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The hidden dangers in your green smoothie

By Hayley McKinnon

It’s safe to say that the mighty Green Smoothie has officially taken the wellness world by storm. From detoxifying our bodies to making us look and feel younger, it’s no wonder so many of us consider our daily smoothie essential to good health.

Hidden toxins can be hiding in your green smoothie

Once upon a time, I was a hard-core smoothie enthusiast too. But after years of gulping my greens every morning, I began to develop fairly serious side effects: weakened digestion, low thyroid function, severe acne and major hormonal imbalance.

The cause? The otherwise innocent ingredients in my prized puree that, when combined in a smoothie, were slowly poisoning me.

So before you reach for the Vitamix, let’s take another look at what you’re putting in there every day. Here’s what you need to know about the five biggest health threats hidden in your blended beverage, along with simple solutions to protect your health.

5 health threats I found in my smoothies

1. The raw veggie roadblock

Raw vegetables, even pulverized ones, are extremely difficult to digest. Their tough, fibrous structures require massive amounts of digestive energy to be broken down. Green smoothies will overwhelm your system if you already suffer from weakened digestion, bloating, gas, Candida, infertility, allergies or a suppressed immune system.

Solution: Lightly steam green vegetables before blending to make them easier on your system. You may be surprised how quickly you notice an improvement in your digestion.

2. Oxalic acid overload

Leafy green vegetables – think Swiss chard, spinach, kale, and beet greens – contain high levels of oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring compound that forms oxalate crystals in the body. Eating too many foods that are high in oxalic acid leads to accumulation of oxalate crystals in the body, especially in the kidneys. Oxalate crystals are responsible for 80% of all kidney stone cases in the U.S. Oxalate toxicity is especially dangerous if you have hypothyroidism, Candida, vulvodynia, nutrient/mineral deficiencies, fibromyalgia, aspergillus, intestinal flora/gut imbalance, osteoporosis, or arthritis.

Solution: Limit your intake of leafy greens to 3-4 servings per day to avoid oxalate build-up. Along with otherwise healthy eating habits, this amount will provide plenty of plant nutrients.

3. Sneaky sugar

There couldn’t possibly be any sugar hiding in our beloved green smoothies, right?

Well… not quite.

All fruits and vegetables contain some sugar, and most packaged protein sources (namely protein powders and nut butters) use synthetic sweeteners like xylitol or stevia to increase total sugar content. Add too much sweetened vanilla-flavored nut milk, and suddenly your formerly “green” smoothie becomes a perfect recipe for the ultimate sugar high — along with the inevitable crash and cravings that are sure to follow.

Solution: Eliminate dried fruit ingredients, and keep fresh fruits in balance with other ingredients. Choose low-sugar, non-soy protein powders with plant-based ingredients like pea protein isolate, chia seeds or chlorella. Word to the wise: agave nectar, beet sugar, tapioca syrup and coconut sugar are just as damaging as regular sugar, so read labels carefully. Sugar is sugar, and there’s no room for it in your smoothie.

4. Goitrogens v. your thyroid

Cruciferous vegetables — like kale, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and more — are absolutely bursting with nutrients and beneficial fiber. But they’re also crawling with compounds called goitrogens that can disrupt your thyroid function. Goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake and hormone production within the thyroid gland. So if you’ve ever experienced brain fog, exhaustion, depression, low libido, dry skin, unpredictable bowels, anxiety, poor body temperature regulation or hair loss, your thyroid may need some TLC.

Solution: Lightly steam all cruciferous vegetables before adding them to your smoothie, and reduce intake to a reasonable serving size per meal. Then, add these foods to your diet to help heal and support your thyroid.

5. The stowaway problem.

It may be unpleasant to consider, but raw produce contains a heavy load of bacteria and parasites — even if you choose the organic variety. Normally, the digestive acids of the stomach and the immune agents of the intestines destroy these little stowaways, so you never experience their effects. But many of us (myself included!) stuff our blenders to the brim in an attempt to pack in as much of that green goodness as possible. Unfortunately, those extra nutrients come at a price — a big dose of those bad little bugs, which turn your beloved smoothie into a daily dose of disaster for your immune system’s limited resources. The result? Inflammation, weakened digestion, and immunosuppression.

Solution: Lightly steam or wash all produce in tap water, or spray your veggies with this super-simple lemon rinse:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold tap water

Combine ingredients in an empty spray bottle. Use your homemade lemon rinse to wash all produce prior to consumption. Then, enjoy delicious — and squeaky clean! — fruits and veggies.

Long live the green smoothie

Now that we’ve been enlightened about the hidden secrets within our smoothies, you may be wondering: can I still enjoy my favorite blended beverage? The answer is yes, absolutely.

Green smoothies are still a great way to get the nutrients your body craves. But, as with anything else, be mindful of your choices — rotate your ingredients, wash produce thoroughly, and allow yourself a few “smoothie-free” days every week so you can try other nutrient-dense foods. This way, your body will be able to absorb all of the nourishing benefits (and none of the bad stuff) the next time you turn on the blender.

My favorite balanced smoothie recipe

Here’s one of my favorite recipes — with just the right amount of everything you need to stay healthy and happy.

The Equilibrium Smoothie

    • Handful of spinach — though you can mix it up with romaine, kale, swiss chard, or a combination of all three!
    • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
    • One apple, diced
    • One ripe banana, halved

Healthful hint: peeled, frozen bananas will keep everything cool, without the watered-down effect of melted ice cubes.

  • 1 ½ — 2 cups of unsweetened milk alternative (or filtered water) depending on desired consistency

    Milk alternatives include flax, cashew, almond, coconut and rice milk

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy your delicious and nutritious choice.Cheers to your health!

We'd love to hear your favorite smoothie recipe — connect with us on Facebook or Instagram and leave a comment!

Last Updated: July 5, 2021

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