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Four Green Cooler

August 4, 2016 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

There’s no doubt it: green vegetables are at the peak of their popularity. They are the rock stars of the produce section! These days, nutritionists are quick to recommend them as a healthy part of just about any dietary plan, whether gluten-free, low carb or macrobiotic. Finding greens while eating out is no problem either. Most restaurants from fast food chains to gourmet eateries now feature chard, dandelion leaves, kale or spinach as side dishes and, sometimes, even as primary components of a main course. And, of course, you’ve surely seen countless juices in your local markets or natural food stores that proudly proclaim their “greenness”. There is a lot of good to be found in this trend. However, the benefits can be even greater if you make more greens at home.

I absolutely adore savory greens. I regularly snack on kale “chips” or eat them as a meal-on-the-go. In restaurants, I typically order or substitute roasted broccoli or sauteed kale and spinach for starchier sides such as potatoes or rice. At home, guacamole or sliced avocado frequently makes it on our breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. However, in recent years, I’ve also discovered ways of adding greens to sweet recipes. Here’s one of my favorites.

I’ve carefully selected four greens for today’s recipe. The base is intended as a hearty snack or treat. But, if you’d prefer to make it more of a meal replacement, I suggest simply adding your favorite protein source. It’ll still taste great and it will make the end product more filling and nutritionally balanced.

Green #1: Mint leaves are an abundant source of antioxidant phytochemicals, including carotenoids, flavones and phenolic acids. This likely explains why a study published in May 2015 reported that the essential oil in mint leaves may help protect against cardiovascular damage and throat infections.

Green #2: As a citrus fruit, limes are known to be a natural source of vitamin C. While true, that’s just part of the Citrus aurantifolia story. In particular, lime peels are showing potential (in animal models) with regard to heart disease prevention by protecting against LDL cholesterol oxidation. By minimizing this process, lime juice and peels may discourage the progression of atherosclerosis or plaque build up in the arteries.

Green #3: Current research on spinach is revealing numerous health benefits above-and-beyond those attributable to its nutrient-density. Two standout studies from 2016 document spinach’s potential to reduce hypertension and, possibly, act as an all-natural antacid. As if that isn’t enough, in a previous blog, I singled out spinach as a safe strategy for suppressing appetite.

Green #4: Avocados not only lend a creamy consistency to this recipe, they also assist with the absorption of fat soluble nutrients and phytochemicals found in green leafy veggies – namely beta carotene (aka “pro-vitamin A), lutein, vitamin K and zeaxanthin. What’s more, the overall composition of avocados, rich in essential fats, fiber and minerals, is now recognized as one of the healthiest foods for populations ranging from pregnant women to those at risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

Healthy Fellow: Four Green Cooler

2 organic limes
1 medium avocado
16 oz cold, purified water
10-15 organic mint leaves *
2 cups organic baby spinach
1 Tbs organic, raw, unfiltered honey

Nutritional Content: Calories: 255. Protein: 4 grams. Fat: 15 grams. Carbohydrates: 17 grams. Fiber: 9 grams. Two servings per batch.

* I used 10 large mint leaves, but feel free to adjust to your taste.

Clean the limes with a natural fruit and vegetable spray and rinse them thoroughly. Even organic produce is often coated with wax. Place the peeled and pitted avocado, washed mint and spinach leaves in a high-powered blender. Zest the de-waxed limes and add the zest in with the other greens. Next, add the juice of the limes, the chilled water, and drizzle in the honey. Personally, I think this recipe is best enjoyed very cold. So, I put the water in the freezer for a few hours before blending. Blend until reaching a smooth consistency. Before serving, sample it to see if you’re happy with the level of sweetness and texture. Adjust the amount of honey and water accordingly. And, if you’re serving it to guests, you might want to garnish it with a mint leaf or two on top.

A quick disclaimer about honey. Generally, I don’t endorse the use of calorically-dense sweeteners. However, honey is an unusual additive/food. In fact, some research shows that it behaves in a far different manner than other sugar sources. For instance, dietary honey may actually lower cardiovascular and diabetic risk factors when used in small amounts – less than 30 grams/day. Additionally, diets that include honey may confer protective effects in the gut by minimizing the presence of pathogenic bacteria, including H. pylori. For those who wish to avoid the honey, liquid stevia is a viable alternative. The brand I most often use is the alcohol-free, liquid stevia extract by NuNaturals.

