Most people normally add spinach to their smoothies, but did you know that there are a variety of leafy greens for smoothies and juices that you can use to increase nutrient variety, day in, day out!? It is good to vary your greens so that you can benefit from the different nutrient profiles of each lettuce, and so that you don’t over do it on one nutrient while missing out on another.
For beginners, I would suggest using around 2 cups of any of these greens, raw, per smoothie or juice. Once you have worked up to handling this amount, I would recommend increasing this to 3 or 4 cups of greens, depending on the size of smoothie or juice.
Of course, I also recommend only using organic leafy greens because conventional leafy green produce contains higher concentrations of pesticide residues.
Red Leaf Lettuce
Red leaf lettuce is generally very inexpensive and is packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. It has a milder taste (similar to romaine or spinach, but less salty than spinach), and is a great addition to any smoothie or juice. One serving of red leaf lettuce (85 grams) contains 127% of the RDA of vitamin A and 149% for vitamin K. Trace minerals include vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and pantothenic acid. It contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
Kale, now known as “the new beef,” is a great addition to smoothies and juices. It has a stronger taste, but it is one of the most nutritionally dense greens out there! It is a great source of plant-based calcium. It contains beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body), vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium & fiber. Sulforaphane, a phytonutrient in kale is also believed to have powerful anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-microbial properties that are released when the leaves are chopped or chewed (or blended or juiced!). Not only this, but kale has beneficial antioxidants that protect against certain cancers and keeps the lungs, heart, and immune system healthy. As well, it works as an anti-inflammatory, making it a great choice for individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Dandelion greens are an incredible green to help detox the kidneys and liver. They help stabilize blood sugar and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). Just one cup of dandelion greens contains 103 mg calcium and 1.7 mg iron! That’s not too bad, considering one cup of greens is an incredibly small proportion. Dandelion greens are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps facilitate iron absorption. They are also rich in minerals like copper, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium, and are a great source of B vitamins and vitamins E and K. The nutrients in dandelion greens can help reduce the risk of cancer, cataracts, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration and stroke.
Swiss chard is similar tasting to spinach, and has a very salty flavour. The leaves are generally very delicate and blend well in most blenders. They are an excellent source of vitamin A (44% DV per cup, raw), C (18% DV per cup, raw), K, magnesium, manganese as well as potassium and iron. This hearty green helps keep your immune system strong, and keeps your eyesight in tip top shape. In addition, it helps you to maintain strong, healthy bones, and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Swiss chard also contains a phytonutrient called betalains, which have an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effect on the body.
Spinach is the most commonly used green in smoothies in juices because of its mild taste, and soft leaves which are easy to blend. Spinach is loaded with vitamins A, K, D, and E, and are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It has a dozen different flavonoid compounds which function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. It helps to alkalize and re-mineralize the body to help off-set the harmful effects of consuming a highly acidic diet (which drains our energy, makes us gain weight and develop a host of different diseases). It helps protect the eyes against diseases and strengthens our bones.
Most people don’t think about adding this lettuce to their smoothies and juices, but it is nonetheless, a wonderful addition to these drinks. Romaine is actually 17% protein, with over 7.7 grams of protein per head of lettuce. It is also considered a “complete protein” because it contains all 8 essential amino acids. It is loaded with calcium (206 mg calcium per head), omega-3s (44% RDA per head), and contains more vitamin C than an orange (one head of romaine contains 167% RDA of vitamin C). It is also very high in iron (per head of romaine, there is over 6 mg of iron), B-vitamins, as well as vitamins A (1817% RDA per head) and K (535% RDA per head).
This is a very spicy, flavoursome green (it is actually a herb, mistaken for lettuce, but we will ignore that for now), and is in the same family as broccoli and cauliflower! It is also called rocket or roquette. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and tastes similar to watercress. It is a very good source of folates which helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns, and has plenty of vitamin A (100g fresh leaves contain 1424 micrograms of beta-carotene and 2373 IU of vitamin A). Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body. This vitamin protects the skin, lungs and oral cavity from certain cancers. This leafy “green” is as well, very rich in vitamin B, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and is incredibly high in vitamin C which acts as a powerful, natural anti-oxidant. Not to mention, just 100 calories of arugula contains 1300 mg calcium! That is over 4 times the amount of calcium found in the same amount of calories of milk!
This bitter asian green is excellent in smoothies and juices. It is a great source of calcium (74 mg per cup), and contains cancer preventing compounds called sulforaphane which prevents the multiplication of mutated cancer cells. Bok choy is very high in beta-carotene which gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and helps to aid in the reduction of cholesterol (it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre which work together to decrease cholesterol by binding to bile and fat in your digestive tract and stopping the cholesterol from forming in the blood stream). This green is a wonderful source of potassium too, which is essential to cardiovascular health and the modulation of blood pressure. Potassium has been shown to reduce blood pressure levels when the body is in a state of hypertension (high blood pressure).