When we round the corners into seasons of celebrations of sugar, hot drinks (and cold, alcoholic ones!) we might feel the need to do some extra cleansing. We may feel this way because of a few things: either we are overdoing it by over-indulging, not getting enough sleep, eating too many big meals or attending too many parties. (Oh, the horror.)
But green drinks are only one way of doing that. I'd like to talk about my thoughts on these types of health foods.
The hype about green smoothies comes from the health benefits of getting nutrients from way more veggies/fruit than you could eat whole in one setting. Fans of the green smoothie love the ease and health boost that their morning drink provides and sing the praises of increased energy, weight loss, and overall improved health. Parents love that they can sneak more veggies into their children’s diets!
But not everyone thinks green drinks are ideal....
Critics of the green smoothie share the view that the oxalates (naturally-occurring) in some greens can contribute to kidney stones and worsen yeast overgrowth; goitrogens exacerbating thyroid issues; and fiber wreaking havoc for those with leaky gut, irritable bowel, and other digestive issues. Many believe that dark greens should mostly be consumed steamed and always with fat for optimal nutrient absorption.
Some proponents believe that fresh veggie juices are better than green smoothies, and of course the additional ingredients in each can be argued too.....there is also the issue of whether or not we would digest a green drink properly due to the missing fiber, as well as missing out on the act of chewing potentially lessening our digestive power.... it's confusing, so… what to believe?
Everybody’s got an opinion. Everyone has to choose what works for them, and let other folks do what works for them. This isn't something we need to argue about :)
But as for the facts, here’s what I know to be true…
//Too many raw veggies will damage digestion
//You need fat to absorb certain nutrients in foods (nutrient absorption works better when we have a fat in the meal)
//It is well documented that nutrients of a lot of vegetables are more easily absorbed by our digestive tract when cooked.
When we are feeling confused about certain foods or trends there is 2 things we can do:
1) check in with OUR body - does this feel right for us? Is our body in agreeance or not with this idea?
2) check in with history - is this traditional? Would my great-grandmother eat this?
In Traditional Chinese medicine, it has been known that too many raw fruits and veggies can damage digestion and lead to gas, bloating, poor absorption, depression, fatigue and more.
If our digestion is weakened over time this affects the nervous system, immune system, and adrenals.
Raw vegetables can give an element of cleansing – when taken in small amounts and/or seasonally, green smoothies, raw salads, and green juice can play a helpful and therapeutic role in the diet. This is assuming that the client does not already have digestive weakness.
What happens when we use nutrition for cleansing or aiding in the balancing of our symptoms is that it works great for a time, but then we tend to over-do it. It's all about balance, folks. There is a tipping point. There is the point where our protocol or ‘cleansing’ reaches the end of its benefits, and the raw foods or greens begin to contribute to depletion of our overall health.
My thoughts on green smoothies
I'm not about trends, at all, in fact I think they are kind of the pits. All show and no go, you know? They just don't work for everyone and hopping on a band wagon isn't very boss, and the truth is.... it could even be dangerous for you.
I am not at all a fan of blindly following a fad because “everyone” says it’s good for you or bad for you. That's just not how nutrition works.
Green smoothies aren't the way to balance out a bad diet, so adding them in if you live on donuts and fast food isn't going to work. If you have digestive issues or a health condition that will be made worse by consuming large amounts of raw veggies, consider avoiding green drinks long-term, and lightly steaming your greens first in other meals.
If you are going to be moderate about it and want to drink green smoothies and juice for a short-term cleansing or re-balancing, this is a very individual thing and must be experimented with (or get help and work with a Holistic Nutritionist), but most importantly looking for feedback from your body as to when you need less or more and if its working and feeling good at all. If it feels good, do it.
Learning to trust our body can guide us more and more, keeping us on track (whether it's a 'hot trend' or not) and that's why so much of my practice is focused on getting my clients' to learn about their body and its needs, and learning to listen!