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How to Build the Perfect Green Drink

Looking for ways to get more vegetables in your diet? If not, you should: Eating a variety of fresh produce is important for your health.

But some nutrients, like vitamin C, are damaged by heat in the cooking process and are better for you when eaten raw.

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Cooking enhances other nutrients, such as lycopene in tomatoes, so eating your foods in a variety of preparations is key. Making a green smoothie or juice can offer a concentrated source of nutrition easy to take with you that tastes delicious as well.

Blending greens into a drink maintains the natural fiber in these foods and is hydrating too. When building your own perfect green drink, use the guidelines below for your unique, ideal combination:

1. Choose a Liquid Base (one cup)
Water
Coconut water (unsweetened)
Milk or unsweetened nondairy milk (almond, rice, soy)

2. Choose Greens (three to four handfuls or about two cups)
Bok choy
Collard greens
Kale
Lettuce (romaine, green leaf, Bibb or a spring mix)
Spinach
Swiss chard

Greens like arugula, dandelion and mustard greens can boost your green smoothie.

3. Add Other Healthy Greens (*use the healthy greens below in lesser amounts, up to half a cup, due to their strong and fragrant flavors)
Arugula
Beet greens
Cilantro
Dandelion
Mustard greens
Parsley

4. Add Other Veggies and Fruit (half a cup)
*Use frozen fruit for frothy and cold drink.

Half of an apple
Half of a banana
Blueberries
Cherries
Cranberries
Grapes
Half of an orange or a mandarin
Peach slices
Half of a pear
Pineapple
Raspberries
Strawberries

Using frozen fruit will make your smoothie frothier.

5. Add a Healthy Fat (one to two tablespoons)
Avocado slice
Cashews (soaked in water for about 30 minutes to soften)
Chia seeds
Coconut oil
Flaxseed (ground)
Flax oil
Nut butters (peanut, almond, sunflower)

6. Choose Your Favorite Flavors (try one to two options below; experiment with measurements to suit your taste)

Sweeteners: two pitted dates, one teaspoon of maple syrup, two teaspoons of unsweetened jam or jelly, a quarter of a cup of 100-percent fruit juice.

Spices: one teaspoon of cardamom, cinnamon, ground ginger or nutmeg

Other: half of a fresh lemon or lime, freshly grated ginger, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla or almond extract.
Add a couple of ice cubes and blend until smooth -- about 30 seconds. Add more liquid if needed to blend completely. Serve and enjoy!

This filling smoothie is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and contributes to your daily hydration needs. Have fun experimenting to find your perfect taste combination, and enjoy this drink for a quick breakfast or post-workout snack.

--Ginger

Readers -- Do you make green drinks at home? Which items are your favorite and least favorite of these options? Are there any other ingredients you love to include? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Ginger Hultin is a Chicago-based writer and dietitian specializing in oncology, fitness, supplements and plant-based nutrition. She holds Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and a Master's of Science in Nutrition from naturopathic Bastyr University.

Connect with Ginger on her blogTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest

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