I kind of cringe at the fact I’m a green smoothie fan. I never bought into flouro T-shirts back in the ‘80s and I don’t do diets. I try many things, but I don’t like to buy into a “thing”, unless a) I’ve looked into said thing in detail, b) I’ve experienced a substantial improvement in my life from it and, generally, c) I can do it myself (without purchasing some fan-dangled contraption or procedure or whatever).

Choc Mint Whip, recipe in I Quit Sugar
Choc Mint Whip, recipe in I Quit Sugar

Surprisingly, green smoothies tick off my three considerations:

  • The evidence suggests they are an effective way to get dense nutrition into our bodies.
  • I’ve found them to be a really nifty way to eat my greens and notice the difference when I’m not drinking (or eating) one.
  • Green smoothies are not about purchasing a fancy, expensive product in terribly wasteful packaging. I make my own with ease and tote in old jars and reusable cannisters.

Thus I comfortably do green smoothies. Most days. And in different forms.

Why drink your greens?

We need to be eating 5-6 serves of vegetables a day (according to national nutritional guidelines) to get enought macro and micronutrients into our beings. I’d say 6-8 is optimal, especially if you have compromised health. Most of us find this hard to pull off daily. Most meals are packed out with carbs and other nutrient-negligible fillers, leaving little room for greens.

By creating a meal around greens, it ensures you get a good 2-3 serves of the good stuff into your day.

It also “crowds out” the crap. While ever you’re filling up on greens, you’re not eating the nutrient-negligible fillers.

Green smoothies v green juices

The difference between the two is this:

smoothies are made by pureeing whole fruit and vegetables into a thick drink.  Juices extract the ‘juice’ only and the pulp is tossed.

So why do I prefer the former?

  • Smoothies are more filling. The fibre keeps us fuller longer, taking almost twice as long as liquids to leave our guts. Juices can also slow your metabolism (the calorie decrease can send the body into starvation mode, causing you to store energy).
  • Smoothies don’t constipate. Juices can. You need fibre for your gut to move and to maintain the right kind of bacteria to keep things active.
  • Smoothies are the whole food. I hate food wastage. Why chuck perfectly good fibre? When you chuck the skin, you also chuck a bunch of nutrients, too. Then there’s also this: when you muck with food, taking out bits of it, you land in trouble. Always. Case in point: skim milk. Best to eat whole food, always.
  • Smoothies don’t dump sugar on the liver. Even juices that are mostly veggie-based still contain quite a bit of sugar and, without the fibre to slow down its journey to the liver, this sugar can place quite the load on the liver. Which very much counters the “detoxing”, “cleansing” claims attached to juicing.
  • Smoothies don’t require special, expensive equipment. Sure, smoothies are best made in a high-powered blender, which can be expensive. But if you do invest in such a blender, it can be used for a host of different purposes – nut butters, pestos, coconut butter. A juicer can only make…juice. Equally, you can make green smoothies using a regular kitchen blender, too. These are dirt cheap and, again, are not one-trick-gadgets.

How do I counter the pro-juice claims?

* Smoothies cause heat damage? The claim is that the blades run at high speeds, which can heat the smoothie which could kill off some of the beneficial enzymes. I think this is one of life’s smaller concerns. Besides, to counter this issue, it’s possible to simply add ice to your smoothie to cool it down.

* The nutrients in juice are more readily available? Many believe juicing gives your body a digestive break, thus allowing you to better focus on absorbing the nutrients of the veggies (and fruit). However, no scientific evidence exists to confirm this.

* Juicing is better for cleansing? By making nutrients more bioavailable, say juice fans, you save your energy for other tasks, like cellular repair and detoxification. But I think these claims are kinda countered by the factors I outline above.

* Juicing works faster? Since you’re getting so many veggies and fruit in the one dose, it can speed up detoxing, goes the claim. To be honest, I don’t know that fast detoxing is a good idea. Slow and steady is best when it comes to digesting.

How do I take my green smoothies?

The recipe for my Choc Mint Whip is in I Quit Sugar.

Here’s one that the I Quit Sugar team developed.

Here’s some more clever ways to veggies into your diet.

Also, I feature a bunch of green smoothies in my next print book, out Feb 25.

What’s your take – smoothies or juices? I’m bracing myself for some dissent!

 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Sarah Garnett

    Definitely green smoothies – I have one every morning for breakfast after a warm water and lemon juice (Vitamin C is good to have if you are eating lots of spinach). Just need to watch your spinach intake if you are a junkie like me as more than half a cup a day can cause side effects. But they do fill you up, speed up digestion, make you feel great (esp if you are growing the greens yourself) and when a piece of fruit and ice blocks are added, are absolutely delicious!!!!!

    • Elle

      What side effects does more than 1/2 c of spinach cause?

