The BEST dietary change you can make for 2019 (including 4 pro tips and some concerns)

Wanna fight cancer, inflammation, ageing,
AND the top 2 risk factors for death Worldwide, whilst boosting your brain power and athletic
performance? Well stay tuned! I get asked all the time about simple ways
to get started with transitioning to a healthier diet. And in my opinion, the simplest way of all
is also the most powerful. Green smoothies. Whatever the rest of your diet is like, if
you’re a vegan, on the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet, Macrobiotic diet, the standard
Western diet or almost any other diet you might be on – in my opinion adding a daily
green smoothie is the single best dietary change you can make…and it’s so simple! I’ll be doing loads more videos on practical,
easy healthy changes to diet like this, so if you’re after more stuff like that, consider
subscribing if you haven’t already! You might also want to watch this video to
the end as well, since I’ll be addressing some concerns about smoothies that have even
led one nutrition authority to go as far as recommending restricting smoothie intake. I’ve modified my recipe over the years and
I think I’ve come up with a pretty good balance of nutritional content, taste and satiation. You want to start off by filling the cup about
three quarters full with arguably the healthiest food of them all – dark green leafy vegetables. All greens have certain nutrients in common,
but they also each offer individual benefits and drawbacks, so you want to vary it up here. I tend to just get whatever’s in season or
whatever happens to be a good price at the time! As a rule you want to include a cruciferous
vegetable – kale and broccoli are a good place to start and are what I tend to use myself. I even throw cabbage leaves in there sometimes! Then the rest can be any greens you want,
cruciferous or not – in this case I’m just going to fill the rest up with spinach until
the cup’s about three quarters full. Pro tip #1! If you’re just getting started with greens
or don’t have a very big smoothie cup, you can use some sprouts. Some of the nutrients can be concentrated
many times more in sprouts compared with the mature greens! Whilst malnutrition is normally associated
with developing countries, one of the consequences of the over-feeding epidemic we have in the
developed World is that we end up missing out on many nutrients that are only found in nutrient-dense
whole plant foods like greens. This has resulted in a different kind of under-nutrition
in the Western hemisphere – micronutrient deficiencies. We are essentially over-fed but under-nourished. In general, greens provide us with an abundance
of most of the nutrients that most people are sorely lacking or deficient in, including
fibre, antioxidants, nitrates, a huge range of phytonutrients including carotenoids like
lutein and zeaxanthin, plant hormetic compounds such as the now famous sulphoraphane, in addition
to vitamin A, C and K, folate, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium, whilst
all the time boosting our immunity, reducing inflammation, improving our cognitive ability
and providing us with an alkalising load and hence helping to preserve muscle mass. And all of this is just the stuff that’s been
discovered – there are likely many more nutrients and benefits that have not been discovered
yet, and yet many more that we may never fully elucidate! All of these benefits combined make greens
our best friend for fighting inflammation and cancer, and indeed disease in general. So that’s a Hell of a lot of nutrition in that cup already,
and it smashes the recommended intake of greens, which around 96% of people are not hitting. And I have to say, my own dark green leafy
intake would be much lower if it weren’t for green smoothies! But this concoction would obviously be…quite
hard to drink as it is. Luckily we can transform it into a delicious
smoothie, whilst at the same time making it even more health-promoting! One of the key ingredients for a great smoothie
is a nice, ripe banana – the riper, the better! Since our cup is already mostly filled with
greens, we need the bulk of the rest of what we put in to add a lot of sweetness per unit
volume. But there’s something that fits this description
even better than ripe bananas, and here’s my second pro tip – 5 or 6 dried dates adds
a huge amount of sweetness for only a small amount of volume, and will absolutely transform
your smoothie into something you look forward to every day! And it has the added benefit of being one
of the best sources of potassium, which around 97% of us do not get enough of. I’ve discussed before how the sugar in whole
fruit doesn’t have the same deleterious effect on our physiology as or the disease-causing
effect of refined sugar, and this is why whole fruits don’t count towards your daily sugar
allowance. We are using the whole fruits here since we’re
not removing any fibre or phytonutrients like we would be with juicing, but since we are
breaking up the structure of the fruit there is the possibility of more rapid absorption
of sugar and hence blood glucose fluctuations, especially if you drink the smoothie quickly. For this and for lots of other reasons, I
add yet another hugely health-promoting food: Berries! All fruits have in-built mechanisms that slow
down the rate of absorption of sugar, but berries have the most-impressive and well-described
blood sugar spike-blunting effect of all. They even have specific phytonutrients that
inhibit breakdown of sugar and the actual glucose transporter in the intestine! And outside of that, berries are another excellent
source of antioxidants and provide us with a huge range of benefits such as protection
from cancer, better immunity and improved brain function. Use whichever berries you like and mix it
up, they’re all good! I’m just gonna add some frozen strawberries
here – about a handful is plenty. There’s just such a tremendous amount of nutrition
