Why you should rotate your greens - Simple Green Smoothies

Why you should rotate your greens


The shining stars of green smoothies are the leafy greens— chock full of phytonutrients, protein, vitamins, antioxidants…the list goes on and on. Yet there is also something you need to be aware of when drinking green smoothies daily— it’s called “alkaloid buildup.”

All raw leafy greens carry a small amount of toxins that protect plants from being entirely consumed by other animals—and wiping out the plant species. It’s a defensive trait, and something even we should be aware of. As humans, if we consume these toxins for long periods of time, they can build up and harm our thyroid. Some symptoms of alkaloid buildup are naseau, tingling in finger tips and fatigue.  But before you dump your green smoothie down the drain, you should know that this isn’t anything to worry about as long as you are rotating your greens. Throughout the week, use a variety of leafy greens in your smoothies— like kale, spinach, romaine, herbs and carrot tops.


“I’m freaking out! I don’t rotate my greens. Help!”

Do you, or someone you know, eat the same leafy greens in your salad day after day? There’s no big news stories about people eating the same salad everyday and getting sick. It seems like so many people try to create so much controversy and scare tactics around green smoothies and healthy eating in general. Try not to sweat rotating your leafy greens so much. Your body is wise enough to let you know when it’s time to change things up. I’ll share my own personal story here:

When I first started green smoothies, I made the exact same recipe every single day for months: spinach, frozen mixed berries, frozen mango, frozen pineapple, banana, water, hemp protein powder and ground flaxseed. Two years later I am healthy. I never experienced alkaloid build-up or any aversion to any leafy greens in my green smoothies. I actually experienced the opposite. I craved more veggies. And I tried new veggies that I never liked before and now I love them. I also went to the doctor in November this past year, and she said I didn’t need to come back for a health check-up for another two years because my blood test levels were perfect. I don’t take any supplements either. –Jadah

So, just a reminder, alkaloid build-up is rare. And if you do experience any symptoms, they’re very mild and they don’t last long. Nothing that will send you to the doctor’s office. You might just take a few days break from green smoothies and jump right back in! But I know people ask this question a lot, so here’s a guideline if you really want to rotate your greens like a rawkstar…


How often should you rotate greens

Start out with rotating your leafy greens weekly. So one week you might buy spinach, and then on your next shopping trip, you might buy kale. Then once you plan to maintain the green smoothie habit as a lifestyle, rotate between two different leafy greens per week. And then another two different leafy greens the following week. So one week you might buy spinach and kale, and then on your next shopping trip, you might buy romaine lettuce and swiss chard.

There are several “families” of leafy greens. The leafy greens in each family have similar “DNA” including their own minor amount of toxins. By rotating family types with your greens you are preventing any kind of toxic build-up, but you are also feeding your body a wide variety of nutrients that you would otherwise be missing out on. To help keep you slurping your smoothies we made a list of our favorite greens (there are way more leafy greens than the ones we listed below) and separated them into family groups so you can easily rotate!



If you like spinach then you will like kale. They are both known for their wide variety of nutrients, mild taste, and availability in your local markets. The best part is that they are from different families, which will make rotating a breeze. Having any kind of health issue? Kale will probably help, though they are especially talented at fighting cancer.

Arugula is kale’s brother when it comes to content. They share high volumes of vitamin A, C, & K, fight against cancer, and include many other nutrients (iron, carotenoid, and more). Their differences are few, so choosing between the two is a matter of preference and convenience. Or maybe you would like to include them both in your rotation!

collardgreens2Collard Greens

Like their other cruciferous family members, collard greens are great cancer fighters. They are also pretty good at helping your body digest foods properly with all the fiber inside. They are most popular as a steamed leafy green, but adding them raw to your smoothies will provide you with more health benefits because they lose nutrients when cooked.

