Green drinks have been in the health spotlight for years now, and whether you love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying they’re an easy way to get in a ton of nutrients in one meal that you might otherwise skip out on. Forget the juice cleansing and liquid diets. That’s not what green drinks are made for; they’re made to give us energy and provide us nutrients to energize our bodies. We all love to eat hearty and comforting foods, but when we need a high dose of energy, it’s best to turn to something clean, green and light on the body.
Green drinks, whether juiced or blended, can both provide amazing nutrients for your mind and body. For example, they contain large amounts of nutrients that benefit the brain and also act as fuel for the cells. Greens are full of magnesium, B vitamins, iron, and other vitamins that boost immunity to keep you feeling well, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Other ingredients in green drinks, such as fruit or herbs, or even roots like ginger, can also add to this effect and provide a balance of flavor and variety of nutrients.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to load your drinks down with an overdose of fruits. A little will go a long way, and too much may upset blood sugar levels or cause some bloating and GI issues due to the fruit sugar fermenting in the digestive tract. The liver only uses so much at a time, so opt sweeter vegetables or green such as carrots, romaine lettuce, and stick to low glycemic fruits like berries, green apples, and lemons or limes that provide more nutrients and fiber, with less sugar.
Here are some steps to make a green drink that’s filled with flavor, nutrients, and best of all, provide an alkaline state to lower inflammation and flood your cells with chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals:
1. Choose Your Method
First, choose your method. Will you juice or blend? The choice is up to you. Green juices are great if you’re using them before a meal, not as a meal itself. They’re a great way to get in nutrients when you might otherwise not have time to, all in one serving, all super fat. They’re also easier to digest if you have a sensitive stomach and don’t want to drink so much fiber. They’re also absorbed quicker into the blood stream since there is no fiber needed for digestion before absorption of nutrients. If you don’t have a juicer, you can use your blender, blend the ingredients, and strain them through a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth and have homemade juice in a flash. If you do have a juicer, then you’re all set to go.
Blending is great for those looking to use their drink in replacement to meals and who want the benefits of fiber to keep them full. Blended drinks can also be used as light snacks or even part of a larger meal. Many people enjoy them as breakfasts on the go or pre or post workout options.
Whatever method you choose is great and including both is even a great idea if you can swing it. The more alkaline nutrients your body receives, the better you’ll feel and the more nutrient-dense foods you’ll start to crave.
2. Choose Healthy Ingredients
As mentioned, there’s no need to turn your drink into a sugar bomb. Plus, fruits aren’t cheap, so the more you use the more costly the drink will be. Keep the ingredients simple. Rotate your greens no matter what you make (a juice or smoothie) and go for nutrient-dense greens like kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, collards, Swiss chard, watercress, sprouts, parsley, cilantro, and other greens to make up at least 50-75 percent of your drinks. You can also freeze some low GI veggies and use them to make your smoothies frosty and creamy without bananas.
For the rest of your ingredients, choose those that are loaded with phytochemicals that also taste great and provide cleansing, stabliziing properties. These include: cucumbers that cool you off and detox the body, carrots that cleanse the body and promote energy and balance, ginger which warms the body and soothes digestion, fennel which calms the stomach and adds Vitamin C, and other items like celery, green apples, and citrus fruits that are relatively low-glycemic and offer energizing, cleansing and stabilizing benefits.
If you’re making a smoothie, then you can also add some non-dairy milk of choice, superfoods, perhaps a little stevia if you’re not using fruit or need extra sweetness, and even some plant-based protein powder to make it more filling and more flavorful.
3. Add Some Spice
After you’ve decided whether you’ll have a juice or smoothie and you’ve picked out your ingredients, then blend away or juice your heart out. But when you finish, add a sprinkle of a spice if you can. Cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric and powdered ginger (if you didn’t use the root) are all great options, even sprinkled over juice. These aren’t just for flavor, but they also provide healing and nutritional properties that reduce inflammation, improve energy, and aid in digestion.
4. Drink Them Cold
If you juice, it’s best to pour them over ice since they often taste better cooled than at room temp. For smoothies, you can either use frozen ingredients (such as these lower sugar options to bananas), or add some ice cubes to the mix. You can also try making ice cubes out of almond milk to make it creamier. Just keep in mind, the more whole food, non-processed ingredients you use, the more energizing it will be. Most all green drinks taste better cold; they’ll still be nutrient-dense no matter if they’re room temp or chilled, but keep in mind they should be consumed as soon as possible to prevent the nutrients in the drinks from oxidizing and going to waste. Or, you can see How to Make Smoothie Prep Jars if you’re looking to get ahead for the week. Juices can sometimes be frozen and thawed, but are best when drank fresh or within one day in the fridge.
5. Keep Them Pretty Simple
The simpler your recipes are, the simpler they’ll be to digest. This means more energy for you because your body doesn’t have to spend so much time on digestion of multiple foods and ingredients. A great ratio is 1-2 greens making up the most part of the drink, one fruit or sweet vegetable, a low GI veggie, a root like ginger or tumeric, and a piece of lemon or lime if you didn’t choose that as your fruit. Rotate the veggies you use each day and find out what your perfect match is. You’ll likely come up with a handful you enjoy and will love seeing the way different recipes make you feel.
Here are some good combos that make great green drinks:
- 2-3 romaine leaves, 2-3 kale stalks, 1 carrot, 1/2 a cucumber, 1/2 a lemon, and a knob of ginger
- 2-3 kale leaves, 1/2 bunch of parsley, 1/2 a green apple, a half a lime, a piece of turmeric and ginger
- 2-3 bunches of Swiss chard, 2-3 leaves of romaine, 1 zucchini, half a blood orange, 1/2 a red bell pepper, a piece of lemon and ginger
- 1 head of romaine, 1-2 carrots, 1/2 cup cranberries or blueberries, 1/2 a lemon or lime, ginger
Top any of these with cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, or turmeric, or any other spice you might like. Choose organic ingredients to avoid pesticides and harmful chemicals, pour over ice and enjoy.
Green Blended Drinks (Smoothies)
- 1 cup spinach, 2 romaine leaves, half a cucumber, 4-5 baby carrots, squeeze of a lemon or lime, sprinkle of ginger, cinnamon, some stevia if needed, non-dairy milk, and ice.
- 1 cup baby kale, 1/2 a cup of frozen zucchini cubes, 1/4 a green apple or 1/2 cup frozen berries, sprinkle of cinnamon or ginger, squeeze of a lemon or lime, non-dairy milk, stevia if needed, and ice.
- 1 cup baby lettuces or herb mix, 1 stalk celery (chopped), 1 cup strawberries or raspberries, 1/2 an orange or grapefruit, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, stevia if needed, non-dairy milk, and ice.
- 1 cup spinach, 1/2 bunch cilantro or watercress, frozen cucumber cubes, 1/2 a green apple, squeeze of lemon or lime, sprinkle of ginger and cinnamon, stevia if needed, non-dairy milk and ice.
You can also add superfoods and some raw or sprouted nut butter if you enjoy and find these keep you fuller longer. There’s also the option of plant-based protein powders or natural protein options that don’t require powdered mixes. Again, choose organic when possible to avoid contaminants in your drink.
Now, hit the juicers and blenders. You’re on your way to more energy in no time!
See more juice recipes here and all of our smoothie recipes here, and see The Anatomy of a Filling Green Smoothie: What to Use, What to Skip.
Lead Image Source: Tracy Benjamin/Flickr