Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wild Blueberry, Coconut and Ginger Smoothie



Disclosure: By posting this recipe, I am entering a contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and am eligible to receive prizes associated with the contest.  I was not compensated for my time.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Have I lost my mind sharing a smoothie recipes in the middle of record breaking low temperatures?  Yes, probably so.  "Luckily" I'm home sick with a cold, bundled in three layers with a 135 lb fur coat on my lap, but still, just writing this post is painful.  So, rather than encouraging you to run to the kitchen, let's just pin this one for later.

Speaking of these freezing temperatures, is it not stemming from a polar vortex, the same plot as The Day After Tomorrow?  As cold as it is, it's decidedly less dramatic than the movie implied, and I for one, am disappointed.  Why are wolves not stalking the streets of New York City?  Where's the forty feet of snow?  And most importantly, where is Jake Gyllenhaal?  

Anyhow, on to wild blueberries.  As promised, we're going to delve a little deeper into the wild blueberry and all of it's wonderfulness.  Last time, we talked about the nutrient most associated with blueberries, anthocyanin, along with an amazing recipe for wild blueberry corn muffins stuffed with meyer lemon curd. Today, we're going to look at pterostilbene, a substance I learned about this week while researching wild blueberries.  Pterostilbene is a substance chemically similar to resveratrol, a well known phytochemical most commonly associated with red wine and grape skins.   It seems to have a similar effect as resveratrol, but some studies suggest it may be even more potent.   Pterostilbene is concentrated in the skin of the fruit, so smaller wild blueberries, with their higher skin to pulp ratio, are especially concentrated in the substance.


Cancer Prevention

Research out of the University of Illinois has looked at the potential anti-cancer benefits of pterostilbene.  Their research has shown that pterostilbene is not only a powerful antioxidant, but it may also inhibit a cancer promoting enzyme called cytochrome P450.  This enzyme seems to be partially responsible for turning substances like cigarette smoke and pesticides into carcinogens.  

Type 2 Diabetes

In rat studies, pterostilbene has shown a similar effect on blood sugar levels as metformin, a popular and very effective medication for type 2 diabetes.  It was shown to lower blood sugar levels by up to 50% while increasing levels of insulin, a hormone that moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells.  Is this why studies have shown blueberries are particularly protective against type 2 diabetes?  More research is needed, but it's certainly possible.  

Cognitive Health

In studies on lab animals, pterostilbene has been shown to be more effective than resveratrol in enhancing cognitive function.  One study in particular, using blueberry skin extract, found it reversed some of the age related motor deficits, and improved learning behaviors.  

Lowering Cholesterol

Blueberries appear to lower cholesterol, and studies show pterostilbene is a likely mechanism.  In one study done on rat liver cells, pterostilbene seemed to turn on a switch in cells that helped break down cholesterol.  Researchers drew comparison to ciprofibrate, a cholesterol lowering medication.  

Immunity

Although a cold, blueberry smoothie is probably the last thing you want right now, with these cold temperatures you probably should have a glass, as the pterostilbene in blueberries seems to enhance immune function.  Studies indicate pterostilbene can enhance immunity by activating the CAMP gene that plays a role in immune function.

Pterostilbene is partially degrated by cooking, so blueberries may be best enjoyed in raw, aka smoothie form.  Frozen wild blueberries are the perfect addition to smoothies with their rich flavor and concentrated nutrition.  Coconut and blueberry is a delicious flavor combination.  Although you could certainly use nonfat yogurt and the lower fat, drinkable coconut milk sold in the dairy aisle to lower the calorie count a bit, I find using ingredients with a little more fat makes the smoothie stick to your ribs.  Plus, organic dairy is a source of beneficial omega 3 fats.  Ginger adds a hint of warming spice, but you could also substitute cinnamon.  To up the nutrition even further, feel free to add a handful of raw spinach or a scoop of my green smoothie booster.



Wild Blueberry, Coconut and Ginger Smoothie

Serves 1

1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1 cup 2% plain yogurt
1/4 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately. 




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