The Benefits of Going Green

Why are we talking about smoothies?

Smoothies are a good way to consume quality green vegetables that will take only moments to prepare and, by adding fruit, they taste delicious. The health benefits, for young and old, will be great, too.

What are the health benefits?

Green vegetables such as kale, spinach and watercress are genuine superfoods. Smoothies that contain these ingredients will help you feel more energized, and fill your body with all the fiber, vitamins and nutrients it craves.

What exactly is fiber?

It’s the structure of natural plants – fruits and vegetables – that facilitates the digestion of food. It helps you feel more full, gently cleans out the colon and removes toxins and other waste from your system. It also feeds and nourishes beneficial bacteria – the ones that work hard to keep us healthy. Think of it as a kitchen sponge, moving things along and cleaning as it goes.

Should all sources of fiber do this for us?

Not exactly because there’s fiber in other foods too, such as wheat. Keep that sponge in mind to get a clearer picture of what different types of fiber there are: the soft side of a sponge is like the fiber found in vegetables, oats and other solubles. The fiber found in wheat is more like the abrasive side of the sponge, and that’s why too much wheat in the diet can trigger health issues, particularly in those who are gluten sensitive.

So my smoothie will inject good fiber into my system?

It will help you to increase good fiber you ingest – and the fact that it’s green will play a big part in its health benefits. Green veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help fight disease. A smoothie will also provide potassium and calcium that can strengthen bones and lower blood pressure, which can contribute to better heart health.

Any other good stuff?

It’s also high in folate – a vital ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease and memory loss. And the list goes on: high in the antioxidant called lutein, high in vitamin C, high in beta-carotene… This is why nutritionists think of green vegetables as superfoods.

Does blending destroy any of the goodness?

No, not in the way heating vegetables does. Whenever you heat your vegetables, valuable vitamins are lost. This is one of the advantages of the smoothie: it’s cooking free so all that vitamin C will go straight into your system.

What are the top 3 green vegetables?

1 Kale. This form of cabbage has so much packed into it – it’s a great source of vitamin C, high in beta-carotene and lutein, plus it’s the safest way to get our vitamin A intake, which contributes to the health of your bones and liver, for example. Kale is a good source of vitamin K, too, which helps prevent bone fractures.

2 Spinach. It’s nutrient dense, high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C. It’s low in calories and good for healthy eyes, hair and skin.

3 Watercress. Like the others, this often-overlooked vegetable is high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, calcium and vitamin K, and it has anti-inflammatory properties, which is great news for people suffering from arthritis.

Do I put the whole plant in?
Yes, for a blended smoothie, there are nutrients in every part of the vegetable so use it all. As a rule, the darker green it is, the more you want it in your smoothie. The colour is an indication of where the nutrients are. Don’t discard the stalks, either, because they add fiber.

What do I add to make it taste great?

You have lots of choices: dates to add sweetness (and more fiber), honey, numerous fruits that include raspberries, bananas, mangos, apples, pineapple, etc. And by adding healthy green vegetables into your smoothies, kids will not only benefit from the added content that’s good for them but also a delicious sweet treat.

How many smoothies can I drink a day?

It pays to be cautious at first. People can sometimes get carried away when they realize how yummy these green smoothies taste. However, too much, especially for a stomach that’s not used to digesting a lot of vegetables, can lead to discomfort and bloating. You’re benefitting, remember, from this food being difficult for the stomach to break down so bear in mind how overconsumption can cause you problems.

So too many of these might give me a stomachache?

If you overdo them, yes. You wouldn’t expect your body to cope with a whole bag of spinach, stalks and all, so be careful  because in smoothie form, it’s easy to gulp it down. Don’t expect your stomach to be happy with a smoothie containing several apples, any more than it would if you’d eaten them one after the other. In this respect, you can have too much of a good thing!

How can I tell if I’m overdoing it?

Warning signs that you might have overdone it include bloating and discomfort. And fiber absorbs water so if you’re not drinking a lot there won’t be enough in your stomach when the fiber arrives, and constipation can ensue. Moderation is key. Ask yourself how much of that food you could eat in one sitting and add a bit more for the smoothie.

Anything else to think about?

Another note of caution has to do with vitamin K, found in nearly all leafy green vegetables. If you’re being prescribed a blood-thinner, and are significantly increasing your vegetable intake, consult your doctor who can monitor your medication.

For more nourishment, see how one artisanal cheesemaker in Ontario, Canada combines passion and high-quality ingredients to produce cheese that’s good for you.

This article originally appeared in the Live More, the exclusive healthy living magazine for John Hancock Vitality members, Spring 2016 edition.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily imply endorsement by Manulife.

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