1. Rotate your greens
Almost all greens contain a small amount of alkaloids, a type of poison. Each green’s alkaloids are different from the next one. This is Mother Nature’s way of preventing extinction: by forcing animals to rotate their greens, the plants do not become extinct. Tiny quantities of alkaloids cannot hurt you and can even strengthen your immune system. However, if you keep consuming one single green, be it spinach, kale or any other green, for many weeks without rotation, eventually the same type of alkaloids can accumulate in your body and cause unwanted symptoms of poisoning. Simply rotating your greens will prevent this from happening. Do note that there is no need to rotate the fruit as most commonly used fruits have very little or none of the alkaloids and cannot cause the same toxic reactions as greens. The simple reason for this is because fruits are intended to be eaten. It is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that the seeds are propagated and the plant will have future generations ahead of it. The purpose of rotating fruit is simply to enhance the variety of flavor and nutrition in your smoothies.
There are different strategies available: either use 1 type of green per day or a mixture of greens everyday, depending on what you prefer. Victoria Butenko recommends using a minimum of 7 different type of greens. The larger the variety, the larger the spectrum of nutrients you receive. Herbs such as parsley, basil, dill are also considered as greens. I usually buy 3 types of greens per week (depending on how large the package is) and each week has a different ‘set’ of greens.
Fruits do not contain any alkaloids so you don’t have to rotate them. However, rotating your fruits will give you more variety in terms of taste and a wider range of vitamins and minerals.
2. Fresh is best
Green smoothies keep up to 3 days in the fridge, in an air-tight container. While freshly blended green smoothies are best, if you are busy or travelling, preparing them ahead means you don’t have to forego your daily green smoothie. Something is better than nothing. If I know that I have a busy morning ahead, I will prepare my green smoothie the night before. For my husband, I always prepare his the evening before so he will always have a bottle to bring to work, regardless of what time I wake up.
Though, ideally, prepare yours first thing in the morning in the amount that you usually consume in 1 day (1 or 2 litres). Pour enough into a glass for your morning enjoyment and keep the rest in a refrigerator or another cold place.
3. Glass is best
Storage in glass containers is best as it does not contain any chemicals that will react with fruits, but it is tricky to transport.. If consuming at home, use glass. Otherwise, use BPA-free plastic bottles. Wide neck ones are best for easy cleaning. Stainless steel can work too but is difficult to clean as you can’t see if there is any residue in the bottle. Another good alternative is to use stainless steel thermo coffee mugs, which many coffee joints like Starbucks and Coffee Bean sell these days. It helps to keep your smoothie cool and since it is opaque, it slows oxidation (light oxidizes fruits and juices, that is why your fridge and freezer is dark when the door is closed) plus, you can avoid having to answer awkward questions about the colour and consistency of your drink!!
4. Savour it
Sip your green smoothie slowly, mixing it with saliva. The process of absorbing nutrients and digestion starts in the mouth, with the enzymes in saliva. This tip would actually apply to all food! Hence, the old adage to chew your food slowly and properly before swallowing! Thankfully, the blender has helped us to ‘chew’ the greens and the fruits and makes it so much easier to consume large amounts of them.
5. Always use organic – you deserve it!
The absence of pesticides and other toxic chemicals is only one of the many benefits of organic food. The most important reason is the superior nutritional value of organic produce compared to conventionally grown ones. Many conventionally grown ones lack nutrition as commercial soils are so chemically fertilized and depleted of minerals that eating the produce borne from it is really just eating for the sake of eating it, rather than for its nutritional value. Eating locally grown produce ensures maximum nutrients as they have not been languishing in a warehouse since harvest. It is also very important to get fruit that was allowed to ripen on the vine. Vine / tree ripen fruit is several times more nutritious and when consumed shortly after picking, retains significantly more nutrients.
Definitely, organic greens are a must as the leaves and stems have no protection against pesticides. If a farmers’ market is accessible, those could be an alternative. However, speak to the farmer to find out how their produce is grown and obviously avoid those who use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Organic fruits are preferred. However, if budget is an issue, the general rule of thumb is thick-skinned fruits need not be organic, e.g. avocados, bananas, pineapples, kiwis. Pears and apples should always be organic as they are in such high demand; non-organic versions tend to have too much chemical fertilizers and pesticides. All berries, peaches, apricots and nectarines must be organic as they do not have a protective membrane that prevents pesticides from entering the fruit. A good website for such information is: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/ which provides a condensed version of the information available on http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.
