I’ve been enjoying the immediate energy boost and yummy flavours from green smoothies for a few months now, however, coming from a Chinese Medicine background, I have been wondering if green smoothies really are good for the digestive system namely the spleen which is so important to good digestion and metabolism from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) point of view.
Article by Michelle Locke
Michelle is the Director of Wu Tao Pty Ltd, she does everything from creating new dance material, making DVD’s, writing books, marketing, administration and training new teachers.
According to TCM the spleen is where all the transformation of food into Qi (life-force energy) happens. The spleen doesn’t do well with food that is too cold, too sweet or raw as it creates a condition called Dampness. Dampness develops when the digestive fire which is the natural warmth and transforming element of the spleen, gets put out by too much cold.
Imagine that you have a little furnace burning in your belly. On it is a pot containing a soupy thick mix. (That’s the partly processed food that has already passed through your upper digestive system).
If the food in the pot is too cold or not broken down enough (like with raw food), the fire can’t burn hot enough to cook it and break it down further into the soupy puree, which is the necessary phase before absorption and Qi production. So what you end up with instead is food that is not broken down enough, a weak digestive fire (think a single flame instead of a little furnace) and the resulting condition known as spleen deficiency leads to Dampness.
When there is dampness the result is sluggish metabolism. It’s slow and not efficient. The cells can’t get the nutrients they need so energy levels are low and organ function is not optimal. There’s lots more to be said about the Spleen and dampness, but for now let’s take this into the Green smoothie debate!
Green smoothies are usually cold in nature because they contain raw fruits and vegetables. However, they can be warmed by adding spices such as ginger or cinnamon. When vegetables and fruit are processed into a green smoothie, you are effectively ‘warming’ them, because you are breaking down the fibres which makes them easier to digest and process. I guess you could say the ‘heat’ from the blending process does have a warming effect on the food!
A lot of the initial breakdown of food occurs in the mouth, where all the chewing happens. Chewing involves saliva which helps to break it down even more. That is why it is essential to chew your food well before swallowing. Thirty times for each mouthful is recommended by my acupuncturist.
Consuming a smoothie will effectively remove the need to breakdown food in the mouth, however, for best nutrition and support for your digestive system, make sure you hold and swill the smoothie in your mouth so it can mix with saliva, before swallowing.
So the verdict is:
Green smoothies are an easy and delicious way to increase your intake of high quality nutrition without distressing your digestive system. If you add a touch of warming herb (ginger wins outright here), you will be making it even more nourishing for your spleen and stomach.
I am enjoying green smoothies every day at the moment and I love the energy boost I get from drinking it. The nutrients are taken up very quickly by the body and if I choose low glycaemic fruits and some super food additions I have great energy for 3 – 4 hours after drinking it.
Here’s a green smoothie recipe I am enjoying at the moment.
Kale and Cucumber Smoothie
1 large handful Kale
½ lebanese cucumber
½ cup coconut water (or water)
1 tbspn greek yoghurt
1 tbspn chia seeds
1 tbspn flax seeds
½ tspn grated ginger
Blend it all together in a food processor or smoothie maker (we have a nutribullet and it works a treat) and drink it slowly, enjoying each mouthful.