'The Lion King' in The Plant Kingdom

February 20, 2018

Or why I called my recently posted smoothie - Super Smoothie.

It is simple, it has probably the most nutrient dense content possible to achieve in one smoothie without compromising the taste too much. I have done little research, or it's more like my everyday life research, I read, take notes, read more, analise and make conclusions. I know by now that Whole Food Plant Based Diet is the healthiest diet (or lifestyle) on earth, it prevents and reverses most of the chronic diseases epidemically spreading on mother earth (or to be more precise in the most 'developed' areas on this planet). But even in plant world not all plants are created equal. Some are more nutritious, some are less. Let's take for example white potato, it's whole food plant, it's a vegetable, not a grain or fruit, but vitamin and mineral content is not really high per calorie in a potato. The very important term here to know here is Nutrient Density. Which identifies the proportion of nutrients in foods per calorie, with terms such as nutrient rich and micronutrient dense referring to similar properties. 

So for example Dr Fuhrman has his own formular H=N/C, where your health (H) is predicted by your nutrient intake (N) divided by your calorie intake (C). So basically it's as simple as that, more micronutrients (= vitamins + minerals) are in 1 calorie in your food, better it is for you. The same Dr Fuhrman gives an example chart of the most popular foods and the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index)score next to them to show how they stack up in terms of micronutrient density per calorie. The more nutrient-dense food you consume, the more you will be satisfied with fewer calories and obviously the healthier you will be, younger and more beautiful you will look, will have more energy and just enjoy life more. Kale in his chart is the king of the plants, followed by other leafy/cruciferous greens. Please click here to see and evaluate the list yourselves. But Dr Fuhrman is not the only one who promotes leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, another plant based diet advocate Dr Greger does it too. As well as alkaline diet promoters such as Live Energized creator.

There are other groups of foods mentioned doctors are talking about and strongly agree on them being superior when other plants, which are: beans (that includes lentils), berries, seeds (+ nuts) and mushrooms. Additionally Dr Fuhrman puts priority to Onions in his G-BOMBS, when Dr Greger does't and vice versa, Dr Greger adds spices, cruciferous vegetable and flaxseeds (with special attention from all seeds) to his Daily Dozen, when Dr Fuhrman does not exclude these groups of some how more special. They both agrees on unlimited amount and variety of all other veg consumption. As well as fruit and whole grain intake, tough in slightly different quantities and forms, but I will leave this to discuss another time. In this post I will only concentrate on what we put to our Super Smoothie - seeds (flaxseeds, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds), fruits (in this case bananas and lemons), spices and herbs (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and parsley) from what was mentioned above and few other add ons, which delivers great benefits too.

Ok so let's start with fruits the most complicated one from this list. While most if not all Plant Based diet promoting doctors gives thumbs up on consumption of fruits (in different quantities depending on the doctor and your goals), but all of them agrees on benefits of having 1 to 4 servings a day. The other side of the coin is the alkaline diet advocates' opinion on fruits. Few (not all) alkaline diet/lifestyle promoters strongly disagrees on most of the fruits consumption, with exception of citrus fruits and maybe few others. The big problem with fruits they see is high sugar content, more precisely fructose, which makes most of the fruits acidic (acid forming). I do agree with it from one point of view, yes it should not be our main dish of the day for sure, but I do not see any harm in having one banana or a slice of pineapple or 1/2 glass of berries in our smoothies. 

Reason one - it makes our green smoothie taste way better and sweeter (and it is very important for all people - who wants a smoothies which taste cow's food?) and the second reason - fruits on their own have benefits too (not just naughty fructose in their flesh). For example mentioned above bananas and pineapples, together with papayas and kiwis has loads of digestive enzymes which taken in conjunction with probiotics helps to heal the gut from the inside, allowing our body to take full advantage of the nutritious food we're eating. Most importantly digestive enzymes help to break down food and even hard-to-process parts of them such as proteins. Shortly, foods rich in digestive enzymes helps to break down and absorb essential nutrients from food we eat both macro and micro nutrients. And foods which are rich in enzimes are only few group: fruits and fermented goods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, etc. (which Alkaline diet gurus (some not all) think it's not good for you too, one of them I actually emailed to give me some more scientific explanation, because in his website he writes, quote: 'fermentation makes foods acidic. End of. Miso, tempeh, apple cider vinegar, kombucha etc. are all acid forming'. Still haven't got an answer back).

One more reason why we should NOT stop eating fruits is dietary fiber and fruits are one of the best sources of it, if not the best. Which makes fruits a perfect snack in between meals. Why snack on chocolate bar or crisps if you can have e.g. a banana or a slice of papaya which prepares your digestive system for a bigger meal.

