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!

434 Responses to “Why you should rotate your greens”

  1. Bryn 7.31.2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Hello! Can I freeze greens like carrot tops, cabbage and herbs to use throughout the winter in smoothies?

  2. Karen 7.29.2015 at 4:39 pm #

    I have thyroid issues and have to severely limit raw cruciferous vegetables. Cooked are on. Are cooked greens any good in smoothies?

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.30.2015 at 7:26 am #

      Hi Karen,

      We prefer to blend with raw leafy greens, but its worth a try to meet your dietary needs!

  3. Sue 7.27.2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Good Morning! I’m confused. Again. I heard a nutritionist on the radio suggest dipping kale leaves in boiling/hot (?) water before using them in smoothies to get the best nutritional value out of them. What do you think Rawkers? I imagine it would make the older kale leaves a bit more compliant with the blender if you left them in there long enough.
    Thanks!

  4. Tiffani 7.25.2015 at 7:28 am #

    I heard that if u drink to much green smoothies that u can have high oxalate levels in the body is that true.

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.26.2015 at 8:44 pm #

      Hi Tiffani,

      That’s true! There are some people who’s bodies don’t respond well to high oxalates (which spinach is known for having), but there are also people who can’t eat bananas, or mango, etc. It doesn’t mean everybody stops eating bananas or mango. It just means those few people who are allergic have to avoid it. Not every one needs to avoid oxalate in the diet, but if you do, then you find alternatives to spinach. That’s why we think it’s important to rotate our greens between different leafy green families! You can always check with your doctor to make sure, but it’s best to listen to your body.

      Cheers :)

  5. Cindy 7.14.2015 at 8:43 am #

    So I found, at walmart of all places, a wonderful bag mix of greens that are young spinach and baby kale. Absolutely delicious in smoothies. I love to eat kale lightly steamed, but find it a bit coarse in smoothies. My question is this: Is there any nutritional difference between the ‘baby’ greens and the mature greens?

    PS: This morning’s picture perfect smoothie was the baby mix, mango, peach, and lime juice. Gorgeous bright green and delicious!

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.14.2015 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Cindy,

      Great question! Baby greens have a milder taste, but contain similar nutritional values to their more mature self. Using baby kale is a great option if you’re finding your smoothie coarse when blendin’ with kale. Try it, and let us know what you think!

      Cheers :)

  6. Carol 7.11.2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Am in love with green smoothies. Not making them too sweet, since that triggers my wanting more sweets. I have been adding Matcha to all my drinks and it is a real boost to energy with no side effects, such as being hyper. Drinking Matcha tea is excellent too.

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.13.2015 at 9:47 pm #

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you so much for reaching out, we’re so excited to have you blendin’ with us!

      Cheers :)

    • Marjorie 7.14.2015 at 3:50 pm #

      Could you recommend a good brand of Matcha?

  7. cheryl 7.10.2015 at 11:49 am #

    What is your take on parsley?

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.10.2015 at 5:01 pm #

      Hi Cheryl,

      We love parsley! Parsley specifically targets any build-up in your kidneys, liver, + bladder and helps to flush it out of the body. Not only is parsley great for detoxing, this herb has a distinct flavor that can liven up any green smoothie!

      Learn more about blendin’ + detoxing with herbs here…

      http://simplegreensmoothies.com/detox-with-herbs

  8. Liz 7.9.2015 at 4:57 pm #

    How about watercress ? is the same as Arugula?

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.9.2015 at 6:16 pm #

      Hi Liz,

      Watercress’ peppery flavor makes it the perfect substitute for arugula!

      Cheers :)

  9. Robin 7.3.2015 at 10:34 am #

    I bought organic broccoli leaf from my local Costco and tried that in a few of your smoothie recipes in place of spinach. It was super good! It helped make them a little sweeter, and from what I understand, it’s a great green superfood. :)

    • SGS Rawkstar 7.3.2015 at 7:40 pm #

      Hi Robin,

      That’s great to hear! We love blendin’ with broccoli + broccoli leaf, and love that it’s high in calcium! Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Kirsten 6.27.2015 at 6:41 pm #

    Have you tried watercress in your green smoothies? It’s rather bitter, similar I think to arugula. Any specific recipes you might recommend to incorporate watercress into my rotation?

