Healthier Ice Cubes

November 8, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

One of the keys to improving your diet is looking for practical ways to increase your intake of health promoting nutrients and phytochemicals. Ice cubes may seem like an unlikely way to further this cause, but that all depends on what you use to make ice cubes. By using coconut water or ginger and hibiscus tea, you can transform conventional ice cubes into flavorful and healthful additions to common beverages such as lemonade and mineral water.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, upwards of 12% of children and 24% of adults regularly consume low or no-calorie drinks. This emerging trend may be helping to lower the overall intake of sugar sweetened beverages. However, the long term implications of drinking more artificially sweetened drinks and sodas is uncertain at best. What is clear is that this current shift in refined beverage options doesn’t add any antioxidant or nutrient density to the average diet.

A delicious, inexpensive and nutritious alternative to diet drinks and sodas is the use of naturally flavored ice cubes. Typically, ice cubes are obviously made of water. Having said that, in our household, we frequently make ice cubes from coconut water, ginger tea and hibiscus tea. Apart from the taste component, coconut water is an excellent source of potassium – an essential electrolyte which is commonly deficient in modern diets. Ginger tea is a potent, medicinal ingredient that combats inflammation and has recently been shown to improve arthritic symptoms, lung function and menopausal complaints. Last, but not least, is hibiscus tea. This brilliant, redish tea is a valuable source of antioxidants that addresses primary risk factors for metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When making ice cubes, it’s advisable to use filtered water, organic herbal teas and pure (unsweetened) coconut water. In addition, I suggest ice cube trays which are certified BPA-free. In our home, we add these and other flavored ice cubes to iced tea, homemade lemonade and sparkling mineral water. If more sweetness is desired, try adding some liquid monk fruit or stevia extract to the tea before filling the ice cube tray. Enjoy!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Low-Calorie Sweetener Consumption is Increasing in the United States (link)

Study 2 – Comparison of Coconut Water and a Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Sport (link)

Study 3 – The Chemical Composition and Biological Properties of Coconut Water(link)

Study 4 – The Control of Hypertension by Use of Coconut Water and Mauby (link)

Study 5 – Effect of Enteral Feeding w/ Ginger Extract in Acute Respiratory (link)

Study 6 – Influence of a Specific Ginger Combination on Gastropathy Conditions (link)

Study 7 – Effect of Zingiber Officinale Rhizomes (Ginger) on Pain Relief in Primary (link)

Study 8 – Hibiscus Sabdariffa Linnaeus (Malvaceae), Curcumin and Resveratrol as (link)

Study 9 – Consumption of Hibiscus Sabdariffa L. Aqueous Extract and its Impact (link)

Study 10 – Therapeutic Use Hibiscus Sabadariffa Extract in the Treatment of (link)

Hibiscus Tea May Help Manage Hypertension

Source: J Nutr. 2010 Feb;140(2):298-303. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition

9 Comments & Updates to “Healthier Ice Cubes”

  1. JD Says:

    This would have been nice to read this past summer!

  2. rob Says:

    My thoughts exactly JD, ill have remember this in 8 months, lol, thanks

  3. JP Says:


    There are two hemispheres! 😉

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update: Adding liquid stevia extract to your hibiscus ice cubes may be a good idea …

    Food Chem. 2015 Apr 1;172:885-92.

    Effect of stevia and citric acid on the stability of phenolic compounds and in vitro antioxidant and antidiabetic capacity of a roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) beverage.

    Plant infusions are consumed due to their beneficial effects on health, which is attributed to their bioactive compounds content. However, these compounds are susceptible to degradation during processing and storage. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of stevia and citric acid on the stability of phenolic compounds, antioxidant capacity and carbohydrate-hydrolysing enzyme inhibitory activity of roselle beverages during storage. The optimum extraction conditions of roselle polyphenolic compounds was of 95 °C/60 min, which was obtained by a second order experimental design. The incorporation of stevia increased the stability of colour and some polyphenols, such as quercetin, gallic acid and rosmarinic acid, during storage. In addition, stevia decreased the loss of ABTS, DPPH scavenging activity and α-amylase inhibitory capacity, whereas the incorporation of citric acid showed no effect. These results may contribute to the improvement of technological processes for the elaboration of hypocaloric and functional beverages.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update 05/27/15:

    J Hypertens. 2015 Jun;33(6):1119-27.

    Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

    BACKGROUND: Hibiscus sabdariffa L. is a tropical wild plant rich in organic acids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, polysaccharides, and volatile constituents that are beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Hibiscus sabdariffa beverages are commonly consumed to treat arterial hypertension, yet the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) has not been fully conclusive. Therefore, we aimed to assess the potential antihypertensive effects of H. sabdariffa through systematic review of literature and meta-analysis of available RCTs.

    METHODS: The search included PUBMED, Cochrane Library, Scopus, and EMBASE (up to July 2014) to identify RCTs investigating the efficacy of H. sabdariffa supplementation on SBP and DBP values. Two independent reviewers extracted data on the study characteristics, methods, and outcomes. Quantitative data synthesis and meta-regression were performed using a fixed-effect model, and sensitivity analysis using leave-one-out method. Five RCTs (comprising seven treatment arms) were selected for the meta-analysis. In total, 390 participants were randomized, of whom 225 were allocated to the H. sabdariffa supplementation group and 165 to the control group in the selected studies.

    RESULTS: Fixed-effect meta-regression indicated a significant effect of H. sabdariffa supplementation in lowering both SBP (weighed mean difference -7.58 mmHg, 95% confidence interval -9.69 to -5.46, P < 0.00001) and DBP (weighed mean difference -3.53 mmHg, 95% confidence interval -5.16 to -1.89, P < 0.0001). These effects were inversely associated with baseline BP values, and were robust in sensitivity analyses. CONCLUSION: This meta-analysis of RCTs showed a significant effect of H. sabdariffa in lowering both SBP and DBP. Further well designed trials are necessary to validate these results. Be well! JP

  6. JP Says:

    Update 05/27/15:

    Iran J Pharm Res. 2015 Winter;14(1):131-40.

