Green Smoothies – local and delicious!

I’ve been banging on about green smoothie goodness for a while now, and here by popular demand is a post dedicated to the what, why, how and where of it all.

Green smoothies are quite simply the result of blending ripe fruit and raw leafy greens together with water.
I like to add lots of other good things to my smoothies, like chia seeds, LSA mix, coconut oil and flaxseed oil, gubinge and maca powder. These collectively do great things for your system like help lower cholesterol, increase metabolism, maximise nutrient absorption, balance hormones, enhance memory function and much more.

The health benefits of green smoothies have been well documented, but Victoria Boutenko’s book ‘Green for Life’ (and subsequent  Raw Family website) is perhaps the definitive guide on the subject.

In Victoria’s own words, green smoothies are good for you because “greens are the most nutritionally dense food available on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and phytonutrients. What better way to consume them than in a delicious green smoothie? The fresh ripe fruits dominate the flavor of the greens and the absence of any fats maximize the absorption of the nutrients. These two factors make the green smoothie the most epic nutritious concoction the world has seen to date. Adding even one cup of green smoothie a day to one’s existing diet can dramatically improve anyone’s health. And the best part is, nearly everyone already has what they need to make a green smoothie sitting around in their kitchen right now!’

Another health benefit of the green smoothie is that unlike juicing, you actually retain and consume the fibre which is essential for a good digestive system and helps eliminate toxins from the colon.

A really handy tool recommended to me by a mate is the iPhone app from Raw Family, which gives you ideas for green smoothie combinations, as well as the nutritional value of each of the ingredients – you can get the app here.

So down the the basics – how do you make a green smoothie?

You’ll need a blender, some water, and whatever (preferably seasonal) fruit and fresh leafy greens you fancy.

The types of greens we eat at home (and grow ourselves) are: spinach, lettuce, bok choy, choy sum, kale, and silverbeet (chard). And if we don’t grow it, we buy it from the lovely folk at Ceres, or at one of our local farmers’ markets – see here for your nearest one. We also like to shop at Organic Gertrude in Fairfield, who are kind enough to provide information on where all their fruit and veg comes from, and you can see how many food miles your goodies travelled to get to you!

You don’t need a big garden to grown your own vegies – friends of ours have built an amazing greenhouse on the balcony of their apartment, and we’ve gone down the permaculture route, using existing wine barrels containing our lime and lemon trees, and have planted all our greens around the base of the citrus plants.

<Insert local produce rant here> I’m passionate about supporting local business and farmers, and avoid buying fruit, vegetables, meat (or dairy if I can help it) from the supermarkets. I’d rather know where my food comes from, and thanks to the most excellent work from the good folk at the Victorian Farmers Market Association, as well as the Locavore Edition with their Field Guide to Victorian Produce, it has never been easier or more enjoyable to connect with your local producers and get your food on the the day it was harvested. There’s also the added bonus of being able to sleep at night, knowing the wonderful people who spent their time growing your food are being fairly paid for doing so. <end rant>

Which fruit you select is entirely up to you, but the ones we have had the best results with include bananas, pineapple, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and some dates for extra creaminess. We try at all times to utilise what’s in season, with the exception of pineapples and bananas which we use year round.

It’s important not to overdo it on the fruit, since fructose is still sugar – but a few well chosen pieces will have your smoothie tasting super-delicious, and you won’t even realise you’ve just drunk a cupful of spinach. And take it from me, if my 7 year old is happy to drink one of these bad boys every single day, then you won’t have a problem downing some of this green goodness!

It’s usual to start with the fruit, so roughy chop your fruit, only peel the obvious ones like bananas etc, core your apples and pineapple etc, take out pips from peaches and so on. Add fruit to the blender jug with at least 1 cup of water. Now is the time to throw in all your awesome additions like the chia seeds, coconut oil etc. Start blending, and once it’s nice and smooth start adding your spinach, lettuce etc. Cucumber is also a fantastic smoothie ingredient. Again, don’t peel it.

Listed below are some ‘beginner’ combinations to get you started – once you get a feel for it, you’ll know what works and what you like, so just experiment and have fun with it. Just remember to rotate your greens and don’t eat the same ones every day. There are many to choose from, so it isn’t hard to do.

1 cup berries (any kind), 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/4 inch fresh ginger, water

1/2 bunch lettuce, 1 cup strawberries, 2 bananas, water

2 big handfuls mixed baby greens, 1 pears, 1 mango, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 handful of spinach, 2 bananas, 1 apple, 1 cup water

1 cup spinach and 1 pear, 1 cup water

Once you’ve cut your teeth on these, start getting stuck into the chard, kale, choy sum, etc. You’ll love it!