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.29.2015 at 6:37 am #

      Hi Kirsten,

      Watercress has a very distinct flavor. The flavor is a little peppery and spicy. So we would recommend only using a small amount at one time. Switching up a recipe + using one cup of watercress, with another cup of a leafy green you enjoy (spinach is a great compliment) is a perfect way to add watercress to your green smoothies.

      Watercress would make a great addition to our Beginner’s Luck recipe…

      http://simplegreensmoothies.com/Recipes/beginners-luck

  11. Sue Hunt 6.22.2015 at 10:42 am #

    Have you tried edible chrysanthemum leaves? It’s deliciously mild. I pick mine up from the local Oriental Supermarket.

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.22.2015 at 8:06 pm #

      Hi Sue,

      I personally haven’t tried them, but will definitely need to look into them! Thanks for sharing.

      Cheers,
      Amanda, SGS Rawkstar

  12. Tom G. 6.14.2015 at 9:22 am #

    A nubby here. Need books.,receipes

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.15.2015 at 10:52 am #

      Hi Tom,

      Welcome! Check out Beginner’s Luck, it’s one of our favorite recipes, and perfect if you’re new to green smoothies!

      http://simplegreensmoothies.com/Recipes/beginners-luck

      Looking for a book? All of our material is available on our website or through downloadable PDFs available for purchase. This fall we’re coming out with our first book!! :) We can’t wait to share it with our SGS community, so keep an eye out for it!

      Let us know what you think of Beginner’s Luck! And reach out with any questions, we’re always here!!

    • dftyh 7.4.2015 at 8:42 pm #

      “The China Study Cookbook” and “Forks over Knives”

  13. Margaux 6.10.2015 at 3:35 pm #

    hi!
    I just wanted to know if broccoli was considered as a leafy green..? Thank youuu!

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.11.2015 at 5:56 am #

      Hi Margaux,

      It is! And it’s a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, + folate.

      • Claire 6.13.2015 at 9:09 am #

        would I cook it? and if so, how? thanks!

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.15.2015 at 10:58 am #

      Hi Claire,

      We love adding raw broccoli to our smoothies, it offers a great fresh taste (and a healthy dose of calcium)! If you notice your blender having trouble breaking down the broccoli stalks you can always steam + cool the broccoli prior to blending. :)

  14. Ashley 6.5.2015 at 6:23 pm #

    Hi! I just signed up for a summer CSA and was wondering what I could throw into a smoothie. Any advice about turnip greens and radish tops/greens? It would be such a waste to toss them out.

    • ANTHONY 6.9.2015 at 7:28 am #

      ive used radish greens before! great. taste is hidden like spinach.

  15. Gina 6.3.2015 at 10:55 am #

    Great info!!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I’ve been rotating spinach and kale for months. It’s good to know what other greens i can use and the benefits of each one!!!

    • SGS Rawkstar 6.3.2015 at 11:39 am #

      Hi Gina,

      Thanks for your note! Keep us updated on what new leafy greens you add to your smoothies!

      Cheers! :)

  16. asho 5.22.2015 at 2:49 am #

    Hi….I used to drink smoothie a week ago….it contains 3 to 4 types of leafy vegetables which are available in summer in india…I never blend any fruit to it..and add 1 lemon juice and pinch of salt…is it good option for green smoothie or not…

    • SGS Rawkstar 5.22.2015 at 2:25 pm #

      Hi Asho,

      Blending several varieties of leafy greens + lemon juice sounds so simple + delicious! Thanks for sharing! :)

  17. Joseph 5.19.2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Thanks for the great explanation of the various greens for smoothies. Have you tried a (thumb size) piece of Ginger
    or Turmeric root or a dash of fresh Lemon juice in your
    smoothie? If not please try and see if you like it. Thanks.
    Good health and happy Greens to you.

  18. Jessi 5.13.2015 at 2:52 pm #

    How about cactus?

    • SGS Rawkstar 5.14.2015 at 8:31 am #

      Hi Jessie,

      Hmm…I’ve never blended with cactus before! If you try it, please let us know, we’d love to hear how it worked for you!

      Cheers :)

  19. Don 5.11.2015 at 2:31 am #

    I currently live in Europe and really enjoy lambs lettuce (called mâche or rapunzel in some other places?) as an alternative to spinach. Hopefully when I return to the US I can find a source because this is a really good green, very mild, and loaded with nutrients.

    • SGS Rawkstar 5.11.2015 at 1:02 pm #

      Hi Don,

      You’re in luck! Many Whole Foods Markets carry mache, either on its own or in mixes.

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