As extracted from www.pbs.org: The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals (*yikes!!), with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic — unless you relish the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail. “The Dirty Dozen” list includes:
• U.S. blueberries
• sweet bell peppers
• spinach, kale and collard greens
• imported grapes
All the produce on “The Clean 15” bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:
• sweet corn
• sweet peas
• kiwi fruit
• sweet potatoes
• sweet onions
A recommendation I have received for washing greens and fruits is to add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the washing water. For non-organic produce, soak for 20 minutes; 10 minutes for organic produce. Apple cider vinegar purportedly kills bacteria and is able to remove some of the residual chemicals that regular water can’t. Part of the reason is that many pesticides are formulated to resist rain water, hence by adding the apple cider vinegar, the pH level of the water is changed and can therefore remove the pesticide(s) more efficiently.
6. Pre-prep saves time and hassle
Washing your greens ahead of time makes it so much easier and faster to make green smoothies fresh every morning. Wash them, dry them well and wrap them in kitchen towels (cloth or paper, your choice). Store them in large BPA-free plastic containers. Use ziplock bags and squeeze out all the air if there is no space in the fridge. On the average, greens stored in this manner keep up to a week in the fridge, depending on how fresh they are in the first place. Fruits can be pre-cut and stored in air-tight containers in the fridge or freezer.
Money-saving tip: whenever any organic fruits go on offer, buy loads. Then cut and freeze in single portions.
7. Use a high speed blender, e.g. Vitamix or Blendtec
Not only does this yield green smoothies with smoother texture. It is also faster, saves time (there’s no need to cut the ingredients into tiny bits) and the powerful blending breaks open the cell membranes, making it easier for the body to assimilate the nutrients.
Personally, I prefer the Vitamix as the Blendtec’s computerized blending system doesn’t sit well with me. But it is the individual’s choice. My only complaint is that all high speed blenders are so so so deafening!!
8. Drink as many smoothies as you like, experiment with sweet and savoury flavours.
There’s no limit to how many you can consume per day. Experiment with different flavours for variety. Victoria Butenko’s books have both sweet and savoury recipes to try out and she has now even launched an app detailing all sorts of possible combinations. I also like green puddings, which are similar to green smoothies, except that no or little water is used and the consistency is much thicker, like a pudding and eaten with a spoon. These are good for the days when I know I have no access to public toilets (they are hard to find in Germany!) and will save me the discomfort of holding on to a full bladder!!
9. Dried greens are acceptable
As a substitute when fresh greens are not available, that is. There are many green superfoods available and as always, ensure that they are organic and raw (i.e. processed below 40 degrees Celsius). I use Healthforce Nutritionals Vita-Mineral Green and have been told that the formulations by Dr. Mitchell May are good too.
10. The 40-minute rule
According to Victoria Butenko, don’t eat anything, not even a small cracker or candy, within 40 minutes of a green smoothie as starch and other (animal) proteins interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the gut. However, you can eat other fruits and greens (plain, without oils and other dressings) after consuming a green smoothie. Admittedly, this can be difficult at times. So my personal rule is to usually have as much green smoothie as I can first thing in the morning. If I have any leftover, I try to keep to the 40-minute rule if I can but if not, I don’t fret about it.
11. Save the starchy fruit vegetables for other purposes
Do not add starchy root or fruit vegetables e.g. carrots, beets, broccoli stems, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, egg plants, pumpkin, squash, okra (lady finger), peas, corn, green beans, potatoes and others into your green smoothies containing fruit. They tend to combine poorly with fruits and lead to a gassy, bloated feeling.
12. Keep it simple
Don’t add too many ingredients into one smoothie, e.g. 9 different fruits and a dozen different greens. Keeping it simple maximize nutritional benefits and keeps it easy on your digestive system (not to mention, making prep work easier!). In the wild, many animals eat a mono-diet i.e. one type of greens or fruit per meal. There has to be a reason why!!
13. Learn to prepare a really delicious green smoothie
This helps you (and your family) to look forward to the next one. If your drink is not tasty, you will eventually lose heart and discontinue consuming it. Keep your taste buds happy.
14. Serve it to your children and pets
Everyone can benefit from it! Children tend to prefer sweeter, less green ones until they get used to it. Pets should consume smaller portions. Victoria Butenko’s book, Green Smoothie Revolution, and app, Green Smoothies, has good guidelines and recipes for both groups.
15. Don’t add anything except greens, fruits and water
Victoria Butenko doesn’t recommend adding nuts, seeds, oils, supplements or other ingredients as most of these slow down the assimilation of green smoothies in your digestive tract and may cause irritation and gas. While she does provide recipes with more than basic ingredients in her books, she recommends sticking to the basic green smoothie recipe in your daily routine.