Some more great recipes from Victoria Boutenko, can be found here.  There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to green smoothie goodness, and everyone has recipes to share so get googling!

Here are a few to get you started:

Akasha Retreat

2012 has well and truly begun, and one New Year’s Resolution we won’t be breaking is to continue to keep as fit and healthy as we possibly can.

With Christmas and New Year telling the classic story of annual overindulgence, I kickstarted the new year by eliminating all processed food from my diet for the month of January just to prove to myself that it could be done, and lo and behold it was actually LESS work and easier to maintain.

I ate no bread, no biscuits, no cakes, no pasta, nothing canned, or pre-prepared. If it wasn’t fresh, I didn’t eat it. And I learned how to replace sucrose with other healthier options like agave nectar, and glucose, and started making my own healthy sweet treats with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, coconut butter, and cocoa nibs.

Even better, the husband and 7 year old were LOVING everything I put in front of them. So now of course we can’t go back to our old ways and are making much more from scratch, and continue to source organic and local produce wherever possible.

We are still having our green smoothies every day, which we have been doing now since about September 2011, as it’s just become part of everyday life. The man of the house has taken over smoothie production and now makes enough to take a bottle each to work as well, instead of just starting the day at home with a big glass of green goodness. And you’d be surprised how many raw leafy greens you can get a kid to eat every single day, if you add some pineapple and dates along with your flaxseed, LSA, chia seeds and coconut oil!

Early in January I also decided it would be helpful to take a few days out to to unwind and de-stress, without distractions.  To focus on relaxation, pure and simple, the kind where you meditate, read a book, switch off your phone and just BE.  (If you’re anything like me, when you’re at home you feel compelled to finish the housework or gardening rather than curling up with a good book!)

So I booked us into the Akasha Retreat Centre  in Upper Beaconsfield, which as it turns out, overlooks almost the whole of Melbourne, perched high up on a hill, nestled in amongst huge gum trees.

We arrived on Friday morning and were welcomed by our host Theresa, whose skin and eyes simply glow in testament to the healthy lifestyle she promotes.

We were just in time for meditation, stretching and yoga, which was then followed by a delicious lunch on the terrace in the gorgeous summer sunshine, prepared with eggs straight from the Akasha hens, and loads of fresh homegrown organic veggies.

The afternoon was whiled away reading, chilling out,  a session in the ‘detox box’ sauna, then enjoying a fantastic massage from Theresa.

Before we knew it , it was time for dinner, and another wholesome meal, this time stir-fried vegies and tofu in a homemade satay sauce, with brown rice, and fresh fruit to follow.

The second day pretty much followed the same pattern as the first, but this time starting off with a fresh veggie juice, and then a delicious breakfast of brown rice muesli, bircher muesli, nut cream, yoghurt and fruit salad.

I then opted for a Reiki treatment, which had the nett effect of putting me into such a deep meditative state I may have accidentally snored (it was very ladylike, apparently).

Lunch included homemade zucchini soup, homemade bread (which drove us crazy with the gorgeous baking aroma all morning), hommus and salad, and dinner this time was an amazing gluten-free nut loaf, served with yogurt and mint, roasted vegies, as well as a side of homegrown corn and green beans. Each night Theresa would make us a ‘sleepytime’ tea to help unwind before bed.

All our meals were enjoyed outside on the terrace with magnificent views to Westernport Bay, French Island and Phillip Island on our left, and Portsea, Mornington and Port Phillip Bay to the right.  The sunsets were nothing short of spectacular, displaying colours and shades in an everchanging show as the sun sank further down, the vast sky full of fiery reds and soft pinks, dotted with silvery streaky clouds.

The resident four-legged friends also made us welcome, a gorgeous golden Retriever named Mishka, who joined us for meditation and yoga each morning, and Puss, the black fluffy man of the house who let everyone know he was the boss, but was so handsome you didn’t really mind. The Akasha goats provided light entertainment, especially when one wandered right up to the house and stuck his head through a hole in the hedge to eyeball us as we wrestled with a challenging jigsaw puzzle (another type of meditation which really worked for me!)

The weekend was a wonderful balm for the soul,  free of interruptions and schedules, no rushing from here to there, just taking time out to smell the roses. Or eucalyptus leaves in this case.