As far as adding protein to the recipe, I suggest two candidates: collagen peptides and organic hemp seeds. Collagen powder has a neutral flavor that provides a unique source of amino acids that support connective tissue and lean body mass. Hemp seeds contribute a rare, therapeutic fatty acid (GLA), minerals (magnesium and potassium) and a vegan-source of “complete” protein. Both can be very healthy for you, provided that you choose carefully. In our household, we only use collagen peptides derived from grass fed cattle that is tested for impurities. In my opinion, organic hemp seeds are best. However, even organic hemp seeds may provoke allergic reactions in sensitive individuals – especially those of you who are allergic to other nuts and seeds. So, if they’re a new ingredient for you, it may be best to start slowly to assess your personal response.

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 – Peppermint Antioxidants Revisited(link)

Study 2 – Assessment of Wild Mint from Tunceli as Source of Bioactive Compounds (link)

Study 3 – Effect of Essential Oil of Traditional Two Saudi Mint Types & Its Possible (link)

Study 4 – Phytochemical, Antimicrobial, & Antioxidant Activities of Different (link)

Study 5 – Impacts of Fresh Lime Juice and Peel on Atherosclerosis Progression (link)

Study 6 – Antioxidant Effects of Citrus Aurantifolia (Christm) Juice Peel Extract (link)

Study 7 – A Comparative Study of the Antacid Effect of Raw Spinach Juice and (link)

Study 8 – Functional Properties of Spinach (Spinacia Oleracea L.) Phytochemicals (link)

Study 9 – Nitrate-Rich Vegetables Increase Plasma Nitrate & Nitrite (link)

Study 10 – The Role of Avocados in Complementary and Transitional Feeding (link)

Study 11 –Role of Avocados in Maternal Diets During the Periconceptiona (link)

Study 12 – Impact of Avocado-Enriched Diets on Plasma Lipoproteins: A Meta … (link)

Study 13 – Honey & Green/Black Tea Consumption May Reduce the Risk of (link)

Study 14 – Comparison of Glycaemic Response to Honey & Glucose in Type 2 (link)

Study 15 – Natural Honey Cardiovascular Risk Factors; Effects on Blood  … (link)

Study 16 – Characterization of Lignanamides from Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) … (link)

Study 17 – Fatty Acids Composition of Vegetable Oils & Its Contribution to … (link)

Study 18 – Nutritive Quality of Romanian Hemp Varieties (Cannabis Sativa L.) … (link)

Study 19 – Skin Antiageing and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation (link)

Study 20 – Absorption and Urinary Excretion of Peptides After Collagen ... (link)

Study 21 – Collagen Peptide Supplementation in Combination w/ Resistance(link)

Avocado Oil May Improve Brain Antioxidant Status

Source: J Diabetes Res. 2015; 2015: 485759. (link)

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6 Comments & Updates to “Four Green Cooler”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated: 08/04/16:


    J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2016 Jul 29;9(2-4):95-105.

    Higher Fruit Intake Is Related to TNF-α Hypomethylation and Better Glucose Tolerance in Healthy Subjects.

    BACKGROUND/AIM: This study hypothesized an association between healthy dietary patterns, hypermethylation of the tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) promoter and decreased risk of metabolic changes.

    METHODS: Forty normal-weight young women were involved in this cross-sectional study. DNA was isolated from white blood cells, and CpG site methylation in TNF-α was analyzed by Sequenom EpiTyper. The quality of the diet was assessed by Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005).

    RESULTS: Contradicting our hypothesis, HEI-2005 score was negatively associated with CpG5 (r = -0.460, p = 0.003) and TNF-α total methylation (r = -0.355, p = 0.026). A higher intake of fruits was related to lower insulin, HOMA-IR, and TNF-α methylation. No other dietary pattern was related to TNF-α methylation. TNF-α total methylation correlated positively with systolic blood pressure (r = 0.323; p = 0.042) and CpG5 methylation with body mass index (r = 0.333, p = 0.036). Furthermore, fiber intake was negatively associated with the CpG5 (r = -0.324, p = 0.041) and TNF-α total methylation (r = -0.434, p = 0.005), whereas vitamin C intake was negatively associated with TNF-α total methylation (r = -0.411, p = 0.009). Intakes of apples and citrus fruits were negatively associated with TNF-α total methylation.

    CONCLUSION: A healthy dietary pattern and higher fruit intake (particularly apples and citrus fruits) were related to better glucose tolerance in healthy subjects, which could be mediated by lower TNF-α methylation.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated: 08/04/16:


    Epidemiol Health. 2016 Jul 25.

    Dietary intakes of citrus fruit and risk of gastric cancer incidence: an adaptive meta-analysis of cohort studies.

