What better way to cool off in the middle of a summer heat wave than to have a milk shake for dinner? Or maybe two milk shakes? Well, substitute “green smoothie” for milk shake, and you’ve got a recipe for increasing your energy levels severalfold, reducing your body temperature by several degrees (it was 88ºF/31ºC here today), and jumpstarting weight loss, if that’s an issue for you. Plus, there is no way you’ll be hungry after drinking two of these (if you really need energy, you might as well drink the whole blender’s worth). Here’s how to make a simple and splendiferous green smoothie:
Buy some of those 49¢/pound bananas that are on sale so many places at this time of the year, along with a good quantity of greens (I used spinach, but you can also use lettuce, cilantro, parsley, any green leafy vegetable that you feel your blender can handle — but probably not kale — save your kale for salad or homemade veggie chips). Let them ripen until they have about as many spots as the bananas in the picture at right. Peel them and toss them in a ziplock bag, along with enough lemon juice to coat them (so they won’t turn brown without the peels). Then put your banana bag in the freezer.
When you are ready to make your smoothies, fill your blender half full with greens. Add three frozen bananas from your freezer bag. Then add two cups of water (filtered if you have it). Blend. And voila! You can see the results in my photo. My blender will make two tall glasses of smoothie, and no, it does NOT taste like spinach. It is as sweet as a vanilla milk shake.
Why do I call this an energy drink? If you’re a fan of Red Bull and other carbonated energy drinks, you know that they are always loaded with B vitamins. What do spinach and bananas have in them? Here is what you’re getting if you drink the entire recipe (the full contents of the blender, which I’m assuming contains 2 cups of raw spinach and 3 medium-sized bananas):
118% of your day’s worth of vitamin A
79% of your vitamin C
10% of your thiamin (vitamin B1)
21% of your riboflavin (vitamin B2)
14% of your niacin (vitamin B3)
12% of your pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
72% of your vitamin B6
48% of your folate
9% of your calcium
16% of your iron
36% of your magnesium
No, the B-vitamin content of your smoothies does not equal that of a small can of Red Bull, which has 100% of your niacin, 250% of your B6, 80% of your B12, and 50% of your pantothenic acid for the day. But the smoothie recipe still contains a fairly respectable level of B vitamins, and besides, it’s a trade off. Red Bull won’t give you any vitamin A or C to help strengthen your immune system, iron to stave off anemia (a potential cause of exhaustion), or magnesium to calm you and stave off the effects of stress. Red Bull won’t provide you with a meal’s worth of food or satiation. And Red Bull won’t give you 45% of your fiber for the day, as your green smoothies will. And nourishing your body is very important when you are trying to keep your energy levels up after they have been depleted by stress, depression, overwork, or other life demands.
Try a green smoothie and you’ll find out just how much of your normal hunger is true hunger and how much is your body’s way of crying out for green food.
Two caveats to keep in mind: spinach (like tomatoes) does have more nutrients if you cook it. But I’m not putting cooked spinach in my smoothies (if you try it and find that smoothies with cooked spinach are even more delicious, please let me know!). Also, bananas are fairly high in sugar, so if you need to monitor your sugar intake carefully, you’ll want to be careful with those bananas.