in that cup now! But remember, it’s not what you eat that counts,
but what what you absorb! Some of the nutrients in this smoothie require
a small amount of fat for optimal absorption. So like with all the other ingredients, I’m
going to add the fat in the form of yet another tremendously health-promoting food: A tablespoon
of ground flax seeds! Flax seeds have the healthiest fat composition
of perhaps any food, along with a dizzying array of additional health benefits, like
lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and fighting cancer through yet another separate
mechanism due to their exceptionally high lignan content. They will also give your smoothie an irresistible
milkshake-like consistency! Pro tip #3! Buy whole flax seeds and grind a small amount
at a time with the milling blade of your smoothie maker, then store them in the fridge in one
of the small smoothie cups. This is less expensive than buying pre-ground
flax seeds and you only need to grind a small amount at a time. Flax seeds can be stored for a long time intact,
but when ground begin to oxidise, so it’s best to buy the whole seeds and only grind
a week or two’s worth at a time. But you should grind them one way or another
before consumption to get the best out of them. I’d advise adding water before the flax seeds
as well, it just helps to stop them sticking to the cup. Before I blend this, I’m going to give you
my last pro tip. I usually have a handful of walnuts, a glass
of beet juice and a cup of tea or coffee along with a green smoothie in the morning. All three offer additional brain-boosting
benefits as I’ve discussed before, on top of the nootropic effect of the greens and
berries in the smoothie. The walnuts provide more antioxidants and
healthy fats and help further with satiety, in addition to another vitamin which most
of us don’t get enough of – vitamin E. Both tea and coffee are extremely well-studied
at this stage and offer multiple additional health benefits. I don’t usually recommend juices, but beet
juice is a very handy way of further boosting your nitrate intake and it’s also best to
consume it with vitamin C, E and phenolic compounds which a green smoothie and nuts
provide an abundance of. In fact, the healthy fats found in nuts may
even react with nitrate products to form even more anti-inflammatory compounds. I can’t imagine a healthier breakfast than
this! To wrap things up, I’d like to return to my
opening statement. The number one cause of death Worldwide is
diet and other nutrition-related risk factors dominate our leading causes of death. With regards to direct dietary risks, this
green smoothie will help out with your fruit, seeds, veggies, omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty
acid and calcium intake. The number two cause of death Worldwide is
high blood pressure, which is also nutrition-related. Flax seeds have been shown to induce a blood
pressure-lowering effect comparable to antihypertensive medication, and the high-nitrate, high-antioxidant
content of the smoothie will also help lower blood pressure whilst also counteracting some
of it’s damaging effects. This smoothie will even help with some of
the other leading risk factors for death like high fasting plasma glucose, high BMI, high
LDL and impaired kidney function – but remember we have to drop processed foods and animal
products to really control these risk factors. Lastly, I would like to address some recent
concerns about smoothies that have led one nutrition authority to even go as far as advising
restricting smoothie intake. From what I can gather this is for two reasons:
Dental health and sugar content. The first is absolutely a legitimate concern
and letting sugar from any source sit on your teeth for long periods of time is going to
cause erosion. So the answer to this for me is simple – not
to stop drinking smoothies, but just don’t let the sugar sit on your teeth for long periods
of time! Make sure to rinse well with water after a
smoothie, and brush your teeth around an hour after consumption. The other concern is that the sugar in smoothies
may act more like free sugar than whole fruit, and thus increase our risk of disease. To prevent this make sure you always include
berries in your smoothie and sip it slowly. In fact, in some cases blending fruit may
even lower the glycaemic index compared with the intact fruit, and even comercially-available
smoothies with added fruit juice can have low glycaemic indices, although perhaps not
low enough to prevent a sugar crash. Overall, I do not believe you should limit
smoothie consumption so strictly, especially if you are making it yourself and including
berries and greens, not including fruit juice, sipping it slowly and rinsing your mouth out
with water after. Green smoothies provide too many positives
to warrant elimination for these very small negatives! The 150 mL limit is perhaps sensible for some
commercially-available smoothies, but not if you make your own healthy version at home
like this. In summary, greens, a banana, dates, berries
and flax seeds all blended up alongside a serving of nuts, beet juice and tea or coffee
for breakfast is probably the best dietary change you can make! And remember, variety is the spice of life
– I encourage you to experiment with this and find your own recipes you like, because
the best green smoothie of all is the one you will drink the most of! If you’ve experimented with making smoothies
before, what’s your experience? Have I missed something that you think could
make them even more delicious or nutritious? Or was there something I didn’t make clear
in the video? I’d love to hear your ideas! If you have any questions or comments like
this or about anything, leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to
you. If you found this video informative, give
us an old thumbs up there and subscribe so you don’t miss the next one! Sláinte!

