Even though the calendar doesn’t record official summer until June 21, I always consider Memorial Day the real “kickoff.” And with that comes a smidgen of anxiety around my body in a bathing suit. I used to do a quick juice cleanse to jump-start the water loss, but over the past several years I’ve found that I can maintain overall health and weight by using my blender and farmers market produce on a daily basis.

We all know green smoothies are the rage, but are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Let’s take a look at some of their many health benefits:

Getting more fruit and veggies, especially greens

We know the guidelines suggest that we eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day to prevent cancer and other diseases. But that’s not always so easy. Green smoothies are a quick and convenient way to get your vegetables such as dark, leafy greens without tasting them. Fruit masks the flavor so you can enjoy flavors of pineapple, mango or strawberry while also consuming a healthy dose of spinach, kale, carrots or any other vegetable you pop in the blender.

Kids love ‘em

Getting kids to eat healthier foods can be a challenge. But treat smoothies like a milkshake and they gobble them up, especially when using some of their favorite fruits.

Improved digestion Blending fruits and vegetables breaks down the cells of plants and improves digestibility. Let your blender “chew” your food and ease the burden on your system that sometimes high-fiber foods can create.

Increased energy

Smoothies provide a powerful boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients without bogging down your digestive system. Drinking a smoothie in the morning gives me a burst of energy not even caffeine can sustain and without the jitters. I cannot believe how much energy I have throughout the day. Green smoothies can replace your morning coffee ritual. Seriously.

Natural weight loss

Green smoothies provide the nutrition, vitamins, minerals, healthy carbohydrates, fiber and whole food that help with weight loss safely and effectively without starving yourself. Remember, our bodies need fuel, and this is a sustainable model for lifelong maintenance. You feel full and satisfied after drinking this nutritious “cocktail.”

Reduce cravings

Green smoothies reduce cravings for junk foods, unhealthy sweets, salt and fats. You will find that after a few weeks of drinking smoothies, you will crave healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables and greens.

Increased fiber

Unlike fruit juice or using a juicer, green smoothies use the whole fruit and vegetable so that you get all the fiber and nutrition. Fiber is essential for good colon health and keeping the good cholesterol at optimal levels.

Healthy bones

I don’t do well with dairy products and believe that much of their so-called “calcium benefits” are questionable. Green smoothies provide a rich source of bone-building nutrients thanks to dark, leafy greens — your best avenue to easily absorbed calcium.

Alkalizing

Being a society of coffee (and wine) drinkers, most pH in our bodies runs acidic. While no food specifically causes blood pH to change, green smoothies offer an abundance of veggies that have an alkalizing effect and can help reduce heartburn and indigestion, especially when adding fresh ginger.

If you find yourself with a little too much kale (or other greens) from the farmers market, I like to quickly blanch it, dry and freeze to use in my smoothies. Another great tip: Chop up cucumbers, freeze and use them as “ice cubes.” Since 90 percent is water, they are great for hydration as well as energy boosters for their high amounts of B vitamins.

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Greena Colada

This is my foundation for a dairy-free smoothie and a favorite at chef demos. Yes, you can add all types of juices or milks (coconut is extra creamy), but to keep it clean and refreshing, I just use purified water. Sometimes I add half an avocado, which offers a creamy component. And if you happen to make this at the end of the day, splash in a little rum and pretend you’re at the beach.

1 large cucumber, frozen into chunks

1-plus cup water

1 cup kale or other greens

1/2 cup parsley (another source of calcium)

1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks or melon

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 Tbsp. raw honey

Karen Schuppert also freezes avocados from the farmers market to add the creamy component to her smoothies. For more inspiration she can be reached at karen@karenschuppert.com.

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