I’ve had the intention of posting this for ages, but as it is wont to do, life got in the way. This past Saturday, my Grandpa passed away (you can click here to see a little bit I jotted down, as well as my favorite photo of him). And then some connected (and some unconnected) family dramas really brought me down in the dumps (you can click here to see how I fought against that!) But, the point of this post is not to ramble on and on about the sadness I have felt — the point is to talk about how I have been working to HEAL myself from the inside out.
You see, it’s not just about a positive mental attitude (although that helps). And it’s not just about having a strong support group of family and friends that listen and hug and send love electronically across vast distances (though that helps, too). For me — and this is most likely true for the rest of you, as well — if I’m not taking care of my body, there is no way my head and heart can start to heal.
So, besides the obvious benefit of increased endorphin-release by making sure I get in my daily workouts, what is the #1 thing I have re-committed to this week to take care of ME… mind, body, and soul? Sweet, sweet, beloved green smoothies, my dears.
Where to even start when it comes to green smoothies?! Let me just first tell you how pumped I am that green juice and green smoothies are all the rage right now. With the interwebz all abuzz with inspiring human stories from the likes of Joe Cross, his film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and his Reboot community, and the fabulous Jadah and Jen with their 30-day challenges, recipes, and tips at simplegreensmoothies.com, there is a veritable wealth of information at our fingertips. I could go on and on about the health benefits of juicing, of eating raw fruits and veggies, and of incorporating as many nutrient-dense leafy greens as you can into a daily (or how about TWICE daily?!) green smoothie. But I feel like I’d just be rehashing yesterday’s news.
What I WILL say is that there is practically nothing that feels as good inside your body as drinking a fresh, bright-green, living smoothie. It gives you energy up the yin-yang, it literally scrubs out your insides, you feel mentally more alert and vibrant, it can clear your skin and improve your vision, it makes you KINDER to people because it improves your mood and ability to deal with stress, and yes, blah blah blah, it can even help you lose unhealthy fat while increasing your ability to put on lean muscle and protecting your vital organ function. PHEW. You want documentation on all of this? Look it up. I promise you, it’s all out there for the absorbing.
Because I feel like I should at least give a wee bit of scientific fact in all of these meandering trains of thought, here are my favorite leafy greens to incorporate into green smoothies with SOME of their nutrients and positive side-effects noted (believe me, this in no way encompasses all of the health benefits of leafy greens):
- KALE: Vitamins A, C, K, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium — Excellent source of antioxidants, anti-cancer health benefits, eye health, lowers blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease.
- SPINACH: Vitamins A, C, and folate — Excellent source of antioxidants, protects the digestive tract, anti-cancer health benefits, eye health.
- CHARD: Vitamins A, C, E, K, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and iron — Excellent source of antioxidants, bone and muscle-building benefits, energy-producing and anti-inflammatory benefits, eye health.
- COLLARDS: Vitamins A, C, K, manganese, folate, calcium, and dietary fiber — Excellent source of antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering and anti-cancer benefits, cardiovascular support.
All good smoothies start with a base. Some people like to use just plain ol’ water or their favorite juice, others like non-dairy milks (almond is my personal favorite, but from rice and soy to hazelnut and hemp, I LOVE ALL THE MILKS!) What I typically do is start with a freshly juiced green juice, because I like to cram as much “green” into my green smoothies as possible. To keep things moving along, I chop and store my veggies in reusable containers so they are all ready to juice each morning. Makes the whole process quicker. I wish I was a cold-presser kinda gal, because cold-pressed juice is even BETTER for you. But I am beyond grateful for my Jack LaLanne Power Juicer (big thanks to my parents for a birthday gift that gets BRUTALIZED every single day and keeps on ticking!). It really does the trick. Here is what I juice to make the base for ONE smoothie:
Vibrant Green Juice
(Makes about one 8 to 10-oz. serving)
- 1/2 organic Granny Smith apple
- 1/2 organic cucumber
- 4 stalks of organic celery (leaves included)
- 1/4 organic lemon (rind roughly removed)
- 4 leaves of organic romaine lettuce
- 2 huge handfuls of organic dark, leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards, or any combo thereof!)
- A nub of peeled ginger (about the size of my thumb, tip of the nail to the knuckle)
Juicing is probably the longest part of the process. After that, it’s always a what-else-can-I-throw-into-the-Vitamix kinda morning (another big thanks, this time to my daddy-in-law, for the best early holiday gift last year — while typing this, I’m reminded that even as adults, our parents continue to look out for our health and happiness. Talk about making my heart swell…) Really, a good blender is a fantastic investment. And if you don’t have a new blender, be kind to your old faithful. Take breaks while blending to let that motor cool down. If you smell plastic, that is a BAD sign.
My green smoothies vary from day-to-day, but essentially I stick to the following recipe (and have noted some of the variations below). Blend all ingredients, except for the toppings, and you’re good-to-go!
The Ladyapplesauce Superfood Green Smoothie
(Makes one serving)
- 1 serving of Vibrant Green Juice (see recipe above); or 8 oz. almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk, juice, coconut water, or just water!)
- 1/2 to 1 full frozen organic banana, sliced in half (depending on how sweet and thick you like your smoothies); or 1/2 to 1 full frozen apple, sliced; or a big handful of frozen blueberries (you get the idea… add frozen fruit!)
- 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. of raw nut or seed butter (I like raw almond butter the best, but I also love cashew, hazelnut, and sunflower seed butter); or 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter or PB2 (depending on your dietary requirements, if you are counting calories, I like that PB2 adds some of the nutritional benefits and taste of peanut butter without a lot of fat — just remember that most of the health benefits in peanuts come from that oil that you’re missing out on with PB2!)
- 1 scoop of vegan protein powder (I’m still using and loving Vega One, rotating daily between Chocolate, Vanilla Chai, and Natural)
- 2 big handfuls of raw, organic leafy greens (spinach has the mildest flavor while collards are the strongest, and kale and chard are somewhere in between)
- A dash of spice (I use pumpkin pie spice, which is a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and lemon peel)
- Optional toppings: sliced organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed, raw granola, dried goji berries, raw cacao nibs, raw cacao powder… the list is endless!
In case it wasn’t already apparent, I am seriously SERIOUSLY obsessed with green smoothies. If I go a day without one, I get stupid cranky and I simply don’t feel like myself. The kind that I make are typically meal replacements, so they are higher in calories, protein, and fiber than most, so keep that in mind if you’re following my recipe above. Not everyone needs to be supplementing with a protein powder like I’m using, it just so happens that I’m a vegan in training to build lean muscle mass, so that’s what’s right for me. I’m not a health professional, so always check with your doctor or nutritionist before supplementing meals with juice or smoothies.
I’m gonna leave you with some sentimental thoughts because I’m still feeling super sentimental: live vibrantly, love yourself, travel often, move your body, try new things, think outside of yourself, and take nothing for granted. Your life, your body, and your thoughts are all gifts — you don’t need to be religious or even spiritual to accept that fact. Even if all you see is random chaos swirling inside and outside of you, you’re still terribly fortunate to be a part of this great, big, beautiful dance.