Cabbage is yet another example of a cruciferous cancer fighting leafy green. One thing that may help to separate it from the pack is its popularity in home gardens and fresh markets, which makes them easy to find. It also has a hint of sweetness to go with those yummy, summer smoothies filled with berries.

bokchoyBok Choy
The “Chinese Cabbage,” otherwise known as bok choy, shares loads of similar nutrients with the rest of its family, while is specializes in its lack of calories. It is best to purchase during the winter months while it boasts its dark green, firm stalks. Bok choy is a sweet green that will keep you slim.


Its hard to beat spinach when talking about nutrient packed greens. Just one leaf contains a sampling of more than 20 different nutrients. The list of benefits is nearly as long as the amount of nutrients: cancer fighting, blood pressure beating, bone strengthening, cardiovascular helping, brain boosting, skin smoothing, vision improving, inflammation reducing, energy increasing, and more. Spinach is a green smoothie staple for all!

beetsBeet Greens
When was the last time you ate beets, let alone the leafy greens on top of them? We recommend branching out and trying beet greens for your next smoothie! They include a wide variety of nutrients, but make their claim to fame with tryptophan. Tryptophan is the culprit of all those Thanksgiving Day naps, but more importantly helps with better sleep cycles. If you are always complaining about being tired, don’t turn to coffee. Add tryptophan to your green smoothie.

Chard is a colorful leaf best known for its ability to regulate the body’s blood sugar system. Translation? If you have diabetes or struggle to main your blood sugar levels then chard should become a regular part of your leafy greens rotation. Try it in the morning to start your day off right!



dandelionsDandelion Greens
Looking for calcium without the cows? You got it! A healthy dose of dandelion greens will give you near the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk will, but it will also fill you with other nutrients that milk doesn’t. When using them don’t forget this saying, “A banana in the blender kisses the bitter good-bye!”

romaineRomaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is a nutrient rich leafy green that is good for your heart and low in calories. The vitamin C and beta-carotene content help to lower cholesterol and prevent build up on artery walls, which reduces the risk of heart attack. Being low in calories also helps you lose weight while keeping you full.



Ever heard of phytonutrients? They are what makes celery stand out among other raw greens. Phytonutrients are an antioxidant that help prevent damage done to body fat and blood vessel walls. This may not sound important, but to put it in common terms blood vessel damage leads to many of the diseases we see today. Be sure to use strong fruit to balance out the potent flavor of the celery stalks and/or leaves.

Most fast food is dipped, cooked, and lathered in all sorts of unhealthy things that cause high blood sugar and cholesterol, but not this “fast food.” One of the remedies for lowering blood sugar and cholesterol is cilantro, and its fast and easy to add to your daily smoothie! Try it with lime juice and other tropical treats.

carrotsCarrot Tops
Carrot tops are filled with chlorophyll, which has been shown to fight against tumor growth and acts as a cleansing agent. The best way to buy carrot tops is to buy carrots with full greens on top. You will have nutrient filled green smoothies and a snack for later.


Rotating your greens is easy and fun! When you rotate you getting access to many different kinds of nutrients that each raw green has to offer, but at the same time you are preventing alkaloid build-up. When rotating, keep in mind to go from family to family. You may have to experiment with a few different greens from each family to find out what you like, and what has the best benefits for you, but the benefits are worth it! Once you know what you like you can find staple recipes that go well with each green. Rotating is good for you, keeps things fresh, and simple. Cheers!

180 Responses to “Why you should rotate your greens”

  1. Conny 4.16.2014 at 12:23 am #

    Hi there, thanks for the clear explanation of rotating the greens. I’m used to take my green smoothie every morning, but I’m really stuck on one favorite smoothie. Spinach, banana, some peanut butter, cacao and almond milk. I always use deep frozen spinach. Here in the Netherlands we have deep frozen spinach in little cubes, so it’s easy to throw 3 or 4 cubes of spinach into my smoothie. Makes my smoothie cool and fresh. But I’m not sure if it’s o.k. to use deep frozen vegetables?

