Ponce de Leon came to Florida to find the Fountain of Youth. He failed. Whether it was because he was a boy (and girls rule and boys drool) or because he was mean to the natives, I’m not sure.
Luckily, his shortcomings leave room for my success. And so I introduce you to the elixir he was looking for: green smoothies.
A mix of greens, a base fruit and a sweet fruit, green smoothies are a nutritional catch-all. They have given me a choice when it comes to food, taking away the power that an innocent-enough-looking Hershey’s bar holds over me. And this has not always been the case. You’ve heard the story: I spent my early teenage years refusing to eat and my later ones fond of sticking my fingers down my throat. And then I gave up, assuming I was doomed to a life of self-loathing and body dysmorphia. To say that something has given me relief from my struggles with food is nothing short of a miracle.
And green smoothies are a miracle. I’m convinced, and anyone that I’ve gotten to jump on board is convinced. Even my mom—and she’s the one who had to clean up the wreckage of my past crash diets and lie awake pondering if I threw out all the food in the house, as was sometimes my M.O., or just managed to stuff it all in my abused body. If Momma approves, it must be A-okay.
So, how do green smoothies work? Excellent question. The theory with which I agree the most claims that the body craves junk food and overeats in response to nutritional deficiencies. Eliminate the deficiencies, and you eliminate the cravings and urge to overindulge. Say you have a hankerin’ for some chocolate. Could be because you’re low on magnesium. A few rounds of green goo can fix this deficiency right up. Once you have a sufficient magnesium level, your body stops craving the quick fix. So long insatiable need for chocolate; hello occasional treat. (How did I make the connection between magnesium and chocolate? I saw it on this website. When it comes to nutrition, I tend to look for arguments that support my case and exert no effort in looking for opposing viewpoints. So, the site may have some flaws. But, obviously no one expects me to check my facts. I’m just trying to become a writer and trusted font of information … )
There are even entire books out there devoted to variations of green smoothie-making. The big name in the movement is Victoria Boutenko. For years, she’s converted families and communities to the cause. And she did it the best possible way: by using her own family as guinea pigs. One story even has her husband taste-testing wild plants to see if they’re poisonous before the rest of the family digs in. If nothing else, this makes her my kind of woman. Her two most popular books, Green for Life and Green Revolution, walk beginners through the transitions and benefits of going green while providing recipe options. She even offers a smart phone app.
Without dedicating too much time to research, anyone can do a quick google to find a green smoothie recipe that will work. I’m a big advocate of a spinach, banana and berry mix to start. Throw two to three handfuls of spinach in a blender, cover it halfway with water and blend. Next throw in a banana or two and some berries, adding berries to taste. Consistency is key: You want a smooth smoothie, homogeneous throughout. Adding ice can help with this.
Spinach is the recommended beginner green because fruit easily masks its taste. If you’re like me, you’ll start out intense, adding so many greens that no amount of fruit could make palatable. Living and learning has taught me that the opposite approach is ideal: Slowly introduce more greens, making sure you enjoy the taste the whole time. As your body adjusts, it will naturally start to call for more greens, changing your taste preferences and green-to-fruit ratio. When you’re comfortable with spinach, start switching to other nutritional powerhouses such as kale and collard greens. It’s recommend to rotate your greens on a regular basis to maximize nutrient absorption.
All of this is fine and dandy, but how do we make this Sarasota-specific? Again, excellent question. Luckily, our little haven on the sea provides options. Should you choose to let a professional start you on your path, I wholeheartedly recommend Whole Foods. They make a tart 20-ounce treat of kale, spinach, apple, banana and lemon called “Kalicious.” At $5.95, I wouldn’t call it a steal, but it’s worth it if you’re not ready to invest in a high-powered blender and abundance of produce quite yet. As you may suspect based on my previous confessions, I’m a tad bit of a control freak when it comes to food, so I prefer to make my own. The most important insider’s tip that I can offer is to get the greens at the Farmer’s Market. I beeline for the Worden’s Farms stand first thing every Saturday morning, sometimes pushing innocent bystanders out of my way. They offer obscenely large bunches of organic greens for scandalously low prices. I can pick up a week’s worth for around $10 and struggle to fit the bounty in two bags.
For those who are truly adventurous, I recommend walking towards the State Street end of the market and hitting up the wheatgrass lady. Though not technically a component of a green smoothie, it deserves a mention. These days I order up a wheatgrass shot for an extra boost of energy, but back in my college heyday the Pittsburgh wheatgrass vendor would tell me to take a shot of wheatgrass with a caffeine source before heading out to be able to last through the wee hours of the night with no fatigue or next-day regret. The taste can be a bit surprising. I’ve heard hardcore raw foodists describe it as “funkified.” I personally think it’s sugary sweet and like it. However, my Mom grew up with neighbors that force-fed her grass, so I may have developed an affinity for the stuff in the womb.
If that’s the case and my passion for green smoothies is due to neighbors stuffing grass down my Mom’s throat, I’m ok with it. Thanks, Mom, for the help. Consider this an early Mother’s Day gift … I’m admitting that I appreciate something you’ve done. Don’t get all crazy and pass this along to your friends.
Or pass it along if you have to. These days, I’m a big believer in spreading positive news. I’m of the mindset that when you find a solution, it’s appropriate to share the knowledge with as many people as you can. Maybe someone else needs some relief from food insanity, or perhaps someone just wants the boost that green smoothies provide. Back in the day, no way would I let just anybody in on this miracle. Then other girls could read it and get skinnier and prettier and fill-in-the-blank-er than me. Now I know it’s not a zero-sum competition; we can all win. Hopefully, that’s a sign of maturity and growing into self-acceptance.
… Or maybe it’s just a trick to sound like a good person while thinking up more diabolical manipulations. (Sorry, Mom; now that we’ve got the food thing under control, I had to give you something else to toss and turn about.) Guess it’s something we can all ponder while sipping away pounds of greens.