Everyone who’s ever heard “eat your vegetables” knows how good green foods are for you. The real winners in the nutrition showcase are the dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach & collard. Each leaf has a giant list of diet and nutrition improving benefits, so you would think everyone would want to include leaves at every meal… but… as you know, no one wants kale for breakfast.
The problem with dark leafy greens is two-fold: not everyone likes the taste, and the texture, especially of kale & collard can be tough & fibrous. The combination of bitter plant compounds and unappealing textures makes these literally “hard to swallow”. Don’t miss out on a great nutritional opportunity because flavor and texture are getting in the way. Learn the secret of eliminating any undesirable texture and the amazing food-chemistry behind neutralizing the flavor right here in this article.
First, gain confidence by learning how to eliminate the flavor of spinach, kale or collard greens.
By learning how to combine different fruits and vegetables, you can use certain ingredients to cancel out flavors you don’t want, and then add others to achieve the taste you actually desire. When you know the rules, experimenting will be easier, and you can make drinks to suit your own tastes for variety and fun. The recipe in this article demonstrates each of the following points to create a drink that tastes really good at any meal of the day. Before you see the recipe, learn why it works.
Bitter compounds –
Each of the ‘big 3’ greens has a certain amount of bitter plant compounds. Little kids hate these greens because they are more sensitive to the compounds than adults are. To enjoy the leaves, you have to neutralize the compounds with a sweet plant based sugar. You can’t just dump granulated sugar on them, it’s the wrong type of sugar. The ideal item here is a banana. Bananas have natural fructose (that’s different from high fructose corn syrup produced artificially) and glucose. A yellow, not-over-ripe banana has these 2 sugars in a decent proportion to neutralize bitterness.
Leafy flavor –
Even if you eliminate the bitterness, there’s still the regular, leafy flavor. Different for each green, but still not suitable for snacking. You have to knock this out with a powerful flavor such as chocolate. Raw, powdered, unsweetened cocoa is not only very healthy, but very powerfully flavored. It can easily overpower any of the big 3.
Taste & texture –
Greens are alkaline foods, but cocoa is acidic, so you don’t want to introduce more acid with dairy milk. Coconut milk, coconut water, almond milk, or rice milk are all less acidic than dairy milk. These non-dairy milks contribute a smooth, drinkable texture and flavor. Non dairy milks mellow things out.
It needs to taste sweet enough –
Most of the ‘sweet flavor’ of the banana will be canceled out by the compounds in the greens. Because unsweetened cocoa is bitter, reach for the stevia (powder or drops) to sweeten without sugar or calories. Stevia tastes sweet, but doesn’t affect blood sugar. How much stevia you need to achieve the level of sweetness you desire, will be up to you.
You need ALL the nutrients –
Did you know that some nutrients in greens (and other veggies too) are more absorbable, or only absorbable in the presence of fats? Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, K and E are present in most leafy greens, but you can’t digest/absorb them unless they dissolve. The only thing that will dissolve these so your body can use them, is a unit of healthy fat. “Bio-availability” is the term for how much of a certain nutrient you can access by eating a food. Healthy oils, like omega 3s and olive oil, when eaten in combination with other nutrients increase the bio availability. (So yes, salad oil on a salad really can make it better for you.)
The way to add healthy oils, extra fiber, calcium, and protein to the recipe, all without altering the flavor is by adding tiny, healthy seeds. Chia seeds have no flavor, but they’re big on omega 3 oils. They’re the perfect ingredient to add at the end to increase nutrition even more, and make the greens really worthwhile. (As you’ll notice, there’s hardly any fat at all in any of the other ingredients, you’ll really be missing out on those fat-soluble vitamins if you skip this step. Nothing else is oily with healthy plant fats but ALSO free from flavor, so there’s really nothing else you can use.)
It’s all in how you make it –
This recipe is a smoothie, or just a chocolate drink. (Depending on how much rice milk you add) The texture will depend on your blender or food processor. If you have a weak processor with old, dull blades, or a poor, old-fashion blender, it may not be able to handle the “tough guys” kale & collard. These greens come with rough, fibrous stems and you need real power to liquefy them into micro-pieces that no one will notice. If your blades are blunt (or just old) you could notice bits, specks, or fibers of texture that are undesirable in a drink. That’s why you should take the easy path first, and start with user friendly spinach.
Make a chocolate drink that’s great for you!
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 yellow banana
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp stevia powder (or more, to taste)
½ cup non-dairy milk (less for thick ‘smoothie’ texture, more for a drink)
1 to 3 tsp dry chia seeds
Blend until smooth, chill and enjoy.
You might not think something this simple could be so good… but give it a try. It’s so easy it takes less than 5 minutes. If you use it in the morning, you can always scoop in some of your favorite protein powder. Chill overnight in the fridge for breakfast in an instant. Feel good about your day because you already had a salad-worth of greens before most people have even thought of touching a veggie.
Of course, you can shake it up by adding dark chocolate powder instead, toss in some peanut butter, or use vanilla protein powder for a choco-vanilla blast. Chia seeds have 2 kinds of fiber (soluble & insoluble) so they make you feel full longer by taking up space in the digestive system. The more chia you add, the more fiber you’ll get. This means you can use the drink to replace a snack and feel full until meal time. Tired of drinks or don’t like smoothie textures? Pour this into a re-use-able plastic Popsicle mold and freeze to bite into a healthy snack later on. This freezes up creamy and smooth, never icy.
Take care when using fiber –
Of course, spinach, kale and collard aren’t light on fiber, and neither is the chia seed. If you are going from a low-fiber diet (lots of meat, processed foods, etc) to a higher fiber drink like this one, be sure to start off slow & drink lots of water throughout the day. High fiber diets are fantastic for you, but suddenly changing from low fiber to high fiber can upset your digestive process if you don’t take it easy, or you allow yourself to get dehydrated.
Don’t think this one drink recipe is the only way to get your greens with good taste.
It’s only the easy gateway to deliciousness and better health. Can’t eat chocolate? Try pineapple instead (literally substituting out the cocoa in the recipe above for pineapple chunks) There are plenty of great smoothie recipes that you can transform into ultra-healthy nutrition boosters with greens now that you know how to use food combinations to neutralize flavors. Maybe you like strawberry, melon or pear instead, now that you know what to do, almost all of the great fruit flavors are open to you & your green drink recipes. Make chia a part of your staple plant fats in each new combination you try, and you’ll always maximize the nutrition. Replacing a bagel breakfast for even as little as a week with green smoothies like this one can lead to a boost in energy you really notice. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s tasty, so why not give it a shot right now?