    • SGS Rawkstar Dan 4.16.2014 at 9:10 am #

      Should be fine, Conny! Fresh is always best, but frozen is good, too.

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  3. Dawney 4.4.2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Do you have any thoughts on possibly adding edible seaweed to a smoothie? I’m trying to figure out a methodology for nori. Maybe soak and then blend? Any ideas?

  4. christine 4.4.2014 at 11:28 am #

    this is great news. ad like to know if u could still use a mixture of beetroots and carrots as the vegetable? just a thot because you havent mentioned thm anywhere

  5. twinkle 3.31.2014 at 10:24 pm #

    Do you peel cucumbers?

    • SGS Rawkstar Dan 4.1.2014 at 6:10 am #

      You don’t need to!

  6. Jeannelle 3.20.2014 at 12:13 pm #

    This is such GREAT information ladies! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together…very clear and concise! I will DEFINETLY be rotating my greens!

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  8. dina 3.6.2014 at 11:58 am #

    Great Jadah & Jen …. on the whole level just great !
    and, i drink about one liter of a smoothie during the morning and its energy lasts for hours. sometimes it takes till two or sometimes even four o’clock p.m., till i am hungry again. i dont know if that is maybe too unilatterally and should i perhaps drink less smoothie and eat some more different things during a day ?i am not quiet sure. and i am not really going vegan or raw. i love salats, yes, which i use to eat at late afternoon. but i like cooked food once in a while, as i love to go to the pizzeria with friends sometimes and once a day i do drink coffee too, not with cowmilk, but other like almond or haver. but my question ….. if you only drink one smoothie in the morning, do you have something else for breakfast also ? and what do you eat during the rest of the day ? and do you do sports once a day or once per week, or something ? i am really curious about that. thank you so much and keep the good spirits up ! xxxx

    • Jadah and Jen 3.6.2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Dina!
      We recommend drinking about 16-20 ounces for breakfast, and not eating anything else with it. It would be totally fine to workout, play sports, or anything active with just having a green smoothie for breakfast. They are packed with nutrition that will fuel your body!

  9. Gisselle 3.6.2014 at 7:21 am #

    Hello, i signed for the live 30 Day Challenge that starts in April, but i am starting with some of the recipes you have. I live in the Dominican Republic and kale is not that easy to find. When the challenge starts and i don’t have Kale, can i use another green? I bought baby spinach and that is what i am putting on my smoothies.

    • Ces 3.6.2014 at 11:11 am #

      I’m in Mexico, and I have had Kale for the first time ever just last week (they just started selling it at the local supermarket a couple weeks ago). I’m taking a guess but “La Española” island :) is quite warm, so greens like Kale or chard do not grow (they turn bitter if exposed to warm temperatures). But I believe you can find cabbage, celery, beets (for the tops), or lettuce? You can use all of them!

    • Jadah and Jen 3.6.2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Sounds like Ces has some great options for you Gisselle! You can use any of the leafy greens above in any smoothie, too!

  10. Natalie 3.5.2014 at 7:16 am #

    I have an underactive thyroid and my nutritionist said to cook any cruciferous vegetables to get rid of the goitergens. She that with a thyroid issue if you eat too many raw cruciferous vegetables you risk getting a goiter. When I use greens like spinach, kale, collard, greens, etc. I usually steam them a little. Do you think this has an effect on the smoothies?

    • Jadah and Jen 3.6.2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Natalie!
      It definitely takes out some of the nutrition, but please follow your nutritionist’s orders!

    • Maria 3.11.2014 at 4:35 am #

      Natalie, I have found out that when I eat too much it sends me into hypothyroidism. Hate that because I love spinach kale and arugula. I have also read that this can happen if your iodine levels are low. Have you heard that? I asked my doctor but he thought I was crazy. he put me on thyroid meds. I did not take them. I just changed what i ate. Now I went back three months later and he said the meds are working. I laughed and told him no I just changed my diet.

