Did you eat your veggies today? For some people the answer to this question is a resounding yes! While others find it hard to force down two veggies a day never mind the 5-9 servings recommended by leading health experts. Vegetables are vital to your good health, especially the dark green, leafy ones. They provide essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to help delay the aging process and fight back against disease.
A few months ago I wrote to you about superfoods, what they are and why they are so important to your health. Within this broad spectrum of nutritious edibles is a category called supergreens that includes a variety of green vegetables that are loaded with antioxidants, folate, potassium, fiber, lutein, flavonoids, and much, much more.
There is so much talk about the importance of supergreens to your overall health that I’d like to devote a two part series of articles on this subject. What makes greens super? If you’ve been turning your nose up to that plate of broccoli you might want to change your mind. Read on to find out why!
The Super Heroes in Supergreens
Green vegetables contain enzymes that speed up chemical reactions in living organisms. They act as catalysts for specific chemical reactions and without enzymes life as we know it would not exist. Enzymes are essential to life but the real hero in supergreens might actually be chlorophyll, the substance in all plants that give it their color and flavor.
It is chlorophyll that seems to be responsible for the growth and repair of tissues, as well as reducing the effects of pollution. It helps to deodorize the breath and body, stand in the way of carcinogens, guard against infection, and neutralize free radicals.
There are many greens that are nutrient-dense including alfalfa, barley grass, chlorella, green tea, kelp, spirulina, and wheatgrass. The problem is that it’s not always easy to consume large amounts of these greens each day and let’s face it they are not all that tasty. Fortunately, you can find these green superfoods in supplement form to provide all of the energizing, and pH-balancing benefits they afford.
Let’s take a look at some of the power packed vitamins and minerals that these supergreens have to offer:
- Alfalfa – contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous along with vitamins A, C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
- Green tea – a powerful antioxidant that contains catechins that may help prevent cancer and tumors.
- Kelp – a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including iodine, which helps correct and underactive thyroid.
- Spirulina – high in protein and may help improve immunity, lower cholesterol, and stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Chlorella – nourishes the body and helps protect it from damaging chemicals.
- Wheatgrass and barley – have similar properties to chlorella.
Not only do supergreens benefit the inner body, they are healthy externally and can be applied topically as compresses to heal cuts, wounds, and bee stings. Green food ingredients are used in wheatgrass shampoos, spirulina hair conditioners and facial masks, or skin care products containing chlorella.
One study of chlorella conducted in France was shown to improve the appearance of spider veins, under eye circles, skin elasticity, and stretch marks. It also increased lymphatic drainage and protected the skin against free radicals in the environment.
What are Cruciferous Veggies?
Cruciferous is the name given to a group of vegetables that research has proven may provide protection against certain cancers. They contain antioxidants (beta carotine and sulforaphane) and are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. This group of supergreens includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, mustard greens, rutabagas and turnips.
The use of cruciferous veggies has been around for decades. For instance, cabbage leaves were used to relieve inflammation, stop hair loss, remedy tumors, and even remove freckles. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts contain lutein and zeazanthin, two antioxidants that are associated with helping to decrease prostate and other cancers. Let me elaborate on some of the other health protective ingredients and their specific function:
- Lutein – associated with diminishing the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein filters out the blue UV rays of light that can cause damage to your eyes and is 10 times as powerful as Vitamin E. It can only be absorbed from dietary sources and can be found in high concentrations in spinach, broccoli, and collard greens.
- Zeaxanthan – this is also an antioxidant that blocks the UV light and protects your eyes. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are fat soluble so should be ingested with food.
- Indole-3-carbinol – a chemical that can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer promoting estrogen into a more protective type.
- Sulforaphane –found in broccoli sprouts (BroccoSprouts) and found to contain 20 times higher levels of sulforaphane than a head of broccoli, it aids in preventing colon and rectal cancer.
An article found on the Mayo Clinic website discussed a research study in which scientists examined the phytochemicl sulforaphane found in broccoli. The results of the study summed up broccoli as being a super food because of all the protective health benefits. Research found that Sulforaphance seems to help:
- Produce enzymes that protect blood vessels, which is achieved by reducing tissue-damaging substances due to high blood sugar. Vascular disease can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and circulation issues in extremities; all major complications of diabetes
- Regulate protective antioxidant and detoxify enzymes
- Eliminate defects in DNA meaning it’s not repeated in gene formation
- Reduced prostate cancer in men
- May help with the reversal of high blood pressure.
Still having second thoughts about what to have with your steak dinner tonight? Do yourself a favor and try adding a spinach salad or steamed broccoli as a side dish. If you’d like to branch out you could try any one of the relatives in the broccoli family such as turnip, cabbage, cauliflower, or even mustard seeds. The possibilities are endless so don’t deprive yourself of all the goodness supergreens have to offer.
Next time I’ll share some interesting research facts about supergreens and the people responsible for the findings. Until then don’t forget to add greens to your diet either by including them as part of your meals or taking them in supplement form. Your health depends on it!