10 Recipes for a Green St. Pat’s; Sounding Off About Green Smoothies at Our Hen House
March 17, 2012

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Every year on St. Pat’s day, people who aren’t busy enjoying green beer at bars across the nation busy themselves instead with preparing green food: green cookies, green cakes, green muffins, and so on. Here at Choosing Raw, I like to think we eat green food year round, but not the kind of green that comes from a bottle of food coloring. Instead, we share our passion and enthusiasm for food that’s eco-conscious, friendly to animals, and brimming with fresh vegetables. But because this is a day for green coloring, as well as green living, here are ten of my favorite festive recipes for the holiday!

1) Chocolate Covered Kale Chips

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Celery, Banana, and Pineapple Smoothie:

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Green Guac

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Wall of Green Soup

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Chlorella Chia Pudding

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Peaches n’ Green Smoothie

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Green Eggs and Hmmm

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Easy Green Quinoa Bowl

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Cool as a Cucumber Guac

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And even though it’s not totally green, vegan colcannon!!!

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Enjoy!!!

And since two of my favorite green smoothies are featured above, I wanted to let you all know that I’m sounding off about the now infamous “green smoothie” controversy in this week’s Our Hen House podcast with Jasmin and Marianne! As many of you know, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and the Engine 2 / China Study crew recently came out against green smoothies on the grounds that blending reduces the nutrition of the smoothies and encourages a massive sugar spike. They also claim that the fact that we aren’t burning calories through chewing when we sip a drink for a meal is a bad thing. (If you’re confused, so am I—as a doctor friend of mine recently said, unless you’re chewing a sledgehammer, you’re not burning enough calories through the act of eating to be significant, and even if you were, how many calories you do or don’t burn eating something has nothing to do with how nutritious it is.)

As you’ll hear in the podcast, my ultimate thought is that we don’t have enough peer-reviewed scientific studies to support this claim; to me, anyway, it sounds like a hypothesis at this point. It may be a hypothesis that the Engine 2 folks are in the process of researching and testing—and that’s just fine—but not one we ought to assume is true yet.

For more on this, and on being a savvy consumer of nutrition news, check the podcast out! You’ll also get to hear the wonderful Marc Bekoff speaking about animals, and the ladies giving their usual zippy and brilliant banter. Check out the site here, or the iTunes download (free!) here.

Happy Saturday,

xo

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    31 Comments
  1. I’m still catching up on posts but wanted to share my views on smoothies, which are similar to the others here. Truthfully, I was pissed when I first read the post. Then the scientist in me kicked in and I started thinking about it from that standpoint rather than an emotional, I love my smoothie one. I actually wrote a whole post about it because so many friends e-mailed/messaged questions.

    Basically, my thoughts boil down to this. I feel like the same argument used in favor of juicing and smoothies can also be used against them, as in this case. Specifically, the idea that you get nutrients more quickly can be either a good thing or a bad one depending on what those nutrients are (sugar even from fruit vs vitamins and minerals). Smoothies also CAN be total calorie bombs, especially for those of us who are volume eaters and easily down a 32oz green smoothie without feeling fully full (true story). I “cautioned” readers to be mindful of their smoothie ingredients and blend away!

    As a result of the controversy, I slightly tweaked my morning smoothie and cut down on the amount of fruit in it while increasing the greens. I try to follow Kris Carr’s recommendation of a 3:1 veggie: fruit (+carrots and beets) ratio. It is by no means an “intro” smoothie because it tastes, well, green, but I love it!

    Finally, I think its important to note that HH agreed in her original article that any greens are better than no greens. No one is arguing that!

  2. I haven’t listened to the podcast episode yet, Gena, but I was part of the Twitter Chat with Dr. Greger, you and Julieanna Hever when this whole thing broke out. I fall into the camp that there is no evidence that blending greens makes them any less healthful. In fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite that the process of blending can help improve digestion of the healthful compounds in greens. That being said, smoothies in general can be a problem if people are using too many fruits and if they have issues with blood sugar. The idea of a green smoothie is to use a minimal amount of fruit simply to make the greens more palatable. I don’t know how this type of thing will be able to be studied, but so far there’s no evidence that supports the argument that green smoothies aren’t incredibly healthy.

  3. Great job on the podcast – and I think it makes sense that we should wait until there is some more evidence to support this “smoothie controversy”. You mention “Medline” – what other sources do you find are the best for solid empirical information on nutrition?

    • Sarah,

      That’s really the most comprehensive, in that it aggregates so many different studies. But I sometimes also search chemistry journals when I want very particular information about a phytonutrient or vitamin.

      G

  4. I’ll take one of each green food please! I try to focus on greenhealthy foods on St Paddy’s rather than Irish meals for the most part. The only Irish meal in my in-laws family that is vegan is baked turnip. Ick.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the green smoothie debate. I think for the average person, green smoothies are great and very healthy. I have become more aware of sugars and digestion lately and I have read and heard from my doctors that whole fruits versus blended and juiced ones have different effects on candida. So think people need to tailor health advice to different conditions and not just make blanket statements about what is healthy for everyone.

