Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Low Sugar Green Smoothie

If you think this looks weird, you should see the brown smoothies.
There's no question that smoothies have a lot of health benefits to offer. They increase the consumption of greens, which are rich in phytonutrients and combat inflammation. In addition, absorption of nutrients is increased over chewing a salad vs. drinking a smoothie. Per Dr. Fuhrman of Eat to Live fame, chewing a salad results in absorbing just 20% of the nutrients compared to the 95% absorbed from a smoothie.

However, there's a catch. In order to make these green smoothies palatable, especially to newcomers whose palates haven't been trained to like pureed celery and the like, recipes include copious amounts of sugar hidden in the form of fruit. Two Medjool dates seem like a great, healthy way to sweeten a smoothie right up until you read the label and see they have more total sugar than a Snickers candy bar or a can of Coke.

For most people, sweetening smoothies with high sugar fruits is probably okay and an improvement over what they were eating before. But for asthmatics, who have deranged insulin levels due to either current or long term steroid use, these smoothies will cause weight gain in the short term and diabetes in the long term same as any other high sugar food.

For me, the first red flag went up when I saw recipes with dates, mangoes and bananas. I had to wonder, how bad do these green smoothies taste that they require so much sugar? I couldn't eat that much fruit in its whole, un-pureed form without gaining weight. How was blending it into a smoothie going to work?

And I really wanted a smoothie, because I needed to increase my phytonutrient density as I healed from a bad asthma episode. The only question, could I make something I would be willing to ingest without adding a ton of sweeteners?

Happily the answer is yes and I share the recipe with you below.

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

Serves: 1 to 2 people (depending on the size of your appetite)

Prep Time: 10 minutes.

-1 1/2 cups spinach (organic as it's a high pesticide crop)
-1 cup water
-1 cup frozen wild blueberries ( I buy the Wyman's brand at Costco)
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. cocoa powder
-2 tbsps. ground flax seed ( I prefer the golden flax seed)
-1 tbsp. Stevia


1.Load ingredients into an ice-crushing blender in the following order: Spinach first, water second, blueberries third.

2.Blend, stopping to push down ingredients with a spoon to enhance blending.

3.Once everything is blended, add the cinnamon, cocoa powder, flax seed and stevia. Give it a whirl to incorporate the dry ingredients.

4.Serve and drink as soon as it's ready.

5. Clean containers immediately after use as flax seed dries like cement.

Note:The cinnamon and cocoa powder are included for both their health benefits and flavor notes. You see, the trick to enjoying a green smoothie is ensuring there's a taste at the forefront that beats out that of the greens. The first flavor note I taste with this smoothie is cocoa powder.

Here's a break down of the nutritional profile of this recipe:

Spinach: Reduces systemic inflammation and is especially good for inflammation in the gut (many asthmatics on steroids complain of heartburn, a sign of GI inflammation). Cancer protective.

Blueberries: Naturally sweet and low-glycemic (read: low in sugar) these berries contain more antioxidants than any other berry you can eat. The anti-oxidants of blueberries have system-wide effects, meaning they directly help the lungs.Improves cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and may improve blood sugar levels

Cinnamon: Improves blood sugar control. Lowers the glycemic impact of food consumed with the spice.

Cocoa Powder: Lowers blood pressure (which can go high while taking steroids) and improves cholesterol.

Flax Seed: Adds bulk to help keep you full longer. Excellent source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids and is anti-inflammatory. Full of fiber and cancer fighting ligands.

This was the only debate I could find in the smoothie community about the sugar content of smoothies. Read the comments to find the best nuggets of information.


  1. Thanks for sharing this article post. I was looking for something like this. Your articles have inspires me a lot. I have new idea about the same topics in my blog. Thanks 

  2. Wrong. Fruit does not contain refined, white sugar made in a chemical processing plant like that found in soda or candy.