If you follow my instagram feed, you may notice that I often post pictures of some of my cold-pressed juice and smoothie concoctions. What you may also know about me is that I study Ayurveda, the ancient philosophy of healing from India, which offers practical advice on every aspect of our lives, but specifically how we can be well so that we can live fulfilled, happy lives.
What does this have to do with green smoothies? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that green smoothies and green juices and juice cleanses are trendy and seen as the ultimate hip and skinny card everywhere from LA to Mumbai. Now, you may, by their very virtue of being green, consider green smoothies to be healthy. And I don’t blame you. I would. After all, they are jam-packed with fibrous green veggies, fresh fruit and immune boosting, antioxidant super foods. And all in a delicious blend of drinkable goodness. How on earth could your body not want to down that?
Well, according to Ayurveda, green smoothies may actually be impairing your health, not enhancing it. Here are a couple of things you may want to consider before you down your next green drink.
1. While your green smoothie may be full of nutrients, your body may not be able to absorb them.
This is partly dependent on the “quality” of the ingredients as well as the strength of your internal digestive fire or agni. Green smoothies tend to be served and drunk cold – many recipes call for chilled water, frozen fruit and ice, so they are cold in quality. Also, fibrous vegetables such as celery or broccoli as well as leafy greens such as kale and spinach can be dry and rough on the digestive system – they require more moistness to be digested – think about how delicious kale sautéed in olive or coconut oil is and how different it feels in your belly vs eating a piece of raw, fresh from the fridge kale. Further, fruit is sweet, and sweet things according to Ayurveda especially when cold, can also dampen our Agni or digestive fire. over time, if you have a weak digestive system to begin with, drinking cold, sweet green smoothies will impair your digestion and you will feel an increase of the cold, dry vata quality or dosha, which as it promotes a sense of unevenness or variability, can lead to a feeling of gas, bloating;as well as dryness of the skin, hair, brittleness of the nails and cracking of the joints.
2. Too much raw food can decrease your vitality or OJAS:
Many raw food enthusiasts can attest to the vitalising, energetic effects of eating only raw foods. It’s almost euphoric and to be honest, when I tried to “go raw” for some time, I felt some of that clarity and lightness. But over time, this can deplete not just our fat tissues but also deeper tissues that provide structure and stability to our bodies and minds from the inside out. In Ayurveda, we call this rooted sense of vitality Ojas. We’re talking literally about the marrow in our bones, our reproductive/ sexual tissue and our nerves. And we definitely don’t want to deplete our Ojas. We want to nourish it.
3. Green smoothies confuse our digestive system:
Our Agni likes simplicity, especially in a complicated world. Ayurvedic cleanses suggest that we go on a mono-diet of a simple rice/lentil soupy stew called khichadi. Meanwhile green smoothies are often chock full of various ingredients and fortified with super foods. Dense, heavy foods are hard for our bodies to make sense of. While the blending action does help with “pre-digestion” it is not the same as cooking fresh vegetables together in a light soup with warming spices, where they actually have time to meld their disparate qualities together and offer a more cohesive, nourishing meal for our bodies.
So, have I turned you off from green smoothies? That is not my intention! I love a green smoothie now and then, especially in the summer and also as a way to get in a dose of greens into my toddler.
Here are some Ayurvedic inspired tips to make your next green smoothie delicious, nutritious and digestible so that your unique body and mind feels alive, vital and grounded. I’ve also shared a recipe for my current favourite summer green smoothie.
Makeover your Green Smoothie:
1. Warm it up:
Keep ingredients at room temperature, or even use warm water, or a slightly warmed nut milk or whatever liquid you are using as a base.
2. Use fresh produce,
or as close to fresh ingredients as possible. (And ideally, of course, organic).
3. Spice it up:
Add lemon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom or cinnamon, all of which are warming in their quality and will help to “heat” up the other ingredients and so make them more digestible.
4. Minimize the sugar:
Use less fruit so you avoid the added dampening effects of the sweet taste. You’ll be surprised at how little sweet you need, when the ingredients are simple and delicious. FYI, raw honey is considered to have a “warming effect” according to ayurveda and if you do need a little bit of sweetness, this is the sweet I would recommend. I also like vanilla bean, and cinnamon both of which add a sweet flavour.
5. Keep it simple.
Use just a few veggies, maybe one type of fruit, and instead of filling up on the super foods, choose one and see how your body feels with it. Also notice how much more flavourful and interesting things taste when you don’t combine too much.
6. Get fatty:
Use a good fats for digestibility and slow absorption of the nutrients. Cold pressed coconut oil and avocado are nice options.
7. Become besties with your digestive system:
Get to know it intimately. Is it strong and fiery, or variable, or is it slow and consistent? If you have a fiery, fast digestion, chances are that you will be able to digest a green smoothie pretty easily. If your digestion however is slower, or more variable, you may need to amp up the warming herbs and also make a lighter, simpler concoction. Also, alternating warming, herbal teas, or just warm water, when you sip a smoothie, even in the summer may be a good thing for you to do to balance your system out more.
8. Consider the when and the where:
Everything in Ayurveda is connected to our larger environment. For example, would drinking a cool smoothie be better for you in the heat of the summer or on a wintry cold day? In the tropics or in rainy Ireland? Early in the morning, or later in the day, when the sun is stronger? You probably figured out the answer. Yes, summer in the tropics and later in the morning is probably the best time and place to drink a cool, green smoothie and to have more raw vegetables in our diet.
I have had to work hard to cultivate a stronger digestive fire or agni, which is why I pay such stringent attention to what and how I drink and eat. It’s pretty much essential for me to stay healthy.
On that note, here is my current favourite summer smoothie. I’ve also offered variations so you can switch it up. It is a delicious blend of mostly greens with some lemon / lime to help with digestion, ginger, and pear which is such a lovely summer fruit. You could also substitute with green apple, or other seasonal fruit of your choice. I chose spirulina as an additional “superfood” as it has amazing detoxifying and antioxidant benefits and is a good, easily absorbable source of iron. I also love how a little bit in a smoothie adds a nice ocean seaweed-y taste. Feel free to vary this recipe by cutting out the avocado if you find it to be too thick, using water instead of coconut water and even adding cinnamon or fresh mint leaves. Mostly, enjoy it, taste it and see how it feels in your belly.
Wave Rider: An Ayurvedic Summer Green Smoothie.
- 1 organic pear (or green apple, or even a delicious summer nectarine): sliced or diced
- 1 organic lime or lemon: peeled / squeeze in the juice
- 1/2 organic avocado: sliced or diced
- 6 – 8 organic spinach or 4 – 5 kale leaves
- 1 to 2 tsp spirulina 1 cup water or coconut water: in Canada, i use the Cocos Pure cans as i like their clean taste.
- 1 tsp cold pressed organic coconut oil
- 1/4″ grated organic ginger or ginger chunk (if you need a little more heat, add a bit more to taste)
- Optional: a pinch of cardamom powder and some bee pollen to sprinkle on top before drinking.
Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Add some more water if it is a bit too thick. Taste for sweetness, if needed, add a tiny bit of honey and enjoy this deliciousness a little later in the morning, when the sun is high. Namaste + Happy Summer and I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to the week. Insiya
ps. I found 2 great posts on the blogosphere discussing the same topic with a similar viewpoint and i wanted to share them. Check them out especially the first one as they provide some valuable background info.
From Mudita Institute in Byron Bay, Australia:
From Daily Ayurveda