Nasty Green Drink

On a recent trip to Austin my friend introduced us to her latest culinary obsession, “the nasty green drink.” She had recently had an infection and took a strong course of antibiotics and said her body was crying out for a large dose of healthy fruit and veggies. Since it is hard to eat a large amount of F&V, she tried the blender.
She used 2 cups of raw spinach, 2 cups of red Swiss chard, 1 cup broccoli, 1 grapefruit (quartered), 1/2 cup of blueberries and 1 bottle of Propel fitness water for the liquid and a touch of sweetness.
The result? Three glasses of the nasty green drink that smelled like freshly mowed grass. While one friend described it as “earthy,” we all agreed that it she was wise to drink it through a straw.
I analyzed the drink and it contains about 215 calories, mostly from carbohydrate (50 grams) with some protein (7 grams or about what is in 1-ounce of meat) with a trace of fat (1 grams). It is low in sodium (270 milligrams) and very high in potassium (1,000 milligrams). It is also rich in vitamin C (230 milligrams or about what is found in 3 servings of orange juice) and folate (200 micrograms or half of the recommended amount).
Where the drink really soars is in phytonutrients or plant chemicals known to keep us healthy and fight disease. With 4.5 milligrams of beta-carotene (about the amount that you would get if you ate 6 to 8 servings of F&V) it is rich in the compounds that are thought to be the active ingredients in F&V. It also is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin (9 milligrams) two compounds that protect our eyes. Researchers think these compounds act as a natural sunblock and fight free radicals that can damage the eye.
And, the nasty green drink is loaded with vitamin K which is thought to help keep our bones strong. If you are on a blood-thinning drug (like coumadin) the amount of vitamin K in this drink would prevent the drug from working.
While this drink is not for everyone (me included), dig out your blender (mine is hiding in the cupboard above the fridge; the one that no one can reach) and come up with your own healthy drink. My friend has the ability to listen to her body but most of us don’t listen, unless our body is calling for chocolate and then we hear it loud and clear!

No Magic Foods but Maybe a Magic Diet for Longevity

People always ask me what is the “best” food to eat or supplement to take for healthy aging. Despite the hype surrounding the latest and greatest magical food or pill (acai, pomegranate juice, glucoasamine, etc.) the better question might be what is the best dietary pattern for long life? A recent research paper published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (January, 2011)looked at dietary patterns of over 2,500 adults over a ten-year period. The men and women were between the ages of 70 and 79 when the study was started.

Researchers identified dietary pattern clusters and labeled them as:
1) healthy food cluster
2) high fat dairy products cluster
3) meat, fried food and alcohol cluster
4) breakfast cereal cluster
5) refined grains cluster
6) sweets and desserts cluster

Researchers found that that the 374 people who were in the healthy food cluster had a significantly lower risk of mortality (death)than the other clusters. The healthy food cluster included low-fat dairy foods (low fat yogurt or frozen yogurt, skim or 1% milk) fruit (fresh, canned or frozen), vegetables (not French fries, though), whole grains, poultry (not fried chicken) and fish and seafood (again, not the fried variety). They also found that those in the healthy food cluster got more exercise and had more non-smokers.

Two other interesting findings in this study; one of them unexpected. The unexpected finding was that eating red meat was not associated with higher mortality. That is good news because many older adults shun red meat thinking that all red meat is high in bad fats. Choosing lean cuts of red meat and keeping portions in check is a good way to get needed nutrients (zinc, iron and vitamin B12) that may be lacking in an older person’s diet.

Another finding was that those who ate foods from the healthy cluster had higher blood levels of 2 B-vitamins (folate and B12) that help to lower a blood protein, homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to poor cognitive function, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, this new year,take a look at your whole diet instead of focusing on a single food or nutrient for good health and long life. And, don’t forget to exercise like this older couple I spotted walking in Budapest.