Revenge of the Green Smoothie

Photo: Wootang01

Warning: this post contains mostly smoothie-related whining. However, if you hang in there, there is a bit of Actual Health Research at the end.

So I've written before about one of my favorite healthy beverages, the smoothie. And the way I used to make them, they were so pretty! They were either a mellow orangey-yellow (mango or peach); or a perky pink (strawberry or raspberry); or quite frequently, a jaunty purple (blueberry).

Then, like the rest of the health blog world, I discovered the Green Smoothie.

Oh joy! Full vegetable credit in a fruity, tasty drink! And it was still very pretty. My favorite recipe: a couple of cups of raw spinach, a cup of nonfat milk, a little yogurt, some sweetener, some frozen banana, the juice of a lime (which tastes "green" but in a good way), and voila! Tasty, lovely to look at, and it has a vegetable in it, hooray! I quickly became addicted.

But then one day I peeked into my freezer and saw the lonely bags of forgotten blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries staring up at me. They looked so sad and abandoned!

Oh dear.

I think of myself as someone who eats a lot of berries, blueberries in particular. They're so damn healthy, right? But I realized that it had been ages since I'd gotten around to having blueberries. I was no longer an actual healthy blueberry eater, just a blueberry poseur. How could I write blog posts exhorting others to eat blueberries to fight cancer and improve memory and fight belly fat, but not bother to do it very often myself?

Intending to remedy this terrible lapse, I threw some blueberries in my next smoothie, along with all the other ingredients. And sure enough, it tasted great!

The problem: it looked like some sort of toxic industrial sludge. Certainly not like a fruity beverage someone would drink on purpose. The hideous brownish gray color just screamed: "Don't drink this, it's gonna make you barf!"

Whoops. I'd forgotten those kindergarten lessons about primary colors: mix them all together and you get a big mess. It slipped my mind that Green=Blue + Yellow, and that Purple (the actual color of blueberries, despite the name) contains Red as well as Blue. Thus if you mix Purple and Green, you are combining Blue + Red + Yellow and that equals: Yecchhh.

So here's the dilemma: I now feel like it's a "waste" of a smoothie if I don't get vegetable credit, since I can so easily add spinach and not really taste it. But if I want to return to blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, I'm gonna have to learn to like a grayish brown beverage that scares the bejeesus out of me in the morning. What to do?

And yes, I fully understand that this is a ridiculous problem, especially in a world where people are starving and dying of awful diseases etc. I swear I will not be trying to set up a Save the Pretty Smoothie Foundation to fund research into this distressing aesthetic problem and asking you to contribute. But I did wonder, since the Green Smoothie movement seems to be sweeping the health blog world, what other folks are doing about red and purple produce problem. Is there some secret that allows Green and Purple to live together in harmony in a smoothie glass? Or is always gonna get ugly when they show up in a blender together?

"My antioxidants are way better than yours!"
"Says who? You suck!"
Pascal Vuylsteker

In Other Beverage News Oh, and I did promise some health research, didn't I? And it's even kind of related, at least if you are like me and use milk in your smoothies.

(Although I realize most people don't use milk in green smoothies, at least if you google "green smoothie recipes." Perhaps because raw food vegans are the source of a lot of collections of green smoothie recipes?)

Anyway, so a study just came out linking milk-drinking and longevity. And the summary is short on details, but it doesn't look as though they were looking at nonfat or lowfat milk in particular. Which seems kinda weird, given all the stuff we hear about saturated fats. (I go for nonfat myself). The only risk milk seemed to increase was prostate cancer, while it lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

And then that milk study led me to another one listed nearby from a couple years ago that said drinking milk helps you gain muscle and lose fat. Which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

I know lots of folks steer clear of milk because of digestive issues or because of a vegan diet or whatever. But being lazy, I find milk to be a quick easy source of calcium and protein, and I drink a lot of it. So I have to confess I didn't have a lot of incentive to go chase down the particulars of the research and argue with them. But other actual scientists with access to the full study might have more helpful things to say about it.

So does anyone else struggle with foods that are good for you but look funny? Or have any magic solutions to my Green + Red = Brown problem?

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