We are in the height of summer, with fresh produce available everywhere you turn. Rather than buy a smoothie or juice from the grocery store, try making your own power-packed green drink. It’s easier than you might think.
Green drinks are a fast, convenient and inexpensive way to vitalize your system and flood your body with nutrition. Leafy greens are an excellent source of fiber, folate and carotenoids. They are also high in vitamins C and K, iron and calcium. The antioxidants found in abundance in leafy greens remove free radicals, which protects your body from cancer, aging and sun damage.
Herbs like cilantro and parsley are very high in minerals and great diuretics – very supportive for kidney and liver health. Herbs like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne are excellent anti-inflammatory plants and improve circulation throughout the body.
When shopping for leafy greens, try to buy as fresh as you can – buying from a local farmer makes that very easy to accomplish. And because they have no thick skin to protect them, choosing organic greens is essential (and not much more expensive than pesticided produce).
Kale grows particularly easily in our part of the world, even in a pot, so don’t be afraid to harvest your own greens year-round. Plus, the “weeds” in your backyard are often nutrient-dense (which is why we pull them out of the garden) and another way to get loaded up on vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Adding a little fat (oils or raw seeds) can help boost absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and make them more accessible in your body.
There is no “wrong” way to make a green drink – be creative, have fun and try out your own ideas. You don’t need an expensive blender – if you have a less powerful blender, just let it blend for 3-5 minutes.
Don’t forget to get your kids involved. Making a blended drink together where they get to pick the ingredients is fun, informative and creates healthy habits for a lifetime. Greens can be notoriously hard to get into a child’s diet, so balancing the flavor with fruit like frozen grapes and apples can be a good trick.
Here is a list of ingredients to choose from – feel free to mix and match. If you don’t hit it right the first time, play with the recipe until you find what works for you:
Leafy greens and vegetables – use 4-6 large leaves or two handfuls of: spinach; chard; kale; lettuce; sprouts; collards; shredded beets, carrots or other root veggies; cucumber; or arugula.Fresh Herbs – a couple of leaves or a whole handful of: cilantro, parsley, basil, mint and a squeeze of lemon or lime.Fruits – use sparingly: apple (whole, sliced, with core and seeds), pear (whole, sliced, with core and seeds), oranges/grapefruits (peeled, with seeds), frozen grapes or pineapple.A base: water, coconut water, a splash of fruit juice (not for the whole base) or herbal tea.Dried herbs – 1-2 teaspoons is plenty: turmeric, ginger, cayenne cinnamon or sea salt.Fat – 1-2 tablespoons is perfect: flax oil; Udo’s Oil; coconut oil; olive oil; hemp, flax or chia seeds; or avocado.Herbs (weeds) from your yard or other non-pesticided area: dandelion (leaf and/or root), mallow leaf and stem (chickweed), lamb’s quarter (leaf and stem), or burdock leaf.Blend until smooth and enjoy. To enjoy the most benefit, don’t strain it so you get all the fiber. For a cooler drink, add a handful of ice.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.