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The Practical Herbalist

Fruit Smoothies

As a Herbalist I am seen as someone who is very conscious of how to eat to stay healthy. It surprises people to find out that I do not use or even recommend a mainstay of many "healthy diets" the frozen fruit smoothie.

The frozen fruit smoothie violates several basic understandings within Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as to how best to nourish the body. The main issue is a concept that I like to call "bench chemistry vs real life" This is the breakdown of scientific concepts when they are applied to an imperfect world. Take for instance calcium. We all know that we need the mineral calcium to build strong bones. None of us would consider eating rocks to get that calcium, even though many rocks like limestone are almost entirely calcium. The problem is that our digestion can not break down rocks. When that same calcium is absorbed though the roots of plants we eat, or processed into easily dissolved pills, we can use it. The point is that even though we can find a high level of calcium in rocks in a chemistry lab, that does not mean that those rocks are the best source of that same nutrient for a patient.

The same concept applies to the frozen fruit smoothie. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at how foods affect the way we function not what is a food made of. Tropical fruits contain a lot of good nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and other chemical components that should be in a healthy diet. The question is rather, is the frozen fruit smoothie the best way to get them? Tropical fruits and berries are appropriate in the heat of summer. A slice of watermelon or a pile of grapes are a favorite summer snack. In the dead of winter a hot cocoa or hot apple cider spiced with cinnamon, and cloves will often win out as to what people most crave and need. Chinese medicine identifies this as the inherent temperature of food, which is the basis of much of traditional herbal medicine. A food or herb that is hot in nature will be used to treat a person who is cold, and vice versa. Tropical fruits are not appropriate food for living at the north pole, just as seal meat and cold water fish may be too heavy a meal when living in the tropics.

I have seen many cases where people are convinced that a frozen fruit smoothie for breakfast will make them healthier. Often these people are sluggish and suffer frequent colds as their body struggles to start the day with a big work load of food that must be thawed and digested at a time of the day when they have the least amount of energy to do it. Following this with a lunch of a salad and diet beverage likewise does not help to provide the body with the energy it needs to function. There are some people who are described in TCM terms as naturally running hot. These people actually can function well on this type of cold diet. These types of people are rare and often find that they were always naturally drawn to a diet rich in fruits and raw vegetables, without having to be told that it was "healthy" for them.

The frozen fruit smoothie is too cold, both in way of inherent and actual temperature to be a central food on which to base a healthy diet. They can be a great treat when you are feeling hot, but there are better ways to balance your diet for better health. Start the day with oatmeal, simple grains or eggs, nuts or fruits that are in season. Eat a variety of foods that are appropriate for the season, and balance the amounts of food based on what you need.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066