Posts Tagged with…

Reader Comments

  1. Dr. Des Harrington


    Fulgoni VL 3rd, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr. 2011;141(10):1847-54.

    Krebs-Smith SM, Guenther PM, Subar AF, Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd KW. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J Nutr. 2010;140(10):1832-8.

    Beulens JW, de Zoete EC, Kok FJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on adipokines and insulin sensitivity in lean and overweight men: a diet intervention study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008;62(9):1098-105.

    Torronen R, Kolehmainen M, Sarkkinen E, Mykkanen H, Niskanen L. Postprandial glucose, insulin, and free fatty acid responses to sucrose consumed with blackcurrants and lingonberries in healthy women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(3):527-33.

    Pan P, Huang YW, Oshima K, Yearsley M, Zhang J, Yu J, Arnold M, Wang LS. An immunological perspective for preventing cancer with berries. J Berry Res. 2018;8(3):163-175.

    Whyte AR, Schafer G, Williams CM. Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(6):2151-62.

    Akhtar S, Ismail T, Riaz M. Flaxseed – a miraculous defense against some critical maladies. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2013;26(1):199-208.

    Lidder S, Webb AJ. Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):677-96.

    Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Compare Data Visualization. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2017. Available from: (Accessed [2018 Dec 19])

    NHS. The Eatwell Guide [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2018 Dec 19]. Available from:

    Redfern KM, Cammack VL, Sweet N, Preston LA; SoBHCS Student Team, Jarvis MA, Rees GA. Nutrient-extraction blender preparation reduces postprandial glucose responses from fruit juice consumption. Nutr Diabetes. 2017;7(10):e288.

    Saltaouras G, Shaw PK, Fraser AC, Hawes C, Smith H, Handley L, Whitby H, Thondre SP, Lightowler HJ. Glycaemic index, glycaemic load and dietary fibre characteristics of two commercially available fruit smoothies. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2018;11:1-8.

  2. Simon Jovanovich

    Your channel deserves more subscribers and views. 🙂 Great video as always.
    I have only one comment. Coffee and tea are known to inhibit iron absorption (according to this study: ), so I would advise to drink coffee or tea at least one and a half hour after, or one hour before the meal.

  3. Anabolic Amaranth

    For greens, I rely 100% on greens I grow in my backyard. Kale is the most reliable grower for me. With the new climate you can keep kale going year round even here in Columbus OH USA 40 degrees north.

  4. Lisa Khoury

    Hey Dr. Harrington! Just found your channel and find you very real and motivating. I also vlog about my life/food/workouts. If you can check it out and subscribe back, it'd mean a ton! 🙂

  5. The DJ

    I would modify this in 3 ways.

    1) Buy a reusable bamboo straw and don't let the smoothie touch your teeth (don't swish it around in your mouth).

    2) Add amla gooseberry powder. The antioxidant content in it is just insane (check Dr. Gregers videos on it, it's a must in my opinion because it's only a little bit sour which you have already negated with the dates and berries but adds a huge nutritional bonus).

    3) Green tea/hibiscus tea for the win. Be vary of coffee. It can raise your ldl and if you genetically have a high ldl this might not be optimal.

    Optional) Add half a teaspoon of powdered matcha tea to your smoothie. Here's Dr. G making a desert with it:

  6. Toplane Memes

    This is such an insane video, so much information taught in such a clear and concise manner. Love it dude. I will try this Smoothie very soon.

  7. Mike Skylark

    Dr. Des, you are a genious! Such a smart way to introduce the topic to an average person! I'm looking at a future dr. Greger already! 🙂

    I've always thought that working in a smoothie bar is the BEST way to promote vegan + 100% whole-food at the same time, because it tastes appealing even to someone on a SAD diet (altho it's a different story with savoury WFPB meals). 🙂

    When you were ''constructing'' that smoothie, it felt like watching myself (every morning for the last 5 years). We make the EXACT same blends (like a copy cat)! HAHAHAHA But seriously – blender this size? I think you need to spice up your game. I own this Czech Vitamix: Same quality, but 5x cheaper (cca. 150€)!

    + About ''undiscovered'' nutrients – this is a tricky part! Maybe this would explane some of the misterious ex-vegan cases we're witnessing from time to time (the vast minority of them ofcourse, for the majority we already know what the real issues were…).

  8. Karl Hungus

    Nicely done. Thumbs up.

  9. Gorgax

    Keep posting! Evidence based diet is the way to go. If they cannot accept WFPB diet is the healthiest diet on earth after the facts and studies, I do not know what will.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *