My teachers in Ayurveda school made an extremely good case against smoothies: They are [often] cold, they contain too many ingredients, they [often] contain incompatible ingredients and this makes them difficult to digest -which means that they should be avoided. I admit, I had been occasionally sneaking smoothies of various kinds for years (especially cold, fruity ones in the hot Texas summers), but I had certainly not, like many people, been making them a regular part of my daily diet… until the past month when I started making a green smoothie for breakfast each morning. What?!?
I know, right? This sounds like a classic Prajnaparadha or “Crime Against Intelligence”, one of the 3 causes of disease in Ayurvedic theory. But after a month of using my green smoothie recipe, I think I may have shifted my blanket attitude about smoothies -for the time being at least. Contrary to what could have “theoretically” happened, I can report that I don’t have indigestion at all, I feel better generally and I certainly haven’t acquired a dreaded funky tongue coating that would indicate the presence of Ama, the toxic sludge that results from poor digestion.
It is, of course, probably that this is because the ingredients of my particular smoothie are just what my Pitta/Kapha body needs right now to balance residual heat and dampness from the Endless Summer of Central Texas and that in a few more weeks, my body may decide to tell me that it’s had enough green smoothie. It’s also probable that this particular smoothie would be a nightmare for another person (a high Vata constitution or someone with very low Agni) or someone in another climate -Austin is often warmer during the winter than the rest of the country. It’s also possible that using some Ayurvedic principles (shared below) I managed to concoct a reasonably digestible smoothie recipe.
General Rules for Making Smoothies More Digestible:
-Make sure they are room temperature. No ice, balance frozen fruit with non-frozen items, rinse cold greens in warm water bring them to room temp, add a touch of hot water, etc.
-Don’t add dairy (milk, yogurt, kefir) to your smoothie. I tried kefir and almond milk in my smoothie and neither gave me noticeable trouble, but they are best left out as per Ayurvedic Food Combining Rules. I found that using flax, chia seeds and coconut oil, I was able to create a nice creaminess.
-Don’t make your smoothie a Carb Bomb! Keep fruit low. I only use 1 cup of blueberry (and sometimes one apple) in my smoothies which are for two people. These are low glycemic fruits. Apple has lots of healthy pectin/fiber for the digestive system and helps with Liver and Gallbladder health and blueberries are a veritable super food, help with eyesight and cardiovascular health and also help balance insulin levels.
-Add fresh ginger and/or fresh turmeric root to help warm the smoothie and aid in digestion. They are also anti-inflammatory!
-Spinach and chard contain a phytonutrient called oxalic acid that binds to calcium and also give some people (like me) digestive trouble. Best to avoid them raw -cooking deactivates the oxalic acid. If one is hypothyroid, avoid large amounts of kale and other veggies from the Brassicaceae family as they can depress thyroid function.
Vivian’s Pitta/Kapha Balancing Green Smoothie (makes 2 generous servings):
1 cup blueberries
1 small apple (your choice of variety)
1/2 – 1 bunch of rinsed Dandelion greens (green or red)
2 leaves of Kale (rinsed in warm water, de-stemmed)
1/2 – 1 inch of raw ginger root
1/2 – 1 inch of raw turmeric root
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of powdered flax seed
1 tablespoon of chia seeds (powdered or soaked overnight in water)
1 scoop of organic Wheatgrass Juice Powder
1 tablespoon of powdered nettle leaf
1 teaspoon of Coconut oil
room temperature water
Directions: Soak the wheat grass juice powder and powdered nettle in 12 oz of water overnight (you can also add in and soak any other powdered herbs you take regularly, for instance I add some goji berries and shatavari). You can also soak the chia seeds in 12 oz of water overnight as well (or powder them in your dedicated herb/seed coffee grinder and toss into the smoothie). In the morning, just combine all the other ingredients into your blender and hit “play”. If the smoothie is still a little cold, add some warm water into the blender and re-mix.
Additional Benefits: As the recipe title states, this is a Pitta/Kapha Balancing Smoothie, which means that it is both cooling and drains excess dampness. Because it is super high in fiber, it is also bowel cleansing and promotes healthy elimination. The mega dose of dandelion greens, wheatgrass and nettle is great for balancing Pitta (cooling) and Kapha (drying) and also contains a good dose of iron for building blood. (If you use freeze-dried nettle -available online- the nettle will also have an antihistamine effect). Chlorophyll is also said to bind toxins and help ferry them out of the body. Flax and chia also help promote regular elimination which is important to detoxing the body. Flax and chia also contain inflammation-reducing Omega-3 fatty acids. Coconut oil is antiviral, boosts metabolism and supports the health of the cells that line the digestive tract. The fats in this smoothie also help give it a “smooth” texture and increase satiety so you feel full longer. Flax is also great for helping balance estrogen in the body, which is important for women, especially those who get PMS or have estrogen-excess conditions such as uterine fibroids.
Cautions and Contraindications: This smoothie may not be a great fit for a Vata-type person with delicate digestion who is prone to gas when consuming raw veggies/greens. It is also probably not recommended for someone in a cold winter climate. As with all things, it is best to consult with a qualified practitioner to find out what will work best for your body and it goes without saying that if you try this recipe and it does not agree with your body, do not keep using it!
Disclaimer: these recipes are not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. They are intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice.