This green drink is inspired by the “ITIS Diet,” an oddly named nutrition program developed for people with autoimmune conditions and described as a “supercharged Mediterranean diet” or “Mediterranean Diet 2.0.”
The suffix “-itis” usually denotes inflammation — for instance, tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix), colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon), etc. Although the ITIS diet was originally designed for people with rheumatoid arthritis (who were found in a 2021 pilot study to derive great benefit from this way of eating), I have a hunch that this dietary approach might be helpful for anyone dealing with inflammation or one sort or another — or wishing to prevent it.
This isn’t the first time that the Mediterranean diet — which uses olive oil as the primary oil, emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and includes regular intakes of fatty fish and fermented dairy products while being low in pro-inflammatory foods like sugar and refined grains — has been associated with reduced inflammation and joint pain. A 2017 review in Rheumatology International found a reduction in pain and improved physical function in people with RA who ate a Mediterranean diet in addition to taking their prescription medications.
Other research has highlighted the Mediterranean diet’s wide-ranging anti-inflammatory benefits, which have been linked to a lower risk of diseases that have an inflammatory component: cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergic conditions, inflammatory bowel diseases, depression, and sepsis, among others.
The ITIS Diet Explained
The ITIS diet comprises many of the features you already know and love about the Mediterranean diet, with a few extra ones tacked on. Key components of the ITIS diet include (“-itis Smoothie” ingredients highlighted in bold):
- Green drinks containing green vegetables and fruit
- Fruits high in enzymes, such as pineapple and papaya
- Oily fish, such as sardines or salmon, at least twice a week
- Healthy fats such as avocado, walnuts, olive oil and flaxseed oil
- Fermented foods, such as unsweetened yogurt, kefir, and miso
- Regular intakes of green tea, turmeric and ginger
Since many of these ingredients aren’t typically found on American plates, I thought I’d combine them in this tasty smoothie. Feel free to play around with them until you find a combination you like — and do vary the ingredients regularly so as to obtain the widest possible range of nutrients.
Caveat: While green smoothies have acquired something of a health halo over the last decade or two, they can have a dark side, too. Many of the ingredients people typically add to smoothies — like spinach, chard, chia seeds, almond milk, cocoa, and turmeric — contain high levels of oxalate, a compound naturally produced by plants to protect themselves from predators (like us). Ingested in excessive amounts, oxalate may increase your risk of developing kidney stones as well as a wide range of other symptoms (rarely recognized as oxalate-related). People who eat diets that contain a lot of these so-called “superfoods” may be more prone to developing oxalate-related health issues, as Australian actor Liam Hemsworth found out the hard way when he needed emergency kidney surgery to remove a kidney stone after four years on a plant-based diet packed with high-oxalate foods such as raw spinach, almonds, beans, nuts & seeds.
There are ways to reduce the risk of high oxalate intakes from foods, including reducing your consumption of oxalate-rich foods and adding calcium-rich foods (like kefir, yogurt, or cheese) to your meals. Calcium naturally binds to oxalate; thus, eating calcium-rich foods alongside foods containing oxalate encourages the binding and removal of oxalate through the stool rather than through urine.
- high-powered blender such as Blendtec, Vitamix or Ninja
Green Juice (Drink)
- ½ cup fresh pineapple cut into chunks
- 1½ cups arugula or other greens such as baby kale or romaine lettuce. Avoid using spinach and chard (esp. if raw) as these are packed with oxalate -- see "caveat" in the article above.
- ½ cup kefir if dairy-intolerant, replace with 2 tbsp of fermented coconut water; I like this You Gut This (not a sponsor).
- ½ cup herbal tea your favorite flavor; chilled
- 1 tsp fresh ginger root finely grated on a zester
- 1 tsp fresh turmeric root finely grated on a zester; if you have oxalate-related health issues like kidney stones (see "caveat" section above), omit turmeric, which is high in oxalate
- a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice
- 2-3 ice cubes (optional)
- ¼ cup microgreens (optional) for example, broccoli, radish or mustard sprouts -- store-bought or home-grown (home-growing instructions here)
Green Juice (Drink)
- Place all the ingredients in the first ingredient group in a high-powered blender. Process for about 1 minute. Enjoy immediately. If you can't drink it right away, refrigerate and consume within 24 hours to ensure maximum freshness, nutrition, and taste.
Green Smoothie (Meal)
- Place all the ingredients, including avocado and protein powder, in a blender and process for 1 minute. If you are using whey protein powder, don't over-process as it the smoothie may become very foamy and hard to drink.
- Enjoy immediately. If you can't drink it right away, refrigerate and consume it within 24 hours to ensure maximum freshness, nutrition, and taste.