The fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in greens provide healthy nutrients your body needs to run well. They may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and being overweight. They also contribute to healthy eyes and bones, and may even lengthen life expectancy. Why then, do we not eat more of these super foods?
With busy schedules and competing demands, good nutrition is often the first thing to fall by the wayside. But there is something you can do about it. With a little planning and creative kitchen time, and by selecting the right supplements, you can meet your body’s need for green.
Tips for getting your greens
Stay stocked: To get more greens into your diet, it’s essential that they’re available when hunger strikes. Many supermarkets offer prewashed and cut vegetables that shorten prep time and help you use what you buy.
Get greens on the go: Make sure to buy veggies that are easy to take along for snacking. Good picks are peppers, broccoli florets, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers.
Plan ahead: Make a menu for the week, then shop for the items you’ll need. Having a meal in mind will save you money and make you less likely to reach for the take-out menu.
Get everyone involved: Have kids help out with meal planning. Children involved with food preparation are much more likely to eat their fruits and veggies.
Consider a supplement: When your diet is light on vegetables, add a green supplement to round it out.
How to choose a super green supplement
Here’s a look at some of the more common ingredients in greens supplements and their uses. Many of them can be mixed in juice or a smoothie to make them more appealing. As when starting any new supplement, speak with your doctor first.
Spirulina: A type of blue-green algae, spirulina boasts a multitude of easy-to-absorb nutrients, including carotenoids, essential fatty acids, and predigested protein. Spirulina enhances normal intestinal flora while inhibiting the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeasts. It is also said to strengthen connective tissue, act as an anti-inflammatory, decrease cholesterol levels, and possibly inhibit cancer cell formation.
Spirulina is a popular green for athletic function and weight loss, and to help remedy malnutrition.
Chlorella: This type of algae requires extra processing to break the cell wall and render it more digestible. Chlorella has immune-stimulating, anticancer, blood pressure-lowering, and wound-healing properties. It may also help bind heavy metals and remove them from the body.
Chlorella is a popular green for supporting the body’s defenses against chronic fatigue, Candida overgrowth, and blood sugar dysregulation.
Wheat grass and barley grass: The tender young greens from both of these cereal grasses are protein-rich—20% by volume. They’re also full of digestive enzymes, antioxidants that help slow cellular deterioration and quell inflammation, and compounds that help strengthen connective tissue and lower cholesterol levels. People who are allergic to wheat and related grains are almost never allergic to them in their grass form, and many supplements containing wheat and barley grass are labeled “gluten-free.”
Wheat and barley grass are popular greens as a general vitamin/mineral supplement, as well as for supporting immunity and slowing the aging process.
Alfalfa: Rich in vitamins, minerals, and even protein, alfalfa forms the backbone of many greens formulations. This member of the legume family is a folk remedy for arthritis, chronic sore throat, gas pain, menopausal symptoms, and peptic ulcers.
Alfalfa should not be used by pregnant women and may also interact with anti-clotting medications such as warfarin.
“If someone is looking for a high quality once-a-day vitamin, I recommend a greens formula instead, as I feel the nutrients found in greens are far easier for the body to use and they tend to provide a tangible improvement in energy and vitality,” says Maria Boorman, a physician specializing in nutritional medicine. Many greens supplements also contain fruit and vegetable concentrates, probiotics, antioxidants like green tea extract and acerola cherry, and energy-boosting herbs such as ginseng. If you try to eat organic, look for organic supplements as well.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.