  11. Ces 2.28.2014 at 11:54 am #

    Hi! I’m venturing to assume that, when you use greens for your smoothies, you use the stems (if they are not de-stemmed as it happens when you buy spinach or chopped kale by the bag). When you use greens with thick, fibrous stems like Celery or Bok Choy, do you chop the stalk and count it towards the cup, or how do you measure it?

    • Jadah and Jen 3.1.2014 at 10:20 pm #

      Hi Ces! For celery and bok choy, we just trim a small piece off the end if it’s dry at all and for the other greens, if it has a thick stem (like that of fresh kale not already pre-chopped, we cut that out and just use the leafy green part. And we measure the entire thing. :)

  12. Katelyn 2.22.2014 at 8:29 am #

    Hi I’ve been interested in the idea of the Green Smoothie Challenge for a while now but I’m still in the process of researching more about it. So, this might be a ignorant question but could asparagus be used as one of the greens in the smoothie?

    • Jadah and Jen 2.24.2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Katelyn!
      We like to use one leafy green per green smoothie, and the rest is filled with fruit/vegetables. Asparagus would be one of those vegetables, but not technically a leafy green. We’ve never made a recipe with asparagus, though!

  13. Beth 2.6.2014 at 10:04 am #

    I ordered the 21 day cleanse yesterday, 2/5/14. When will I receive my recipes so I can go shopping?

  14. Jacob 2.3.2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Fantastic! Thank you Jadah for the great work! Great website!!
    (I like your anecdote much better than theirs!!)

  15. Adriana 1.24.2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Hello I have a 8 and a 5 year old whom are starting to like the smothies I make at home. I want to know is it “kid friendly” and if so is there any recipes you might have for them to sip on. Thanks for your help!!

  16. Deb 1.23.2014 at 6:40 am #

    I have a question about cruciferous veggies and the thyroid. Should you avoid raw cruciferous veggies and greens if you have a thyroid condition?

    • Jadah and Jen 1.23.2014 at 6:12 pm #

      Hi Deb,
      We definitely recommend talking to your health care provider to see if raw veggies will hurt if you have a medical condition.


    • Maria 3.11.2014 at 4:37 am #

      I just posted about this above a few. If I have too much it sends me into hypothyroidism

  17. Stephanie Hamilton 1.22.2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi! My husband and I have literally just started the green smoothie thing yesterday! It wasn’t as bad as we though thank goodness, we found its a huge mental thing rather than taste. My question is we are only using spinach at the moment for our green, and I must admit quite nervous to try other green, any recommendations for a beginner who is at this stage only having spinach, what would a good next step be in terms of a new green to add in the mix?

    • KC 1.23.2014 at 9:52 am #

      I use spinach almost exclusively, but I also use romaine and bok choy rather than kale because, though I have a good blender, I still can sense the weird texture of kale. Cilantro and celery are strong, but if you like them, go for it. Cabbage isn’t too strong, so you may want to try that, too.

  18. KC 1.13.2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks! I’ve started using bok choy and romaine instead of kale because I don’t like the texture of kale. But spinach is my favorite! Can’t believe how many greens I get per day!

    • Jadah and Jen 1.14.2014 at 9:53 am #

      Isn’t it crazy how many greens are out there? So good for you!

  19. KC 1.11.2014 at 1:13 pm #

    So, if we are supposed to rotate our greens, why, in your 30-day green smoothie challenge, have the first 3 weeks been exclusively kale and spinach? Why haven’t you given us recipes with romaine or bok choy, etc.?

    • Jadah and Jen 1.13.2014 at 1:56 pm #

      Hi KC!
      Great question! Kale and spinach are in different “families” when it comes to leafy greens. Switching back and forth between the two is adequate rotation, but we also use just these two for this challenge because there are lots of new people joining us. We want to ease them into green smoothies, and keep it simple. Feel free to rotate as widely as you’d like!

