March 8, 2012

The Big Green

I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that 'green smoothies' have become somewhat of a trend lately, although I really think labeling a food as "trendy" is kind of an unusual concept. Either way, it's a good thing, since people's fascination with green smoothies often leads them to try one. And for most people, it's something new to them and sort of ends up being an easy and painless way to get some additional nutrients.

We've been making these for quite a while. I've tried lots of different ones, but this one is my absolute favorite.

Here's what you need to make 2 - 1 1/2 C. servings:
1 C. milk (or milk subsitute)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 T. peanut butter (or other nut butter)
2 T. flax, chia or hemp seeds (I was out of ALL these so there's none in the picture)
1/4 - 1/2 cup blueberries
1 large banana
1 T. barley grass powder
3 cups spinach
water (or ice) for desired consistency

Let me just note that ALL these measurements are pretty much approximate. I never measure any of it, except maybe the protein powder just because it comes with the scoop. I usually just throw it all in and it always tastes good.

I'm going guess that not everyone has used or even heard of barley grass powder.

Barley grass a very nutrient dense food made by soaking barley (Hordeum vulgare)  seeds until they sprout and the shoots reach a few inches tall. The blades are then dehydrated and ground into powder. A dose of barley grass powder is one of the most efficient ways to get nutrients because gram for gram, it contains a higher concentration of nutrients than nearly any other food.
Barley grass is an extraordinarily rich source of many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, although it does not, as sometimes claimed, contain absolutely all the nutrients needed for human health. The dried shoot is approximately 4% glutamic acid (needed for recharging antioxidants), 4% methionine (needed for the production of natural SAM-e), 3% vitamin C, 1% valine, and 1% calcium. A single tablespoon contains a day's supply of beta-carotene, betaine, biotin, boron, copper, iron, lutein, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. It also contains nutritionally significant amounts of alpha-linoleic acid, oryzanol, potassium, selenium, zinc, and the tocopherols that make up vitamin E. Barley grass doesn't contain every nutrient, but it comes closer than any other food. The medicinal action of the dried shoot is due to its content of hordenine, not to be confused with a plant chemical with a similar name that is implicated in celiac disease. (Source)
Good barley grass will smell very clean and fresh, like, well.....grass. I know people who actually mix it water and drink it straight-up first thing in the morning. I've tried it that way, and let me tell you, it was bad. I almost never gag, but I could barely keep it down. It was more of a texture didn't mix into the water as well as I'd hoped. Needless to say, I put it in my smoothies now, and it works perfectly in there. And it's crazy good for you. Double bonus.

I'm also just going to mention the protein powder...

I've tried a lot of protein powders. There are a LOT out there. And to know what you need, you actually have to put some time into learning about them. They all contain different concentrations of nutrients from different protein sources and then there's all kinds of different additives to watch for and consider.

My all time favorite for taste and protein content was Syntha-6. It was wonderful with just plain water, packed 22 grams of protein per serving and only 2 grams of sugars. But a closer look at the label shows lots of stuff I DON'T like in my protein: corn syrup solids, artificial flavors, artificial colors, sucralose (i.e. Splenda), and it's not non-GMO so chances are very high it contains all sorts of genetically modified junk. It also has 200 calories, which is a bit higher than I'd like.

Finding non-GMO protein without artificial additives is easier said than done. I once walked to into a GNC and asked for it and no one in the store had any clue what I was talking about. So for now I've settled on Spiru-Tein and I'm pretty happy with it. It's a tri-part protein comprised of pea, rice and soy. It tastes good, comes in a bunch of flavors, is non-GMO, and doesn't have all the artificial garbage in it that we don't need. There's 14 grams of protein per serving (not quite as high as I'd like), and it has 8 grams of sugars (higher than I'd like), but at least it's REAL sugar and not a fake substitute. And it also contains spirulina - an algae that is rich is protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and carotenoids. It's a great protein for daily use. For heavy workouts, an organic whey protein would probably be better, but I haven't found a reasonably priced one yet.

Back to the smoothie!

Simply combine all ingredients, except the spinach, in the blender.

When that's done, add the spinach.
Heap it up...the more spinach, the better :)

Blend everything together. Add water if needed to thin it out and get the spinach to mix in.

And there you have it! Amazingly delicious and healthy green smoothies.
Best part about these?...

My kids LOVE them (even with all that other stuff in there, they pretty much just taste like peanut butter).

And that is definitely a good thing :)


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