    The effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin a1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein a-I and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients.

    Diabetes mellitus is the most common endocrine disorder, causes many complications such as micro- and macro-vascular diseases. Anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic and anti-oxidative properties of ginger have been noticed in several researches. The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial, a total of 41 type 2 diabetic patients randomly were assigned to ginger or placebo groups (22 in ginger group and 19 in control group), received 2 g/day of ginger powder supplement or lactose as placebo for 12 weeks. The serum concentrations of fasting blood sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I and malondialdehyde were analyzed before and after the intervention. Ginger supplementation significantly reduced the levels of fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein B/apolipoprotein A-I and malondialdehyde in ginger group in comparison to baseline, as well as control group, while it increased the level of apolipoprotein A-I (p<0.05). It seems that oral administration of ginger powder supplement can improves fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-I, apolipoprotein B/apolipoprotein A-I and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients. So it may have a role in alleviating the risk of some chronic complications of diabetes.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 05/27/15:

    She studied two different brands of coconut water: Coconut Juice, from the U.S., and Real Coconut, from Thailand. Coconut water comes from young green coconuts grown only in tropical climates and extracted before the coconut matures.

    She compared the two coconut water selections with bottled water, Powerade and Gatorade. In nearly every nutrient category that was tested — including potassium, calcium, magnesium and pH — coconut water proved to provide the most nutrients.

    The two traditional sports drinks did rank higher in sodium, which is necessary to replace salt lost when the body sweats. Because of that, Bhattacharya recommends coconut water specifically after light workouts that cause a person to sweat less, or making up for the smaller amount of sodium in coconut water with a salty snack.

    Through her research, Bhattacharya also discovered that coconut water provides cytokine, a plant growth hormone that makes skin look younger and is also known to help regulate cell division — which could help prevent cancer. Additionally, because the water is protected by the coconut’s hard outer shell, the water itself is sanitary, which allows doctors to use it as human blood plasma in hospitals in underprivileged countries.

    While her research demonstrated that coconut water is an excellent replacement for sugary sports drinks, Bhattacharya said it’s an exceptional everyday drink that brings many health benefits.

    “I keep a box of coconut water in my office and I drink one every day,” she said. “I have many classes this semester, and this drink helps me stay hydrated through my busy schedule.”

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 08/28/15:;year=2015;volume=18;issue=6;spage=762;epage=770;aulast=Nwachukwu

    Niger J Clin Pract. 2015 Nov-Dec;18(6):762-70.

    Effect of Hibiscus sabdariffaon blood pressure and electrolyte profile of mild to moderate hypertensive Nigerians: A comparative study with hydrochlorothiazide.

    BACKGROUND: Hibiscus sabdariffa (HS) is widely consumed in Nigeria as a refreshing beverage and also as an antihypertensive agent. Since three decades ago when its antihypertensive activities were reported in several animal experiments, its consumption has greatly increased.

    AIM: The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of HS consumption on blood pressure (BP) and electrolytes of mild to moderate hypertensive Nigerians and compare it with that of hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), a diuretic widely used asfirst-line antihypertensive drug.

    SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Eighty newly diagnosed, but untreated mild to moderate hypertensive subjects attending Medical Out-Patients clinic of Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Enugu, were recruited for the study. They were randomly divided into three groups: A, B and C. Those in Groups A were given placebo; those in Group B took HCTZ while those in Group C were given HS. Treatment lasted for 4 weeks. BP, serum, and urine electrolytes were measured at baseline, weekly during treatment and 1 week after withdrawal of treatment.

    RESULTS: At the end of treatment, both HCTZ and HS significantly (P < 0.001) reduced systolic BP, diastolic BP, mean arterial pressure and serum Na+ compared to placebo. When compared to each other, HCTZ significantly (P < 0.001) reduced serum Na+ and Cl- compared to HS and significantly (P < 0.001) increased K+ and Cl- output in urine. After withdrawal of treatment, the fall in BP and serum Na+ in HS group were significant compared to HCTZ where they returned to baseline values. No side effect was reported during the study. CONCLUSION: HS was a more effective antihypertensive agent than HCTZ in mild to moderate hypertensive Nigerians and did not cause electrolyte imbalance. HS showed longer duration of action compared to HCTZ and reduction in serum Na+ may be another antihypertensive mechanism of action of HS. Be well! JP

  9. JP Says:

    Updated 03/24/16:

    J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Mar 15.

    Evaluation of the effects of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on oxidative stress and serum levels of lipids, insulin, and hs-CRP in adult patients with metabolic syndrome: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) is a plant with antihyperlipidemic and antihypertensive effects. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of roselle calyces on the serum levels of lipids and insulin, inflammation, and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS).

    METHODS: Forty adult patients with MetS were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg of H. sabdariffa calyx powder or placebo once daily for 4 weeks. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures (SBP and DBP) and BMI (body mass index) as well as fasting serum levels of glucose (FPG; fasting plasma glucose), insulin, lipoproteins, triglycerides (TG), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), and malondialdehyde (MDA) were determined pre- and post-intervention and compared.

    RESULTS: H. sabdariffa significantly reduced serum TG (p=0.044) and SBP (p=0.049) compared to placebo. All other variables were not significantly affected by the interventions.

    CONCLUSIONS: Daily consumption of 500 mg of H. sabdariffa L. calyx powder can decrease SBP and serum TG in MetS patients.

    Be well!


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