Siena loves green smoothies!

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

This is my 2 1/2-year old daughter, Siena, enjoying a kale, blueberry, banana & flaxseed smoothie.  I started making green smoothies when she was 15 months.  I have also been on 90% plant-based diet since January of this year. We have a family history of just about every chronic disease imaginable–my dad had a quintuple bypass at age 45– and I’m so grateful to have discovered such an easy and delicious way to help us stay healthy.  So much of what people go through medically is 100% preventable. Thank you for getting the message out to people!

Shireen

Autumn, Alex, and Austin are today’s heroes!

GSG reader Lisa B. recently read my challenge that, to help kids adopt a really healthy habit, I’d put their photo and story on my blog if they drank green smoothies every day for a month and wrote me. (The challenge is still open for YOUR kids.)

Lisa was already a green smoothie girl and had always wanted her kids to be, too. The youngest three, age 6, 4, and 2, were up for the challenge, and the oldest even got motivated halfway through. If Lisa forgot to make smoothies, they reminded her!

Lisa wrote that she would make an entire blenderful and get only a small cup for herself because they wanted more, more, more. (Her green smoothies look good, nutritionally, too—very green as you can see in this photo! Lisa says they were “straight fruit and veggie.”)

She writes, “Thank you for the challenge. We all grew from it.”

Autumn, Alex, and Austin, you are today’s GreenSmoothieGirl Heroes! I am so proud of you! Now, write me an email when you’ve been doing this for a year! You will grow BIG and TALL and STRONG! When all the other kids are sick, you will be healthier! You will do better in school and run faster and be your very best self!

XOXO,

Robyn (GreenSmoothieGirl)

Can green smoothies “DEVASTATE” your health?

Sarah the Healthy Home Economist online recently posted an article about how green smoothies can “DEVASTATE” your health.  The content was so unsubstantiated that at first I refused to respond to it. But Amanda said, “She has a big audience and people are freaking out about it.”

Sarah cites the oxalates phenomenon, wherein a natural compound (oxalates) occasionally bind to calcium to cause kidney stones. (She infers, without citing evidence, that other more serious health consequences could also be possible.) Greens have oxalic acid in them. Sarah makes several logic leaps and concludes that no one should be drinking green smoothies.

I’m not going to promote her blog article by pointing to it here. She rates her content for how controversial it is. Controversy generates more readers, I guess. It also has the potential to do harm, if what you’re saying is (a) undocumented, (b) contrary to hundreds of studies about the benefits of greens, and (c) featuring a bizarre and untenable conclusion.

Just because someone posts stuff on the internet does not automatically endow that person with credibility. Her argument locks in on a detail — that greens are high in oxalic acid — and misses the larger picture.

Only one source is listed at the end of her article and none are quoted or referenced. The source is a PhD’s book on oxalates and autism and “chronic disorders,” but she never quotes the author or anyone or anything else, so I’m not sure how many of her claims came from this one guy, or what.

I don’t bet the farm on one book or one source. There are quite a few other sources that show that some of the anti-nutrients in our most nutrition-dense foods, actually work together synergistically for our health, rather than against it. I’ve done quite a few blog series on anti-nutrients such as oxalates, goitrogens, purines, and phytates, concluding that none of the anti-nutrients should generally cause people to avoid foods containing them.

Note that at the end of the article, Sarah says to eat greens, if you like them, but not very much. Always cook them, she says, and eat them with butter.

Wow! Really?

Let me quote Dr. Norman Walker in his book Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices: What’s Missing in Your Body?

“Spinach should never be eaten when cooked unless we are particularly anxious to accumulate oxalic acid crystals in our kidneys with the consequent pain and kidney trouble. When spinach is cooked or canned, the oxalic acid atoms become inorganic as a result of excessive heat and may form oxalic acid crystals in the kidneys.

“When the food is raw, whether whole or in the form of juice, every atom in such food is vital ORGANIC and is replete with enzymes. Therefore, the oxalic acid in our raw vegetables and their juices is organic, and as such is not only beneficial but essential for the physiological functions of the body.

