It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the green smoothie. Adding more greens to your diet is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. Chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, antioxidants and more, greens are the shining star of your green smoothies and can help protect you from cancer, arthritis, heart disease, dementia and can even slow down your bodies aging process. Yet, when drinking green smoothies day after day, there is something you need to be aware of called “alkaloid buildup.”
All leafy greens contain alkaloids. Small amounts of toxins occur naturally in every leafy green (a defense mechanism for predators—you know, scary bunny rabbits and caterpillars). Tiny amounts of alkaloids cannot hurt you and may even strengthen the immune system. However, if you keep consuming the same leafy green for weeks on end, eventually the same types of alkaloids can build up in your body and cause unwanted symptoms of poisoning.
HELP! I’ve Never Rotated My Greens!
Settle down. There aren’t any stories making the evening news of people who are poisoning themselves with green smoothies. Sometimes I think people create controversy over healthy eating in general (when they should really be focusing on the people eating Big Macs day after day) which can create fear where it isn’t needed. Don’t sweat rotating your greens too much as alkaloid build up is rare and wouldn’t be something to send you to the doctor’s office. This is simply information to be aware of and as long as you are consciously rotating your greens from now on, you will be fine.
How Often Should I Rotate Greens?
Start by rotating your greens on a weekly basis. One week you might buy kale, the next you might buy spinach. Once you get the hang of it and want to make green smoothies a habit, (I know you will love them as much as us!) start rotating 2-3 greens per week. One week you might use spinach and kale the next week chard and romaine.
Leafy greens come from different “families.” Each family has their own DNA and minor amount of toxins. By eating from different families, you are eliminating toxin build up as well as getting varied nutrients from each. You can rotate however you see fit, I choose to use 2 or so different greens each week.
To help you get started in mixing up your greens, here is a list of greens separated into family groups:
Spinach: A staple in most green smoothies, it’s a great starter green since it is classified as one of the “5 magic vegetables” leaving little to no taste when added to a green smoothie. It’s health benefits include cancer prevention, lowers blood pressure, asthma prevention, strengthens bones, improved vision, skin smoothing, reduces inflammation and more.
Chard: Chard is a colorful leaf which may have abilities to help stabilize blood sugar levels and may provide special benefits in the diets of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.
Beet greens: The last time you bought beets, did you think to save the greens? Not many people do, but by throwing them away you are missing out on many nutrients. Besides being a good source of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Studies have also shown the vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties, helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach, and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.
Parsley: Used more than just a garnish, parsley is among some of the foods containing the highest concentration of myricetin (per 100 grams), a flavonol shown to have chemopreventive effects on skin cancer. Parsley is rich in many vitamins, including vitamin C, B 12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system.
Cilantro: Cilantro is good in more than just your guacamole. It has been found to suppress lead accumulation in rats, which gives promise for the use of cilantro to combat lead and other heavy metal toxicity. In addition, it has also been found to have an antibacterial effect against Salmonella making cilantro a great detoxifier.
Celery: Despite it being made up of mostly water, celery provides a fair amount of dietary fiber. Celery is also rich in vitamin K and contains folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C. It can have a potentially potent flavor in smoothies, so make sure to use only a little bit and balance it out with a fruit.
Carrot tops: When you buy carrots, do not throw out the greens! Carrot tops are filled with chlorophyll, shown to fight against tumor growth and acts as a cleansing agent. To lessen the bitterness of their flavor, add a banana or two.
Romaine: Not typically thought of as a nutrient powerhouse, romaine lettuce has some heart healthy properties. It contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help prevent build up on artery walls and help lower cholesterol.
Dandelion greens: A serving of dandelion greens will give you near the amount of calcium as milk without having to touch dairy as well as other vitamins and nutrients. Bitter in taste, use a banana to help cancel it out.
Others in this family include butterhead, loose-leaf and crisp-head lettuce.
Kale: It’s no surprise that kale has been ranked as one of the world’s healthiest foods. One cup of kale packs 3 grams of protein and over 1000% more calcium than a cup of cooked spinach. You will most likely see either curly kale, lacianto, or red russian kale at your local store. Try them all, but start with only 1-2 leaves to your smoothies until you get used to the taste.
Collards: Maintaining a high intake of cruciferous vegetables has consistently been associated with lower cancer risks. High in vitamins A, C, calcium, iron, protein and fiber this green is not one that you want to miss out on.
Cabbage: Both the green and red cabbage made the “5 magic vegetables” list making them a great choice to add to your green smoothies. It’s another diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer fighter.
Bok choy: Also knows as “Chinese cabbage,” bok choy is best bought in the winter months. It’s taste is pretty mild and is wonderful in soups and mango pudding as well as your green smoothies.
Although pretty spicy in flavor, arugula, turnip greens, and mustard greens are also in this family and can be added to green smoothies in small amounts if you don’t mind the taste.
Spirulina – The “Other” Green
If you really want to take your green smoothies to the next level, try adding some Spirulina. Technically not a green that you would find growing in your garden, this blue-green microalgae is found in warm, fresh water bodies. It comes in a powdered form and is the world’s first superfood, and one of the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth.
Spirulina has between 55 and 70% protein (more than beef, chicken, and soybeans), 8 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids, as well as high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nucleic acids RNA & DNA, chlorophyll. It helps improve the immune system, and provides exceptional support for the heart, liver, and kidneys. Spirulina is also a natural detoxifier, oxygenates the blood, and helps cleanse the body of toxins and other impurities that may be causing illnesses or other health complications.
Green smoothies can help change your health in extraordinary ways. I’d love to hear about your green smoothie praises or challenges and help you embrace the green smoothie habit.
Until next time, keep it real.
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