Why you should rotate your greens

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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 nausea, 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!”

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…

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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!

 

Crucifers:

kale2Kale
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.

arugulaArugula
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.

cabbageCabbage
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.

Amaranth:

spinachSpinach
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.

chardChard
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!

 

Asteraceae:

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.

 

Apiaceae:

celeryCelery
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.

cilantroCilantro
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!

299 Responses to “Why you should rotate your greens”

  1. Carla 12.17.2014 at 4:38 am #

    I remove my greens, i.e.collards, kale, chard, from the stems. Am I losing nutritional value by removing the greens from the stems?

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 12.17.2014 at 9:26 am #

      Hi Carla. I would suggest removing only the big/thick stems on your leafy green. There is nutritional value in the stems. :)

  2. Jared 12.16.2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Hello! Thanks for all your awesome tips and support. I’ve seen that most of your recipes (at least the ones from the October 30-day challenge and your recipe page) call for spinach. Would the flavor balance be very much offset if I were to simply exchange the spinach in these recipes for my leafy green of the week? Thanks!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 12.17.2014 at 9:25 am #

      Hey Jared.

      We love all sorts of leafy greens, I enjoy swiss chard (silver beet), carrot tops, baby kale, or celery. :) Hope that helps. :)

  3. Ginny 12.13.2014 at 7:48 am #

    I’ve been using a kale, spinach, chard mix of greens that comes in one bag. Should I still try to rotate greens, or will the mix take care of it? (Thanks for the tip to freeze them. I buy a 1.5lb bag of the mix at a warehouse store and keep it in the freezer, so now I actually use the whole bag.)

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 12.15.2014 at 7:05 am #

      Hey Ginny.

      That is a good question. I am not sure, since we normal buy kale one week, spinach the next…and so on. If you have the option, try that. Either way you are getting two different leafy green families, which is good.

  4. Rosie 12.12.2014 at 10:40 am #

    Hello RAWstar Team!! Love your site. I have DAILY smoothies and enjoy the health benefits. My hubby in fact notices the changes in my skin glowing. I always add celery, cucumber, 1/2 lime and spinach or kale (alternating) as my first vegetable blend.Then I add a fresh pear, granny smith apple and a frozen banana as my typical recipe. I noticed my green smoothies are a little bitter and very vegetable taste. Any tips to making a green smoothie using celery as I enjoy the health benefits? It seems to me that I will always need to add a frozen banana and lime or lemon.

    Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,

    Rosie

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 12.12.2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Hey Rosie.

      I would suggest:

      1/2 spinach
      1/2 celery
      1⁄2 cup coconut milk
      1 cup green grapes, frozen
      1⁄2 cucumber
      1/2 banana

  5. Ruth 12.1.2014 at 4:41 pm #

    I have a question related to the tingling. What about lips tingling? I had thought that it was due to my gradually lowering a medication I have been on.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 12.1.2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Hi Ruth.

      Thank for reaching out to us. Since we are not doctors or nutritionists, we suggest that any member of community with health concerns to speak to their healthcare provider to confirm that green smoothies are okay for them.

  6. Rebecca Emmons 11.24.2014 at 8:26 pm #

    I saw about the collard greens, and how they lose nutrients when cooked. I thought I’d share something I’ve learned in research papers on African American cooking: the collard greens are served with the “pot likker” (the liquid the greens were cooked in) and sopped up with corn bread, and this is how people would get the many vitamins and nutrients contained in the collards. Perhaps a smoothie could be made with cooked collards and the liquid they were cooked in?

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.25.2014 at 7:17 am #

      Nice tip, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Nikki 11.21.2014 at 2:58 am #

    Can you use silverbeet in your leafy green because you dont have it listed

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.21.2014 at 8:40 am #

      Hey Nikki.

      Silverbeets are great, they are also known as chard in the USA. :)

  8. Mark 11.19.2014 at 9:06 am #

    I have a couple of questions about kale – do you usually just use one type of kale – I like the dinosaur/tuscan/lacinato since there seems to be more leafy part per stem. Or do the different varieties have different nutrition? Do you remove the stem from the kale? does it make it taste more bitter? I have been using liquid stevia drops to sweeten it a bit. Thanks for the tip about blending the greens and liquid before adding fruits. thanks!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.19.2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Hey Mark.

      Thanks for the comments/questions. :) You can use any type of kale that you enjoy! :) We love dinosaur kale too. :) You can removed any stems that are too thick to blend.

      Here is a link to the nutritional information we currently have on fruit, veggies and leafy greens. :) http://simplegreensmoothies.com/fruit-and-vegetable-nutrition

      We usually don’t add extra sweeteners to our green smoothies— fruit is all we use! If you still need a little extra something to enjoy your green smoothie, then try adding just a little real maple syrup or raw honey until you adjust to the green smoothie lifestyle. Please, please, please stay away from zero-calorie or artificial sweeteners—they act like toxins in your body.http://simplegreensmoothies.com/tips/sweeten

      Cheers + Happy Blendin’!