“The oxalic acid in cooked and processed foods, however, is definitely dead, or INORGANIC, and as such is both pernicious and destructive. Oxalic acid readily combines with calcium. If these are both organic, the result is a beneficial constructive combination, as the former helps the digestive assimilation of the latter, at the same time stimulating the peristaltic functions in the body.

“When the oxalic acid has become INORGANIC by cooking or processing the foods that contain it, then this acid forms an interlocking compound with the calcium, even combining with the calcium in other foods eaten during the same meal, destroying the nourishing value of both. This results in such a serious deficiency of calcium that it has been known to cause decomposition of the bones.”

So according to Dr. Walker, what Sarah is telling her readers to do is really terrible advice.

One of my favorite sources is George Mateljan, because his staff, and his book The World’s Healthiest Foods, review and quote a tremendous amount of empirical data before making claims. Each section contains an extensive bibliography, and the conclusions are scientific and objective.

He says that a review of the peer-reviewed research reveals that the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is small and does not outweigh the ability of those foods to contribute significant calcium to the diet, since spinach is rich in calcium.

So, one of the primary recommendations of most the sources I’ve read, to avoid stones forming in the body, is to get plenty of calcium from plant sources.

So, the high calcium content in spinach may actually inhibit the formation of stones, even though spinach is also high in oxalates. This is at least some logic or evidence, then, underpinning my theory that there are far more synergies than we currently know about in whole, raw plant foods leading to their clear, incontrovertible place (based on volumes of published research) as the necessary mainstay in our diet. We know that people the world over who eat mostly whole, raw foods simply don’t get sick. We don’t always know WHY.

So screaming that the sky is falling about one compound—in an entire class of our most nutritious foods—seems not only unwise, but even irresponsible, if you have an audience and give nutrition advice.

The jury is still out on so many of the issues Sarah the Healthy Home Economist takes strong, unilateral stands on. For instance, what really causes oxalic acid buildup. (She quotes ZERO evidence that greens do.) Whether greens are high in oxalates are only ONE issue related to whether they cause kidney stones. What if they also have dozens of other nutrient compounds, and fiber, that PREVENT stones from forming? A relevant example would be Mateljan’s review of the published, peer-reviewed literature on spinach, oxalates, and calcium as mentioned earlier.

After I investigated this issue, I wrote this in Chapter 1 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods:

“The research is not clear that restricting foods such as spinach helps prevent stones in those who have previously had them. Many researchers believe that dietary restriction cannot reduce risk of stone formation. In fact, some foods that were assumed to increase stone formation because of oxalate content (like black tea) have appeared in more recent research to have a preventative effect.

“Further, cooking has a small impact (about 10%) on the oxalate content of foods, with no statistically significant lowering of oxalates following blanching or boiling of greens. It appears that the nutritional advantages of eating raw greens continue to far outweigh any benefit of cooking them.”

And yet, with slim evidence, if any, Sarah says green smoothies can “devastate” your health and advises at the end of the article, “Skip the Green Smoothies!”

She undertakes no discussion of the true baddies that cause kidney stones:

Soft drinks

Sugar

Animal proteins

Salty foods (or any refined salt)

Oxalates in spinach (also strawberries, soy, and many other foods) can be difficult to digest for a tiny percentage of the population who are suffering from a few very rare disorders (absorptive hypercalciuria type II, enteric hyperoxaluria, primary hyperoxaluria). But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here. If you don’t have these disorders, and 99+% of those reading this don’t, greens are not just good food—they are powerful good medicine!

Leafy greens are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and cooking them as Sarah instructs kills 100% of their enzymes, and most of their vitamins and minerals, too.

Sarah the Healthy Home Economist uses hyperbolic words to terrify people that eating nutrient dense foods could kill them, but she cites no research whatsoever. She implies that cases of painful sex are on the rise (where does that data come from? Is there any data?) and that oxalates are a “possible culprit.”

There are no references to check, and the bigger issue to me is, if people develop kidney stones, or crystalline deposits in other parts of the body, are greens the real culprit? How would you isolate that factor? Show me the study that did.

It’s terribly unlikely that greens are why we have lots of kidney stones, since almost nobody in America eats very much green food.

