When a friend raved about Victoria Boutenko's book, Green for Life, on Facebook, I had never heard of it. Two weeks after getting my own copy of the book I'm a huge fan.
The thin, easy to read book seems deceptively small and simple but it's messages are powerful. Boutenko writes in a conversational tone, but from the beginning you see how passionate she is about her subject matter, how much she has researched and how much she really wants to help people.
Boutenko writes about her family's journey into raw foods to save themselves from some pretty serious health woes. After a few years of wonderful health, things seemed off again and she went searching for answers. After some very extensive research on everything from chimpanzee diets to pH values, she developed her green smoothie devotion -- which improved her family's health and that of thousands of others.
The book does an excellent job of educating its readers about issues such as protein, calcium, iron, vitamins, minerals, pH, fiber, homeostasis, stomach acid and the causes of disease.
Along the way I learned important facts such as:
- The greatest source of protein, vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, Omega-3's and other nutrients is almost always in the greens of the plants -- which we often throw away.
- The vast majority of the population has low hydrochloric (stomach) acid, which leads to numerous health issues, interferes with the stomach's ability to destroy harmful bacteria and prevents nutrients from being properly absorbed by the body. Levels naturally decrease as we age, when we overeat or when we are under stress, compounding the problem. When the stomach cannot properly break down food, it cannot utilize it even when we eat healthy -- but blending the foods breaks them down for us and ensures that we get all of the benefits.
- Despite our low amounts of stomach acid, most of our bodies are too acidic. Boutenko writes that Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize over 80 years ago for showing that cancer cells grew in anaerobic, acidic conditions. Many of the foods we eat make our bodies dramatically more acidic -- even ones that we wouldn't realize would, such as parmesan cheese and walnuts. Greens are alkalizing foods which help restore a healthy pH balance in our bodies.
The book is filled with studies, charts, information, recipes and personal accounts of dramatic changes in the lives of people who incorporated green smoothies into their diets.
I was quickly convinced that I wanted to try green smoothies for my family -- but I suspected it would be a major fight to get any of them to drink them!
I was delighted to find out how wrong I was.
Every member of my family loves green smoothies, it turns out. Each morning, I start the day blending up simple mixtures in the blender (such as bananas, spinach, strawberries and water) and my kids come running (it's a bit like cats when they hear the can opener). If I make two batches, they clamor for seconds -- including my young sons. Even my bacon-loving, omnivore husband likes the smoothies and thanks me for making them.
We've been having green smoothies at least once a day for over a week now, and my twelve year old daughter (a vegan who already was in good health) says that she has more energy and physical stamina than she can ever remember having. It could be a coincidence, but in the midst of a gloomy Minnesota winter it was an unexpected surprise.
The rest of us all feel more healthy and energetic too. I also love that we are starting the day with fruits and greens instead of starchy, processed foods like cereal and bagels (or my former morning habit: tea with sugar and almond milk).
Boutenko provides lots of recipes for green smoothies -- both sweet and savory. It's easy to develop your own, too. Lately I have been tossing in frozen apples that we put up last fall and this morning I even added a handful of frozen rhubarb from last year's farmers' market. A few days ago I also blended in some swiss chard I had blanched and frozen from our garden.
What greens should we be eating? Boutenko lists a large variety -- not just traditional greens like spinach and kale, but also the tops of vegetables like carrots and beets and even "weeds" like dandelion and stinging nettle. She lists dozens and points out the importance of eating a variety of greens too. It's not enough to simply eat spinach every day!
I'm excited to try new greens in my garden this year, and also to try adding weeds like clover and dandelions this spring (since we garden organically and never spray, I know these are safe -- please use caution when harvesting wild plants and be sure you know what you're harvesting and how it's been treated). I'm also happy to have a new use for the mints that constantly try to overtake my herb garden, along with the better behaved herbs like parsley and cilantro.
It can be hard to eat local in Minnesota during some parts of the year, but greens grow everywhere and have long growing seasons. Some greens also keep well, such as mustard greens, kale and collard greens. This time of year, you can also get organic spinach and dark salad greens in most grocery stores, along with other greens like kale, beets (which usually come with their tops), sprouts and even celery.
I am now a green smoothie devotee, and wholeheartedly recommend "Green for Life."
You can purchase "Green for Life" online from Boutenko's family website, Raw Family (where you can find lots of recipes, videos, information and more) or from sites like Amazon.com. You can also buy it locally from Barnes and Noble.
Green for Life is published by North Atlantic Books and retails at $16.95 ($18.95 Canadian).