    Purpose: Under the situation that antioxidant supplementary has no anticancer effect, updating meta-analysis to evaluate association between intake of citrus fruit and gastric cancer risk.

    Methods: The list of articles to be searched was established using citation discovery tools provided by PubMed and Scopus. The effect size of each article to be used in meta-analysis was calculated using interval-collapse method. Summary effect size (sES) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were obtained by conducting meta-analysis. Random effect dose-response meta-regression (DRMR) was performed to investigate the dose-response relationship.

    Results: A total of 5 cohort studies were selected. The result was 13% reduction of gastric cancer according to the intake of citrus fruit (sES=0.87, 95% CI: 0.76-0.99, I-squared = 69.6%). In sub-group analysis, it was found that the intake of citrus fruit inhibited cardia gastric cancer (CGC) (sES= 0.67, 95% CI: 0.55-0.81, I-squared=46.1%) and as a result of DRMR, 100 gram citrus fruit intake per day inhibits CGC by 40% (RR=0.60, 95% CI: 0.44-0.83).

    Conclusions: It is suggested that the intake of citrus fruit inhibits the development of CGC. This conclusion can be used as a primary prevention measures in the future under the situation that the incidence of CGC tends to increase currently.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated: 08/02/16:


    Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jul 13.

    Dietary flavonoid intake and risk of incident depression in midlife and older women

    BACKGROUND: The impact of dietary flavonoid intakes on risk of depression is unclear.

    OBJECTIVE: We prospectively examined associations between estimated habitual intakes of dietary flavonoids and depression risk.

    DESIGN: We followed 82,643 women without a previous history of depression at baseline from the Nurses’ Health Study [(NHS) aged 53-80 y] and the Nurses’ Health Study II [(NHSII) aged 36-55 y]. Intakes of total flavonoids and subclasses (flavonols, flavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymeric flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins) were calculated from validated food-frequency questionnaires collected every 2-4 y. Depression was defined as physician- or clinician-diagnosed depression or antidepressant use and was self-reported in response to periodic questionnaires. Cox proportional hazards models were performed to examine associations.

    RESULTS: A total of 10,752 incident depression cases occurred during a 10-y follow-up. Inverse associations between flavonol, flavone, and flavanone intakes and depression risk were observed. Pooled multivariable-adjusted HRs (95% CIs) were 0.93 (0.88, 0.99), 0.92 (0.86, 0.98), and 0.90 (0.85, 0.96) when comparing the highest (quintile 5) with the lowest (quintile 1) quintiles, respectively, with evidence of linear trends across quintiles (P-trend = 0.0004-0.08). In flavonoid-rich food-based analyses, the HR was 0.82 (95% CI: 0.74, 0.91) among participants who consumed ≥2 servings citrus fruit or juices/d compared with <1 serving/wk. In the NHS only, total flavonoids, polymers, and proanthocyanidin intakes showed significant (9-12%) lower depression risks. In analyses among late-life NHS participants (aged ≥65 y at baseline or during follow-up), for whom we were able to incorporate depressive symptoms into the outcome definition, higher intakes of all flavonoid subclasses except for flavan-3-ols were associated with significantly lower depression risk; flavones and proanthocyanidins showed the strongest associations (HR for both: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.77, 0.90).

    CONCLUSIONS: Higher flavonoid intakes may be associated with lower depression risk, particularly among older women. Further studies are needed to confirm these associations.

    Be well!


  4. Anna Says:

    Mint leaves definitely help with throat infections. Recently I had a cold and my throat was in a very bad condition. So instead of purchasing all of those chemically processed mint drugs, I simply juiced mint leaves. I h=have them growing in my garden, a ton of them. My throat was much better just after an hour or two..

  5. JP Says:

    Thanks for letting us know, Anna!

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 11/20/16:


    JRSM Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Aug 1;5:2048004016661435.

    The effect of green leafy and cruciferous vegetable intake on the incidence of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis.

    Does the consumption of green leafy vegetables including cruciferous vegetables significantly reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease? This research question was answered via employing the statistical methods of meta-analysis by synthesizing relevant worldwide studies that address the association between the consumption of green leafy vegetables and risk of incidence of said diseases. All meta-analysis calculations included determination of effect sizes of relative risk, and their respective 95% confidence intervals, heterogeneity of the studies, relative weights for each study, and significance (p) for each study. Eight studies met the inclusion criteria, which investigated the relationship between the incidences of total cardiovascular disease with the intake of green leafy vegetables. The overall effect size (random effect model) was: RR = 0.842 (95% CI = 0.753 to 0.941), p = 0.002, which indicates a significant 15.8% reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease.

    Be well!


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