  5. I was really disappointed to hear the “smoothie controversy” – the team lost credibility in my eyes and I think it hurts their message (which is usually a great message!). I think being a smart consumer is very important with so much misinformation these days, really doing your research and critically thinking through what you hear is so important. Know what you believe and why.

  6. My husband and I started drinking green smoothies during a “Clean” program (Dr. Junger). We’ve come up with a combination of 1 apple, 1 pear, celery stalks, 2 tbsp of hemp and flax, 2 tsp. of chlorella, 2 cups of spinach and a cup of berries in our smoothies. The smoothies have revolutionized my morning energy levels. I teach a Mysore Ashtanga yoga program which means a 5:30am wake up and 6:30-9am teaching. The green smoothie is awesome – I can sip it slowly while teaching and have energy to do my own yoga practice at the end. Like many others, I’ve been told that my skin glows and my husband lost weight since doing this. If I only eat oatmeal I get hungry more quickly. I will also mention one thing about “blending” vs “chewing-” in Super Immunity, Joel Furhman mentions that certain vegetables like kale (I forget which others) release their antioxidants when chopped up very small or blended…so I don’t think that the “blending is bad” argument holds true for all vegetables.

  7. I have decided to steer clear of this controversy for obvious reasons! We really just don’t know, and there are so many reasons that I can see that would support the drinking of green smoothies that someone would have to present me with real hard evidence that they are bad for us. But, I probably would have said the same thing ten years ago about olive oil . . . so I will always keep an open mind!

  8. You’re vegan colcannon is amazing. It’s become my go-to comfort food. My boyfriend is also addicted. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  9. I’ve yet to listen to this week’s OHH podcast (I like to save them for commutes between to/from campus during the week) but I’m very glad you weighed in on the green smoothie issue! I’ve been wondering about it since the VegNews twitter chat.

  10. Funny, gotta love a controversy! I kind of feel like if people are actually talking about green smoothies and not Paris Hilton or whoever it is now, then, it’s dialogue!! Really the green smoothie info isn’t new, it is just that HH is so popular and she dispersed the information to a massive group of people who ordinarily would not have had it. I totally eat a ton of calories in my smoothies and won’t quit them now……however, I have genetic heart disease in my family, so I do keep tabs on all those “heart markers” but while they look good and everything is in check, I am not worried about fructose that actually comes in fruit. Tim Van Orden talked about the fructose thing a bit and he had read studies about how it is different than isolating the fructose. I am thinking if one has heart disease they are treating with diet, it’s probably prudent to avoid blended fruits. But for the 98% of us (even if we have heart disease) we would be eating something worse. So just the “reality” of the situation is that we all aren’t going to choose between broccoli and a banana kale smoothie. More likely people will choose between dunkin donuts and a smoothie. I’ll take the smoothie!!!

  11. What a festive selection of dishes, they all look so good! As for green smoothies, I just don’t see how their nutritional benefits can be outweighed, but it will be interesting to see what further research shows!

  12. Lovely selection and tantalizing photos!

    I think there are some studies that show that chewing food enhances satiation and that crunchier foods are more weight-loss-enhancing than soft foods.

    However, a mistake I often make myself that I think those guys are making is to confuse recommendations for weight loss with recommendations for the general population (those two sets are not in complete intersection, no matter the gnashing of teeth over the obesity epidemic!) There are people with leaky gut or all other kinds of digestive issues, for whom breaking down the fiber and breaking the food into small particles with a bigger surface area is a way to enable some necessary absorption to happen at all. I know I go through phases of shunning my blender and crunching everything because I think it’ll help me be skinnier, but I always end up going back to the smoothies because I do have celiac/leaky gut/etc, and sometimes that’s the only way I can digest something.

    That said, that old dictum of “eat your juice and drink your food” does seem to me to apply to smoothies. I think I’m very sensitive to how many calories are in a bite of food or drink, and take it in accordingly, but I’ve seen people gulp down a 500 calorie smoothie as if it were a glass of water. Aside from the fact that I can’t take 500 calories in one go, if I did that, it would come straight back up! Not saying that what works for me must be right, but I think that if people were really cognizant of the fact that they’re taking in nutrition when they drink a smoothie, and really take time over it, there’d be no problem with spiking or anything. I know you recommend that too, Gena–and making thick, pudding-like smoothies definitely helps.
    love
    Ela

  13. I hadn’t heard of this, but I do agree that not all green smoothies can be put in one pile. Mine are properly combined (I don’t use dairy or nut milks etc) and I don’t use a lot of fruit. I also make sure to “chew” each mouthful and I find that a green smoothie really fills me up. I think I will happily keep on blending! Thanks for alerting us to this though – always good to rethink habits to keep us conscious as to what we’re eating and how.

