Green smoothies are all the rage for those looking for healthy eating options. There’s no question that smoothies can be an excellent way to start your day, refuel after a workout and keep your clean diet on track. HOWEVER, DO NOT do what I did and make the same 2 cups spinach, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen berry, protein powder smoothie every morning for two years.
Newsflash: you can overdose on spinach
What?! It’s true. Too much of a good thing is, well, not good. Spinach contains oxalic acid, which in large doses over time, can mess with calcium absorption and be problematic for people prone to kidney stones. Many foods contain oxalic acid, especially leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, parsley, collards and beet greens. Spinach has the highest levels of oxalic acid – 750 milligrams per 100 gram serving.
Popeye wasn’t lying to us however. Spinach is still a very healthy vegetable! Just be sure you’re not eating it every day. I used to single handedly eat one of those big plastic containers of organic baby spinach every 3-4 days. I’d have spinach smoothies in the morning, spinach salad at lunch and often throw that same spinach into my veggie stir fry for dinner. Here I was thinking, “I’m so healthy! I’m getting my iron and antioxidants!” Meanwhile, I started getting a strange “burning scratching” sensation on my tongue and teeth when eating it, especially the raw spinach salads.
I didn’t think anything of it until I did a food allergy test with Naturopathic Doctor Suzanne Ho through Rocky Mountain Labs. I was straight up allergic to spinach. Turns out I’d developed a hypersensitivity to the leafy green, likely as a result of eating too much, leading to excessive levels of oxalic acid. Lesson: Don’t ignore those messages from your body. A food that burns your throat, tongue or teeth is not beneficial!
Solution: Rotate your Greens
All leaves contain small amounts of toxins as a defense mechanism to protect the plant from predators. In addition to the problems of excess oxalic acid from spinach, goitrogens in kale and other brassicas like broccoli can interfere with thyroid hormone function. This is NOT to say you should stop eating green vegetables. Just don’t eat the same damn green vegetable every day of the week!
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.
Start out rotating 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’re 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 making healthy smoothies here’s a list of greens separated family groups so you can easily rotate!
CRUCIFER: Kale, Arugula, Collard Greens, Bok Choy, Cabbage
AMARANTH: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens
ASTERACEAE: Dandelion Greens, Romaine Lettuce
APIACEAE: Carrot tops ( don’t throw em out, blend them!), cilantro (amazing with lemon/lime)
Happy blending! Yours in Good Health. Check us out on Instagram to see new smoothie recipes each week!