I would give only few suggestions on fruits: 1-4 servings a day 1 out of them being a serving of berries, the rest of your choice (1 serving = 1 medium size fruit, 1 glass of cut fresh fruits or 1/2 glass of fresh/frozen berries, 1/4 glass of dried fruits or berries based on Dr Greger's serving sizes), less fruits or more citrus, low in sugar fruits, such as grapefruit, pomegranate, watermelon if you want to loose weight, if not, have which ever fruit you like, preferably including 1 or 2 of high in digestive enzyme ones (banana, pineapple, papaya or kiwi, which are my favourite one anyway). 

Suggestion number 2, have your fruits on their own at least 30 minutes before your meal and 1-2h after it, depending what you had, heavier the meal - longer is the wait, with exception of smoothies. Because fruits are the fastest to digest and if you have them with something hard to digest/break down (e.g protein) it will rot in your digestive system unnecessarily, instead of going through quickly, giving the body all nutrients it carries, preventing from rotting in your colon and growing bad bacteria out there. Smoothie is an exception, because everything is 'predigested' in there. Blending process breaks down/predigest food for you before you have it. So for example if you have let's say fruit salad with almond butter, almonds are broken down here already, so digestion time is more similar for both. Same rule applies with soaked nuts, seeds and grains or cooked items. So that's it on fruits for now.

 

Next one: seeds and nuts. Mostly seeds, as we used 4 different ones in Super Smoothie and they are more nutritionally valuable than most of the nuts according to both plant based and alkaline diet advocates. All seeds in food ranking charts appears higher than most of the nuts (Dr Fuhrman's ANDI food ranking chart) and most of the seeds fall into more alkaline group compering to nuts. Also seeds (and nuts) contain healthy fats and are rich in a spectrum of micronutrients, including phytosterols, minerals, and antioxidants. Seeds we've used in the smoothie (flax, chia and hemp seeds) are extremely rich sources of omega-3 fats. The healthy fats in seeds and nuts also helps to absorb nutrients when eaten with vegetables or fruits. Flax seeds additionally are rich in fiber and lignans, which have anti-cancer effects (lignans are present in sesame seeds too). Also most of the seeds are alkalising, because of high quantities of minerals they contain. So massive thumbs up to the seeds, put them to your smoothies, sprinkle on salads and soups or just have few spoons for your snack. Recommended servings for a day according to Dr Greger are 2: 1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds as minimum (as he highlights this seed as superior compering to others). Second serving could be any other seed or nut of your choice - 1/4 of glass or 2 tbsp of seed or nut butter. Chesnuts and coconuts does not nutritionally count as nuts, according to Dr Greger. I would not count peanuts here as well. Peanuts by it's nutritional content is legume and it's the least nutritionally valuable out of all nuts if we decide to leave it in nuts group. So if I was you, I would not go for spoons of peanut butter everyday for your second serving of seeds and nuts. Chia, hemp, sesame (white and black), pumpkin, sunflower seeds (including tahini and seed butters) has much more nutrients than peanuts and most of other nuts too. Variety is important, so have most of them in your kitchen (it looks beautiful in glass jars on the shelves by the way) and just mix and match. It will provide greater variety of nutrients and you will never get bored with one type only.

OK so let's move to spices and herbs. Besides it has an amazing feature to make everything taste better, to my surprise it is really nutritionally dense too. I was literally using loads of spices and herbs on daily basis because I just love it, never questioned if it does any good for my body. I knew it does no harm for sure, but had no clue, that ALL of them has great positive effect to our health. Especially turmeric, it has been used since antiquity for its anti-inflammatory (painkiller), carminative, anti-flatulent and anti-microbial properties. It is also rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, which helps to control blood LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels. Some studies also show turmeric to have anti-cancer properties.

In alkaline world all herbs and spices are alkalising. So again thumbs up to all of them. How much? The same old Dr Greger recommends at least 1/4 tsp a day of turmeric, because of it's miraculous properties. I do as well, I would go for 1 tsp at least. Turmeric is super easy to use, as it does not taste much, it's not spicy, so it goes with anything really: smoothies, pastries/pancakes, stews and soups, salad dressings, as seasoning for roasting veg. The rest of the spices and herbs use as much as you want with moderation, not going too crazy.

 

So what I did here, I summed up compared what different diet advocates calls a healthiest foods, listed them, compared them, picked the ones they all (or most of them) agrees on, investigated the contradictory ones and using my culinary skills (so it does not end up being a totally undrinkable green coloured liquid) put them to one Super Smoothie. Which can be made with or without certain things or be replaced with suggested or removed.

So let's quickly analise what we just put to our smoothie (click for the recipe here -> SUPER SMOOTHIE).