And in addition to thousands of testimonials we’ve received, my own research (175 subjects) shows massive health benefits to the green smoothie habit, as published in my bestselling book, The Green Smoothies Diet. In that research, not one person reported kidney stones as a side effect of starting the daily green-drink habit. And yes, we asked.

Nutritionally, crystalline deposits are likely caused by highly acidic foods, especially salt, and not drinking lots of water.

So let’s minimize or eliminate the baddies, listed above. Let’s eat more of the foods that have been linked by hundreds of studies world-wide, to ideal weight and minimized disease risk.

(Dr. Joel Fuhrman does this best, in Eat to Live, quoting literally hundreds of published studies showing the benefits of eating plant foods. This is highly recommended reading.)

Let’s don’t kill greens with cooking, and slather butter on them.

If you’re worried about oxalates, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” because people who don’t metabolize that anti-nutrient well need the nutrition in the leafy greens as much as anyone, if not more. Instead:

Let’s rotate greens, use a wide variety in our green drinks—not just spinach. Amanda says a friend of hers had oxalate issues and one took a calcium-magnesium supplement and the pain went away. Several experts I have read suggest getting more calcium from plant sources.

And, eat some good fats with your green smoothie, like avocado or coconut oil or flax oil, to increase calcium absorption. One of my favorite lunches is a quart of green smoothie, with some homemade guacamole and “corn chips” (organic corn tortillas, quartered with a pizza cutter and broiled on both sides, no oil or salt needed).

Too Much of a Good Thing? Ken and Kaye’s testimonial

I got this letter from Ken:

My wife and I saw you at the San Jose event in April. I was gung-ho to give the smoothie a try, mainly to drop some weight and begin to get back into shape for summer. I’m a logical thinker and all the points you made were clear and compelling. We started the smoothies over two weeks ago.

Since I am analytical in nature and tend to point out flaws or errors, my wife does not like me to watch her cook or prepare anything.  So from my perspective, I would see a jug of smoothie in the frig, either greenish or brownish.  Each day, I would tell her the characteristics of the flavor and make suggestions on how to tweak the recipe.

[Interruption from Robyn here: Ken, Ken, Ken. You’ve got yourself a good woman. Get out of the kitchen unless you want to say, “Honey, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me! Thank you for my green smoothie today! Regardless of how it tastes, this is making me healthy! You’re a goddess—what can I do for YOU today?” Okay, back to you.]

I’m using the smoothie as a lunch substitute to achieve my weight loss goal of dropping 10-15 pounds.  I would usually go to a deli, Taco Bell or In-N-Out for lunch, so I figured the weight would start coming down easily.  I would drink 1/3 of the smoothie at 10 am, another third at noon and the remainder in the early afternoon.  That also left me free to walk at lunchtime.

After a week, I had dropped only one pound! That was a little discouraging, but one benefit I did find was with my skin.  I have a bald head and after my morning showers, the top of my head has some dry skin that I need to rub or scrub off. Well, that was no longer the case! Woohoo!

I’d lost only two pounds and was whining to my wife. [Ken, search “constipation” and weight-loss related articles on this blog for ideas on why you didn’t lose weight faster.] However, in addition to the lack of dry skin, I also was noticing that I wasn’t getting tired in the afternoons like I used to do. I had discontinued my daily diet sodas as well. Woohoo again!

Then one morning, my wife comes out of the bedroom with tears in her eyes and says she has a confession to make. I hate those kind of marriage moments! Just like the moment before you die, everything was flashing through my head, trying to predict what the heck she was going to tell me, and what I would have to forgive.  She then blurted it out:

“I have been giving you twice as much smoothie as needed.”

She said she watched your video again on making the smoothies and this time noticed you mentioned it would make a two-day supply (2 quarts).  It hadn’t dawned on either of us that the jug I was taking into work was a half gallon! At work, I was pouring it into paper cups for each serving and still didn’t make the correlation to how many ounces the cups held.

For the last few days, I have been just drinking a quart of smoothie, which seems like a piece of cake.  The attached photo is of Kaye and me on a day-long motorcycle ride.  I can fit the smoothies in a little cooler in my bike trunk so it is nice and cold.