  • Bec Buchs

    Totally agree Sarah, and you inspired me into the world of green smoothies (and many other foods 🙂 ). But have since found out that raw goitrogenic foods such as spinach, watercress and collards that we tend to put in green smoothies disrupt thyroid function and can actually cause/worsen hypothyroidism. I have hashimotos, so this worries me as I thought I was being so healthy. Now I have a green smoothie on every other day and alternate with cooking my greens.
    Just wondering if you have any view on this?

  • Green girl

    Smoothies all the way for the exact same reasons as you stated 🙂

  • Callie Michelle

    Hi Sarah, What do you use to blend up your green smoothies? I’m trying to talk myself out of a Vitamix or Blendtec!

    • claire

      Agree with you Sarah. I bought a Vitamix about 7 years ago and became obsessed with the thing! It really has changed my outlook on nutrition on what we feed our bodies. Green smoothies keep my system in balance. I also use the Vitamix to blend my own nut butters and ice creams. Love your work Sarah, inspiring x

    • I use a Vitamix, but I do here a Blendtec is just as good…I use mine daily for all kinds of things. I like to puree more than lettuce and cucumber – a little apple, broccoli, kale etc.

      • Sarah Garnett

        I use an Optimum blender, much cheaper than Vitamix and brilliant – comes with 10 year guarantee!

  • Kate B

    Smoothies for me all the way. Love my vitamix,. Sadly though if I load up to much on spinach and other high amine vegies or fruits I can get an allergic reaction. I now know how much can trigger me but who would have thought that we can overload on too much goodness!

    • Jody

      Me too Kate! I love my spinach but too much and I get mad headaches. Lysine has helped somewhat.

  • Lauren

    Why not both?! I love to have a green juice before breakfast so I really feel like I have cleansed before I have started my day. I will then have a smoothie as a breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack as needed (I love papaya + passionfruit + spinach + coconut water + AFA powder + macadamia nuts! I will add protein powder too if I need it to be more filling) I also love to incorporate green juices into my day, such as mid afternoon with a little snack like nuts or a rice cake with avocado. It’s also great mid morning to give you a lift minus the caffeine! I think there is a place for both 🙂 and whatever you choose, getting more greens into your day can never be a bad thing!! 🙂 Lauren X

  • Shell

    I was under the impression that ingesting such a high amount of raw green veg could be a bad idea because of goitrogens or oxalates or something (where have I read this? Am I making it up?)

    Dunno, I’m not really tempted by either juice or smoothie. Why not gently steam a massive bunch of greens and puree them with broth to make a soup which you eat everyday? More palatable than any green smoothie, imo.

    • I’m a fan of steamed veg, too. In summer though, the smoothie is a good way to do things…easy to carry to work/bushwalks etc too.

      • Sarah

        Sally Fallon in her Nourishing Traditions book outlines the dangers of consuming raw dark leafy greens numerous times throughout her book. According to her they contain oxalic acid that blocks calcium and iron absorption and irritates the intestinal tract when consumed raw. Funnily enough, it was your podcast Sarah, with Sally that alerted me to this. I’m curious as to whether or not you have taken this on board Sarah?

    • Kate

      Yep, oxalates/ oxalic acid can be inflammatory and also inhibit the uptake of the nutrients in the spinach. I wilt ours before putting it into the smoothie – cooking it destroys the oxalates and therefore potential harmful side effects.

      “Oxalic acid combines with metals such as calcium in the body to form
      oxalate crystals which can irritate the gut and kidneys. The most common
      kind of kidney stone is made of calcium oxalate.” http://www.naturalfertilityandwellness.com/how-to-eat-your-veggies/ (among 1,000,000 other interweb references 🙂 )

      • Jen

        I have rheumatoid arthritis and have noticed that I am very sensitive to spinach and silverbeet/chard as they are very high in oxalate. I made a chard and sweet potato soup one night and hardly slept at all that night due to the terrible pain in my joints. I couldn’t understand why a healthy alkalizing soup would cause such pain and after much searching on the Internet the next morning realised that it was the chard. I’m not sure whether oxalate affect people with other autoimmune disease but it certainly affects the pain I experience from RA. I don’t seem to experience any problems with kale as I juice kale/celery/ginger juice. I recently read that dino kale/tuscan kale is lower in oxalates than curly kale. Something to consider if you have the choice between the two types.

  • rowena

    Smoothies all the way… be it lunch at home or in a glass jar to drink at the Lake. I have to limit my Oxalate intake so I use Tuscan Kale as my main Green… *still using a 15 year old Kitchen Blender 🙂 Cheers!

  • Mini

    I have one in the morning for breakfast as I get ready as I have to get out the door to work quick and often one with my dinner or at weekends as a snack if I’m feeling peckish or in need of a en energy boost and it really does make me feel better (specially in the run up to xmas with tiredeness and stress)… oh and I find they are a conventient way to use up leftover veg that I struggle to cook up or to get more raw veg into my diet as I’m not a salad fan. I find that if you add plently of water you can make a more juice like consistency anyway (so more refreshing) without losing fibre.

