Carrie Bush has celebrated plenty of St. Patrick's Days with green beer, but when the holiday rolls around this year she'll start the day with a green beverage of a different sort.
"Baby spinach, clementine, parsley, apples … I take whatever I have in the fridge," says Bush, 39, of Warrenville. The ingredients whirl around in her Vitamix (she says she's blown out the motor on two smaller blenders) and she sips the nutrient-packed smoothie throughout the morning.
For about four years, Bush, a mother of four kids ages 7 to 13, has started her days with a green smoothie. Her kids and husband drink them too, though maybe not every day.
"Working at Whole Foods I learned the importance of getting micronutrients and phytonutrients and understanding why our diet needs to be more plant-based," says Bush, who has since moved on from the grocery chain. "I take a smoothie to work in the mornings and whatever else the day brings I know I've gotten these (nutrients) in."
Kale, for instance, is loaded with calcium, fiber, iron, phosphorus and vitamins A, B6, C and K. But Bush didn't like raw kale in salads and didn't like the time it took to cook it. Smoothies became an efficient way to consume something she didn't enjoy otherwise.
"I don't like eating salads. I can consume more vegetables and become fuller when I take veggies in smoothie form," she said.
"Green smoothies are good for so many reasons," says Katrine van Wyk, a model turned holistic health coach and author of "Best Green Drinks Ever" (Countryman Press 2014). "Most people don't get enough greens in their diet. Greens give you a lot of bang for your buck.
"They're rich in vitamins, minerals and calcium. They're plants, they have chlorophyll and that gives us energy … the sun's energy captured in a plant."
Smoothies contain fiber and could be considered meal or snack replacements. Protein powders, she adds, are more appropriate add-ins for smoothies than juices.
van Wyk suggests beginner smoothie makers should start out with more mild, creamy ingredients like almond milk, spinach, bananas and almond butter. Coconut water, pear, apple and avocado also make a pleasing first smoothie. If the smoothie tastes too bitter, try upping the fruit or adding a natural sweetener like stevia, raw honey or dates.
"I like to have a green smoothie for breakfast and have juice in between meals," van Wyk says.
Bush says she buys pre-made juices (she swears a bottle of green juice eases the side effects of a night of overindulging) rather than making juice at home because she doesn't like the pulp waste. van Wyk says that vegetable pulp can be added to soups, dehydrated for snacking or put on your compost heap.
"Absolutely juicing is worth doing," she says. "You're able to consume more vegetables than you could chew and swallow."
Bush says she doesn't find her green beverage habit expensive.
"It's an investment I'm making so I keep my organs functioning," she says.