For anyone who is having difficulty getting used to the quart a day, try going a week or two drinking a half gallon a day!  That will make a quart seem like child’s play.  By the way, after a few days like this, my weight loss is picking up pace.  Woohoo again!

 

Read Sarah’s inspiring story about a year of green smoothies!

Today I share a letter we got recently. As reply to this blog entry, tell me—what happened to you when you (a) started drinking green drinks daily, and/or (b) started following my program to shift to whole foods? (There’s more! Don’t stop with just green smoothies!)

I think it’s important that people hear YOUR story, too, so please reply! I would love even a few lines listing the health changes you saw. I might pull a reply or two out, later, to post on the blog front-n-center.

I’m always so excited to read these testimonials; CONGRATS to Sarah for turning her life around! The photo here is of Sarah with Biggest Loser at-home winner Deni Hill from Season 11—Sarah taught her about green smoothies.

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

I’m writing this in hopes that Robyn can read this and know how much I appreciate her and what she does!  My name is Sarah S. and I have been drinking green smoothies for just over a year now.  It has played a HUGE part in helping me manage my depression and my thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s).

I have a bachelors degree in Community Health and have been an avid cyclist for 10 years. But that all changed two years ago after the birth of my son.  My son cried constantly and my health started to decline.  I was sleep deprived, had no energy, and felt hopeless.  I hardly ate, and when I did, it wasn’t healthy.  I was spiraling downward.  I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and nine months after he was born I had a breakdown and had to be admitted to the hospital for a few days. On top of the depression I also was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which played a large part in my depression and my fluctuations in sleep and mood.

Two months after my hospitalization I started nannying for the Jorgensen family, a dentist and GSG reader.  Through her I learned about Robyn and green smoothies.  The first thing I would do with the kids in the morning is help them drink their green smoothies.  They were still getting used to them then.  I decided to give it a try.  I started out with just a spinach, frozen berry and rice milk smoothie.

Just a couple days after trying it I noticed a significant improvement in how I felt.  I bought kale, chard and collard greens to add to it.

Now, a year later I’ve added chia seed, maca powder, kelp powder, wheat germ, flax seed, and now all three of us drink a green smoothie daily.

We rarely get sick, we’re active and happy.  Dosages of my depression and thyroid meds have been cut in half.  I honestly believe that it was green smoothies that helped me get a jumpstart into eating healthy again.  Once I started drinking them regularly I started craving healthier foods again.  Now, most of our meals are vegetarian and always full of fruits and vegetables.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself I encourage people to give it a try.  Or I make one for them and bring it to them.  I tell them if they’re overwhelmed with trying to reform their whole diet, or if they are depressed, or if they are overweight, then try green smoothies!  It was THE KEY to helping me get motivated to eat and crave healthier foods and manage my depression.

I’m also happy to report that after 3 months of green smoothies every morning, I was ready to start competing again.  I signed up for the Bear Lake Brawl Triathlon.  My training went great and in August of 2011 I met my goal!  I even finished in the top 10 in my division.  I owe much of my success in that race to green smoothies.

Since that race I have competed in two other triathlons and am signed up for two more this summer.  I also became spin certified a few months ago and teach a spinning class at a local bike shop twice a week.  I am SO SO grateful for Robyn and what she promotes.  It has changed my life.   I can literally feel all of the systems in my body working properly together.  I have felt a significant improvement in my ability to handle the ups and downs of depression.   I am happier and healthier.  I feel much more confident about life and my ability to live an active and healthy lifestyle in spite of the challenges that will come.  I’m a better mother, wife and friend.  I don’t feel like my depression or thyroid disease controls me, I’m on top of it.

Robyn, may you continue to be blessed for all you are doing to help other people!  You are an answer to prayer in my life.  You are a wonderful person and a fantastic mother!  Thank you thank you for your hard work and example!  Thank you!

–Sarah S.

From Robyn: I hope you’re inspired by Sarah’s story. I am! Now…please tell us YOURS. I read every word.

 

Could you fit in the seat at Fenway Park?

