Green Smoothies? Get Hooked on Phytonutrients!

Without specific knowledge of their cellular actions or mechanisms, phytochemicals have been considered as drugs for millennia. For example, Hippocrates may have prescribed willow tree leaves to abate fever. Salicin, having anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, was originally extracted from the bark of the white willow tree and later synthetically produced became the staple over-the-counter drug aspirin.

Have you ever tried a green smoothie ?

A few years ago, I tasted my first one. It was delicious! Around the same time, a friend bought me a book, called Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenko. I put the book on a shelf and did not pick it up again (or drink another green smoothie) until a few years later. I’m really glad I finally did!

I now make green smoothies a part of my plant based diet and healthy lifestyle. The source of this blog information is the book I read, Green for Life, and my personal experience.

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Our Cousin the Chimp

The animals most similar in genetic makeup to humans are chimpanzees, who share more than 99% of the same genes. So, it makes sense to consider what foods eat: 25-50 % greens and about 50 % fruit.

By contrast, more than half of the standard American diet is simple carbohydrates (e.g. bread and white rice) and animal-based foods (e.g.beef and chicken). Greens and fruit comprise less than 10% of the SAD, compared with 75 to nearly 100 % of the chimps diet

Does it make sense that we are so similar biologically, but our diets are so radically different? Absolutely not!

A Solution: Green Smoothies!

What is a green smoothie ? It is a blended drink containing green leafy vegetables and fruit.

Combining fruits and greens in a smoothie each day can help solve the problem of not getting in enough fruits and vegetables every day. It is a source of multiple servings of fruits and veggies every day that doesn’t force you to chew all day long! Why green leafy veggies and fruits? Because they are loaded with more nutrients, including fiber, than any other food on the planet! Contrary to popular belief, they are also a great source of protein !

Here are some of the experiences documented in the book, Green for Life, that people have felt after 30 days of green smoothies:

  • More energy
  • Less desire for other foods, including junk foods and animal based foods
  • Less cravings
  • Sleep better
  • Weight loss
  • More regular bowel movements

I have personally experienced several of these benefits within only a few weeks! I’m hooked because they are really delicious, and I have more energy and less junk food cravings when I drink them.

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A Healthy Diet for Vegan, Veggitarian and Pescatarian Athletes

It’s a common misconception that people who regularly spend many hours doing intense, energy-draining workouts need a massive amount of animal protein to stay strong and healthy. Just look at the connection between the paleo and CrossFit communities!  However, it is important to remember that not every body is the same. A diet high in animal protein may give some athletes the energy they need to keep going at the gym, but others will thrive just as well on a vegan diet.

To stay in top shape, athletes need a diet high in protein and carbohydrates. Your body used the carbohydrates to fuel your workout and the protein to retain muscle mass and aid the recovery process post-workout. Of course, this could mean eating a slice of toast before you hit the gym and a juicy steak afterward, but it doesn’t have to. Vegans can also sufficiently refuel their bodies pos-workout with plant-based proteins.

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It’s also a common misperception that green vegetables contain no protein. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the following vegetables have high protein content and are an excellent choice for a post-workout meal.

Protein content in vegetables (3 cups of each)

  • Broccoli rabe – 15 grams
  • Spinach – 15 grams
  • Asparagus – 12 grams
  • Bok Choy – 9 grams
  • Swiss Chard – 9 grams

Making a spinach smoothie or stir-frying some broccoli rabe or asparagus with a healthy grain after a hard workout will keep athletes in great shape. There are also several beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains you can add to your post-workout meal for protein and to satisfy your appetite.

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Protein content in beans, nuts, seeds and grains

  • Tofu (1/2 block) – 22.5 grams
  • Tempeh (1/2 block) 20 grams
  • Lentils (1 cup, cooked) – 18 grams
  • Edamame (1 cup) – 17 grams
  • Oats (1/2 cup dry) – 13 grams
  • Pumpkin Seeds (1/4 cup) – 8.5 grams

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Compare this to how much protein is typically found in meat and animal products:

Protein in Animal Products

  • ½ fillet of Salmon – 39 grams
  • 1 cup of chicken meat – 35 grams
  • 3 ounces of steak – 20 grams
  • 1 ounce of cheddar cheese – 7 grams
  • 1 hard boiled egg – 6 grams
Salmon and Arugula Wrap

Salmon and Arugula Wrap

Athletes who follow a diet heavy in animal products are likely to ingest more protein in a smaller portion of food. Vegan athletes simply need to eat a larger quantity of plants at each sitting.  For example 3 cups of spinach and a ½ block of tofu contain about as much protein ½ of a salmon filet.

It’s also important to remember that in the case of protein, more is not always better. On average, a serious athlete needs about .6 times their body weight in grams of protein per day. This means a marathon runner weighing in at 150 pounds needs and average of 90 grams of protein per day to stay in competing shape. For a vegan athlete, a typical daily menu could look like this:

Breakfast

Tofu scramble with ½ block tofu and 1.5 cups of spinach – 30 grams protein

Lunch

1 cup of lentils with 2 cups of broccoli rabe – 22 grams

Afternoon Snack

¼ cup pumpkins seeds – 8.5 grams

Dinner

½ block of tempeh with 1 cup of bok choy – 29 grams

Of course, most athletes will need more calories than this and should be adding other vegetables and whole grains into their meals, as well. An athlete who eats a lot of animal protein will easily go over 90 grams per day, in which case the excess protein is processed and excreted. Your body isn’t able to store excess protein in the body for later use.

It is completely possible for highly active and competitive athletes to survive and thrive on a plant-based diet. If you are an athlete and find that you feel better when you don’t eat animal products, experimenting with a vegan diet could be the answer!