We’re not fans of juices and smoothies around here (even ones made from organic veggies and fruit).
What? No post-yoga juice fix?
What’s wrong with us?!
It’s not that we never do it (though I think the last time was two years ago). And it’s not that it’s the worst (way better than soda, gatorade or other artificially colored and flavored drinks, for instance).
But here’s the thing. Most juices and smoothies have crazy-high sugar and carb loads; roller-coaster effects on insulin, blood glucose and energy levels; and a tendency to promote weight gain.
Even if you reduce sugar and carbs by omitting the fruit and going all green (meaning, NO apple or coconut water either), they can still impede digestion through their effect on stomach pH.
Misguided alkaline myths aside, our stomach needs to be acidic enough to properly digest food and prevent bloating, malabsorption and acid reflux.
This is no surprise from a Chinese Medicine perspective, which has long cautioned against eating too many raw, cold foods.
We see smoothies and juices as impairing digestion and metabolism, weakening the digestive organs, and promoting “damp” accumulation” in the body. “Damp” can take many forms, including excess weight gain.
This isn’t to say you should never, ever have your beloved green drink. But think of it as a treat. And make it a once-or-twice-a-week indulgence.
When you do indulge, you can minimize the fall-out by following these tips:
1. Stick to veggies and skip the fruit, apple juice and coconut water.
2. Add ginger, cinnamon and/or cardamom to facilitate digestion and counter all the “cold-natured” stuff. You could add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime too.
3. Add a spoonful of healthy fat, such as coconut oil, to facilitate absorption of nutrients (which aren’t very “bioavailable” when consumed in the form of a big, acid-diluting green drink).
4. Avoid having juices and smoothies near meals (doing so will impair your ability to digest them…and likely result in bloating or sluggish energy levels).
Want a better, healthier option?
Cook your greens to optimize their healing potential.
I love knowing we’ve gotten our “green fix” for the day, especially during hotter months. But drinking a raw green drink, while tasty, nearly always leaves me with stomach cramps, bloating and low energy.
So I cook our greens, turning them into something much easier on the digestion and much more bioavailable when it comes to accessing and making use of valuable nutrients.
Don’t worry—these “cooked green drinks” are still brilliantly colored and crazy-delicious.
How does “cooking your green drink” work? It’s super-simple and super-fast (maybe faster than waiting in the juice line).
1. Heat a heaping spoonful of ghee or coconut oil in a large stock pot, then add a heaping handful of chopped onions and sauté until soft and slightly golden (at least a few minutes, often 7-ish minutes or more—just don’t burn them).
Around minute 5 or so, you can throw in some finely chopped garlic and ginger too.
(If you want to get fancy, sprinkle cumin, coriander or other spices into the heated oil 30 seconds before adding the onions, garlic and ginger.)
2. While the onions, garlic and ginger are sautéing, roughly chop your featured veggies (and/or fruits) of choice. For the fennel-apple-ginger-chard soup above, this meant 2 fennel bulbs (and a bit of the stalks), a whack of green chard, and a few slices of Granny Smith apple.
3. Once the onions are soft and slightly golden, dump in the chopped veggies and/or fruits. Add a cup or so of water or simple soup stock (making sure it’s sugar-free), along with a sprinkle of any additional spices that strike your fancy. For the soup pictured, I added cumin and fresh thyme leaves.
Sometimes I’ll add a splash of coconut aminos too—but the whether and when of that is pretty random. Oh, and I generally add sea salt and cracked pepper just before eating, but you could do so during the cooking process instead.
4. Bring everything to a near-boil, then immediately reduce to very low, cover the pot, and let your creation simmer. How long depends on what’s in the pot—the idea is to have your veggies slightly soft but not total mush, and some take longer than others. I just check on them every few minutes, stirring everything around and making sure there’s enough liquid (if not, I add a little water).
5. Once cooking seems complete, (carefully) dump the contents of the pot into a blender (we use a Vitamix) and puree until your soup reaches desired consistency.
You can add more water or broth at this point if the soup isn’t thin enough for you. (I like mine so thick and clumpy, I could eat it with a fork.) Another optional addition is full-fat, organic coconut milk.
You could of course get creative with veggie selection—collards are my current go-to. Whatever you choose, please tell us about it in the comments!