Get your greens with a daily smoothie
The Harvard School of Public Health recommends at least nine servings, or four cups, of fruits and vegetables daily. Most of us don't come close.
EAT MORE plants, especially leafy greens. Everyone tells us that — doctors, nutritionists, food writers. Plants top the diets that protect against heart disease, stroke, some types of cancers, high blood pressure, cataracts and macular degeneration. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends at least nine servings, or four cups, of fruits and vegetables daily. Most of us don't come close.
If it's hard to find a place on your plate for plants, I say put them in your glass. Last year, determined to eat more leaves and raw food, I started making a green smoothie every day. It takes five minutes, and tastes good, too. Even my children, thrown off initially by the color, now request them with gusto. (Funny, they never do that with sautéed spinach.)
Luckily, all you need is a blender. Use whatever fresh fruit and veggies inspire you. Spinach, kale or chard. Banana, berries or pear. The possibilities are endless. I found my groove with lacinato kale, frozen blueberries and banana, a healthy shake I made nearly every day until learning that we should "rotate" our greens. So now I mix it up with spinach, chard and other greens.
If you don't care for the green-vegetable taste, throw in fresh pineapple or ginger root for flavor. Add liquid of your choice. I use water — no calories and nondairy — but plenty of people choose milk, soy milk, almond milk or fruit juice. My kids love these drinks with yogurt. Tear up a few leaves, toss in fruit and liquid. I never measure. The more greens the better. It's different every time, but always nutritious.
Consider adding a healthy fat like flax oil, almond butter, coconut oil or avocado. Good fat will slow the absorption of carbohydrates from the fruit as well as prevent disease and provide important nutrients. It also helps us feel full longer. In fact, when I first started making a daily smoothie, I felt shaky and hungry a couple of hours after drinking it. Then a nutritionist friend suggested I add a healthy fat to the blender, and voilà. Greater energy and satiety.
Some cancer patients turn to intensive juicing for treatment. My friend Jude, diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer three years ago, has thankfully recovered after extensive medical treatment and a focused juicing program. He followed the Gerson Therapy of consuming a gallon of liquid veggies and fruits a day, made fresh with a high-end juicer. While Jude isn't sure why exactly he was able to recover (nor are his doctors), plants were part of his treatment plan.
Dr. Colin Campbell, one author of the wildly successful book "The China Study," encourages everyone to move to a more plant-based diet. In an interview last year, he said, "If we go to a plant-based diet, at first it might be difficult, but it turns out after a month or two our taste preferences change and we discover new tastes and feel a lot better, and we don't want to go back. It's not a religion with me, it's just that the closer we get to a 100 percent plant-based diet, the better off we're going to be."
Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle freelance writer. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Kale Blueberry Smoothie
Makes 2 servings
I make this with lacinato kale, but chard, spinach or other greens may also be used.
2 cups tightly packed fresh green leaves (washed and torn, thick stems removed)
½ cup frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons flax oil
1 ½ cups water
1. Place all ingredients in a blender jar and blend on high for about a minute. Serve immediately.