  14. Yeah…I’m not giving up on my green smoothie. When I’m working in the kitchen, there is not an easier way for me to stay both energized and hydrated! I can take sips out of my travel mug over the course of my shift without missing a beat to chew through a pile of the same contents unblended. Maybe it is easier to consume more calories with less effort on my behalf, but sometimes that is actually a good thing to keep from crashing!!

  15. What a delicious collection of recipes!!
    It’s interesting that you mention that theory about sipping Calories. I have a nutrition professor who seems to hold a similar opinion–she opposes having a smoothie place on campus because she prefers for students to actually eat their Calories. I am confused by this standpoint–the way I see it, the average American fails to get even 2 servings of fruit per day, so who cares whether it’s in sippable or chewable form?

    • I can never decide what people mean by this. Do they mean, “it’s easy to get too many calories by accident through a straw?” If so, well sure, it is, and that’s why people like you and me share healthy smoothie recipes that don’t involve Haagen-Daaz.

      If the argument is, “blending somehow biochemically alters your food,” well then, I’d like to see a few more studies to precisely that effect, because it’s quite surprising news to me.

      And if the argument is simply “eat foods in whole form,” I think that’s a point where devotion to whole foods has reached pure superstition. It reminds me of the “hygienist” movement in raw foodism, and echoes some of the current crazy for “caveman-style” eating. Unless there is scientific proof that blending is harmful, I’m not going to not drink a smoothie simply because it’s as “natural” as eating a banana, picked from the tree. It’s the nutrition from the banana that matters most, as you say, not the form. As long as we don’t degrade the food’s quality to make it palatable (especially to SAD eaters), let’s do all we can to make it appealing!

      • Gena, on that note, I would love to hear your thoughts on the caveman/ Paleo craze. It seems to be everywhere!
        in terms of the whole sugar high issue with smoothies, I am a Type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump and i can say that my plant-based diet in general is great for sugar control, but my husband and I always say that the biggest improvment came when we started having a green smoothie for breakfast. it just kept my sugar stable throughout the morning, whereas other healthy but carb based breakfasts like oatmeal always created a spike. a smoothie is like a balanced meal in a glass if you use healthy components. love it!

      • I couldn’t agree more w/ you on this one, Gena. I heard re. the controversy a couple of months ago when a vegan blogger proclaimed she would no longer consume smoothies due to this new “finding.” I thought his statement sounded absurd for the same reason you cite – how can the mere form of the foods consumed impact the nutritional value? After all, it’s the same composition and that matter is not being altered in anyway (i.e. by heat, for example.)

  16. I agree with Jennie. I start out the day with a green smoothie that includes several big handfuls of spinach. Even if it turns out that the nutrition is slightly less effective once it’s blended it is still way better than not having it at all; there is no way I would sit down to breakfast every morning with a towering pile of spinach on my plate. I’ll keep blending! 🙂

  17. Although I am always grateful to hear viewpoints, and read experts’ view on certain matters, including nutrition, I don’t think I will ever change my mind about green smoothies. When I drank them regularly — sometimes twice a day — I noticed a huge spike in my energy, my skin was clear and glowing, and I have never seen my eyes look so bright. I felt happier, lighter, healthier. How can consuming 2-4 cups of spinach a day, be bad? Now, I drink them 4 times a week, due to the fact that I’m much busier in the mornings (yes, even too busy to get out the blender! haha)

    I can see if your green smoothie was… say… a cup of spinach, a banana, a cup of berries plus cocoa powder and agave… yes, that would cause a sugar spike and resulting crash. But a smoothie with 3 cups of spinach, a cup of cherries, hemp seeds, unsweetened almond milk and maybe 1/2 an avocado? That is healthy and nutrient dense and it seems to me that would *give* energy — long-lasting, consistent energy, without a crash.

    Very interesting though, and I’m anxious to see if they do any hard research on their hypothesis.

  18. I haven’t listened to the podcast, but did you mean hypothesis instead of theory? Assuming you are using the scientific not popular definition of theory.

    • As I wrote it, I was actually writing with the popular definition in mind. But I think you’re right to say that the scientific meaning is more apt here. Edited accordingly.

  19. Thanks for the great recipe ideas! I’m really not big on the St. Patty’s bar scene thing so I’m going to be spending time at home with my new, adopted dog and drink a kale smoothie. I think I might try the chocolate kale chips. I’m a little nervous but I’m learning to really love kale. Green smoothies give me so much more energy than coffee! (that being said I just had a cup of coffee) Now I’m just rambling, sorry 🙂

  20. Wait what? I thought blending up my smoothies made them easier for me to digest? Isn’t that the whole reason we chew? Now I’m confused!!

    • Everyone is confused. If the point is, drink lower sugar smoothies and be aware that it’s easy to get too many calories when you drink from a straw, great. That’s true. Not many of my readers are making smoothies from ice cream and 6 bananas, so I’m not overly worried about the sugar!

      If the point is to claim that blending does unique biochemical things to fruit and greens…well then, I want a few more studies.