  20. Brittany 1.5.2014 at 4:52 pm #

    I can’t have lettuce (I can’t digest it and I get sick). I don’t think I’ve ever had kale before but spinach doesn’t bother me. Is Kale something that I could have an issue with if I have an issue with lettuce?

    • Jadah and Jen 1.6.2014 at 11:19 am #

      Not sure, Brittany… Try just a small dose of it before putting large amounts in a smoothie!

  21. helen 1.4.2014 at 6:35 pm #

    I use nutribullet and use handful spinach, Apple, cucumber, blueberries, frozen fruit with no added sugar, celery. I also use maca powder and spirilina. Can I use a protein powder and what protein powder do you suggest?

  22. Tamela Motsinger 1.1.2014 at 10:18 am #

    Just a quick question…after doing the green smoothie today I am feeling a little gassy and bloated. Does this go away in time or is there certain Veggies and fruits to watch out for?

  23. Liz 12.31.2013 at 8:01 am #

    Hey! I just started drinking green smoothies a few days ago and I love them so far and already feel more energized! Question — I started freezing my spinach as well, just to keep it longer and add more chill to the smoothie. Is there any reason not to do this? Thanks!

    • Jadah and Jen 1.1.2014 at 9:27 am #

      We love freezing our greens. No sense in spoiling them!

  24. cheryl 12.28.2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Do you have any suggestions for low calorie, good tasting smoothies!

    • Jadah and Jen 12.30.2013 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Cheryl!
      Not sure about low calorie… We aren’t big fans of calorie counting. We’d rather focus on all the positive nutrients we’re adding to our bodies :-)

  25. Melissa 12.28.2013 at 4:27 pm #

    I was wondering about Turnip greens? Is there a reason you left them out of your greens?

    • Jadah and Jen 12.30.2013 at 11:01 am #

      Not really :-) There are so many fantastic greens that we didn’t add, but we couldn’t list everything. Turnip greens are great!

      • Sheri 4.9.2014 at 2:33 am #

        what family would turnip greens be in? What is your source for finding ‘family’ and nutrient information. I would really like to have that kind of resource.

        I am really happy to know about ‘beet greens’ having tryptophan, my husband has a very hard time sleeping. He wakes up several times a night. About a year ago I was going crazy trying to find a source of tryptophan I finally gave up. Do you have any other sources besides turkey. this is the first time I’ve been to your website, you have great information. Thanks so much.

  26. Rachel Gentzsch 12.27.2013 at 5:48 pm #

    May one use the baby greens or is the mature green preferable?

  27. Kaz Green 12.18.2013 at 11:18 am #

    Hi there,
    You talk about rotating, but for the last seven months I have been using most of the leafy greens you mention, every day in my lunchtime “Green Goo” as I call it. This has been a Juice rather than a Smoothie, but lately I have been combining the two, by liquidizing the spinach to get the full affect of its awesomeness, and then adding it to the Juice of the other items. One question…our local farmer is growing Rape – the leaves of which are from the cabbage family. Would they be ok to put in my daily Green Goo?

    • Jadah and Jen 12.19.2013 at 8:33 am #

      HI Kaz, We’re totally not sure about the juicing parts as neither Jen or myself (Jadah) juice. We do rotate our greens regularly so you might want to try doing that as well. :)

  28. Andrea 12.14.2013 at 8:18 am #

    What part of romaine can be used? I used chopped romaine from a bag today and had to strain the smoothie to make it drinkable. I’m wondering if that is because there was not enough leaf and too much towards the bottom of the romaine.

    • Jadah and Jen 12.17.2013 at 7:31 am #

      Hi Andrea!
      It really comes down to personal preference and blender type. Some blenders may have a harder time blending the stalk, and that’s ok! This just means that you should use more of the leaves and less of the stalk. Also, if you don’t like the bitter taste of the stalk, then you should use less of it :-) Hope this helps!