 

1/2 glass kale (35g). For it's huge amounts of vitamin K and A, which fully covers RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) on it's own with only this small amount of it (which was very pleasantly surprising for me). As well as significant amount of vitamin C, which was something new to me too, more than 1/2 of RDA with just 1/2 a glass in your morning smoothie. Also Kale has healthy amounts of minerals such as Manganese, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. For me kale is a super veg or The Lion King of the plants, maybe not super food, but close enough. I really try to have it everyday, if not with the smoothie (which is the easiest way to get it for the breakfast), than with lunch and/or dinner for sure. I love it because it's delicious raw, lightly massaged in lemon juice to soften or in a smoothie like this one, great steamed or in soups and stews and super yummy as a snack (check this recipe for inspiration - Tokyo Kale Crisps). Trust me it's easy to have 1/2 or even 1 glass of it daily.

 

1/2 glass spinach (15g).
It is another powerful plant which contains loads of goodness. Starting with great amounts of vitamin K and A. Other vitamins to mention is Folate, Vitamin C, B2. Also the same as kale spinach is great source of minerals: manganese, magnesium and iron. Spinach is high in electrolyte Potassium and Dietary Fiber too. For me kale and spinach is like brother and sister, similar in some sense, but has a different personalities and cannot be exchange with one another. So usually I mix and match them during the week, but try to use both everyday or at least every second day, having kale Mondays and spinach Tuesday and Wednesdays having them both again. I'm obviously joking, but you probably get my point. As I said they are like brother and sister goes along well, but great one their own. I have other smoothie recipes you can try for a change with spinach only: Mango in Green and Green Mango Inn Smoothie (No 2).

 

Handful(~15g) alfa alfa or similar sprouts. They contain a good amount of protein and dietary fiber, as well as vitamin K, C and A. In terms of minerals, sprouts have manganese, magnesium and iron. Sprouts are great, but I was a little disappointed as I honestly thought that they are almost super foods and are packed with vitamins and minerals. I was wrong, it has a proportionally regular amount and they are really light, especially alfa alfa sprouts so you need to have quite a bit of it to get significant benefits. I still love them and keep sprouting. As I love how it tastes and looks - it is just perfect for decoration, especially avocado toast cannot go without sprouts on the top. So my conclusion here: if you skip sprouts in this smoothie you will not have much of the difference in terms of nutrients you will get, it's only a handful which is around 15g. But continue using it, as it nutritious and beautiful add on to salads, toasts, wraps and other meals.

 

Few slices of cucumber(~50g)is good source of water, Vitamin K and C. As well as minerals manganese and magnesium. Also has some potassium which makes it great alkalising vegetable, great for smoothies and juicing.

 

1 stalk of celery(~50g).  

The benefits of celery begin with similar to cucumber amounts of water. As well celery is an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.

 

Few slices of ginger, 1 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp cinnamon and few leaves of parsley. I talked about benefits of spices above already, just to highlight again Turmeric is natures most powerful anti-inflammatory remedy, known and used since ancient time. Together with ginger and cinnamon it works just amazing to reduce any inflammation in your body. Additionally Turmeric is great source of iron, cinnamon is high in manganese and parsley is full of vitamins K, A and C as well as good source of iron.

 

1 tsp (3g) of moringa powder. Moringa is a powerhouse of nutrients. It contains 25% plant protein including all 9 essential amino acids, 24% of it is dietary fibre, moringa is a rich source of iron (1 tsp (3g) only = 11% RDA), vitamin K (1 tsp = 53% RDA) & E (1 tsp = 22% RDA), a source of vitamin A (1 tsp = 6% RDA) & calcium (1 tsp = 8% RDA) and it is high in antioxidants.

As moringa powder is a natural source of these nutrients, it is highly bioavailable, so our bodies can absorb the benefits easily and it makes the most of it, comparing with e.g. supplements.


1 tbsp ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds each + 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

