will give you a quick shot of protein and a sustained release of protein to carry you until the next meal ( Purchase casein protein here from Vitamin Shoppe.

Chia Seeds
As a dietary necessity that many Americans can’t seem to get enough of, chia seeds offer 11 grams of fiber per ounce. This is about 41 percent of the recommended daily value in just one serving. These fatty acids are known as “essential fatty acids,” because they are essential to our health, yet our bodies cannot produce them on their own. We must obtain our omegas through food sources. If you’re not a fish-eater, omegas can be difficult to get. Chia seeds pack a punch of omega-3s and omega-6s. These little seeds offer anywhere from three to six times more calcium than milk, per serving. With a growing number of women suffering from osteoporosis, this is an important nutrient to help build strong bones and prevent injuries in the future. Super important for protecting our bodies against free radicals, antioxidants are another nutrient that you can count on chia seeds for. The chia seed is a complete protein. According to, “It includes all essential amino acids such as leucine, lysine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, valine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. The powerful combination of these amino acids will allow you to perform better during your training sessions and help you build more muscles faster.” Chia seeds are a wonderful source of nutrients that can easily be incorporated into your diet with little effort (  Purchase chia seeds here from Vitamin Shoppe.

Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber and work as a natural laxative. They are a great way to keep things regular. Flaxseed oil contains concentrated amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. Vegetarians and vegans often use this as a substitute for fish oil, although there are differing opinions over whether the Omega-3 in flaxseed oil is as beneficial as that in fish oil. Ground flaxseed has been shown to work just as well as statins in lowering cholesterol. Flaxseeds are a good source of magnesium. Flaxseeds contain high levels of lignans. Lignans may protect against estrogen-dependents cancers such as breast cancer. An ounce of ground flaxseed per day was shown to regulate estrogen levels in post-menopausal women. Flaxseeds have been shown to protect post-menopausal women from heart disease. Flaxseed decreases insulin resistance and may protect against diabetes. Preliminary research in mice shows that flaxseeds may prevent or slow the spread of prostate cancer. Studies in mice show that flaxseed may prevent or slow the spread of melanoma (  Purchase flaxseed oil here from Vitamin Shoppe.

Almond Milk
The major benefit of almond milk lies in its nutritional content. Since almond milk is made from almonds, most nutrients that can be found in almonds are also present in almond milk. Almond milk's protein content is comparable to regular cow's milk. Protein is essential for growth and development. It is a necessary part of every living cell in the body. Aside from protein, almond milk is also packed with several vitamins and minerals. Almond milk has great cholesterol-lowering effects. It is also effective in reducing the risk of various heart diseases. All these health benefits can be largely attributed to the presence of vitamin E (an excellent antioxidant), magnesium and monounsaturated fats. Almond milk also contains manganese, copper and ribloflavin. These are nutrients that play an important role in energy production. Compared to regular milk, almond milk’s calorie content is significantly lower. The calorie count for an 8 fl. oz. of one of the top brands of almond milk is 70. Only 22 of these calories are from fat. Unlike regular cow milk, almond milk has no cholesterol. The result of a recent study states that consuming an almond-enriched diet together with a low-calorie diet may be a more effective way to manage weight, compared to following a low-calorie diet that is accompanied by complex carbohydrate consumption. In the study, people who stuck to an almond-enriched low-calorie diet displayed a greater reduction in their weight, body mass index, waistline and overall body fat compared to people who followed the high-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet (

Lowering cholesterol levels is one of the most recognized benefits of this spice. The components of cinnamon can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol and triglycerides within the body, promoting cardiovascular and overall wellness alike. Cinnamon and other spices have even been found to fight heart disease as a whole. Blood sugar can also be regulated by this spice. This is good for both diabetic and hypoglycaemic individuals. Cinnamon even helps in regulating the amount of glucose inside the body, which aids in controlling dramatic changes with insulin levels. Cinnamon works for those who are suffering from arthritis too. Studies have shown that cytokines, which trigger the pain in arthritis-stricken body parts, can be lowered by cinnamon. In effect, the intolerable pain would become more manageable. For women, regular intake of cinnamon is also a reliable relief for menstrual pain. In fact, this can also improve problems that are related to infertility. These natural health benefits are attributed to something known as cinnamaldehyde — a compound that is found in cinnamon (

There are countless recipes out there and while I'll point you in the direction of a few, keep in mind that the calories can add up quickly and the ingredients should be nutritionally valuable (you may want to second guess that recipe calling for chocolate syrup and ice cream). Check out the following web sites and if you find others or think up your own, please share!