– by Joanna Steven
Green smoothies are great meals when you’re doing a challenge or a detox! Adding greens will help your body to release toxins from your system, give you an energizing and nutritional boost, and allow for healing. But for pregnant and nursing moms considering a green smoothie challenge or detox, what are the considerations?
We went to Joanna Steven, author of Well Rounded: The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Raw Food Pregnancy, to find out what pregnant and nursing moms need to know about green smoothies to make sure their adventures with greens are safe and supportive.
Are Green Smoothies Safe During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding?
Whenever we wonder about the safety of a certain food, we need to break it down to its simplest components. What is a green smoothie?
In its purest form, a green smoothie is simply a blend of leafy greens such as spinach, and fruits, such as bananas. Nothing more, nothing less. Would spinach be harmful during pregnancy? Not at all, greens are an important part of a healthy diet at any age, because they are so high in amino acids (the building blocks of protein), minerals (important for the development of the fetus), and more. Rich in folate, they are also critical in preventing spina bifida, a developmental birth defect.
And what about fruits? There is absolutely no reason why one should restrict fruit intake, in reasonable amounts of course, as they are rich in fiber, vitamins, calories, and more. This shows that green smoothies as part of an otherwise healthy diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding are not only safe to consume, they are also extremely beneficial.
Is a Green Smoothie Detox Safe During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding?
But, what about detox diets where nothing but green smoothies are consumed? Opinions will vary on this topic, especially within the raw food community, as staunch low fat raw foodists will argue that anything but fruits, greens, and extremely minimal amounts of nuts and seeds are truly the only way to go.
I personally disagree, and I would caution against a diet exclusively made of green smoothies, as an adequate consumption of fats (especially omega 3 fatty acids and other essential fatty acids) are important both for mom and baby. Studies showed that a lack of omega 3 fatty acids can lead to anything from depression during pregnancy to low visual acuity in children born of omega 3 deficient mothers. I personally made a point of consuming at the very least 600 mg of DHA daily.
How many green smoothies are too many?
A good rule of thumb is to equate “too much” with “not enough of other essential foods”. If you are drinking so many green smoothies that you end up low on calories, healthy fats and certain nutrients such as selenium, zinc etc., then you are drinking too many green smoothies and should cut back.
I drank around 3-6 cups of green smoothies daily, for a total of around 3-4 cups of greens to 5-7 cups of fruits. I also ate my greens in salads, which are different in that they also contribute healthy fatty acids to my diet in the form of hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, healthful dressings and more.
What about toxins passed on to babies?
It is an undeniable fact that toxins spill onto breast milk. But, our breast milk is not as toxic as we think, even if we follow a “normal”, non-organic diet which would also include milk, dairy etc.
A study from Ohio State and John Hopkins universities found that there are more pollutanst in the air we breathe than in breast milk! Because of its amazing health promoting qualities which will influence a child’s lifelong development, toxins should not be an issue when it comes to breastfeeding. Regardless of our diet, breast is always best. Still, we as mothers want what’s best for our kids, and therefore try to avoid potentially hazardous factors such as VOC paints, cigarette smoke etc.
So, what about green smoothies? As I said earlier, green smoothies are greens and fruits, which are very beneficial to us and, as a result, our babies. They are not harmful as long as they do not constitute one’s sole source of nutrition (and the harm would then be from missing nutrients, not from the ingredients themselves).
What are some alternatives that can be put in place to increase nutrition safely?
Granted, it is true that chlorophyll is detoxifying, but it is much better to avoid environmental pollutants and consume high mineral, high vitamin green smoothies than to keep living the same relatively toxic life while avoiding healthy food.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and are drinking green smoothies daily, great!
If you currently follow a processed diet, I would still recommend adding green smoothies to your daily routine. All you need to do is start with one cup a day, gradually building up to 3-6 cups a day as your body adjusts to the new ingredients and high quantities of easily absorbed nutrition.
If you still want to increase your nutritional intake in the meanwhile, as you should, I would recommend adding a variety of healthy ingredients in small quantities, so that you can increase them as you would increase your intake of green smoothies.
For example, you can add hemp seeds to your smoothies, or sprouted brown rice protein. Both are raw, and while you will not have a “pure” green smoothie as a result, you will still have a very healthy, power packed, easy to digest food that will leave you energized. That way, you will not be consuming large quantities of any single food, thus not overloading your system, but will still be improving your diet.
The Bottom Line: Why are Greens Important for Mom and Baby?
The benefits of greens are mind boggling. They are antioxidant powerhouses, have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, are rich in minerals, and they are detoxifying. Moms need them to stay healthy during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, when our nutritional needs go up dramatically, and fetuses need them to develop properly. Breastfeeding babies need the nutrients to keep up with the many growth spurts they will go through during their infancy. And, green smoothies might ensure that mom keeps up with her fluid intake – it is easy, in our busy lives, to forget to drink enough, so we might as well get our fluids at the same time as our vitamins and minerals!
Green smoothies are a very healthy food for mom and baby, and they should be consumed regularly as long as they are part of an otherwise healthy and varied diets which includes essential fatty acids, more protein than for regular individuals (70 grams of bio-available protein is good), and certain nutrients which are available in larger amounts in nuts and seeds, like zinc and selenium.
To learn more about having a healthy, raw food pregnancy, and to find out what vitamins, supplements, minerals, nutrients, herbs, and resources you need, please visit RawMom and be sure to get a copy of Joanna’s educational e-book, Well Rounded: The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Raw Food Pregnancy.
About Joanna Steven:
She is a Law graduate from the Rene Descartes Law School of Paris (France), and holds a BS in Psychology from Iowa State University. She is currently working on her Masters in Psychology as well as her Clinical Nutrition degree.
After becoming a vegetarian in 2003, she discovered the raw diet after reading an interview by Tonya Kay on bodybuilding.com. She now eats a high raw diet with a big emphasis on leafy greens and chlorophyll rich foods – often having them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! She is also happily addicted to raw kale chips.