Green AF (Anti-inflammatory) Smoothie

This smoothie recipe is brought to you by NUNM’s Women in Balance Institute‘s lead physician,  Megan McCormick, ND, who believes in the power of whole foods to improve digestion, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function and more.

The creation was inspired by Dr. Megan Golani, who brought Dr. McCormick a green brunch smoothie after the birth of her first son. Motivated by taste and health benefits, McCormick has experimented with ingredients, trying to create the best ever green smoothie. It is perfect for busy days, rainy days, sunny days, and has been known to turn frowns upside-down and not-so-healthy days into perfectly-well-rounded days. Every ingredient in this smoothie is thoughtfully included and possesses countless health benefits. Here are some of Dr. McCormick’s favorite highlights of each ingredient, making this smoothie green AF (anti-inflammatory)!

Ingredients

1 whole lemon, juice + rind
1 cucumber, peeled
Fresh ginger, peeled
½ avocado
½ jalapeno, de-seeded
Fresh greens – arugula, spinach
Frozen pineapple
Coconut milk, carrageenan free

Instructions

Slice lemon in half, remove seeds and squeeze juice of both halves into blender. Slice lemon rind (except for each end) and include. Peel, slice, and add cucumber without peel. Peel, slice, and add freshly peeled ginger – the more the better! Add ½ perfectly ripened avocado and ½ jalapeno – minus the seeds! Pack full with greens. Top with frozen pineapple. Pour coconut milk to preferred consistency. Mix, blend, shake, and swirl.

Health Benefits of Each Ingredient

Lemon juice + pulp, pith, & peel – The bitterness of fresh-squeezed lemon juice adds a tart, fresh, and zesty flavor. Bitters aid in digestion, preventing indigestion and constipation. Lemon juice is high in vitamin C, which works synergistically when consumed with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C can help increase the absorption of non-heme iron found in plant foods. The secret to this recipe is to include the pulp, pith, and peel of the lemon. Doing so adds a creamy rich undertone. These bright and beautiful components, which would typically be tossed to the side, really pack a punch – in both flavor and medicinal properties. FYI –  it is important to choose organic lemons when including the peel in order to avoid the consumption of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

Cucumber – Cucumbers are high in water content, promoting hydration and elimination. Staying hydrated helps prevent constipation by improving consistency and maintaining regularity. Cucumbers contain a particular kind of soluble fiber, known as pectin. Pectin stimulates intestinal contractions, increasing bowel movement frequency. Pectin also “feeds” beneficial gut bacteria, improving digestive health.

Ginger – The star of this smoothie is the superfood, ginger. Fresh ginger adds a spicy, warming flavor to this chilled smoothie, making it delicious year-round. Ginger has been shown to help improve digestion, mitigate nausea, reduce menstrual pain, and lower the risk of infection. One contributing cause of indigestion is slow stomach emptying. Ginger can help stimulate emptying of the stomach, relieving indigestion. Ginger is a powerful food that helps to fight inflammation associated with chronic conditions such as muscle pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), cancer, and Alzheimer’s. The anti-cancer properties of ginger are attributed to 6-gingerol, a substance found in fresh, raw ginger. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are linked to accelerated aging, age-related cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants and bioactive compounds in ginger inhibit the inflammatory processes in the brain and enhance brain function.

Greens – My favorite combination is arugula and spinach.

Arugula – Arugula offers a bright, peppery Mediterranean taste. Arugula is a member of the Brassica, or Cruciferous, family. This delicious green is a nutrient-dense food that is high in fiber and phytochemicals, again lending to the digestive and anti-inflammatory properties of this smoothie.

Spinach – Spinach adds a nutty, buttery, dark green brilliance. Spinach is high in soluble fiber, which adds bulk as food passes through the digestive system, therefore, preventing constipation. It is an excellent source of the aforementioned non-heme (plant-based) mineral, iron. Iron is necessary to create hemoglobin, which helps provide oxygen to tissues throughout the body. Spinach also includes many plant compounds, including kaempferol and quercetin. Kaempferol is an antioxidant linked to decreased risk of cancer and chronic disease. Quercetin is an antioxidant that helps fight inflammation. Spinach is one of the richest dietary sources of quercetin! Although spinach is generally regarded as very healthy, it can have adverse effects in certain individuals. In particular, people prone to kidney stones and people who are taking blood thinners. Kidney stones are caused by acid and mineral buildup. The most common kind is calcium stones, which often consist of calcium oxalate. Spinach is high in calcium and oxalates, and therefore, people at risk of developing kidney stones should avoid consuming large amounts. Spinach is also high in Vitamin K1. Vitamin K1 has many functions, but is best known for its role in blood clotting. Therefore, people who take blood thinners should closely monitor their intake of Vitamin K1 and leafy green altogether.

Pineapple – I love adding fresh-cut frozen pineapple to my green smoothies for several reasons. First, by adding pineapple, as opposed to a different frozen fruit, the smoothie maintains its beautiful, bright green goddess color. Second, by freezing the pineapple ahead of time, the smoothie is cold and thick, without having to add ice. Third, it’s sweet (but not too sweet!), juicy, and so, so good for you. Pineapples are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that help fight oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a state in which there are too many free radicals in the body, leading to inflammation and chronic disease and cancer. The antioxidants found in pineapple are unique in that they are bound, allowing them to survive harsher conditions in the body and produce longer lasting effects. Pineapple also contains my favorite enzyme, bromelain. Bromelain aids in digestion by helping to break down protein. But bromelain isn’t just for bros who live on protein shakes. Supplementing this enzyme is particularly helpful for people who have pancreatic insufficiency – a condition in which the pancreas cannot produce sufficient digestive enzymes. Additionally, bromelain has been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer, specifically breast, skin, and gastrointestinal cancers.

Avocado – Everybody’s favorite food, need I say more? The only time I don’t add avocado is when I am making a huge batch and plan to drink the other half the following day. If the avocado sits too long, it causes a kind of gelatinous texture. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas. So, if you typically add bananas to your smoothies, try this less sweet, super nutritious alternative!

Jalapeno (green, of course) – Jalapeños contain capsaicin. Capsaicin has powerful anti-cancer properties and is capable of killing over 40 types of cancer cells without harming normal cells. It works by stopping the growth and division of cancer cells, slowing the formation of new blood vessels around cancer tumors, and preventing cancer from spreading to other areas of the body.

Coconut milk – Coconut milk helps to blend all of the above ingredients into an even more delicious and nutritious smoothie, adding a thick consistency and rich, creamy texture. Look for a coconut milk that does not contain carrageenan. My favorite is the So Delicious organic unsweetened coconut milk (the one in the green carton). Coconut milk is rich in healthy fats, which in combination with fiber, helps to stabilize blood sugar and helps you feel fuller longer.