It's up to us to spread the word

As I get older, I’ve learned to really be grateful for everything I have in my life to help me stay healthy- the knowledge about what to eat, the resources to buy healthy foods, taste buds that can appreciate the colorful flavors of a broad spectrum of plants, and waking up in the morning knowing that each day is a new day to treat my body well and enjoy the day.  Life is beautiful and so are the natural plant foods that keep us healthy.  Walk into a supermarket in America and we have a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits to choose from.  Now that it’s summer, we can purchase fresh cherries, blueberries, and peaches. We can open a watermelon on a hot day and relish in its ability to quench our thirst.  We have so much opportunity to make the right eating choices, even if it is as simple as eating an apple instead of a bag of chips. 

Peaches. Flickr: La Grande Farmers' Market

We are a lucky bunch. Unlike our parents, we have access to nutritional resources to educate ourselves about why plants are so protective against diseases, can keep us looking young by fighting free radicals and promote weight loss all while keeping us full and satisfied.  Healthy plant foods right from mother earth, deserve to be celebrated and every effort we make to keep ourselves healthy by eating them deserves to be celebrated too.

Each time we chose to eat a meal filled with real produce right as it comes from the earth, we deserve to give ourselves a pat on the back and feel gratitude for the simple wonderfulness that comes with the healing powers that plants can provide to us.  We owe it to ourselves to be reminded that taking care of ourselves is not something to be taken for granted and neither is the ability to buy healthy foods.  The knowledge we have in the fields of health and nutrition is unprecedented and even though most doctors aren’t taught a single nutrition class in medical school and the obesity epidemic continues to plague our country, we can do our part by setting a good example with our own eating choices, sharing what we’ve learned with our family and friends and continuing to model great health and spread positive health messages wherever we go. 

I’m beginning to see a growing movement of mindful eaters who are educating themselves about the true connection between chronic disease prevention and what we feed ourselves.  Eat To Live just became the #1 book on the New York Times bestseller list under paperback advice this week (congrats dad!).  While we still have a long way to go to get our nation on the path towards ideal health, I think we are living during an exciting time of a budding health conscientiousness movement.  I want to help this movement grow and flourish and I’ll bet lots of you do too.  ,I know we have all experienced that enhanced eating enjoyment when we eat meals that are flavorful, look great and are health promoting as well.  We have the knowledge, we have access to the right foods, and now we have people like you who continue to help spread the word that we truly are what we eat. 

Peace, Love, and Kale!

Dr. Fuhrman's nutrient-packed "Skinny Shake" as seen on The Dr. Oz Show

In preparation for my recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show (you can watch online here), I was asked to share a recipe for a healthful drink that would support weight loss efforts and promote detoxification – something satisfying and delicious while low in calories; most important to me was that this drink would be packed with disease-fighting nutrients.

I chose a simple blended frozen drink of whole strawberries and pomegranate juice with ice plus a squeeze of lemon for a tangy flavor. Why strawberries and pomegranate juice? I did not make those choices arbitrarily – these are powerful foods with several human studies to substantiate their profound benefits.

Antioxidant phytochemicals:

  • Anthocyanins (the most abundant antioxidants in berries) provide antioxidant protection on their own, plus they increase the production of cells’ own antioxidant enzymes.1 A 1.5 cup serving of strawberries increased antioxidant capacity in the blood of human subjects, building protection against oxidative damage.2
  • Pomegranate contains a unique antioxidant called punicalagin; it is the most abundant antioxidant in pomegranate, responsible for more than half of the antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice.3 Pomegranate juice has been found to reduce oxidative stress markers in healthy humans.4

Detoxification:

  • Ellagic acid, an antioxidant derived from berries and pomegranate interacts with a protein called Nrf-2 to increase expression of the body’s natural detoxification enzymes.5

Anti-cancer effects:

  • Strawberry and pomegranate extracts slowed cell growth and induced cell death in human cancer cells from several cancer types.6-9
  • Pomegranate and strawberries are both anti-angiogenic – strawberry extracts help to prevent growing tumors from acquiring a blood supply – preventing those tumors from receiving the nutrients that would allow them to grow larger.10-13
  • Pomegranate is one of the few foods (mushrooms are another) that contain natural aromatase inhibitors – this means that they inhibit the production of estrogen, which can reduce breast cancer risk.14
  • Strawberries and pomegranate have anti-inflammatory effects that may protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.5,15,16
  • Patients with precancerous esophageal lesions ate strawberries each day for six months.  The results were amazing – 29 out of the 36 patients in the study experienced a decrease in the histological grade of their lesion – this means that the progression toward cancer began to reverse, and the risk of the lesions becoming cancerous had decreased.17 

 

Cardioprotective effects:

  • Higher strawberry intake is associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.18
  • Human trials have found that daily consumption of strawberries decreases total and LDL cholesterol, and pomegranate phytochemicals reduce LDL oxidation (a contributor to atherosclerotic plaque development).19-22
  • Strawberry and pomegranate phytochemicals have blood pressure-reducing properties.23-25
  • In a study of patients with severe carotid artery blockages, after one ounce of pomegranate juice daily for one year, there was a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque. In striking contrast, in the participants who did not take the pomegranate juice atherosclerotic plaque increased by 9 percent.22

Anti-diabetes effects:

  • Strawberry and pomegranate phytochemicals have actions on certain digestive enzymes that can result in reduced glucose levels following a meal.26
  • Ellagic acid, which can be derived from berries or pomegranate, reduced secretion by fat cells of an inflammatory molecule that is thought to contribute to insulin resistance.27
  • Adding strawberries to a meal was shown to reduce the insulin response in overweight adults.15

Looking at these effects all together, it is astounding what these foods can do for our health. The “Skinny Shake” has much more to offer than taste and satisfaction with minimal calories. Berries (and pomegranate) make up the second ‘B’ in G-BOMBS, my list of super foods with good reason!