Yesterday, a good friend confided in me that he’s recently had a heart attack and is struggling with asthma, acid reflux, allergies, and blood pressure over 170. He said, “I drink my green smoothie but then junk out the rest of the time.”

This has always been my fear—that 90 percent of folks who read my site and books think that a green drink covers all their sins. It does not work like that for most. Green smoothies are nothing more nor less than a step in the right direction.

My friend said to me, “I have a lot to accomplish in life and I’m tired of being tired.” I’m planning to have a chat with him and say this:

“You’re going to have to choose—between junk food addiction, and quality of life.”

Since I last wrote, my son and his team have won FOUR more games in the state tournament, and last night they won the semi-finals. I almost had a heart attack myself, in several times in close games. It’s stressful to be the mom of the pitcher!

Tuesday he brilliantly threw a 2012 team record 131 pitches in 7 innings, to win a very tough game. Pitchers ideally need 5 days of rest before they pitch again. Cade will get only 2 and pitch today.

It’s been great fun to cheer my voice out with dozens of other moms wearing our son’s white jerseys, and enjoy the company and support of my family, many of whom are making sacrifices to be there for my boy.

My friends are driving my car to Las Vegas this afternoon, where we have Van Halen tickets. I won’t be with them and will try to hop a plane later. A team of wild horses couldn’t drag me from the game today.

This photo is my sister Betsy, my brothers Ben and Spencer who always support Cade’s games, my dad, and even my oldest brother Glen from Boston. He got off a plane on his way home from my grampa’s funeral to be here for Cade. (Yes, I said there was no service, because that’s what my grampa told his children he wanted. But his wife didn’t get the memo, so she held one! I missed it because of Cade’s playoffs.)

Anyway, I hardly ever see Glen, father of six and a partner in a law firm. We were talking about how goofy the hand-flipped scoreboard is, in this beautiful multi-million dollar high school stadium. It’s like they ran out of money at the end. But on the other hand, it reminds us of Fenway Park, a place he loves, where I toured with my kids two years ago.

I was telling Glen that I was amazed, sitting in the seats in the original section of the stadium that Boston has preserved. I felt very claustrophobic in the extremely narrow seats. I am 5’8” and currently weigh 132 lbs. I told Glen, “If I weighed even 30 lbs. more, I would not have fit! MOST American adults would not fit in those seats!”

And baseball is the worst of the bad ways we make ourselves too big to sit in a seat. Every family, every game, is eating nachos, candy, soda, and hot dogs. Including my own sibs, some of whom have had some tough health problems. I don’t say this next thing to be superior, but rather to let you know it is possible:

I have never bought any of those things at any baseball game. Not once.

The key is to plan, to shop, to always take your own food, and to simply be committed.

For eight cold, sometimes rainy hours of baseball the past couple of days, I took green smoothies, pints of vegetable juice, a bag of homemade chips that are just quartered organic corn tortillas, broiled, and a tub of homemade guacamole mixed with chopped tomatoes and black beans, and Just Great Stuff bars. Tennyson and I shared it all.

I did calisthenics during a freezing cold double header to keep warm. The ump turned around and laughed at me and told the catcher (I learned later), “I’m going to retire from baseball now and just watch this girl doing jumping jacks.” Between that and the food, well, I don’t care—yeah, I’m weird. I own it. I don’t want to go home elated at two back-to-back wins, but feeling physically heavy and sick.

If you must dig yourself out of allergies, acid reflux, and ugly numbers like 170+ blood pressure……change and commitment are needed.

As Cade’s longtime baseball coach told him, which my son values in every area of his life,

“DIG DEEP.”

That is where the wellspring of commitment is. It is in the deep places in you. Value your life enough to save it, to make it great instead of just functional.

Start a SERIOUS journey to whole foods with us and give it a month on 12 Steps to Whole Foods recipes only. Then let me know how you feel. You’ll feel very, very different. You can overhaul most of the cells of your body in that time!

Or, soon we will launch our 26-day detox, which Kristin says “has changed me and how I see food.” She says today she feels like she has “swallowed the blue pill and can’t go back.” More about the detox later. We are out-of-our-minds excited about it.