As mentioned above seeds are nutrient dense food. Just to highlight, that seeds are not only great plant based source of protein, dietary fiber and healthy fat, chia, flax and hemp seeds are super rich in omega 3 fatty acids (1 tbsp chia = 69% RDA, 1 tbsp flax = 66% RDA and 1 tbsp hemp = 28% RDA), which are great for your joints and they are highly anti-inflammatory.
Just a little more attention to pumpkin and hemp seeds. Besides of having really high quantity of protein (1 tbsp hemp seed = 22% RDA and another 20% RDA comes from 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds), both of them are really rich in: Vitamin E (it covers and extents RDA by just adding recommended amount to the smoothie - 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds = 99% RDA, 1 tbsp hemp seeds = 38% RDA). So next time someone will try to sell you Vitamin A + E supplement for your skin and nails in Holland&Barrets, tell them that you eat enough kale, pumpkin and hemp seeds. The same thing with Zinc, 3 + 1 tbsp does not cover all you need per day, but if you have some additional cacao powder or dark chocolate you are covered. And that's not it, those 4 spoons of seeds (3 - pumpkin, 1 - hemp) are full of other minerals in high quantities too: Copper (62% RDA from 3 tbsp Pumpkin seeds), Magnesium (99% RDA from both: 37% from 1 tbsp hemp seeds, 62% from 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds), which is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, including maintenance of normal nerve and muscle function, support of a healthy immune system, keeping the heart beat steady and helping bones remain strong. As well as manganese (150% RDA covered, similar amount from each), Phosphorus (94% RDA: 20% - hemp, 74% pumpkin) and to my surprise lots of Iron (57% RDA: 11% - hemp, 46% pumpkin) needed for the normal function of the immune system and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue in the body. I don't remember seeing these benefits of seeds anywhere, do you? We are so used to either go for supplements or animal sources of nutrients, that no one promotes natural, plant based SUPER sources of the essentials we need. And all it takes just couple of spoons a day, no more fish oils or even plant based algae / flaxseed oils, no more iron or zinc or magnesium supplements - just few spoons of seeds a day.

These two seeds are definitely one of my favourite from now on, as well as Flax, and Chia for it's high concentration of omega 3s and dietary fiber. Of course they are quite calorically dense and nearly 1/2 of the calories comes from fat (but mostly good one, only couple percent of saturate fat - in few of them) so it's not the main dish as you probably understand, but to add it to salads or smoothies, sprinkle over avocado toast or curry is a really great idea. I would recommend to stick with not more than 1/4 of a glass of any seeds (or nuts), plus 1 additional tbsp of ground flax a day and you will be just fine for you fat intake, but at the same time you will cover big portion of vitamin and mineral you need.

 

1/4 lemon and 1 banana (~100g). Both are considered good source of dietary fiber as well as vitamin C. Lemon is well known for it's high quantity of it, but to my surprise one medium banana (100g) contains 15% RDA of vitamin C, so both together covers 1/2 of daily RDA, which is brilliant. Banana is also great source of electrolyte potassium, which is very useful if you are working out and loosing yours through sweating. Also it is one of the best source of few different digestive enzymes (amylase and maltase), which helps to break down food including carbohydrates and malt sugars in your body and allow the digestive system to easily process it. Lemons are classified as alkaline fruit, which isn't many on the list, because of it's low levels for sugar (fructose). So it helps to neutralises the acidic banana effect on our system (reminder banana is considered acidic according to alkaline diet advocates because of it's high levels of fructose, which acidifies our body).

 

1/2 glass kombucha, water kefir (not milk!) or rejuvelac. The last but not the least probiotic drink - all of them are good source of good bacteria to enrich your existing gut flora and fauna. Just a quick overview on kombucha. It is known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese and originating in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, kombucha is a beverage with tremendous health benefits extending to your heart, your brain and (especially) your gut. Since 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut, and the digestive system is the second largest part of your neurological system, it’s no surprise that the gut is considered the “second brain.”​ Kombucha is also a great source of Folate and most of B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and even B12, which is so hard to find in non fortified plant based food. All sources of info are slightly different from one another, but with 1/2 glass you should at least get 10% RDA of folate and each B vitamin. Although some of the alkaline diet specialist consider fermented drinks as acid forming (as mentioned earlier in this article, I am still waiting for an answer with some scientific evidences why, from one of alkaline diet gurus), it's too beneficial not to have it. It is truely amazing drink which adds so much towards improving your health. Also if you are one of fizzy drinks lovers, this is an absolute must for you to try and replace all of them with kombucha. Because it is naturally fizzy, not chemically carbonated (second fermentation creates bubbles in your kombucha, and if you are making your own, you can create as fizzy or as flat as you prefer) and is relatively sweet, but in a serving (240ml) it has 2g of sugar only and it can be naturally flavoured with fruits, berries, ginger or whatever you like. Recently loads of new kombucha brands poped-up, so I am sure you will find your favourite, or if you are adventurous like me - make your own!

 

 

To sum up all what was said, SUPER SMOOTHIE provides and exceeds 100% RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of Vitamins A, C, E, K, Minerals such as Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus and Omega 3 fatty acids; it provides 50% RDA or more of Protein, Dietary Fiber, Vitamins B, B2, Minerals such as Copper and Zinc and around 40% of Calcium and Vitamin Folate, based on my recipe quantities (using all of what's recommended without any exclusions and substitutes). As well as it provides nearly 1/3 of RDA of potassium, good gut bacteria, loads of antioxidants and it is great source of healthy protein, fat and unrefined carbohydrates, which will give you energy and keep you active until lunch time at least. If I was you I would have the SUPER SMOOTHIE everyday and I promise you will see a massive difference in your health even if you stick with your regular diet. 

 

Thanks for reading :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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