Dr. Fuhrman’s Skinny Shake

Ingredients:

4 ounces pomegranate juice

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup of ice

Squeeze of lemon

Directions: Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender.

 

References:

1. Shih PH, Yeh CT, Yen GC. Anthocyanins induce the activation of phase II enzymes through the antioxidant response element pathway against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2007;55:9427-9435.
2. Cao G, Russell RM, Lischner N, et al. Serum antioxidant capacity is increased by consumption of strawberries, spinach, red wine or vitamin C in elderly women. J Nutr 1998;128:2383-2390.
3. Heber D: Pomegranate Ellagitannins. In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects 2nd Edition. Edited by Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor, S.: CRC Press; 2011
4. Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1062-1076.
5. Panchal SK, Ward L, Brown L. Ellagic acid attenuates high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. Eur J Nutr 2012.
6. Stoner GD, Wang LS, Casto BC. Laboratory and clinical studies of cancer chemoprevention by antioxidants in berries. Carcinogenesis 2008;29:1665-1674.
7. Kim ND, Mehta R, Yu W, et al. Chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic potential of pomegranate (Punica granatum) for human breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2002;71:203-217.
8. Kohno H, Suzuki R, Yasui Y, et al. Pomegranate seed oil rich in conjugated linolenic acid suppresses chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in rats. Cancer Sci 2004;95:481-486.
9. Kawaii S, Lansky EP. Differentiation-promoting activity of pomegranate (Punica granatum) fruit extracts in HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells. J Med Food 2004;7:13-18.
10. Roy S, Khanna S, Alessio HM, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berries. Free Radic Res 2002;36:1023-1031.
11. Khan N, Afaq F, Kweon MH, et al. Oral consumption of pomegranate fruit extract inhibits growth and progression of primary lung tumors in mice. Cancer Res 2007;67:3475-3482.
12. Toi M, Bando H, Ramachandran C, et al. Preliminary studies on the anti-angiogenic potential of pomegranate fractions in vitro and in vivo. Angiogenesis 2003;6:121-128.
13. Sartippour MR, Seeram NP, Rao JY, et al. Ellagitannin-rich pomegranate extract inhibits angiogenesis in prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo. Int J Oncol 2008;32:475-480.
14. Adams LS, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, et al. Pomegranate ellagitannin-derived compounds exhibit antiproliferative and antiaromatase activity in breast cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2010;3:108-113.
15. Edirisinghe I, Banaszewski K, Cappozzo J, et al. Strawberry anthocyanin and its association with postprandial inflammation and insulin. Br J Nutr 2011;106:913-922.
16. Adams LS, Seeram NP, Aggarwal BB, et al. Pomegranate juice, total pomegranate ellagitannins, and punicalagin suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2006;54:980-985.
17. American Association for Cancer Research. Strawberries May Slow Precancerous Growth in Esophagus. 2011. http://aacrnews.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/strawberries-may-slow-precancerous-growth-in-esophagus/. Accessed
18. Mink PJ, Scrafford CG, Barraj LM, et al. Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:895-909.
19. Basu A, Lyons TJ. Strawberries, Blueberries, and Cranberries in the Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Perspectives. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2011.
20. Zunino SJ, Parelman MA, Freytag TL, et al. Effects of dietary strawberry powder on blood lipids and inflammatory markers in obese human subjects. Br J Nutr 2011:1-10.
21. Basu A, Wilkinson M, Penugonda K, et al. Freeze-dried strawberry powder improves lipid profile and lipid peroxidation in women with metabolic syndrome: baseline and post intervention effects. Nutr J 2009;8:43.
22. Aviram M, Rosenblat M, Gaitini D, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr 2004;23:423-433.
23. Cassidy A, O'Reilly EJ, Kay C, et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:338-347.
24. Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis 2001;158:195-198.
25. Aviram M, Volkova N, Coleman R, et al. Pomegranate phenolics from the peels, arils, and flowers are antiatherogenic: studies in vivo in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein e-deficient (E 0) mice and in vitro in cultured macrophages and lipoproteins. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2008;56:1148-1157.
26. McDougall GJ, Stewart D. The inhibitory effects of berry polyphenols on digestive enzymes. Biofactors 2005;23:189-195.
27. Makino-Wakagi Y, Yoshimura Y, Uzawa Y, et al. Ellagic acid in pomegranate suppresses resistin secretion by a novel regulatory mechanism involving the degradation of intracellular resistin protein in adipocytes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2012;417:880-885.