More than a century ago, “smoothie” described a man who was a charmer or sweet talker. The word has served as a brand name for pens, chocolate syrup, whiskey, lingerie, automotive paint additive, shoes, and soft drinks. It also refers to hairless nudists!
As we know it today, a smoothie is a thick drink that contains fruit blended with juice, milk, or yogurt. Although various people claim to have come up with the name for commercial purposes—mostly notably Stephen Kuhnau, founder of Smoothie King in the 1970s—the smoothie really dates back much farther. The Indian lassi, a creamy blend of yogurt, fruits, and spices, could well be the world’s first smoothie, originating around 1,000 bc. In the 1920s and 1930s, pureed fruit drinks based on recipes from Brazil were sold in health food stores on the U.S. West Coast. In the late 1920s, Orange Julius evolved from selling just orange juice to orange juice mixed with milk, sugar, and vanilla. An improvement on the mixers and liquefiers of the 1920s, the world’s first blenders were released in the 1930s, most famously by Waring, which produced the “miracle mixer” in 1933 and the “Blendor” in 1937 and in the 1940s featured smoothie recipes in its cookbooks. The founder of Vitamix also released a machine, the Blender, in 1937.
Smoothies rose in popularity in the 1960s and mainly featured a combination of fruit, fruit juice, and ice. The 1970s saw the addition of frozen milk and yogurt, and in the 1980s adding supplements became commonplace. In the 1990s the smoothie and juice bar industry exploded, and today it’s worth billions of dollars. Juice and smoothie franchises, including Smoothie King and Jamba Juice, abound.
In 2004, Victoria Boutenko introduced what is now known as the green smoothie. Having eaten 100 percent raw foods for a decade, Victoria and her family report healing themselves of illnesses and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease, morbid obesity, asthma, and allergies. However, they were not satisfied with their way of eating, and even though they were so much healthier than before, they knew something was missing. Victoria’s passion and talent for thorough research saw her conclude that the missing element in their diet was leafy greens. She researched the diet of chimpanzees, our closest genetic relatives, and compared it to typical diets of raw foodists and those eating a standard American diet. She discovered that the chimpanzee diet is approximately 50 percent fruit and 40 percent leafy greens. Although raw foodists ate a high percentage of fruit, they ate only around 10 percent greens, Victoria learned. The standard American diet, she ascertained, was not only very low in fruit consumption but even lower in greens.
Victoria calculated that her family would need to eat two bunches of greens and 4 to 5 pounds of fruit daily. While it was easy to eat a lot of fruit, they found it difficult to eat that many greens just in the form of salads. Once Victoria learned that the tough cell walls of plants needed to be ruptured to release their abundant nutrients, she had a lightbulb moment: blend the greens with sweet fruit and water. The addition of the fruit offset the taste of the greens and also satisfied a person’s nutritional need to consume both fruit and greens. The green smoothie was born! For more information about Victoria Boutenko, her books Green for Life and Green Smoothie Revolution are excellent resources.
Blending greens, however, was not a new concept. Many decades before Victoria’s moment of inspiration, Dr. Ann Wigmore, a pioneer of the raw food movement who developed seed cheeses and nut milks and also introduced the world to wheat-grass, was a big advocate of blended food. She called one of her blended raw soups that contained greens “energy soup.” Although it has unlimited variations, the original recipe calls for rejuvelac, sprouts, leafy greens, avocado, seaweed, watermelon rind, carrot, and apple. Dr. Wigmore recommended eating 70 percent blended foods, believing this was the most efficient and easiest way to provide food that is both easy to digest and nourishing. She believed her blended recipes were a great way of maintaining
good health, as well as helping sick people heal, as the digestive burden of regular eating was lifted, yet fiber and nutrients were delivered in abundance.
Historically, proponents of natural hygiene advocated blending over juicing, believing that juicing was a form of refinement. Removing the fiber made the food “less whole.” Blended salad recipes often involved tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, celery, and fennel. A recipe may have included nutritional yeast, spices, or garlic and usually a fat such as cold-pressed oil or avocado. Whether a blended salad, Dr. Wigmore’s energy soup, or a modern-day raw soup with greens, this type of blended food is not dissimilar to what has been called a savory green smoothie, which some people find appealing as an evening meal.
Just as the smoothie industry has grown exponentially, green smoothies have also risen rapidly in popularity. There is a plethora of books, websites, and blogs devoted to the humble green smoothie. In less than a decade after Victoria Boutenko’s light-bulb moment, the green smoothie is no passing fad; it is here to stay and getting stronger by the day!