  29. Amphrianda 12.9.2013 at 5:26 pm #

    How many cups of leafy greens should one consume daily?? How much is too much on a daily bases? I drink a whole blender full a day with Spinach and Kale and like, 15 different fruits….plus herbs and spices

    • Jadah and Jen 12.10.2013 at 12:06 pm #

      It really varies for each person. We are content with drinking one green smoothie a day, which is about 1 cup of leafy greens. Some people would do well to drink 2 or 3 a day, too.

  30. Carol Bean 12.9.2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Do you peel mangos? What other fruits do you peel or not peel?

  31. Andrea Manor 12.5.2013 at 7:03 am #

    Just wanted to comment that I developed some seriously large kidney stones from high oxalate foods. I was juicing quite a bit before that. My urologist did blood work and urine and stone analysis. We discovered that the juicing is likely causing the stones to develop. Anything with an oxalate level over 50mg. should be strictly limited: Collards-74mg, Spinach-600mg, Beet root-675, Swiss Chard-645. anything under 50mg. should be limited to 4 oz per day. Celery- 20mg, Kale-13 mg. I still want to juice and was looking for alternative greens to juice. Thanks for the ideas, I will try arugala, cabbage, bok choy, romaine lettuce, cilantro and carrot tops.

    • Jadah and Jen 12.6.2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Hi Andrea! Thanks for sharing this with us! One thing to keep in mind is that we focus primarily on blending, and not juicing. Blending requires you to use a smaller amount of leafy greens than juicing does because you use the whole leaf. This helps to reduce the oxalate levels :-) Again, thank you for sharing your story!

  32. Pam 12.1.2013 at 10:07 am #

    On Nov. 4, 2013 you commented that you could replace plain water with green tea in a smoothie. Is it OK to use a cup of plain water and just use a 1/2 to 1 tsp. of dried green tea in the smoothie? Will you receive the same “goodness” of a cup of green tea, that has not been hydrated in hot water?

  33. Reebs 11.29.2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Great article on the greens. Any recommendation on what types of fruits to mix with the non spinach options? What can I blend with cilantro? arugula? or beet greens? Thank you for this site. =)

    • Jadah and Jen 12.2.2013 at 11:50 am #

      Citrus-y fruits work really well with cilantro! We don’t use arugula much…. But beet greens work well with lots of root veggies :-)

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  35. Danielle 11.4.2013 at 6:29 am #

    I am trying to start adding a green smoothie to my daily diet. However, I’m allergic to coconut and so many of the recipes are enhanced with some form of coconut. Is there a viable alternative that’s affordable and easy to find?

    • Jadah and Jen 11.4.2013 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Danielle:

      Coconut milk? Almond milk works great.
      Coconut water? What about regular water or green tea as a replacement?
      Coconut oil? Try using a similar portion of avocado.

      Hope this helps!

  36. Jill 10.27.2013 at 5:01 am #

    Started having smoothies daily for diagnosis of Ms,question though, should I be pealing veggies and what about ginger?

    • Azure 12.7.2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Hi Jill, I usually don’t peel veggies or ginger. In my opinion it doesn’t make a difference and is a waste of time. The only think I can think of to consider peeling are beets. Hope this helps!

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  38. Katie 10.11.2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I enjoy blending spinach, kale and parsley together every day, and changing the fruit (sometimes bananas, sometimes mangos, sometimes apples, etc.) and liquids (sometimes almond milk, sometimes coconut water). Will this create alkaloid buildup?

    • Jadah and Jen 10.14.2013 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Katie!
      The best thing is for you to be conscious about it, and you should be fine :-) We can’t really say for individuals what will or will not happen.

  39. Kerry 10.4.2013 at 5:19 am #

    O-oh, I have been having spinach every day in my smoothie after being told I should avoid cruciferous vegetables due to an overactive thyroid. I will have to try and alternate with romaine and others. Thanks for the tip!

    • Jadah and Jen 10.4.2013 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Kerry!
      If you’ve had a physician tell you to avoid them, then please listen to them! This article is not written specifically for someone with an overactive thyroid.

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