  9. Kathy O 11.13.2014 at 4:36 am #

    I have been drinking green smoothies for over a year and now discovering it may cause oxalyate crystals to form in our body. What do you know about that? Should we back off the greens to prevent the build up of this acid?

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.13.2014 at 5:10 am #

      Hey Kathy.

      Thanks for reaching out. Are you rotating your greens? We suggest every time you go to the store, by a different family of leafy greens. Since we are not doctors or nutritionists, we suggest that any member of community with health concerns to speak to their healthcare provider to confirm that green smoothies would be beneficial for their body.

  10. Jessica 11.9.2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Must the greens in the smoothie be made of leaves? Or can it also be other frozen vegetables like carrots, peas, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower etc? Thanks!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.10.2014 at 5:41 am #

      Hey Jessica, great question. We love veggies too! We love leafy green and veggies. :) Have you seen this recipe?

      2 cups cabbage
      5 frozen figs
      1 banana
      2 cups water

    • miriam 11.12.2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Going back to Jessica’s question:
      Are frozen vegetables as good as the the fresh ones? Other words, can I use frozen vegetables as an alternative?

      • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.13.2014 at 5:05 am #

        Hey Miriam.

        Yes, you can use frozen. Fresh is best, but frozen is a close second. :)

  11. Mike 11.8.2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Thanks so much for this brilliant article! Sending on the link to all my friends! Spreading the words of green smoothies! Quick question are you suggesting that I should rotate my intake of greens by taking a different family every week for example CRUCIFERS one week and the second week APIACEAE or should I eat CRUCIFERS and APIACEA every week but just rotate the greens from each family i select for example cabbage week 1 is replaced with bok choy week 2. Final question
    any recommendations regarding fruit rotations to blend with greens?Ps sorry about the long question!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.10.2014 at 5:39 am #

      Good morning Mike.

      Correct. Each time you go to the store, buy a different family of leafy greens. :) At this time we do not have a list for fruit rotations, like we do leafy greens. Feel free to mix and match. :)

  12. Morgan 11.6.2014 at 9:42 am #

    I wanted to thank you for the free download of the green smoothie crash course. I have posted about you and the crash course on my blogging site as I blog about getting healthier and fitter. I have been doing the green smoothies now for 4 days and I can tell a world of difference. My main goal at this point is to get off the sugars that are refined. This is helping tremendously. I have dropped over 3 lbs since I have started and feel great. In fact, My daughter has been sick for 2.5 days now and being that she is 3 she is in my face a lot and you would think I would be showing signs of being sick myself. I am glad to say I am not, however, my husband is. (He isn’t so sure about the green smoothies yet). I am hooked. Thanks so much for what you do.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 11.6.2014 at 11:12 am #

      Hey Morgan!

      Thanks so much for the comment and spreading the green smoothie love! We are cheering you on!! :) Keep up posted on your journey! :)

  13. Verjuana 10.21.2014 at 1:05 pm #

    What a wealth of health knowledge! I’m so excited about my green smoothies…had my first one for lunch yesterday and another last night and this morning. I’m in love!
    Thank you for what you do

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 10.22.2014 at 4:53 am #

      Cheers to your first green smoothie! :) Happy blending, Verjuana!

  14. James 10.15.2014 at 11:54 am #

    I love this site. Thank you so much!

  15. TheDharmageneral 10.15.2014 at 11:53 am #

    Love this site thank you so much for your hard work!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 10.15.2014 at 1:53 pm #

      :)

  16. Lucy 10.7.2014 at 9:47 am #

    maybe you know why I’m feeling super dehydrated?? Thanks

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 10.8.2014 at 5:08 am #

      Hi Lucy.

      Make sure you drink lots of water to help flush everything out as well. Sometimes when you make sudden changes in your regular diet, or you add more fiber into your diet, your body needs to adjust. Every body reacts to food differently. If you feel bloated, you may have some personal allergies to certain fruit combinations, that is something you would have to consult with a health care provider about. Also, make sure you don’t eat any other foods 30-60 minutes before after you drink your green smoothies to give your body time to digest the fruits.

  17. Lucy 10.7.2014 at 5:23 am #

    Hi ck
    Thanks for sharing…just love your blog:-)
    Also I’m doing almost every day a green juice since a week and feels my body is super dehydrated???
    The juice is spinach/cucumber/celeriac in an apple & beet juice..delicious tough!
    Xx

    • SGS Rawkstar Jessie 10.7.2014 at 8:45 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it! :) Which recipe will you try next?

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