The Importance of Greens
When people hear that they should eat more greens, they typically think of a boring salad with iceberg lettuce. However, there are many varieties of greens, each containing different nutritional properties and benefits and that can be prepared in a number of unique ways. Although greens are one of the most important foods to include in our diet to achieve optimal health and wellness, the majority of people don’t eat enough of them.
The primary nutrient in green plants is chlorophyll, which is also the reason why they appear green. Chlorophyll’s healing benefits are endless and many refer to chlorophyll as the plant’s blood, as this is the aspect that absorbs energy from the sun and keeps the plant alive.
Chlorophyll alone has the power to purify our blood, improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure, detoxify and prevent bacterial growth, promote healthy intestinal flora, benefit liver function, naturally deodorize the body and help fight disease by counteracting inflammatory conditions.
While iron is associated with human blood, magnesium is associated with chlorophyll, a trace mineral that many people are deficient in. Migraines, Attention Deficit Disorder, fibromyalgia, and allergies are just a few of the conditions associated with insufficient magnesium intake. When consumed sufficiently, magnesium has the power to balance the body and organ function, calm emotions and eliminate depression, and improve digestion and blood sugar imbalances.
Additionally, greens are high source of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, E & K, fiber, folic acid and are packed with enzymes, minerals and phytonutrients. Research has even suggested that leafy greens can assist in cancer prevention.
So how can you get your greens on a daily basis? The best way to consume greens is raw or prepared in a dehydrator at a very low temperature (115 degrees or less) for a few hours, as cooking destroys many of the nutritional properties described above. For this reason, many people choose to supplement their diet with pure chlorophyll tablets or liquid concentrate, or organic high quality greens powders.
However, raw greens can be mixed or blended into many dishes including vegetable salads, pates, soups, wraps and dehydrated crackers. Kale chips are one of my favorite snacks to prepare, which are premixed with sea salt and olive oil and then placed in a dehydrator or low temperature oven for 6-8 hours until crisp. Many people also get their raw greens in smoothies and green juices.
Examples of some of the most nutritious greens include kale, collard greens, swiss chard, cabbage, mustard greens, spinach, arugula and bok choy. Broccoli and mixed greens are also good choices. If you do choose to cook your greens, sautÃ©ing them in oil (I prefer coconut oil as it is not susceptible to oxidative damage when heated.) with a touch of garlic makes for a great side dish. You can also steam them, boil them or soften them by massaging them with sea salt. There are also great cookbooks out there specifically focused on preparing greens that offer many additional ideas.
If you have any great greens recipes that you use, please feel free to share them with the community. Enjoy
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.