Holistic Nutrition for Digestive Health: Peppermint Nib Ice Cream
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
If asked to name his favorite sweet treat — cookies, cake, or ice cream — my son Gilbert’s answer would come up “ice cream” every single time. And although Gilbert has lost his hankering for most sweets as he’s grown older, every so often he can’t resist an all time favorite… Summertime sweetness and a scoop of ice cream! There’s really nothing that can beat that.
Nothing, of course, except for a digestive system that’s running in tip-top (mint!) condition, allowing you to enjoy your food and elevate your mood. If you know me, I often make summertime communications all about loving our guts with some digestive superfoods near and dear to my core. Speaking of, did you know that in Chinese medicine, summer is the month of the small intestine? It’s the perfect time to bring in some special foods that do double-duty to nourish your insides while tickling your taste buds. And, yeah, it’s also a good time for ice cream! Can you guess where we’re going with this?
Peppermint: The summer lovin’ ingredient that might just be growing in your garden
There are about 25 different species of mint. Peppermint in particular is a natural hybrid between Mentha aquatica (water mint) and Mentha spicata (spearmint) that thrive during warm summer months.
But you don’t have to stick to just plain peppermint; you can often find fun varieties like orange, lavender, ginger, pineapple, and yes, even chocolate mint. Rest assured, these are actual varieties of plants, not fake flavorings!
A journey to digestive comfort with mint
Peppermint is renowned for its digestive benefits, especially in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), like pain, cramps and spasms. Multiple clinical trials have shown peppermint’s potential to activate an anti-pain channel in the colon, known as TRPM8.
Trials generally use enteric-coated peppermint capsules, but about 1/4 cup of fresh peppermint leaves delivers an amount similar to a typical peppermint capsule if you prefer to be playful with food instead of supplements. In fact, just the smell of mint activates the salivary glands in your mouth to secrete digestive enzymes, aiding in metabolism and digestion. It’s why you’ll often see mint included in appetizers or as palate cleansers at a fancy restaurant.
Traditional cultures use peppermint to help relieve nausea due to motion sickness or other stomach unease. Keep peppermint tea in your pantry or take along sugar-free (xylitol sweetened) peppermint gum when you might be in motion. Pair it with ginger for an extra herbal punch.
And we can’t forget that peppermint helps freshen your breath. While that might not help with digestion directly, it’s sure to help keep your mouth (and those around you) happy!
If you suffer from heartburn, be cautious with peppermint. Some studies show that it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is the valve between your stomach and esophagus, which can be a contributing factor to heartburn. That’s not to say that it’s not right for you, but you’ll want to bring peppermint in slowly to observe how your body responds.
Five ways to add peppermint into your daily routine:
- make peppermint tea by muddling fresh herbs and steeping in hot water or opting for prepared peppermint tea
- add a handful of fresh peppermint to your smoothie (it complements just about any fruit)
- add chopped peppermint to roasted veggies, green salads, fresh fruit, dressings and soups
- add a drop of peppermint essential oil (therapeutic grade) to your water or tea
- grow your own; it’s especially happy outside during the warm summer months but it can thrive inside on a sunny windowsill all winter long.
Peppermint Nib Ice Cream
If the warm summer days leave you craving ice cream, you’re not alone! When thinking about how to incorporate peppermint into a playful recipe, I said… ice cream please! This homemade ice cream is not only delicious, but also gluten-free and vegan-friendly.
- 2 cans full-fat, organic coconut milk (Native Forest, Arroy-D or Natural Value)
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon organic peppermint extract
- 1 teaspoon gelatin powder
- 1 cup raw spinach (yes, spinach!)
- pinch of sea salt
- 6-10 drops liquid stevia or to taste
- 1/3 cup raw cocoa nibs
- Freeze the ice cream maker bowl overnight or as per the machine’s instructions. No icecream maker? No problem! Skip step 1 and look for alternative instructions under step 5.
- Blanch your mint leaves by pouring boiling water over them and immediately submerging them into ice water.
- Add all ingredients, except cacao nibs, into a blender and blend until smooth (including blanched mint leaves.) Optional, strain mixture to remove any remaining fibers from the mint or spinach if desired.
- Taste it and add stevia to your desired sweetness.
- Pour the mixture into your prepared (frozen) ice cream maker bowl and churn following your machine’s instructions. During the last minute or so, add the cocoa nibs and churn until well combined. Alternatively, pour blended mixture into ice pop molds for Peppermint Nib Ice Cream Pops.
Enjoy the ice cream immediately. Because it’s free of artificial stabilizers, it’s best to eat it as soon as it finishes churning (which I’m sure you’ll be happy to do!). Freezing usually results in rock hard ice cream.
Kitchen Tip: Double or triple the recipe and keep liquid base in the fridge (up to a week). Any time you want ice cream, you will already have the base ready to go!
Savor the minty goodness of peppermint
Treat yourself to Peppermint Nib Ice Cream to support your digestive health with holistic nutrition. Pick up some peppermint at your local Farmer’s Market (or grow your own!) and churn up some gut lovin’ ice cream. Your tastebuds and your gut will thank you for it. Let’s all scream for ice cream!
Alammar N, Wang L, Saberi B, et al. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):21. Published 2019 Jan 17. doi:10.1186/s12906-018-2409-0
Khanna R, MacDonald JK, Levesque BG. Peppermint oil for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014;48(6):505-512. doi:10.1097/MCG.0b013e3182a88357
Weerts ZZRM, Masclee AAM, Witteman BJM, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Peppermint Oil in a Randomized, Double-Blind Trial of Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2020;158(1):123-136. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.026
Peiris M, Weerts ZZRM, Aktar R, Masclee AAM, Blackshaw A, Keszthelyi D. A putative anti-inflammatory role for TRPM8 in irritable bowel syndrome-An exploratory study. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2021;33(9):e14170. doi:10.1111/nmo.14170
McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytother Res. 2006;20(8):619-633. doi:10.1002/ptr.1936
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