  • Jo (down to earth mother)

    I have always gone juice because I never seem to have the “right” ingredients for a smoothie and also because I’m not sure my Magimix is up to the job, although I am keen to move into smoothies because of the waste issue and because it simply makes sense to eat the whole fruit/vegetable. The idea of green smoothies brings up a conundrum for me: how do you balance sustainable food sourcing with optimum nutrition? It seems to me that a lot of the recipes for green smoothies have a blend of ingredients that aren’t necessarily in season at the same time (NB: the recipe you shared is perfect for Queensland winter!). Leafy greens are difficult to grow in QLD at the moment and I feel I’m missing out, nutritionally. Those soft, lefy lettuces shipped from Victoria are very appealing, but compromise my beliefs about local foods. Argh! What’s a girl to do?

  • Katie – Conq Fear Spiritually

    So glad it’s not just me who’s a smoothie-lover! I love the way that smoothies fill you up and I always feel bad for chucking all of the pulp away. Thanks Sarah!

  • Katiebobatie

    Can’t wait or the next book in February:-)

    • Ms jane

      Me too!!

  • Looking forward to the new book. We’ve just gotten a Optimum blender and are carrying it with us on our road trip around Australia. We really want to have healthy, tasty sugar free food and smoothies; it’s challenging to stay healthy on the road, especially for our daughters.

    We’re having a total sugar free Christmas this year thanks to your book,(and not being under the influence of extended family 🙂 ) and we are so excited

  • Kate

    Would love someone to fill me in, as have been wondering this ever since the green smoothie/juice wave started…Is the premise behind green smoothies/juices just the increased intake of green veggies? If you’re happy to eat the 4-6 serves of veg as salad/steamed etc are you missing out on an associated benefit? As someone who is happy just to eat the spinach is there any other compelling reason to go to the trouble of pureeing? Big thanks in advance 🙂

    • Aunty Mabel

      Potential increase in daily dose of veggies plus the time saving factor (it’s easier to drink it down than chomp through a huge salad) are the main reasons why smoothies/juices have become so popular. Plus I think some people don’t really love the taste of veggies and are more happy to glug them down with extra powders, seeds, coconut oil etc that may make for a pretty untasty salad anyway IMO.

  • Elle

    Def not a fan of juices..they’re too much! I got really into green smoothies early this year and was having them everyday. I found they seemed to help with long term constipation issues I have, however sometimes irritated my stomach. After going to a naturopath she suggested eating raw kale/spinach and all the ‘super foods’ I was packing into the smoothies were too much so I’ve stopped them. Anyone else have a similar experience?

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  • Anna Franklin

    I now have the IQS green smoothie once, sometimes twice a week. Just whizz it all in a rather powerful blender I got from Aldi and off I go! No expensive kit and very tasty! Thanks for the article, Sarah and looking forward to the new recipes in the new book. 🙂

  • Csilla Bischoff

    I was a green smoothie fan but now I am definitely a green juice fan. It is so much easier for the body to break it down. Removing the fiber from the fruits and veggies means that there is hardly any digestive work done. You also get a lot more vegetables into your body via juicing. The concentration of nutrients is also higher.

  • Fiona

    Love both. My boys especially love their green smoothie every morning. I’m reading a bit here in the comments about wastage from juicing…. ummmm, no one heard of composting? worm farms? I also use the pulp to make delicious crackers. Don’t give up on juicing for the wastage argument. There’s a place for both but in terms of preference, each to their own no?

  • Kate

    Hi Sarah, love your blog and thank you for inspiring me to make better choices for me and my family. We have a green smoothie every morning so am more conscious of buying organic (alone for the sheer density of veg crammed in there) I’m curious how you feel about organic. I haven’t seen any specific blogs regarding this but I know you choose it wherever possible and there’s plenty of mentions in the book but are you quite strict about it or are there items you don’t bother spending the extra on – perhaps rice & spices for example? Family and friends frequently roll their eyes and comment that I must have money to burn – or I’m being sucked into the organic food hype (both of which aren’t true!) I value your opinion as you seem to research your choices to the enth degree so hopefully you’ve already done all the leg work for me! Thanks, Kate

  • shelly

    I am a green smoothies fan. My body now craves it. Fresh spinch fron the garden, two cucumbers and one pear and two glasses if water. It means I have a litre of liquid to kick start the day. It helps me kick the coffee habit. Did any body mention the cost of juicing? Call me tight but I hate the wastage as well. I blend everything. The Fibre is probably more beneficial for us anyway. For now I ignoring that spinch is a Goitrogen…I could use fresh beet leaves and parsley but yet to experiment.

  • Emma

    What about green pressed juices? Are these any better than normal juices?