I was always told that I had to eat my greens no matter what. My mum didn't care whether I liked them or not she just knew they were essential. Like many children, I was not keen on the taste but my mum found ways to prepare them that meant I ate and enjoyed them. Sometimes just a knob of butter can make all the difference.
Why Are Greens So Important?
Dark green leafy vegetables are perhaps the most potent superfood on the planet. They are also the most ignored and avoided foods as well. If you consider the powerful dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients that we get from spinach, kale, chard, collards, dandelion and other greens, it’s a wonder we can survive at all without them.
What Makes Greens, Green?
Chlorophyll is the naturally occurring molecule that gives plants their green colour. Chlorophyll is also what enables one of the most miraculous processes on earth, photosynthesis. Photosynthesis converts sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into our primary source of fuel – glucose. All animals and humans obtain their life-sustaining energy from plants, making photosynthesis (one of) the sources of all life. Without plants there would be no life on our planet.
Chlorophyl - The Blood of Plants
One of the most interesting aspects of chlorophyll is how similar it is our red blood cells, known as haemoglobin, the pigment that makes our blood red and able to carry oxygen. Haemoglobin and chlorophyll are virtually identical in molecular structure, with the only difference being the centre atom which in haemoglobin is iron and in chlorophyll it’s magnesium.
Benefits of Chlorophyl
The extreme similarity is what makes chlorophyll so beneficial to our health because it’s a powerful blood cleanser and blood builder. Chlorophyll delivers a continuous energy transfusion into our bloodstream, replenishing and increasing red blood cell count. And since haemoglobin carries oxygen to our cells, increasing haemoglobin thereby increases the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen which is a very good thing.
Disease-promoting anaerobic bacteria cannot live and thrive in the presence of oxygen. It’s also known that disease can’t thrive in an alkaline environment either. Lucky for us, chlorophyll helps to alkalize our blood and helps our bodies fight off disease.
Every January we have Doctors saying in the media how we don't need to detox because our bodies can do it perfectly well. That's true, but you have to give your body what it needs in order for it to be able to carry out its natural processes. Eating your greens leads to healthy blood flow and an abundance of oxygen to enable your body to remove toxic impurities. Chlorophyll has also been shown to improve the detrimental effects of radiation, and been linked to cancer prevention. Chlorophyll binds with toxins like heavy metals and helps remove them from the body. Chlorophyll can also stimulate bowel movements and is a great aid in colon cleansing.
Overall Benefits of Chlorophyl
The range of health benefits to gain from a diet abundant in green veg is nothing short of miraculous. Chlorophyll is known to improve the health of the circulatory, digestive, immune and detoxification systems of the body resulting in many different and overlapping health benefits including:
- Cleans, oxygenates and builds your blood
- A powerful detoxification effect on the body
- Rich in enzymes that promote quick rejuvenation of our cells
- High in Amino acids
- Extracts toxins form the liver improving function
- Regulator of calcium
- Alkalizes the body
- Wound-healing properties
- Fights infection
- Anti-oxidant – neutralize free radicals
- Promotes healthy intestinal flora
- Helps reverse protein-deficient anaemia
- Protection from cancer
- Helps skin disorders
Greens and Healthy Bowels
Eating a diet rich in leafy greens is the best way of supporting your bowels to maintain healthy colonies of good bacteria. Good bacteria forms a significant part of your immune system and also facilitates absorption and synthesis of nutrients. An abundance of green veg is much cheaper and more effective than eating yoghurt with live bacteria or consuming the very expensive probiotic drinks.
In addition, your greens provide lots of dietary fibre to promote regular bowel evacuation.
Essentially all green plants you eat contain some chlorophyll but some foods are better sources than others. Generally speaking, the darker green vegetables are, the more chlorophyll they contain. So a good choice is to ditch the iceberg lettuce (which has little chlorophyl and is low in other nutrients) and choose darker options such as romaine, watercress, rocket etc. Adding herbs like parsley is also a great way to increase the nutrient value of your salads.
Green vegetables have more nutrition per calorie than any other food. Greens are a significant source of vitamins A, C, E and K as well as several B vitamins. They are rich sources of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are rich in fibre, extremely low in fat and carbohydrates and provide an excellent source of protein when you eat a wide variety.
Choose organic whenever you can as the growing methods produce vegetables with higher levels of nutrients and less pesticides. Better still, during the summer months, grow your own. If you don't have much space available then even growing your own lettuce and herbs will provide greens with a higher nutrient content (and more taste).
Falling Nutritional Value
Scientists first noticed that the nutritional content of our fruit and vegetables had started to decrease some time ago. Have a look at the following table and if that does not encourage you to grow your own or buy organic whenever you can I don't know what will. Unfortunately for us, we have the most perfect looking fruit and veg (thanks to supermarkets dominating distribution: its all form over substance) but not necessarily the best in terms of nutritional value, especially mineral content.
How Much Green Should You Eat?
The USDA food pyramid suggests a minimum of 3 servings of leafy greens per week. This is ridiculously low but even so most Americans, and most people in the UK fall short of this recommendation. In truth, you should aim for three servings per day of a variety of green vegetables. An easy way to increase your nutrient intake is to do green smoothies. Just greens can be less than palatable(especially for someone who has been avoiding greens) but try adding a green apple for sweetness and some ginger for warmth and flavour. I like spinach, celery, watercress, apple and carrot.
Hope that's helpful! Apologies for the mish-mash of font sizes and heading types, it's not co-operating with me today!